Klaus Voormann – Voormann & Friends: A Sideman’s Journey

January 01, 1970





The whole “Fifth Beatle” thing has been hotly debated since
their end. Was it producer George Martin, organist Billy Preston or Jon Lovitz,
the trombone playing mop top from the infamous Saturday Night Live skit? For the most part, the most in-sphere
character of the Beatles minion was a cat who wasn’t directly a player (with
them as a whole) during the band’s lifetime yet created some of its most
distinct iconography (the sleeve for 1966’s Revolver)
and was a bass man on most of its soloists best works such as All Things Must Pass, Imagine and Ringo: that’s Klaus Voormann. The Berlin-born Voormann is the
penultimate side guy.


Though he was only officially a member of two mega-bands (he
took over from Jack Bruce in Manfred Mann and was Lennon’s go-to rhythmatist
for Plastic Ono Band) Voormann won acclaim for playing with Harrison and Starr
as well as Jerry Lee Lewis, Leon Russell, Harry Nilsson, Carly Simon, Lou Reed,
Loudon Wainwright III, Van Dyke Parks, Randy Newman, and Long John Baldry. By
the 80s, he continued his behind-the-scenes notoriety as the man to produce the
German electro-act Trio (“Da Da Da”) to say nothing of an appearance
in Robert Altman’s 1980 flick Popeye (as “Von Schnitzel”).


Still Voormann (who looks great at 70) must’ve wanted to go
beyond that sideman gig – hence his first ever solo album on vinyl with a
making-of-a-life DVD documentary and booklet. While pals like drummer Ringo
Starr (who wouldn’t sing) Joe Walsh, Jim Keltner, and Albert Lee join the
instrumentalist Voormann several other legendary associates join in for vocal
accompaniment. All of the songs, shop worn classics, are from the bassist’s
playbook and have the goodtime feel of one of Ringo & His All Star Band’s
sessions. The rhythm section rumble provided by Voormann, Starr and/or Keltner
is as solid and recognizable as a Motown groove. Voormann’s band, Manfred Mann,
reunited to re-record 1968’s “Mighty Quinn” and the boys sound barely winded.
Bonnie Bramlett cuts a cold soulful rug on “So Far” (written by Doris Troy with
Voormann) and to a lesser extent “My Sweet Lord.” Paul McCartney yields the
boogieing bass line to Klaus and instead pours his sweat into playing piano and
singing “I’m in Love Again,” Dave Bartholomew and Fats Domino’s rocking New
Orleans-ease romancer.


But it’s Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens) who is most affecting
here when he sings and plays guitar on “All Things Must Pass” and “The Day the
World Gets ‘Round.” If anybody could claim to be Harrison’s
spiritual equal (at least as a musician) it’s Cat. He’s surely a legend amongst
this company and the pensive prowess he shows on these ruminative cuts are the
healthiest honor one musician can make to both Voormann’s mission here and
Harrison’s calling throughout his life. Good show, Klaus for dragging this out
of Cat. Next time don’t wait another 40+ years.



Standout Tracks: “All Things Must
Pass,” “Have You Seen My
Baby, “The Day the World Gets ‘Round” A.D. AMOROSI



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