Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Compare and Contrast: Tales From the Sad Vale of Tears

From 1928, here's the great blues/gospel singer/guitarist Blind Willie Johnson and his seminal "Lord, I Just Can't Keep From Cryin'."

And from 1966, and the influential Elektra Records compilation What's Shakin'?, here's Al Kooper (backed by the rhythm section of the then Kooper-less Blues Project) with a slightly re-titled and extremely cool sort of soul/jazz version.

And finally, from 1967, here's the then at the height of their powers full blown Blues Project and the thoroughly psychedelicized version of the song from Projections.

All three of these are memorable, of course, but I should mention that I've spent countless hours over the years attempting to reproduce Kooper's piano part from the '66 version, with fair results; get me drunk in the vicinity of an upright sometime and I'll have a go at it for you. As for the Blues Project remake, I saw those guys for the first time in mid '66 at the legendary Cafe au Go-Go, at a time when they used to open with "I Can't Keep From Cryin' Sometime," as it was now called. And swear to god, it sounded EXACTLY like it does in the clip, except much, much louder; when they hit that rave-up section in the middle, it was without question the most astounding thing my teenage ears had ever beheard.