‘Project’ Assaults the Soul At Bacchanalia Spectacular
by Jim Steinman '69
“The hypnotic splattered mist is slowly lifting.” The quotation is Bob Dylan's, from “Chimes of Freedom.” It can be appropriately used in reference to Friday night's brilliant Bacchanalia concert by the Blues Project. The stigma concerning modern pop music is finally becoming a relic of the past; no longer can it be dismissed as a primitive, undisciplined, unartistic, frenzied conglomeration of howling inanities, subhuman orgasmic pump noise, or sentimental pompadour prayers tinged in grease and piped forth by the pre-pubescent wail of beach-party bop-jocks.
Enough sermonizing. The music speaks for itself. And there was no mistaking its powerful effect on Friday night in the gym. Along with the Butterfield Blues Band, the Blues Project are leading the renaissance of creativity in today's American pop music groups. They utilize a great many musical idioms without any sense of gimmickry. They handle lyrical folk poetry, shattering complex electronic-avant-garde experiments, and wild jazz improvisations with equal fervor and precision.
‘Kooper-phone’ The singing tasks are shared by Al Kooper, organist, Danny Kalb, lead guitarist, and Steve Katz, rhythm guitar. All three are several notches above the level of most of today's better vocalists. As instrumentalists, these three, along with Andy Kulberg (bass guitar) and Roy Blumenfeld (drums), seem to constantly do the impossible. Just to highlight some of the most exciting performances of the two sets the Project played : “I Can't Keep from Crying” was marked by drive and amazingly controlled chaos and by the incredible sounds Kooper produced on his "Kooper-phone," an instrument that defies description – except to say that if you liked World War II, you'd probably like the musical version, and this device can provide it.
As for pure soul, they poured it on thick and fast in “Wake Me Shake Me” and slow and sure in “Two Trains Running.” The former number closed the night. It had to.
The most unusual number was “Flute Thing”, which featured Kulberg on "electric flute" – i.e., a normal flute fitted with a contact mike and amplifier. But this was more than a trick. Producing echoes to infinity, and, in a cadenza, performing complex duets, trios, and quartets – with himself – Kulberg, "backed" by the Project, transcended mere innovation and achieved the level of lasting art. f The musical structure was advanced, daring, and explosive. Electronic music was used to exciting effect, and remained always a part of the artistic unity of the piece. “Flute Thing” is a classic, and the rapt, astonished attention of the audience proved its capability to create immediate sensual impact on listeners as well as to stand up to rigorous investigation by "analysts" or other musicians.
The Flower and Vegetable Show played well for the dancing at the beginning of the evening. Their sound, unfortunately, was not full enough to fill a room as large as the gym, and they lacked the exhilarating impetus and rich sound such music needs.
Source: Amherst Student archives, photo source