THE PAUL BUTTERFIELD BLUES BAND, EAST – WEST.

A few years ago I did occasional posts of some of my favorite albums from my vinyl collection, generally they were from the 1960′s/70′s. The advent of so much great music on YouTube prompts me to try again, this time with a single YouTube selection which will hopefully point you towards more offerings at YouTube or to Spottify if you want more. I have several on my desktop so if this works I’ll keep it going with a rather diverse set of selections, all favorites from long ago. 

The first is a showcase for one of my all-time favorite guitarists who sadly didn’t stay very long, another victim of the needle at an early age, his name, Michael Bloomfield, he’s joined by Elvin Bishop and the the album is East West by the Paul Butterfield Blues band. 

The title cut East-West is a remarkable oddity. On the one hand, it was a ’60s pop-music hybrid, combining the disparate musical styles of blues, jazz, modal and Eastern musics in a way that appealed to rock listeners. On the other, it was a virtuoso display that challenged the very notion of “popular” and pushed the limits of how pop music was heard. In some ways it bears comparison to the Miles Davis album, Kinda Blue and Coltrane’s A Love Supreme, both of which challenged standard musical ideas. 

The piece was recorded in the summer of 1966 in Chicago at Chess Studios, the personnel were: 

Paul Butterfield — vocals, harmonicaMike Bloomfield — electric guitarElvin Bishop — electric guitar, Mark Naftalin — piano, organJerome Arnold — bass and Billy Davenport — drums

 Here’s East West, enjoy.

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15 thoughts on “THE PAUL BUTTERFIELD BLUES BAND, EAST – WEST.

  1. Thanks gf – good call. I was still at school when I bought this as an import in ’67. One of my favourite albums of the sixties….

  2. Great to have you back and posting, gf. I’m afraid I don’t have the attention span for this sort of display of virtuosity. I can appreciate the talent, but I get a bit itchy-eared when a ‘song’ doesn’t break out after a couple of minutes.

  3. I really enjoyed this.

    It is an era I am very interested in as I think it was a really creative time not just in music but in fashion and art also.

    The track really does have a feel of jazz from the era and there are parts which really do remind of Miles Davis. The only thing was I found the harmonica a little out of place . . . but hey, every innovation does not not have to be 100% successful ! ! !

    Thanks for posting this

  4. Hi gf! I’d be interested to know how this came about. There’s some co-ordination toward the end but, for the first 8 minutes, it’s a fairly straight-forward jam. Was it a Miles-like ‘record lots and edit the best bits’ or ‘rehearse lots and go for one take’? Having my preferences/prejudices, I got very frustrated with the boring bassline but there’s some great guitar work going on. I found the second half more rewarding and enjoyable than the first but (and I’d apply the same criticism to In A Silent Way and Bitches Brew) one/two chord jams are rather limiting.
    Have you come across the Dead’s single-chord blues/jam song of the same period, Viola Lee Blues? Garcia gives Bloomfield and Bishop a run for their money and the rhythm section lets go somewhat. This is supposedly from an Acid Test in LA in March, 1966.

  5. Chris; I suspected that you’d find this one interesting. There’s an extensive piece about every aspect of it by David Dann, there’s several live versions also which he includes in his analysis. It’s at:
    http://www.mikebloomfieldamericanmusic.com/eastwest.pdf

    Haven’t got to Violla Lee yet, but I will shortly.

    Sakura: Thanks for your comment, well it was a blues band and the harmonica is traditional there. It does stand out but I think it’s fine, just another aspect of a unique piece of music.

    • Wow, that article sure is, well I’m not sure what…! I love the chart and enthusiasm. There are probably a few completely insane Deadheads out there somewhere who have attempted a similar analysis of Dark Star, only to find themselves committed to a lifetime’s work of diminishing returns.
      Is David Dann famous/well-respected?

  6. I read about them in Joe Boyd’s book, but never got around to listening. Much more jam-bandy than I expected, but that’s not a bad thing!

    • I think that was a symptom of the times, and it seems like any retrospective of the 60′s always starts deducting points from a band for each time they start sounding psychedelic. In many cases there’s good reason for that; as in any area, the bands trying to fit in who get popular often obscure the best creators. Unfortunately it also tends to discount what the creators make.

      Bloomfield was in a league of his own, but it killed him. I’ve read biograph material and listened to his solo stuff too and don’t know how to weigh personal demons vs everything that came from people’s expectations and needs when he just wanting to play).

      Next question, not perhaps unrelated, for GF

  7. Tinny: I’m not sure what ‘fulcrum of black to white dominance’ actually means, it sounds like it might have a chronological component, like ‘who was the first etc.’, and there’s also the thought that it might have been a deliberate policy on the part of the record companies to sell to a much larger audience and the artists were ‘mere cogs in the wheel’. From my personal memories the blues were always popular in UK in the immediate post war period, Humph, Chris Barber and generally all the trad bands played the blues. The trad bands evolved into the Skiffle groups in the ’50′s and Alexis Korner and Lonnie Donnegan had hits with Leadbelly’s tunes. Maybe the first UK electric blues band was Blues Incorporated which might be considered to be the forerunner of Cream and the Stones were also to evolve as a blues based band at about that time. Right about then I left the UK for California and my interest then was fueled by the ‘British Invasion’, the never ending stream of UK bands that were having great success in the US, a few names come to mind; John Mayall, Keith Richards, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, early Fleetwood Mac. I’m not real clear on the chronology, a lot of that period starts merging and it’s hard for me to recall the who’s, where’s and when’s but there were just as many American white blues artists/bands: The Allman Brothers, Johnny Winter, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Carlos Santana, Jerry Garcia, John Cippolino. And of course Mike Bloomfield who I feel was as good as it gets; I remember when I bought that album I was listening to more jazz than anything else plus a smattering of Asian/African music thrown in, East West was a mind blower! Never heard anything like that before, it was so imaginative and it bent the rules so much that I couldn’t stop playing it; it broke the rules to the same degree that Sgt Pepper and other Beatles albums did and I found that to be wonderful. That’s about all I can say on ‘the fulcrum’.

    • cheers. I was curious because there is a huge buzz around Gary Clarke Jr – rightfully- and part of the reason is he’s black. All sound comes out of my speakers the same colour, but the sociology is interesting sometimes.

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