Projections – The Blues Project

9 Feb

In November of 1966, The Blues Project, a perspicacious band of musicians from New York, released Projections, their second studio album. After its release the band started to fall apart. Was that the reason for the little recognition the album received? I cannot say that the volatile band relations led to a bad album, so no. On the contrary, Projections, is an excellent album that showcased the range of musical expertise that The Blues Project had.

The Blues Project was best when it consisted of Danny Kalb, Al Kooper, Steve Katz and Andy Kulberg. Kulberg, originally from Buffalo, played bass guitar and flute. Kooper, of Hollis Hills, Queens, was a wiz with several instruments, but mainly played keyboard with the band. Kalb, of Mt. Vernon, played blues guitar. Katz, also of New York, played guitar and harmonica.

The band played sharp and creative music because of the intelligence and somewhat prophetic ways of these men I just listed. The Blues Project was one of the first bands to experiment with the psychedelic sound and, along with the Grateful Dead, pioneer a style of jam-band music. If the original incarnation of The Blues Project stayed around for longer it would have been interesting to see if they garnered more respect and success. I’d go out on a limb right now and say absolutely. Projections is evidence of this.

Keep this in mind. The Blues Project’s next studio album came out in 1968. Steve Katz and Al Kooper had left and formed Blood Sweat & Tears, fulfilling Kooper’s longing to form a rock band with a horn section (which also was precocious). No offense Kulberg and Kalb (both fine musicians), but when you eliminate two important band members it is certainly tough to recover.

Projections is our best look at The Blues Project. The album does not disappoint. It has wide display of numerous rock genres and it explores lengthier, more experimental pieces. Let’s cover a few songs.

“Two Trains Running” is an 11-minute blues/rock epic. It goes under-appreciated by the masses even though it is a predecessor to the blues/rock that popular bands like Led Zeppelin played. Remember, this was released in 1966. It is way ahead of its time. Blues is the basis of rock n’ roll but long pieces like “Two Trains Running” were jam-band material that only a few bands were creating. The instrumental precision is also at a high. Everything from the sweet harmonica to incredible organ is just spot on and a pleasure to listen to. This is hard blues/rock before that genre was popularized five years after this release. The Dead were playing trippier music. This is the ol’ fashioned blues revival from a band that focused on the blues.

But…

Wait, what? This marks the sheer diversity on this album. All of a sudden we are transported to medieval Europe with this melodious beginning. This song, written by Steve Katz (hence “Steve’s Song”), showcases wonderful strings and flutes. It actually touches on the psychedelic/folk revolution that had just started taking place in 1966.

Projections is severely underrated and deserves a lot of credit for being the revolutionary album that it was.

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