Barry Goldberg is a keyboard virtuoso extraordinaire, now in his eighth decade whose first professional recording was that of "Devil with a Blue Dress On/ Good Golly Miss Molly" by Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels in 1966. He had previously played keyboards in the band supporting Bob Dylan during his 1965 newly 'electrified' appearance at the Newport Folk Festival He also played with many top recording stars such as Leonard Cohen, The Ramones, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Michael Bloomfield and many others. This CD is a compendium of two previously released mainly instrumental albums (1969 and 1971) and having a bumper twenty one tracks it is probably best enjoyed in bite-sized pieces rather that as a whole.
Goldberg's forte is the Hammond organ and he makes good use of it throughout the album none more so than in the first track, Ray Charles' "I Got A Woman". He goes on to feature music from Joe South, Bo Diddley, Clarence Carter, Otis Redding as well as self penned numbers. This first ten tracks are of "Street Man" and being recorded in 1969 include what must have been one of the first covers of Lennon & McCartney's "Hey Jude" which was first released in 1968. This version is oh, so different to the original. Typical of all of the tracks is the fact that Barry explores the whole range of keys available to the Hammond player.
The second album to be included on this re-release in "Blasts from my Past" includes some unaccredited vocals which we must assume are those of B. Goldberg Esq. The full band personnel are credited with the exception of the drummer. It also seems strange to make no mention of the vocalist on "It Hurts Me Too". The listener can see the difference between the production of the two albums. "Blasts..etc" includes a great many more Goldberg compositions ranging from out and out rock to slow blues. This could not be better illustrated by comparing tracks 14 and 15, "Maxwell Street Shuffle " and "Blues for Barry and Michael". Throughout the whole offering Barry's consummate skill at the keyboard comes through, permeating the whole listening experience. As one who dabbles with the keyboard myself, I can do no more than sit back in wonder as he demonstrates what can be got out of an analogue instrument. The recordings that we are hearing were made well before synthesizers came into common usage on the stage. A contemporary of Goldberg who was experimenting with such was Walter Carlos. His instrument would have required it's own dedicated truck such was the size of it.
There are more vocals used in this the second half of this CD and it is better for that. I particularly liked the lilting melody in "You're Still My Baby" one of the few non Goldberg compositions, having been written by Chuck Willis. In this section any voices that do feature are more of the "backing singer" type rather than might be called lead vocals. This is typical and true of "I Think I'm Gonna Cry" and the rest of the Goldberg numbers that complete this disc. There is a song on the CD which does not appear in the track listing. Thus "Hole In My Pocket" replaces the billed "Tea For Two" which is missing. Clearly the compiler was not working with the same information that the person writing the sleeve notes had to hand.
When I first received this CD for review, I was of two minds, firstly the prospect of covering a twenty one track CD was a little daunting, but I was looking forward to hearing how the Hammond Organ should be played. I have to say that the second half appealed in the long run more than the first, even though the first half contained the more familiar material. That said, this album presents the opportunity to acquire tracks from nearly forty years ago that hitherto might not be available elsewhere. I have come through the experience with a greater respect for the skills of Barry Goldberg than I previously held. All these reviews are of course subjective but I ended up liking it more than I thought I would.
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