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Canít quit her
Al Kooperís back for more and soís Danny Klein; plus Paperboy Reedís gospel
BY TED DROZDOWSKI
Related Links

Al Kooper's official Web site

Danny Klein's official Web site

Paperboy Reed on the Best Music Poll 2005

Ask rock-and-roll legend Al Kooper why heís just made his first solo album in nearly 30 years and heíll explain, " My songs hated me because they couldnít get out of the basement. And I felt bad. "

Kooper and his songs ó nine of them plus kindred covers ó are feeling better now that Black Coffee (Favored Nations) has been released. The discís relaxed and soulful tone is set by the swinging ballad " How My Ever Gonna Get Over You " and " Going, Going Gone, " a tune written with Dan Penn that could be a refugee from the Stax and Muscle Shoals hit factories. But there are instrumental fireworks too, like a revival of the classic " Green Onions " recorded live by Kooperís band of Berklee profs, the Funky Faculty.

The Somerville residentís musical résumé runs deep. The keyboardist, guitarist, and singer joined the Royal Teens, of " Short Shorts " fame, as a teen. He penned hits for Gary Lewis and Gene Pitney in his early 20s and was a key figure in the American blues-rock scene with the bands Blood, Sweat & Tears and the Blues Project. Heís also played organ on recordings by the Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan ( " Like a Rolling Stone " ), and he was part of Dylanís first electric band. He cut six solo albums from 1968 to 1976, and as a producer and A&R man heís worked with a whoís who that includes Michael Bloomfield, B.B. King, Ray Charles, the Tubes, Green on Red, and Lynyrd Skynyrd, whom he also discovered.

But as Kooper ó wearing a rock-appropriate paisley shirt and sitting on a couch in the living room of his comfortable Somerville house ó tells it, the story of Black Coffee begins in 1989. " Thatís when I quit the music business, because Iíd seen a lot of people go past their windows, and I felt embarrassed for them. I didnít want to be like that. I want to keep my dignity. There are labels that collect acts that were big in the 1960s and í70s, and I wanted no part of that. So I quit and moved from Los Angeles to Nashville. I didnít want to make any more solo albums or deal with record labels. And I abhor modern country music, so I knew I wouldnít be tempted to produce anyone.

" I was there for seven years and it was great. I encountered the highest musicianship level of any city Iíve lived in. But then I couldnít stand being retired any more. Iíd rather be helped onto the stage to play music than helped into the garden to plant.

" I took out this list of things I always wanted to do but never had time for. Teaching came to the forefront. I thought Berklee was the place. I taught from í97 to 2001, but thatís when I lost two-thirds of my vision [to a stroke], so I had to quit.

" The students knew nothing, which amazed me. So I refined the classes that they had me teach and made them history classes, because these people were in dire need of that information. Knowing history helped me tremendously in my career. For example, in the early í70s, all that was on the radio was progressive rock: Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Genesis, Yes. While a part of me appreciated this music intellectually, it lacked this [taps his heart] and this [grabs his groin]. I figured if I could find a great three-chord band, I could make a zillion dollars. Ergo, Lynyrd Skynyrd. The reason I knew they would be successful is because of the history of rock and roll. Every time it goes off on a tangent, it always comes back to three-chord rock and roll. And they call it something different every time: the San Francisco Sound, the British Invasion, punk. But itís always three-chord rock and roll.

" When I moved to Boston, it cut my writing down a little bit. The other thing Iíve noticed is that when youíre younger, you tend to be more experimental and fearless, musically speaking. As you get older, you lose that. Not intentionally, but you just do. So my songs are not anywhere near as musically complex as they used to be. But Iím comfortable with that. "

Kooperís songs are also decidedly old school, full of the soaring vocal melodies, trim guitar, organ and horn lines, and funky propulsion that defined the classic soul sound.

" Unless youíre attempting, like Santana, to make the Top 10, thereís no point in doing music that doesnít suit you. In the mid í60s, I really found the music that suited me, soul music, and I havenít deviated from that for the rest of my life. With the band I put together of professors from Berklee, the Funky Faculty, I have wonderful players. Iím playing with musicians my own age ó which, by the way, when someone reaches past 60, I hate going to see them playing with young kids in the band. It just doesnít seem right to me. People whoíve lived through what you lived through understand how to play the music that youíre playing.

" The music I chose became nearly extinct, but Iím not going to weep, because itís me now. Itís what I do, and as each year goes by, I learn how to do it a little better. Iím still learning, Iím not burned out. I learn something new every day. "

Geils bassist goes stonecrazy

There are plenty of blues bands tucked away in the Boston suburbs, but Stonecrazy have an ace in their fold: former J. Geils Band bassist Danny Klein. Actually, two: guitarist Ken Pino played alongside six-string hurricane Johnny Copeland for years, and that accounts for his terse phrasing and distinctive, singing tone as well as the bandís taste for Copelandís songs. Four appear on their just-released debut, Stonecrazy (Black Rose; www.blackroserecords.net), alongside a handful of durable originals that, like the band, split the difference between Texas and Chicago blues. Thereís also " Homework, " an Otis Rush tune that was part of the Geils Bandís repertoire, and thereís Jay Geils himself, who produced and busts out guitar solos on " Homework " and " Woulda Coulda. "

When I caught up with Klein by phone, he was making the final arrangements for the grand reopening last weekend of his Point Breeze restaurant in Webster (he went to the Cambridge School for the Culinary Arts after the J. Geils Band folded), where Stonecrazy will open for Roomful of Blues next Thursday, July 28. He explained that Stonecrazy have been together six years, not counting his 1999 stretch in the J. Geils reunion tour.

" Stonecrazy is more of a hardcore blues band than J. Geils, " he continues, " and weíre a four-piece " ó completed by singer/harmonica player Babe Pino and drummer Mark Hylander ó " so I might play a little busier than I used to. "

Although Klein and his band mates hope the CD will generate enough interest to warrant national touring, Point Breeze (which he co-owns) is also keeping him busy. " To me, playing music and cooking are both highly creative endeavors. When itís Saturday night and the restaurantís bustling and thereís excitement and tension, it has the same kind of energy as playing a gig to me. "

Eli Reedís new (Silver) Leaf

Roxburyís Silver Leaf Gospel Singers have been making a joyful noise unto the Lord for well over a half-century. But anyone whoís caught the historically a cappella group live in the past few weeks has noticed something different: the addition of soul-blues up-and-comer Eli " Paperboy " Reed, who won the Phoenix/WFNX Best Music Poll title for best Local Blues/R&B Act last spring.

Whatís a 21-year-old Jewish kid from Brookline doing in the areaís most venerable African-American gospel troupe, where the next youngest singerís at least 50 years his senior? " Heís an all-around man, " says Deacon Randy Green, the Silver Leafís 83-year-old leader. " He can play organ and piano and heís got a voice. Heís got a good ear. We havenít voted him into the group yet, but I can certainly see him becoming a full-fledged member. We have no prejudice. If someone can prove themselves religious and positive and interested in what weíre doing, and we feel strongly about them . . . well, to us Eli is a beautiful asset. "

Al Kooper and the Funky Faculty | Lowell Summer Music Festival | Boarding House Park, corner of John and French Sts, Lowell | September 3 | 7:30 pm | $10 | www.lowellsummermusic.org | Stonecrazy + Roomful of Blues | Point Breeze Restaurant, 114 Point Breeze Road, Webster | July 28 | 508.943.0159


Issue Date: July 22 - 28, 2005
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