Sometimes great records—for whatever reason—get lost over time. That happened with Barry Goldberg, a 1974 Atlantic Records release designed to spotlight the songwriting talent of the excellent blues keyboardist. The album is unique for several reasons. It was the only record produced by Bob Dylan for another artist. Once finished, its great Muscle Shoals sound—with Dylan himself on vocals—was stripped by Atlantic’s Jerry Wexler in a new mix—ruining the record and making it an almost invisible artifact for 35 years.
Then, this summer, a miracle happened. Micro Werks, a new reissue label owned by Rhino Records, brought out the original Muscle Shoals mix of Barry Goldberg, accompanied with the missing background vocals, the original vibe and some added new material. It was a longtime dream of Goldberg. It’s no wonder why. This is a wonderful, magical record that should be widely heard.
For those who don't know, Goldberg—a 16-year-old friend of the guitarist Mike Bloomfield—was allowed to repeatedly sit in on the keyboard by the great pianist Otis Spann in the Muddy Waters' band. After several months, Goldberg earned a coveted smile from Waters—acknowledging that he had finally mastered the technique of becoming a solid blues player. He went on to play with Howlin' Wolf and others in Chicago's black clubs.
Later, Goldberg played keyboard (Bloomfield was on guitar; Al Kooper also played keyboard) in the band supporting Bob Dylan during his 1965 “electrified” appearance at the Newport Folk Festival. In 1967, he formed The Electric Flag with Mike Bloomfield.
Goldberg’s songs (some co-written with Gerry Goffin) have been recorded by the likes of Rod Stewart, Gladys Knight, Percy Sledge, Joe Cocker, Steve Miller, Bobby “Blue” Bland, Gram Parsons and B. J. Thomas. He played on Leonard Cohen’s Death of a Ladies’ Man, The Ramones’ End of the Century, Gram Parson’s The Gilded Palace of Sin, and Super Session, which featured Bloomfield, Stephen Stills and Al Kooper.
Goldberg also has produced albums by Percy Sledge including Blue Night (Grammy nominated and the W.C. Handy soul album of the year) as well as Shining Through the Rain; Charlie Musselwhite; James Cotton; The Textones; and Bob Dylan’s version of Curtis Mayfield’s People Get Ready.
In 2006, Goldberg toured with the Chicago Blues Reunion featuring Nick Gravenites, Harvey Mandel and Corky Siegel. Their debut CD reached #2 on the Billboard Blues Chart. I photographed Goldberg twice playing with the Chicago Blues Reunion at B.B. Kings’s club in New York City.
Barry Goldberg includes I’ve Got to Use My Imagination, once a hit for Gladys Knight and the Pips. There are also wonderful performances of It’s Not His Spotlight, Minstrel Show and Shady Hotel. Bob Dylan’s fascination with American roots music is very apparent in the production of this record. There is even a flavor of old timey country—with fine performances by banjoist Rule Yarborough and fiddler Al Lester.
This CD is a real missing gem for any Dylan collector, and a showcase that reveals the excellent songwriting skills of Barry Goldberg.