Wednesday, August 8, 2012

AL and RICK (2)

We've been talking to Al Kooper about the late '70's album he produced for Rick Nelson called "Back To Vienna".  Never officially released, it is now available for the very first time in The United States in its entirety, thanks to a recent release by Real Gone Music.
Click here: The Complete Epic Recordings (2 CD): Rick Nelson: Music   

Our conversation continues today in Forgotten Hits ...  

kk:  Now did you personally play on the record, too, or no?
AK:  Oh yeah ... I played a LOT on the record ... I played most of the instruments on that track, "Every Day I Have To Cry Some" ... 

kk:  Yeah, that's my favorite track on the album ...


Now here's a song ... "Every Day I Have To Cry Some" ... that's been covered by dozens and dozens of artists over the years, yet has never really achieved true hit status.  So many artists have taken a crack at that song ... and yet it has never been the hit it deserved to be.  What is it about that song that musicians like so much ... and why do you think it hasn't ever clicked en masse?
AK:  Oh, I don't know about that ... I think that the original version was HUGE!  I'm talking about the Steve Alaimo version.   

kk:  It's a great version, but I don't even think that made the Top 40 ... I think it stopped at something like #46.
AK:  Oh yes it did ...   

kk:  No seriously, I don't think so ... here, I'm looking it up ... it peaked at #46.  That's as high as it got.
AK:  Really?!?!  Well, not in New York!  It was HUGE in New York. And I'm sure it was huge in Florida!   

kk:  Well, that's what I was just going to say ... maybe it was a much bigger regional hit ... but nationally it only got to #46.
AK:  Now wait a minute ... how old are you?   

kk:  LOL ... 58 ... LOL
AK:  58 ... OK, so I'm ten years older than you ... and I remember when that record came out and it was a really big hit.  And not only that, but Steve Alaimo is a REALLY good friend of mine ... and there were a few reasons I did that track with Rick Nelson.   

kk:  So many people have tried to record that ... even Arthur Alexander, who wrote the song, cut a version in 1975 ... but it's never gotten its due in my mind.
AK:  One of the things I've done my whole life is to take songs that everybody knows ... and do really bizarre arrangements with them.  And I thought that Andrew Gold was the same way.  When Linda did an oldie, he did magic things with it.  That was my opinion.  So I really was just imitating him ... I mean not literally, because it was all my arrangement and everything, but when I was putting the guitars on, I was trying to make it sound like a Linda Ronstadt record.    

kk:  Well, he was the inspiration then, for sure.  I mean what he did with "You're No Good" ... it almost became Beatlesque when he was done with it ... the original record never sounded anything like that.  And really, that was the record that really broke her through in a huge, huge way.
AK:  Uh-huh ... and so that was important to me.  I was very, very influenced by that.

kk:  Rick's Epic recordings sound very laid back ... 
everything seems to have a very "relaxed", MOR feel to it.  Was he as shy and reserved as he seemed in the studio?  What was Rick like to work with in the studio?  It's funny in a way, because I saw him perform live several times ... and in a way he almost seemed uncomfortable on stage ... yet at the same time, it was probably the MOST comfortable he ever was!   
AK:  Once we got comfortable, we both had a sense of humor ... and so the sense of humor is what got us going. I used to put out these comedy albums every Christmas ... they were called "The Kapusta Kristmas Albums" ... and on one of them I have outtakes of him and I talking between takes, you know, where I'm in the booth and he's out in the studio ... just to show how funny the dialog was between us.  I have to say that I did get along with him very well.    

kk:  lol ... "Kapusta Kristmas"!  What was that about?
AK:  There are six albums and one video.  Distribution was I would send them out at Xmastime in lieu of gifts.  There's a website that has at least three of them online called ... and they are there with my blessings.    

kk:  What are some of your favorite tracks on the album?  Which ones are you most proud of?
AK:  Well, I like that one like you say, "Every Day I Have To Cry Some" ... and I love the Dylan song (Mama, You've Been On My Mind ... featured yesterday in Forgotten Hits) ... and I love the ZZ Top song.  (Getting It On)    

kk:  Another one of my favorites is "That New Delhi Freight Train" ... because I can SEE him doing that song when I listen to it ... I can actually visualize him in the studio, doing that song.
AK:  And he sounded great singing that, too.

kk:  Now who did that one?  Where did you find that one?
AK:  Oh, it's on a Little Feat album!  When I lived in Atlanta ... which was from '72 to '74 ... Linda came through town and I went to her show ... and then I took her home ... and we just stayed up all night and listened to music ... and she had never heard Little Feat ... so I sort of turned her on to Little Feat.  And so, you know, that was very high in my mind ... 'cause then she started doing Little Feat songs.  So the key thing is, that's a VERY important element as to how that album got made ... 'cause I was imitating Linda Ronstadt.   

kk:  Or more EMULATING than imitating I think!
AK:  Yeah.  It was a very good role model for the artist I was working with.   

kk:  And it's interesting because knowing that now ... now that you've told me this ... and knowing that that was your inspiration ... you actually hear the album differently now ... and that's kinda what I'm hoping for by doing this interview ... that people out there will seek out this music and listen to it, but come into it having a better knowledge and understanding of how the whole creative process came to be ... what you guys were shooting for in the first place.
AK:  Well, originally I didn't really plan to say anything about that ... like if someone asked me about it, that was going to be my little secret ... because that's how I figured out how to do it.  I didn't think that I was ever going to say anything about it ... but of course now, after all this time, I don't really care ... because it never really came out.   

kk:  That was kind of my point with all of this ... because ultimately Epic ended up rejecting the album ... you'd think that maybe they'd get a single out there first and see how the public reacted ... and THEN make a decision about whether or not to release the album ... and "Every Day I Have To Cry Some" just seemed like the NATURAL single ... it was such a strong, opening track.
AK:  Oh yeah, that's why it was the opening song.   

kk:  So overall, do you feel like you accomplished what you set out to do with this record?  I mean, despite the fact that Epic ultimately ended up rejecting it, do you feel that you captured what you had set out to do?
AK:  Well, I guess I could understand it ... if you just want to hear the same old Rick Nelson over and over again, then you're going to hate that album.  I just didn't see the point ... I wanted to do something different.  I mean, I took what he had ... and I tried to go a little deeper with it ... because he could do it ... it's just that nobody ever ASKED him to do it ... but he was willing to do it.  I once heard him cover that R&B song (singing) "Just gimme some kind of sign, girl"  ("Gimme Little Sign" ... the Brenton Wood song) ... and it was GREAT!!!   

kk:  Oh yeah, I love it ... I love his version of that song! 
AK:  Yeah, it was GREAT!!!

kk:  And that was recorded for Epic ... he did it on the album before yours.
AK:  So I thought, OK ... well, I'll put songs like that on this album, if he likes songs like that ... and so I did!  And he did some ... like "Every Day I Have To Cry Some".  And really, on the track of that, I was imitating Andrew Gold ... because, like I said, the model for that record was to do something like a Linda Ronstadt album ... except it was a Rick Nelson album.   

kk:  Considering that your original plan fell through ... that whole idea of reuniting Rick Nelson with James Burton ... I think "Plan B" turned into a very solid ... albeit different ... Rick Nelson album.  Being a Rick Nelson fan for so many years, I've had bootleg copies of "Vienna" for probably 25-30 years, so I've been familiar with these tracks for quite a while.  It's nice to finally see them seeing the light of day (and in good quality, too!) where other fans can now enjoy them, too.   
AK:  Well, I mean, the FAN in me really wanted to put those two back together.  I don't know if I would have gone after Rick Nelson just to produce him ... because that's just the way that worked out ... and I had to do that ... but no, I wanted to reunite him with James Burton ... and then oversee that.  I didn't particularly SAY that to anybody at Epic ... I just said that I wanted to produce Rick Nelson ... but really, I wanted to put them back together.   

kk:  Did you ever say anything to Rick about that ... about hooking those two back up together?  Did Rick know that that was the original intention or direction for the record?
AK:  Yeah ... 

kk:  And there was nothing he could to do help influence that decision?
AK:  Well, I mean I'm sure he had a say in that ... it's just that the manager said "No way" ... but frankly, I thought it was fair ... when Rick was giant in the early days, every girl that bought a Ricky Nelson record, bought it for Ricky Nelson ... but every GUY that bought a Ricky Nelson album, bought it for James Burton.  And Rick and James together ... together, THAT was the sound.   

kk:  I suppose in hindsight they could have promised him the moon ... if they were not going to release it anyhow.
AK:  Yeah, but who knew that.
kk:  Exactly.  But you've REALLY gotta wonder what kind of magic that might have been.    

TOMORROW IN FORGOTTEN HITS:  Epic Records rejects "Back To Vienna" ... and it's been sitting on the shelf ever since!