Al Kooper is destined to be remembered mostly as an ace session player and bandmember (of the Blues Project and Blood, Sweat & Tears), not as a solo artist, despite the numerous albums he issued under his own name. But though this two-CD set covers only his earliest solo work, it could be argued that it's the best compilation of recordings he made on his own, though certainly not one that represents the scope of his career, whether done alone or with others. This Australian anthology presents both of his first two albums, 1968's I Stand Alone and 1969's You Never Know Who Your Friends Are, in their entirety, as well as five tracks from his third album (1970's Easy Does It) and a couple he contributed to the 1970 soundtrack The Landlord. While they didn't attract much in the way of sales or attention at the time or since, I Stand Alone in particular showcases his versatile facility with soul-pop and pop
ock with a baroque psychedelic tinge. Even if his vocals are only adequate and the use of numerous sound effects has dated badly, it's worth hearing for "Right Now for You" alone, as that's the finest facsimile of the late-period Zombies ever cut (perhaps unsurprisingly so, as Kooper was instrumental in getting that group's Odessey and Oracle released in the U.S.). The less impressive You Never Know Who Your Friends Are is more soul/R&B-oriented, but Kooper's skills as a keyboardist and arranger are consistently evident here and on the similarly eclectic bonus material, though his songwriting isn't up to the same level. The CD is sensibly sequenced so that I Stand Alone and You Never Know Who Your Friends Are are placed on disc one and two, respectively, with all of the bonus tracks being placed at the end of disc two.