The Masked Marauders (Deity DKS 9001/2)
They began months ago, the rumours of an event that at first seemed hardly believable but which in the end was accepted as all but inevitable. After all, with Grape Jam, SuperSession, The Live Adventures of…, Blind Faith, Joe Cocker’s LP, Crosby Stills Nosh & Young, Jammed Together and Fathers & Sons, it had to happen. Set for release late this month, the Masked Maurauders’ two-record set may evoke an agonizing, tip-of-the-tongue, lobe-of-the-ear recognition in some, or cries of “No, no, it can’t be true” in others. But yes, yes it is—a treasured, oft-xeroxed sheet of credits (which, for obvious contractual reasons, will not be reproduced on the album), and the unmistakable vocals make it clear that this is indeed what it appears to be: John Lennon, Mick Jagger, Paul McCartney and Bob Dylan, backed by George Harrison and a drummer as yet unnamed—the “Masked Maurauders.”
Produced by Al Kooper, the album was recorded with impeccable secrecy in a small town near the site of the original Hudson Bay Colony in Canada. Cut in late April, only three days were required to complete the sessions, though mixing and editing involved months of serious consultations on both sides of the Atlantic. Word has it that the cover art was intended as a “send-up” of Blind Faith, but none of the principals were willing to comment on the situation.
The LP opens with an eighteen-minute version of “Season of the Witch” (lead vocal by Dylan, on which he does a superb imitation of early Donovan). The cut is highlighted by an amazing jam between bass and piano, both played by Paul McCartney. Then, the tone of the album is set by the next track, “With a Little Help from My Friends” (all), followed by a very brief “In the Midnight Hour,” which collapses in giggles and is the “joke” of the set.
Side two begins with a extremely moving a cappella version of “Masters of War,” sung by Mick and Paul. You’ll truly wish, after hearing this cut, that you “could stand over their graves until you’re sure that they’re dead.” This is followed by an indescribable twelve-minute John Lennon extravaganza, James Brown’s “Prisoner of Love,” complete with a full ten-minute false ending. “Don’t let me be a prisoner… ooo, ah, eee, uh… please don’t let me be a prisoner… ak, ow, arrrggghhh, ooo.”
The oldies craze is not slighted; Dylan shines on side three, displaying his new deep bass voice, with “Duke of Earl,” Jagger with “The Book of Love,” and John, of course, with “I’m the Japanese Sandman.” Paul showcases his favorite song, “Mammy,” and while his performance is virtually indistinguishable from Eddie Fisher’s version, it is still very powerful, evocative, and indeed, stunning. And they say a white boy can’t sing the blues!
After the listener has recovered from this string of masterpieces, side four opens with a special treat, two songs written especially for this session: Dylan’s “Cow Pie,” which is very reminiscent of Billy Ed Wheeler’s “The Interstate is Coming Through My Outhouse,” and Mick Jagger’s new instant classic, “I Can’t Get No Nookie.”
In line with the present trend toward “simplicity,” the album nears an end with a very simple duet on acoustic guitars—George and Bob—a marvelously sensitive, yearning, melancholy exploration of “Kick Out the Jams.” The final cut, a group vocal, is, what else, “Oh Happy Day.” This track will probably be released as a single.
All the hassles of creating a special label, of re-arranging schedules, chartering planes, and minimizing the inevitable “ego-conflicts” were worth it. It can truly be said that this album is more than a way of life; it is life.
Rolling Stone, October 18, 1969