Album Reviews

Mike Bloomfield, Al Kooper, & Stephen Stills – Super Session

Artist:     Mike Bloomfield, Al Kooper, & Stephen Stills

Album:     Super Session

Label:     Audio Fidelity / Columbia

Release Date:     08/05/2014

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An early summit of superstar proportions — this preceding the super group status of both CSN and Blind Faith — Super Session was less a long term prospect than a one-off opportunity for some veteran players to exercise their chops in an unencumbered environment. All three of the prime players were at critical junctures – Mike Bloomfield had recently left the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Al Kooper had been ousted from Blood Sweat & Tears and Stephen Stills was segueing from the Buffalo Springfield to Crosby, Stills & Nash. It was the perfect opportunity to take a breather, explore their ambitions and forget, at least momentarily, any demands or expectations.

Although the triple billing indicated otherwise, Bloomfield and Stills didn’t play simultaneously. According to the liner notes Kooper penned for this upgraded reissue, Bloomfield left unexpectedly after one session, offering Stills the opportunity to substitute for what remained of the studio time they’d been allotted. The results unfolded as a series of jams, certainly structured but hardly tailored for commercial consideration. The first five tracks with Bloomfield at the fore lean almost entirely towards blues, with the Stills sessions producing the album’s two obvious highlights, extended versions of “It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry” and “Season of the Witch.” Both proved to have staying power and easily found slots on progressive FM radio.

Like other SACD remasters, the sound quality is exceptional, as evidenced by the way the bass and drums are given new prominence in what was once a somewhat muddy mix. The separation is also superb; by placing the listener in the center of the sound, it simulates what it might have been like to have been surrounded by the musicians and hearing them live while they were recording. For those whose original copies of this classic are worn or scratched, it’s an excellent opportunity to not only relive old memories but to scrutinize the nuances that might have been missed before. Consider it a super set indeed.

– Lee Zimmerman

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