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Classic of the Week

The Blues Project "Projections" (1966) / Verve

March 11, 1993|BUDDY SEIGAL

The Blues Project was one of the great, relatively unsung bands of the '60s; "Projections" is its near-masterpiece. Keyboard player/blue-eyed soulster Al Kooper was the group's "name" member, having joined fresh from sessions with Bob Dylan for the "Highway 61 Revisited" album.

The Project was very much a team effort though: Kooper was particularly assisted by lightning-fingered guitarist Danny Kalb and by bassist/flutist Andy Kulberg, later of Seatrain. Based in New York City, where they were known as "the Jewish Beatles," they played an eclectic mixture of jazz, folk and soul-influenced rock, peppered liberally with proto-psychedelic stylings and punctuated by Kooper's endearingly earnest if clearly ofay soul shouting (despite the group's handle, blues was not its strong suit, although it did indulge in several extended 12-bar jams).

"Projections" includes several of the Project's key tracks, including amped-up renditions of "Wake Me, Shake Me," Chuck Berry's "You Can't Catch Me," Willie Johnson's "I Can't Keep From Crying" (a version later copped by Ten Years After), and the gorgeous, lilting "Flute Thing," featuring cool jazz flirtations by Kulberg that put the group on the map when the track became a staple of FM radio playlists on the East Coast.

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