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Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Butterfield Blues Band - Live (1970 us, great blues rock with funky vibes, 2005 issue)

It's difficult to know where to begin with a release like this -- there's no much here that's new and worthwhile that it virtually blows the original vinyl release, good as that was, off the map. The Paul Butterfield Blues Band didn't go quietly into the night, as this double-CD set reminds us. Originally a two-LP set, Live was their penultimate release on Elektra Records, recorded at the L.A. Troubadour and released in 1971, and it was over 70 minutes of some of the loudest, boldest blues of its time.

Oddly enough, the released concert contained some of the more straightforward and less complex material in the band's book -- this could have been a much bolder and more challenging release at the time. One discovers listening to the second disc in this set 66 minutes of much more ambitious arrangements opening with "Gene's Tune," an on-the-spot improvisation on a tune that saxman Gene Dinwiddie delivered just before the group took the stage, and offering an ample showcase not just for the reeds but for Butterfield's harmonica (which is the lead instrument and heard in its full glory for much of the first-half of this 12-minute jam) but also for Ralph Walsh's guitar and Ted Harris' keyboards.

Similar extended excursions are built around the more raw, more purely bluesy "Losing Hand," and the band's one-off hit, "Love March." Those are juxtaposed with more traditionally structured Chicago-style blues numbers, including "You've Got to Love Her With a Feeling," and funky jazz in bassist Rod Hicks' "All in a Day."

The band comes off as a killer hybrid ensemble, somewhere midway between, say, the Count Basie band of the late 1940s and a large-scale Chicago blues band of early in the next decade, and Booker T. & the MG's paired with the Mar-Keys, all bound up in a lean, sleek package resembling the second incarnation of Blood, Sweat & Tears at their best moments. Based on what's here, the Paul Butterfield Blues Band probably deserved a hearing as much as the latter group got, if not the same sales (Butterfield was a good singer, but lacked David Clayton-Thomas' MOR appeal) -- but musically, they could have blown all competitors off the stage in their sheer eclecticism.
by Bruce Eder

1. Everything Going to Be Alright - 10:08
2. Love Disease - 4:01
3. The Boxer - 6:38
4. No Amount of Loving - 5:53
5. Driftin' and Driftin' - 13:43
6. Intro to Musicians - 1:45
7. Number Nine - 10:10
8. I Want to Be With You - 3:55
9. Born Under a Bad Sign - 5:44
10.Get Together Again - 6:29
11.So Far, So Good - 9:17

*Paul Butterfield - Vocals, Harmonica, Piano
*Ralph Wash - Vocals, Guitar
*Brother Gene Dinwiddie - Vocals, Saxophone, Tenor, Soprano Saxophone
*Rod Hicks - Vocals, Fretless Bass
*Clydie King, Oma Drake, Merry Clayton, Venetta Fields - Vocals
*David Sanborn - Saxophone
*Trevor Lawrence - Baritone Saxophone, Background Vocals
*Steve Madaio - Trumpet, Background Vocals
*Ted Harris - Piano, Keyboards
*George Davidson - Drums

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