on April 14, 2005
There are many albums which have introduced a new combined style of music to the masses (e.g. "Are You Experienced", "Sargent Peppers", "Johnny Winter" and "Texas Flood" are some). This set was way ahead of its time. The Butterfield Blues Band had made a name for itself on their first, self-titled, LP as great exponents of the revived Blues Power. The edge this band had was, say unlike Canned Heat, they had two Black musicians from Howlin Wolf's band. Sam Lay, the drummer, is still considered to be one the best Chicago Blues drummers ever and bassist Jerome Arnold. This lineup was impressive. Unlike John Mayall, whose album fired interest in the Blues from the far side of the Atlantic with its pre-Hendrix like overdriven sound and up front guitar. However, the PBBB had people from Chicago, the home of urban blues, who had grown up and played with all the greats. Butterfield, originally a flutist, is probably, along with Charlie Musselwhite, the greatest ever white harp player-his style of single note playing (listen to the record) is very unique and gives it a true horn sound. He had met Elvin Bishop at the University of Chicago and started jamming. Bishop, a native Oklahoman, was a Blues fanatic from the start. He played traditional blues styles on his Gibson 335 in the Freddie King, Eddie Taylor, Luther Tucker and Otis Rush tradition.
Mike Bloomfield, whose father owned a club in Chicago, had only been playing about 10 years when he made this record. He played jazz, blues and fingerpicking styles well. Mike took up slide on a Fender Telecaster and became known around town for his fabluous technqiue-similar to Elmore James. He was hired to play slide in the initial album on "Shake Your Moneymaker" and joined the band. (However, he was in and out the whole time-I saw the PBBB several times growing up in NY and Bloomfield was never in the line up). On East-West Bloomfield switched to the Gibson Les Paul (Like Clapton) and history was made. His lines are clear and many of his runs are virtually seamless. And amazing effort-one he himself never duplicated- like Eric Clapton on the Bluesbreakers first LP. Mark Naftalin does a great job on the keyboards. And Jerome Arnold plays bass with soul (especially notice his work on "The Work Song" similar to Duck Dunn of the MGs).
This band was interracial, a great thing for the Blues Revival that they helped start (Like SRV in the 1980s). They were the Blues Booker T and the MGs. This set combines all genres of music but basically shows the world what Willie Dixon always said "The Blues is the Roots, Everything else is the Fruits!". They do impressive and updated (at the time) versions of many types of tunes. "Walking Blues" is of course a Robert Johnson tune and was probably done because Clapton had done "Ramblin On My Mind" on the Mayall LP. "Mary, Mary" was a tune by the Monkees!!!!!!Can you believe it!
"I Got A Mind To Give Up Living" was a B.B. King tune (redone many times with many different titles). Which to me always has been the highlight of the record. It's a blues, but a new wave type of feel and arrangement. Butterfield sings, but plays no harp! Bloomfield produced his best ever blues solos- slightly understated and perfect, especially the intro. "Two Trains Running" has a funky feel and is nothing like Muddy Waters original or the Danny Kalb and the Blues Project's slow version on "Projections". This one rocks and the intro to the guitar solo is fantastic with its tension and build up.
The title track is no less interesting. It featured ragas from India with a basic jazz background. Bloomfield and Butterfield's playing is fantastic and highly original. This was the start of the Grateful Dead style psychedelic rock that came in the late 60s. (I can remember playing in bands in 1967 where we did "Gloria" and "Light My Fire" for a half hour each!!!) This track was 13 minutes long and a milestone for the time- the Door's The End was 11 minutes!
The Work Song is a powerful jazz-fusion number that has Bloomfield's best solos ever. This was someone at the height of their creative powers. The whole tune is solid and explores the jazz potential of the basic blues pentatonic scale. I feel this was Butterfield's instrumental masterpiece.
It is unfortunate that the Blues gave way to soul and country in the 1970s. Butterfield's subsequent work (although some was excellent) never sold well (either did John Mayall's as well). Butterfield and Bloomfield had drug addictions which ultimately killed them both. Bishop continues to play and had chart success in the seventies. Naftalin played with Otis Rush and others and Sam Lay is still a Chicago institution (see him on the Howlin Wolf DVD and The Godfathers and Sons DVD in the Blues series, 2003).
This is an essential recording in the history of American Music and should be in everyone's collection.
on February 20, 2004
By now it seems like everything in music has been tried and done - or overdone - and most of it badly. But back in 1966 when this album debuted, it was nothing less than astonishing. A mixed-race band? A white guy singing blues like nobody's business? A Jewish kid and a southern farmboy sounding like Robert Johnson on guitars? None of us had heard anything quite like it and it gave me, a 15-year-old rock&roll wannabee guitar player, something to focus on.
Right out of the chute, this is a strong album. Opening with "Walking Blues", the BBB struts their stuff with strong vocals, soulful harmonica, and wicked guitar. "I've Got a Mind to Give up Living" was most people's first taste of what Michael Bloomfield could do - simply a stunning blues solo to cap off a great twelve-bar blues.
The album highlight, in my opinion, is their rendition of "The Work Song". Always a great jam song, they carried it to new heights. Bloomfield plays a dizzying guitar solo for 4 verses; Butterfield smokes 2 verses on his harp; Mark Naftalin follows with an understated organ solo; Elvin Bishop gets down & dirty for 4 verses. Then it really gets good; trading off every 2 bars, the musicians rotate for a few verses, each time upping the ante on each other as the song intensifies before resolving into a final melody verse. Whatta song!!!
Noteworthy on side 2 is Elvin Bishop's singing and playing on the sultry "Never Say No". Who knew he could sing?
Finally, the album culminates with the title song "East-West", one of those 60's long-songs which were oftentimes wretched excess, but this one keeps your interest. For 5 minutes or so, guitar and harmonica imitate an Indian raga in a slowly building crescendo. Sudden break, and the music becomes western, muted, and diatonic scale until once again transitioning to the final east-west blend. Hard to describe -- by the CD and hear it yourself.
While "East West" wasn't on the top-10 decade list for sales, it represented a watershed for pop music -- more maturity, better musicianship, more exploration, more successful blending of other genres.
If you're a blues fan, an Alan Lomax enthusiast, or a student of the 60s progression, this album is a must. Enjoy.
on June 5, 2000
A lot of bands from the 60s are making semi-comebacks these days through reissues of their albums and critical reappraisal, but quite frankly not many of them were as good as the Butterfield Blues Band. It's a complete mystery to me why Eric Clapton's early work is held in such reverence when it so obviously pales in comparison with what Mike Bloomfield did with the Butterfield Band.
"East/West" was the Butterfield Blues Band's masterpiece. They had already shown on their first album that they had a definite command of the Chicago blues idiom. Here, they open up and branch out without losing the edge and drive of their first recording. The two long workouts, "Work Song" and "East-West," are so far ahead of what anyone else in rock was doing (including the Beatles) that it isn't even funny. This was recorded in 1966, when most bands, if they played the blues at all, were thrashing around doing impersonations of British musicians impersonating the styles of American musicians. In 1966 it was unheard of to have extended solos unless you were playing jazz, and even then you could expect to be razzed by people with short attention spans.
On "East/West," the Butterfield Blues Band cheerfully dispenses with most of the reigning thou-shalt-nots of their time and proceeds to kick down the walls. This is a trend-setting recording that had more impact than people are willing to acknowledge, and it still rewards the listener. A lot of bands stole liberally from this album and have never paid back their debts. Don't you owe it to yourself to check it out and get the real stuff straight from the source?
on November 2, 2004
Yes, this is the great PBBB's 2nd album, 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 1st album) 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!
Link to the import remastered Paul Butterfield Blues Band/East West
on September 27, 2003
Few white blues players have been able to transcend the traditional notion that blues is a music that is based on the shared experiences of African Americans. Authenticity equals credibility in the minds of most blues enthusiasts. It's a powerful argument; and few white performers have been able perform the blues without inviting comparisons to the original African American blues masters. Paul Butterfield never invited comparisions because he demanded that listeners accept him on his own terms as an artist, and even the old blues masters could not deny Butterfield's prodigious talents and his inspired performances. The Butterfield Blues Band was one of those rare performing ensembles that could literally send chills down your spine on the sheer force of charisma. Butterfield was "authentic" because he refused to accept the stereotypes of white blues performers and his passion and magnetism changed the rules about who can, and cannot play, authentic blues. When Butterfield played his turbo-charged version of "Walking Blues", it was pointless to debate the merits the Robert Johnson original, because the Butterfield treatment of "Walking Blues" is so electrifying, that the racial identity of the singer is a moot point.
It was almost serendipity that Michael Bloomfield ended up in the same band with Butterfield. There really wasn't room enough in the same band two performers with such monumental talents and unshakable opinions of music. Bloomfield was a Columbia records studio musician and a budding guitar prodigy, when it was suggested that Bloomfield be added to the band, to deepen the band's recording sound. Butterfield reluctantly accepted and it began a turbulent partnership in which the two musical wunderkinds circled each other like caged lions. It was the musical rivalry between Butterfield and Bloomfield that was precisely the strength of the Butterfield Blues Band. These twin towers of talent each pushing the musical envelope to outplay the other. Bloomfield signature tension and release guitar technique: slow knotty phrases building into an almost unbearable tension which was finally realeased in a blazing cascade of notes, with a climax usually consisting of single long feedback sustained note. Bloomfield's playing was such a stylized pastiche of jazz, blues, and world music that only a musical scholar could discern Bloomfield's almost endless array of source material for his technique. Bloomfield's mastery of guitar was so all-encompassing, he began exprimenting with entirely different musical modalities which flew in the face of the rigid three chord structure of blues.
Late in 1965, Bloomfield presented a piece to the band that he had been working on for well over a year which he titled "East-West". There was no precedent for the composition. It was a jazz peice, in the sense that constructed themes were jump-off points for long improvisational solos by members of the Butterfield Blues Band. What was unprecedented about East-West was the dizzying array of musical styles it embraced from blues themes, to jazz to samba. The center piece of tension was usually a slow segue from a blues theme into an eastern scale Indian raga where Bloomfield manipulated his guitar sound using feedback to sound like a sitar. He is complimented with a harmonica sound by Butterfield that almost sounds as if Butterfield is attempting get a bluesy bagpipe effect. The piece built into an explosive climax, which created new musical space in areas folks never dream it exsisited. At that time no one in the United States had ever heard of a sitar or Ravi Shankar, so a lot of jaws dropped when this blues band launced their performance finale piece. For the first time in musical history, "psychedelic" became the only appropriate term to describe a musical composition. It's ironic that a self-defined blues band created psychedelica, but when the Paul Butterfield Band played the Fillmore in San Francisco in the summer of 1966, the ripple effect of "East-West" created dozens of San Francisco bands who followed Butterfield and Bloomfield's improvisational style to create the psychedelic sound of Haight Ashbury. Without "East/West" there would probably have not been a Grateful Dead (as we know them), a Quicksilver Messenger Service or an entire genre of "jam band" music.
on December 26, 2001
This album is music of the '60's to me. I remember learning about blues hiding in an alley next to the stairs leading down to the Unicorn Coffee House in Boston, listening to the likes of James Cotton and the Siegel-Schwall Band and just being knocked out. Then, on a rummage through the bins at a record store in Braintree, I just liked the look of the cover of this album. That choice changed my musical taste forever.
I had listened to blues, a lot of it, by the time I got this record; but, this stretched my imagination. The first thing that grabbed me was the harp. Butterfield on "Work Song" just made me want to turn it UP! By the time I hit 'East-West' I was in magicland. With an apology to a forgotten reviewer of many years ago,Bishop was from Chicago, and Bloomfield was from EGYPT!
I still listen to this album a couple of times a month, and have gone through a dozen copies on records, tapes, and CD's, which always seem to be missing after parties. I don't mind . . . much. As I have aged, and have seen rock lose its bearings more times than I can count, and then return to its bare essentials, the blues and folk, I return to this album like Linus' blanket. It is comfort and joy for me.
In the many years since I have heard this music, which was ground breaking in its time, leading to much that followed, the odd consequence has been to send me back, to the old bluesmen to try and understand why 12 bars of repetitive use of three chords has been the hanger for a closet full of repressed feelings and release. If you can't hear John Lee Hooker, all the great blues guitarists and harpists, Robert Johnson and the Devil, and some whiskey in this record, you haven't listened to it enough.
Buy it. Often.
on August 11, 2003
When you're a bit under the weather (if you know what i mean), a little bit above the surface of our blue planet earth (winks all around, chaps), then this CD is for you. It puts you on the moon. I mean that, it really does it for me. Far out...
on January 17, 2010
I've been playing guitar for almost 50 years. I came up in Texas in the traditional Blues tradition. (T-Bone and the 3 Kings, Freddie, Albert and BB, Lightnin' Hopkins, Johnny Winter etc.) I bought P. Butterfield B.B.'s first album because they had Howlin' Wolf's rhythm section with new guitar players. Wow! They knocked my socks off! Particularly, Michael Bloomfield. I remember when this album came out, everyone was primed to buy it. All my guitar picking friends wore out a couple of copies straight away. Those Michael Bloomfield solos became "The Encyclopedia". I never get tired of hearing Mike Bloomfield's solos. East-West kicked off a whole Raga rock thing in midst of the oncoming wave of Psychedelia. The Harmonic minor scale existed well before that but not the way Michael played it and connected it to the Blues. This album was and is a very important album in grand scheme of Popular Music.
on May 31, 2014
This was an album I purchased because many have thought it is a good record. To my surprise, the music was excellent and very enjoyable to listen to. I love the instrumentation and the sonics of this SACD. Highly recommended.
The Paul Butterfield Blues Band and the Rolling Stones are probably the sole reasons that most white people now even know that the blues exists: ... The Stones because of their incredible commercial success, and somewhat by-the-book covers...and Butterfield because of Mike Bloomfield's unceasing efforts to very publicly credit his inspirations, the original blues ,(and jazz),artists, along with the band's high-energy workouts on blues-based forms ... The -last- thing in the world Bloomfield wanted was for his fans to get 'stuck' on him; he was -the- ambassador between races and generations for the blues, (ask B.B.King where's he thinks his career would be now without Mike's help) ...With that in mind, follow his lead; go out and get some Little Walter, Muddy Waters, Albert, BB, and Freddy King, Elmore James, Howlin'Wolf,(the list goes on and on), and for the more experimental stuff; Coltrane and Ravi Shankar ... That having been said, this music is the turning point, definitely my personal introduction to the music, (along with the Stones), and an LP that I couldn't keep from playing many times every day for months when it first came out. Although upon current listening, much of this seems to have youthful enthusiasm winning out over taste, I recall clearly when I wouldn't have had it any other way....Check out the timeline of the PBBB's move to San Francisco with the music to soon follow from that scene: Santana credits Bloomfield as his major guitar influence,(his band was originally the 'Santana Blues Band'), the Jefferson Airplane's Jorma interviews speak of learning how electric guitar should be played from Bloomfield,(Jorma having mostly played acoustic up until then), and the _quite_ similar Grateful Dead jams that were so soon to follow 'East-West'...Extend that influence to all of the Dead-Inspired 'Jam' bands now, and you have an earth-shaking shift in the way music is played, as well as a dead-center point between what's happening now and the original blues,jazz, and 'world' artists .