Mike Bloomfield, Al Kooper and Stephen Stills’ Super Session was a free-form masterpiece

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This was, to be sure, the product of a different time. A time when players of a certain pedigree could get together in the studio, just to see what happened. They could record that moment, too, and issue it to great fanfare. And have that album become not only something more than the concept — really, it was just a rip of the blowing-session album that jazz labels had been issuing for years — but something more than the individuals might have accomplished apart.

Such is the mercurial, and quite enduring, magic surrounding Super Session, an album released on July 22, 1968 — and memorably reissued in 2014 — which brings every flash of improvisational brilliance from Mike Bloomfield, Al Kooper and Stephen Stills into high relief. That sparkling remaster from Audio Fidelity’s Steve Hoffman was presented in a much-discussed 5.1 Surround mix from several years back by Kooper himself.

All of a sudden, Super Session sounded more like the bold move it always was. Every witty aside, every feint, was redrawn in striking detail. An initial session that saw five songs completed in just six hours or so — Bloomfield and Kooper were joined by bassist Harvey Brooks, drummer Eddie Hoh and second keyboardist Barry Goldberg — came alive again in much the way it must have in person.

Super Session was originally rounded out by recordings featuring Stephen Stills, after Mike Bloomfield took his leave late that first night. They completed four additional tracks, including an update of Bob Dylan’s “It Takes a Lot to Laugh” — part of 1965’s Highway 61 Revisited, which originally featured Mike Bloomfield, Harvey Brooks and Al Kooper. These would include vocals, though none credited to Stephen Stills who — though in between stints in Buffalo Springfield and Crosby Stills and Nash — was under contract elsewhere.

Other than a choice edit joining two versions of Donovan’s “Season of the Witch,” a new horn chart, Super Session was initially released as it had been recorded over those two short evenings of music making by Mike Bloomfield, Al Kooper and Stephen Stills. The album, sparked by a series of almost off-handed moments of instrumental brilliance, soared to No. 11.

Still, there were limitations associated with the time that simply couldn’t be overcome, specifically the compression associated with fitting all of this music onto a vinyl disc. The 2014 Audio Fidelity reissue solved that once and for all, offering a spacious new vista from which to enjoy one of rock’s most enduring free-form collaborations.

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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