There are some bands that sound fresh and compelling when they first appear on the scene, but when you listen to them nearly forty years later, you wonder why you ever liked them. Then there are others, like the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, that sound just as good if not better than when you first heard them.
Paul Butterfield's debut album is one of the first I owned at the tender age of eleven. Back then, I mostly just liked a half-dozen songs on side one and rarely listened to the flip side. And when East-West came out, I flippantly dismissed it, thinking at the time it couldn't hold a candle to the first one.
My old album is now worn and scratched, so when I saw the pair being offered together as a remastered set, I could not resist ordering it. When I threw it in the CD player, all I could do was marvel at the miracle wrought by remastering. The percussion, in particular, comes to life. Now here are a couple of albums that truly stand the test of time!
After listening to both CDs several times, I am still of the opinion that the eponymous debut is superior to East-West, but not by that much. I like the entire debut album, the follow-up is only mariginally and perhaps necessarily weaker than its blockbuster predecessor.
In my opinion, the following songs are the highlights of disc one: Born in Chicago, Shake Your Money-Maker, Blues With A Feeling, the instrumental Thank You Mr. Poobah, the driving I Got My Mojo Working featuring drummer Sam Lay on vocals, Screamin', and Look Over Yonders' Wall, a song that seems to presage the southern blues/rock of the Allman Brothers.
Disc two features fewer standouts, but is nevertheless worthwhile. My favorites are: Get Out of My Life Woman (later covered by Iron Butterfly on their debut), I Got A Mind To Give Up Living, and a couple instrumentals, Work Song and East-West.
Getting this set gives the listener the opportunity to hear some great musicians at their peak. In addition to Butterfield, there is the immortal blues guitarist Mike Bloomfield and an early Elvin Bishop who went on to light up the San Francisco scene before falling into commercialism. In addition, there is the drumming of the great Sam Lay and the fabulous keyboard work of the lesser-known Mark Naftalin.
These guys were far advanced for their day and from their collaborations sprang a number of important late 60s musical groupings. If blues is your thing, how can you be without a great pair of albums like these?