New Music for Old People: My Musical Foundations, Part Six - Al Productions from 1969-94

Rare, obscure, or out of print, part one...

By , Columnist

Al at work at his basement Subterranean Homesick studio in Somerville, MA, 1999

This is basically a collection of some of the producing I've done over the years that might have escaped your ears. I don't try and have "a sound' as a producer; rather, I try and assist an artist in the areas they may not be as skilled at in conveying what they need to get across to the public. So that invariably differs with each artist. The Tubes were exceptional arrangers but we added strings, horns, and choirs to their work and that took some doing. Lynyrd Skynyrd were AMAZING arrangers even to the point of pre-composing all their guitar solos prior to recording them. Other bands really need arranging help or background vocal help, etc.

So the producer who knows how to get any eventuality covered is the better or perhaps safer producer to work with. Nowadays there is so much interference from the record companies that I have retired from producing because most of the excitement and fun have gone missing (for ME, that is). So here is a small suitcase full of ten various tracks I have done over the years I thought you may not have heard. Needless to say, I hope you enjoy them.

Below is a jukebox containing all the songs I picked this week. After you read about them below, go back and listen to whatever you like by just clicking on that title in the jukebox, or stream the whole playlist by clicking on the "play" icon at the top. It's free and it's the entire song. We're not selling anything. We're just in the business of hopefully making your days better by listening to great music.

We apologize to our readers/listeners who are trying to enjoy the playlists via mobile devices like iPhones/iPads and are finding that they can't; these are, unfortunately, circumstances beyond our control. At present, Grooveshark is not compatible with those operating systems, and in order to stream the playlist, you will need to use a PC or Mac.

TMR1116 by Lisa on Grooveshark

1. "Haloes" — The Tubes (4:17)

I feel this is the best-sounding album I ever made. It was their debut album on A&M and I thought their demos were truly original and I couldn’t wait to start rehearsing them. We got along very well until the mixing. Each one of them would lean over me at the console and scream, “Make ME louder!” “Turn ME up.” I banished them home to San Francisco as this was the first 24-track album I had ever mixed and you can listen to how complicated it was to begin with. Needless to say, I was replaced on the next album, but their first album could not have sounded any better. I especially love the Keith Moon influence drummer Prairie Prince employed on this particular track.

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At the Record Plant in LA in 1975 producing The Tubes' debut album (Al - second from left, front row)

2. "Thoughts of Polly" — Appaloosa (4:08)

This group walked into my office at Columbia Records and asked for an audition. I was impressed they got past security. When I assented, I asked them their availability and they took out their instruments and played right there in my office! They were acoustic and just needed to plug in a bass amplifier. Their material was amazing and they had their own sound and I signed them right up. This was 1969. I borrowed Fred Lipsiuis and Bobby Colomby from BS&T on this track and I played electric piano. I’ve always loved the way this came out and hope to mix it in 5.1 someday when I get to heaven.

3. "Violets of Dawn" (Live 1994) — Blues Project (3:18)

This song was the first single released by the band in 1965 with Tommy Flanders singing lead. Twenty-nine years later we reprised it at my 50th b’day party at The Bottom Line in NYC. This time I sang lead, Bill Lloyd and Roy Blumenfeld sang harmonies, and Jimmy Vivino overdubbed guitar when Steve Katz refused to allow his parts to be used. This is from my 1995 live album Soul of a Man, which is a diary of all the performances from that party.

4. "The Politician" — David Essex (4:33)

When I lived in England from 1979-81, I produced this album. My good friend at the time, Herbie Flowers, played bass and Paul Jones from Manfred Mann and the Blues Band played great harp. It’s pretty much a jam — I played guitar in G tuning and we all looked each other in the eye and just went for it. One take, no waiting... David wrote the song. Love his pronunciation of the word 'Republican'!

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5. "Do U Want 2 Be Loved" — Christopher Morris Band (3:22)

I discovered them in the Boston area and they were the rhythm section in my touring band in 1976. This was released on MCA in ‘77 but never made it to CD sadly and is out of print. This is the first track on the album. Chris was a great writer and singer, kinda Steve Winwood-esque. This was a fun album to make and I’ll try and include more as time goes by.

6. "I Can't Quit Your Love" — Freddy Henry (3:05)

I have included other tracks by Fred previously. We made this great album in 1978, Get It Out In the Open, on the Clouds label based in Florida (a division of TK Records). Again, no CD and out of print. Fred was one of the best singers I ever worked with and so we had no fear of covering this Four Tops album track. I wrote the arrangement and played keys, Bob Glaub played bass and Fred sang his butt off. This album is one of my favorites I was involved with. We were lucky to have use of back-up singers Rhodes, Chalmers & Rhodes who sang on all the '70’s Al Green hits.

7. "Roll Over, Beethoven" — Chris Daniels & The Kings (3:30)

I had this arrangement laying around and it fit this Colorado horn band quite well so they jumped in and learned it. This was recorded in Colorado in 1985 and I believe is still available on CD. The cover illustration (below) was done by the late Neon Park who also did many Little Feat and Zappa covers. Great energy from great players and singers. I believe they’re still out there in the Denver area, packin' 'em in on weekends.

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8. "Hector's Out" — Green on Red (4:53)

This was maybe their fourth or fifth album, only released in Europe and the band had whittled down to a duo — Dan Stuart and Chuck Prophet. We cut this in Gnashville 'cause I had just moved there in 1989. This track was primarily just the three of us. Dan and Chuck wrote it, Dan sang it, and I did the high harmony. Chuck played lead guitar and I played everything else. Now this is a mighty DARK song and it successfully conjured up that dark mood quite well as I listen to it now. Not a genre I worked in very often but fun nonetheless.

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9. "Drownin' In the Sea of Love" — BB King (3:41)

I did this in 1986 at The Slammer, the studio I built to do the soundtrack for the TV series Crime Story. BB and I had been friends for years after I played on an early album of his in 1965. This one was one of those albums where there were six different producers and we all did two songs each. I never did THAT again after this experience but BB and I had a great time working together. If you have your headphones on correctly, his guitar is in the left speaker and mine is the right. We had a great time playing together and remain good friends today. This is the old Joe Simon hit with an Al arrangement carved out for BB.

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Back in Burbank at The Slammer, Al and BB have too much fun playing the guitars on the above track.

10. "Hollywood Vampire" — Al Kooper (5:45)

I wrote this after watching an episode of the TV show Night Gallery that inspired the lyric. Always hoped they’d play it on True Blood, but it doesn’t look like THAT’s ever gonna happen, hahahaha. This is a Beatles/ELO combo with the Atlanta Rhythm Section playing backup with Joe Walsh on Beatle George-inspired slide guitar in the verses, and I played keyboards, strings and the solo at the end. People really don’t play music like this anymore and that’s a shame. This is from the 1976 solo album Act Like Nothing’s Wrong which I’m sure is in the eBay Record Club. See ya next week and thanks for listening.

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