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4.8 out of 5 stars
Butterfield Blues Band
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67 of 68 people found the following review helpful
on May 18, 2004
Format: Audio CD
In the early Sixties, the prevailing wisdom was that the blues was a music based on the shared experience of African Americans and that any attempt by a "Caucasian" to play the blues would..er, uh...pale in comparison to the authentic renditions of the blues by African Americans. In 1965, Paul Butterfield broke that color barrier, not by successfuly "imitating" black blues musicians, but by developing his own signature playing and singing style that demanded that audiences and critics accept Butterfield on his own terms. Butterfield's passion and intensity transcended any formulamatic notions of authenticity simply because of Butterfield's refusal to be evaluated as an imitator. His playing and singing were so uniquely stylized and original that when Butterfield played "Look Over Yonder's Wall" nobody used the Elmore James original as a litmus test of authenticity. I've heard enough bad imatators of B.B.King, both black and white, to know that racial authenticy is not a very reliable benchmark to evaluate good blues. Mediocrity is color blind, as is brilliance and any argument to the contrary is simply, as they say, academic.

Butterfield's band was bi-racial with rythym section consisting of Howlin' Wolf Band veterans Jerome Arnold on bass and the mighty Sam Lay on drums. Elvin Bishop, a University of Chicago student from Oklahoma learned guitar under the tutelage of another Howlin' Wolf veteran, Smokey Smothers. From 1963 until 1965 Bishop and Butterfield played together at Little John's a smokey blues joint on Chicago's northside. Near the time of this recording, Mark Naftalin was added to the band. Naftalin, a former University of Chicago student, played understated but tasty solos on Hammond organ. Naftalin was a nuanced jazz player having received a year of formal training at Mannes College of Music, where he was recruited by Butterfield for the band.

Many of the tracks from this album were originally recorded without Michael Bloomfield's guitar, but Butterfield reluctantly added Bloomfield, an out of work session player under contract to Columbia Records, at the urging of Paul Rothschild, the brilliant producer at the budding Elektra record label. Bloomfield was a young guitar savant whose signture guitar style contained elements of Albert King's tension, release and sustained feedback; Wes Montgomery's cascading flurries of jazz notes; Elmore James' electrifying bottle neck; and even unconvential modalities like atonal Indian ragas and swaying samba rythyms. The diffence of the in the master tapes with and without Bloomfield is startling. The addition of Bloomfield's explosive guitar playing appears to have ignited the entire band

On the opening cut, "Born In Chicago" Butterfield wastes no time in dispelling the white blues efficacy argument with his take no prisoners approach to blues shouting. The hard edged lyrics to Nick Gravenites's song,"...I was born in Chicago in 1941, and my father told me, son you had better get a gun", seemed to be issuing a challenge to the Doubting Thomases with staid intellectual theories of black authenticity. Butterfield's haromica playing is so uniquely sculpted that comparisons to either Little Walter or Sonny Boy Williamson are futile. The approach of the Butterfield Blues Band raises the ante to new sonic levels. The decibel level is so high and the playing is so intense that it appears that the band can generate enough electricity to light up the Chicago skyline. Butterfield and his guitarist Bloomfield appear to be circling each other like caged lions in the crossfire between the harmonica and guitar solos. Elvin Bishop's rippling and bracing guitar solos are almost an afterthought because Butterfield and Bloomfield remained locked in a tense struggle for sonic domination of the band that rages like a prarie fire until the last note of the final song, "Look Over Yonder's Wall."

Such was the legendary mutual ambivalence between Paul Butterfield and Michael Bloomfield...the twin towers of the Butterfield Blues Band. Both men were so endowed with rare musical talent that only an act of serendipity placed them on the same stage together. They were linked forever by this hellaciously good band, but each seemed to be saying to the other the equivalent of, "This band ain't big enough for the both of us." It was this brinksmanship between Butter and Bloom that often pushed the band into uncharted territory.

I saw this edition of the Butterfield Band twice in concert and their approach to both jazz and blues was so intense that they appeared to be tearing a hole in the fabric of the cosmos itself, armed with the sword of Damocles. The brilliance of Paul Rothchild's production was that he captured this raw intensity and seamless playing skill on vinyl. One can take a snapshot of the eye of a hurricane, but few photos capture the fury of storm, itself. Rothchild seemed to have bottled a raging force of nature, using some form of trickery at the studio mixing console. Bloomfield was partially responsible because he was the rare musician could play on a both a concert stage, or the clinical setting of a studio booth with the same pulse stopping immediacy.

For better or for worse, Butterfield's first album was an early statement of a generation of musicians who were unwilling to accept the arbitrary limits of conventional wisdom. It was 1965; and the musical revolution that about to change everyone's lives so dramatically was just budding forth. As the Sixties unfolded a hundreds of self-styled musicians bloomed into musical maturity and like Butterfield and Bloomfield, they challenged conventional wisdom and often their creativity crossed the divide between the sacred and the profane, but we are all better people for it.
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181 of 199 people found the following review helpful
on November 2, 2004
Format: Audio CD
Yes, this is the great PBBB 1st album (actually, the 2nd, see below), but it's not the CD you should be buying.

This domestic CD was released in 1990 and has never been remastered.

The import 2CD version of this title (backed with the PBBB's 2nd album "East West") is the one to get. It was remastered by Bob Irwin in 2001.

Ditto for "Pigboy Crabshaw" & "In My Own Dream"; the 2004 import 2CD is also remastered (and sounds incredible) and the domestic CD's are not.

Why WEA and Elektra have not made these four remasters available domestically is a mystery.

Don't waste your money on these inferior versions: Get the imports!

Also: Don't miss the "Original Lost Elektra Sessions" CD, which was the real first PBBB album, recorded before this one. There is some fabulous music on that CD, and the liner notes by Paul Rothchild are worth the price alone.
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35 of 38 people found the following review helpful
on September 26, 2002
Format: Audio CD
Butterfield's debut CD burst on the scene in 1965 and the blues, rock and pop scene were never the same after it's release. In it's original form, the band consisted of Butterfield on vocals and harmonica, Mike Bloomfield on slide guitar, Elvin Bishop on rhythm guitar, Jerome Arnold on bass, Sam Lay on drums and Mark Naftalin on organ. One can argue which Butterfield CD should be at the top of the heap but there is no denying that this would rank in the top five of any Butterfield enthusiasts list. The CD contains a variety of blues styles as well as what became the bands signature song, "Born In Chicago" as well as the Bloomfield gem "Screamin'". If you love Butterfield, this is a must have CD. If you are unfamiliar with Butterfield, this is the place to start. In either case, you should own this disc!
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Format: Audio CD
It's only too easy to overrate the original Butterfield Blues Band, who kick-started the original mid-1960s blues revival and, as it happens, sent the folk "revival" of the earlier part of the decade all but packing as a mass phenomenon, both with their own electrifying workshop performances at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival and with a few of them (guitarist extraordinaire Mike Bloomfield, drummer Sam Lay, and bassist Jerry Arnold) limbering up behind Bob Dylan for the latter's long-legendary electric set. But there's no overrating the Butterfield gang's music or debut album - almost forty years after the sextet first laid it out, it's riveting, elemental, and demands to be heard all through each layer of the thrustingly sensitive sound.
They may have anchored themselves with Howlin' Wolf's rhythm section (Lay and Arnold), but Butterfield's heart seemed more to belong to Little Walter, both in the preponderance of Walter's material covered (and with reverence but not redundancy) here and in elements of his own harmonica style. (As it happened, Butterfield, Bloomfield, and second guitarist Elvin Bishop had each known, played with, and learned from the Chicago electric blues masters previously, and never lost the old masters' respect.) Bloomfield, of course, was already an outsized talent in his own right - he's not quite the sleek, polished old pro who would go from drop-dead to existentially expressive (by way of his luminous work with first the Electric Flag and, later, the Al Kooper "Super Session" projects), but he's exuberant, committed, and passionate, and he's already figuring out how to temper his chops and subordinate them to taste and to melodiousness in his solos by the time the set begins to wind down. Not that it's so bad when he just lets fly - in fact, he's the main instigator behind "Screamin'," possibly the wildest instrumental to spring up from any of the decade's blues revivalists, both as its co-composer and its prime cattle prod, dropping off a solo here and there to deliver little sharp stings to either Butterfield (with some choice harmonica sweeps and cries), Bishop (an occasional spiky lick here and there and effectively), and keyboard ace Mark Naftalin while letting the rhythm section whomp it up shamelessly.
Still, the band was wholly accessible, from the romping "Shake Your Moneymaker" to the strolling "Last Night"; from the rocking "Born in Chicago" to the galloping "Thank You, Mr. Poobah"; from the dripping "Our Love Is Drifting" to the bristling boogie joyousness of Sam Lay taking the vocal for "Got My Mojo Workin'." Butterfield was a passable vocalist with perhaps more feeling than voice, but he proved himself a legitimate comer as a blues harp specialist and bandleader. That the elders from whom he and his merry men learnt their blues directly accepted them as one of their own testifies even more potently to how powerful this album was then...and now. But even without its time-and-place importance, it's just good music.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on January 31, 2002
Format: Audio CD
There are about a dozen or so albums that changed my life. This first effort by Paul Butterfield is definitely one of them. I was just in the early stages of learning the harmonica when I stopped into my local record store and asked the clerk if he had any suggestions. He immediately went and got me this album. I took it home played it and it forever changed the way I looked at the harmonica.
From the first cut, "Born In Chicago", through to the end the album is one classic cut after another. Arguably one of the best Blues bands ever assembled, Butterfield included friends Elvin Bishop and Mike Bloomfield as well as Howlin' Wolf veterans Sam Lay and Jerome Arnold to put together the first integrated band in Chicago Blues. The cross pollination of Urban Blues with white-kid Rock gave us a new sound that is as compelling as you can get.
Butterfield studied the master Chicago players, but added his own personal sound to it. Not content to merely copy Little Walter, Butterfield actually adds his own "Improvements" to the classic Chicago Blues harp sound and gives us something to really chew on.
If I had to pick my dozen best or most influential albums, this would definitely make the list.
Buy it.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on November 3, 2003
Format: Audio CD
Looking back over the legacy of 1960's blues, some 40 years on, with so many wonderful contributions made by the likes of Savoy Brown, John Mayall, Cream, the Animals, and the Yardbirds; i.e. by white British kids, you begin to wonder: where was the youth of America during this revival? Did they not make their own contributions? The answer, of course, is a resounding Yes; one could look to San Francisco and Canned Heat, Texas and Johnny Winter, and the Paul Butterfield Blues Band from the Windy City. Their self-titled debut album remains a fabulous part of that legacy. On "Born in Chicago," Paul Butterfield's gritty vocals and honking harmonica prove without a doubt that white man could play the blues. (There used to be, and still are, heated debates as to whether whites could adequately play music near and dear to black roots.) Sam Lay takes over the microphone for the Muddy Water's classic "Got My Mojo Workin'" and gives a nonstop performance with plenty of soul. "Mellow Down Easy" is a first-rate take of the Little Walter tune (if not quite as mellow or easy as the original), while "Look Over Yonder's Wall" would in a few years be a highlight of the band's set at the Monterey Pop Festival. But, without a doubt, the best number on the disc (and, in my mind, the best performance EVER of this song) is Paul's bone-shaking rendition of "Shake Your Moneymaker," with both Mike Bloomfield and Elvin Bishop roaring away on their guitars at ninety miles an hour. Sensational!!! By contrast, "Last Night" is slow blues perfection, with Paul once again proving many hours spent in the discipleship of Little Walter. Harp heaven!! So, get this album right away, and just remember: the bread of life often needs a little butter to make it extra tasty!!!
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on October 19, 1999
Format: Audio CD
It sure was groundbreaking at its time. When this album was released in 1965, the general American public probably only heard the blues filtered though British invasion groups. When Paul Butterfield and his band arrived on the scene, they gave us the real thing; undiluted Chicago blues. This was also one of the first interracial groups featuring two black players: Sam Lay on drums and Jerome Arnold on bass. Both of them had played in Muddy Waters's band at one point. Excellent tunes such as the Nick Gravenites-penned "Born In Chicago", "Shake Your Moneymaker", "Mellow Down Easy", and "Look Over Yonder's Wall" burn with intensity. "Our Love Is Drifting" is one of the best original tunes which was written by Butterfield and Elvin Bishop. Most of the tunes were written by others, but the playing and intensity is strong throughout. Butterfield was a great harpist and Mike Bloomfield was a great guitarist. May they both rest in peace. Listen to the real thing. Pick this one up.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Format: Audio CD
This is the first album from the classic chicago blues band "The Paul Butterfield Blues Band". The group was an all star line up of blues musicians which featured Paul Butterfield on harmonica and vocals. The spectacular Mike Bloomfield on lead guitar, Elvin Bishop on rhythm guitar, Sam Lay (drummer for howlin' wolf and various other blues bands) on drums, organ/pianist Mark Naftalin and bass player Jerome Arnold. This is early Bloomfield, his licks are searing and his guitar stings throughout the album. Butterfield's classic harp wails and cries ferociously. The album opens up with the gritty "Born In Chicago". They then do a cover of "Shake Your Money Maker." The third track and one of the best, "Blues With a Feeling", has Bloomfield biting and chomping through the song. "Thank You Mr. Poobah" is a great instrumental with a bit of a jazz swing. They cover Muddy Waters "I Got My Mojo Working" solidly adding new energy into the song. "Mellow Down Easy" is a little weak but still good. They come back with the instrumental "Screamin'" which cranks. Bloomfield's licks and solos spew out of his guitar like magma. "Our Love is Drifting" is another K.O. slower blues number with more fierce guitarmanship. "Mystery Train" and "Last Night" are a little weaker but they make up for it with a cover of "Look Over Yonders Wall".
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on May 3, 1999
Format: Audio CD
This was the first blues album I ever heard and it locked me into a history of appreciation for hard driving harp and guitar. Besides Butterfield's note bending, you get to hear Mike Bloomfield and Elvin Bishop trade licks on some really soulful guitar. The first stop for appreciation of Butterfield, as well as Chicago blues. Note: The original jacket liner suggests that you play this album at the loudest possible volume. Try parting your hair with it.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on November 6, 1999
Format: Audio CD
I first heard this album in 1967? approximately as an impressionable young man-15 years old. I've been blown away by the music ever since. It never gets old or too familiar to me. There is such a drive to the sound and an intensity that is non pareil. Butterfield was only 23 when he made the album but had the wisdom and vision of a man twice his age. Haven't heard a band that can touch these guys.
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