THE BLUES PROJECT: REUNION IN CENTRAL PARK (1973)
1) Louisiana Blues; 2) Steve's Song; 3) I Can't Keep From Cryin'; 4) You Can't Catch Me; 5) Fly Away; 6) Caress Me Baby; 7) Catch The Wind; 8) Wake Me, Shake Me; 9) Two Trains Running.
Believe it or not, but the original Blues Project did come back together in 1973 — if even the Byrds could have a reunion, why not the noble act that tried to carry on the relay? (It wasn't their fault, after all, that time was speeding up way too fast for them). Everybody except for Tommy Flanders is here, yet somehow, the inspiration just wasn't there to try for some creativity — instead, The Original Blues Project, as they call themselves on the sleeve, embarked on a brief American tour, culminating in a free show in New York's Central Park, almost a whole decade before Simon & Garfunkel popularized the idea on a wider scale.
Actually, according to Al's own memories, the LP continues the band's tradition of strange «semi-fakes»: only the audience reaction comes from Central Park, while most, if not all, of the performances come from earlier shows (in Washington), where the atmosphere, Al says, was more «spontaneous». Not that it would probably matter much — I'd bet anything that The Blues Project at their worst differed little from The Blues Project at their best: mediocre bands do have that slight benefit of consistency, you know.
The setlist is largely predictable: Projections done in almost all of their entirety, plus a couple additional live favorites from the early days — no attempts whatsoever at sinking their teeth into anything written in the post-Kooper epoch. The surprising glaring omission is ʽFlute Thingʼ, which made me double-check if Kulberg was present at the show at all, yet apparently, he was, and they did perform the song, but, for some reason, left it off the final album, even if, the album being a double one, there was most certainly enough space remaining for it. Maybe Andy forgot to oil the flute or something, or perhaps they consciously decided that it would be a cool gesture to leave their best-known and most-respected composition off the reunion album — you know, so it wouldn't go multi-platinum and turn them into commercial sluts.
Seriously, though, this is a decent performance, delivered with such confidence as if it were 1966 all over again — the band plunges into old-school dance-blues of Muddy's, rockabilly of Chuck's, and starry-eyed folk idealism of Donovan's with such vehemence you'd think the world still lived and breathed these tunes in 1973. However, once we get past this element of energetic surprise there is little else to say — except that the slow blues numbers (ʽCaress Me Babyʼ and particularly the excruciatingly tedious journey through the twelve minutes of ʽTwo Trains Runningʼ) are predictably uninteresting, and that, with their exclusion, the album could have been a far more elegant and economic single LP.
Since Kooper had already established himself as a solo artist by that point, it was obvious that the reunion would not last long — this was, in fact, the last time that The Blues Project blipped on the radar, although, rumor has it, in recent years Katz and Blumenfeld have brought the name back from the grave once again, touring as «The Blues Project» with a bunch of sidemen (hopefully, we will be spared any new studio recordings). As a last goodbye, Reunion In Central Park plays its part with sufficient conviction — more credibly, at least, than the Kalb-dominated bland platters from 1971-72. But if you want a good live album by The Blues Project... then again, I am not even sure why you should want a live album by The Blues Project in the first place. Just get Al Kooper's Soul Of A Man instead.