THE BLUES PROJECT: LIVE AT TOWN HALL (1967)
1) Flute Thing; 2) I Can't Keep From Cryin'; 3) Mean Old Southern; 4) No Time Like The Right Time; 5) Love Will Endure; 6) Where There's Smoke, There's Fire; 7) Wake Me, Shake Me.
A fake live album — the last thing that was needed to complete the fall from grace, just as Al Kooper finally decided that the others were tying him down and streamed out into space, in search of the next band that he could quit in less than a couple of years. Actually, it is not totally fake, but only about half of the tracks (admittedly, the longest half) are live, and, according to Kooper's own words, only one of them was truly recorded at Town Hall (NYC's, I presume). The rest are just masked with overdubbed applause, and it is not difficult to spot the masking.
The live tracks are all rather faithful, sometimes extended, versions of songs from Projections — most notably, ʽFlute Thingʼ in all its glory and then some, with extra seances of psychedelic painting, noise bits and dreamy static passages incorporated in the improvised section. Andy Kulberg actually plays an electric flute here, which allows for some extra sonic hooliganry every now and then. Even so, the result never strays in either form or spirit away from the original. Neither does ʽWake Me, Shake Meʼ, whose frenetic R&B crescendos were already a part of the studio design, or ʽI Can't Keep From Cryinʼ, which sounds almost like a note-for-note, punch-for-punch recreation.
At least Live At The Cafe Au Go Go was smart enough not to let itself be preceded by a studio album — that way, the public could not see that the band's stage presence did not seriously boost its chutzpah; one could turn it the other way, of course, and insist that The Blues Project simply kicked as much ass in the studio as they did on stage, but that wasn't really the way it worked in 1966 — it just means that The Blues Project did not kick much ass, even despite Danny's sharp leads and Steve's ability to pump up the fuzz if the situation called for it.
Nevertheless, there is no reason to complain about the general level of the performances — the band does rock as hard as it is capable of, and the audience must have gotten what it came for, enough to spill over some «fake applause» for the studio additions. Of these, the most recommendable is Kooper's garage-art-pop single ʽNo Time Like The Right Timeʼ (which even made it onto the Nuggets collection, and for a good reason) — with a rather silly, but attention-grabbing tonality change that transforms the romantic ecstasy of the verse into straightforward teenage lust of the chorus. ʽMean Old Southernʼ is a Butterfield Blues Band-style bass-'n'-harmonica-driven blues dance with what is probably Danny Kalb's best moment on the album — a fast, flashy, maddeningly precise country-blues solo. The other two tracks are rather syrupy folk-pop ballads that are rather quickly forgotten, I warrant.
In short, the album has all the signs of a contractual obligation — live tracks mixed in with what must have probably been studio outtakes from the previous sessions — and should be judged as such, rather than a gruesome artistic failure. Strangely, though, it did not close the book on The Blues Project, but merely turned over the most well-read pages of its history.