The late Paul Butterfield from Chicago, Illinois was the first white bluesman to develop a style original and powerful enough to place him in the pantheon of true blues greats.
It is really impossible to underestimate the importance of his efforts - before Paul Butterfield came to prominence, white musicians in Britain and the US alike treated the blues with cautious respect, afraid of coming off as inauthentic (and with good reason, too).
But Butterfield cleared the way for white musicians to build upon the blues tradition (instead of merely replicating it), and this release combines his first two albums, "The Paul Butterfield Blues Band" from 1965, and 1966s "East-West".
On "The Paul Butterfield Blues Band", harpist Buttefield and a star-studded band which includes Sam Lay and slide guitarist Michael Bloomfield churn out superb, muscular renditions of Elmore James' "Shake Your Moneymaker" and "Look On Yonder Wall", Little Walter's "Last Night" and "Blues With A Feeling", Junior Parker's "Mystery Train", and Muddy Waters' "I Got My Mojo Working" (with a great, raw lead vocal from drummer Sam Lay).
Bloomfield's and Butterfield's playing is sublime, and the band mixes covers with original songs, the soulful, Elmore James-like "Our Love Is Drifting", the instrumentals "Screamin'" and "Thank You Mr Poobah", and Nick Gravenite's excellent "Born In Chicago".
"East-West" takes its name from the lengthy 13-minute blues-rock solo which closes the album, a fiery fusion of blues and jazz.
It opens with a fine take on "Walkin' Blues" (which is credited to Robert Johnson, who in fact learned it from Son House), and other highlights include "All These Blues", Allen Toussaint's funky "Get Out Of My Life, Woman", which features a great piano solo from Mark Naftalin, and the driving (no pun intended) "Two Trains Running". And while it's not quite as stellar as "The Paul Butterfield Blues Band", there is a lot to like here nevertheless.
Much more muscular and authentic sounding than other early white blues combos, the Paul Butterfield Blues Band was one of the most energetic and convincing 60s blues bands, and these are two of their best album, alongside "Better Days", and the oddly titled "The Resurrection Of Pigboy Crabshaw".
4½ stars - highly recommended.
on 16 February 2004
This 2CD pack brings together the Paul Butterfield Blues Band’s first 2 albums. The self-titled debut is very easy to get into - and comprises great versions of mostly well-known blues standards. Butterfield’s harp playing is generally to the fore, but the other musicians also get a chance to open up too. You will be amazed by Bloomfield’s machine gun guitar work. There’s also some tasteful organ courtesy of Mark Naftalin. It’s difficult to pick favourite songs. All the songs are hot, and the album is very cohesive.
The second album is somewhat different. Besides a few blues standards like Walkin’ Blues, plus a superb version of the Lee Dorsey/Allen Toussaint song Get out of My Life, Woman, the album includes some long jazzy improvised jams like Work Song and East-West. These don't do much for me. I'm not doubting that they're great songs (friends of mine love them), I'm just not a jazz fiend. See what you think.
This excellent twofer collects the debut and second album of Chicago Blues outfit `The Paul Butterfield Blues Band'. Recorded in the mid sixties, when Butterfield was barely out of his teens, the two recordings reveal a set of musicians of great talent, steeped in knowledge and experience of the Chicago blues scene and already skilled in the art of making music.
Covering mainly well known standards and with a sprinkling of similar sounding originals, the debut self titled album is a class album. Butterfield's harmonica playing is fiery and distinctive, and the band all get room to do their thing behind him, leading to some interpretations of the old stuff which are different enough to be interesting, but faithful enough to sound authentic. The original material fits right in, and an enjoyable, foot stomping blues and boogie style album results.
East-West is a more interesting album. Starting to move away from the pure blues, and experimenting with the form to include jazz elements, this shows what a talent Butterfield had. It is still true to the Chicago style, but introduces new elements that work well and stamp their own style on the music.
The two albums come on separate discs in a fold out jewel case. The remastering is pretty good, and the sound clear on my stereo. In all an excellent way of getting hold of two important blues albums.