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Crate Digger’s Gold: The Paul Butterfield Blues Band – East-West

September 4, 2018

I have had The Paul Butterfield Blues Band anthology on CD for many years and my favorite song on that collection is “East-West.” So I jumped on the opportunity to buy a vintage LP of the source of that cut: 1966’s East-West. I was browsing the fresh used wax at the Electric Fetus when I saw it and nabbed it. I checked out the grooves and they were clean. Ten bucks – I am in. One thing I really appreciate about the Fetus is they have fair prices – not a discounter – a fair price. They stand by their stuff too. Not to mention the store has a funky vibe – Prince shopped at the Fetus.

Back on topic. What a great album. The Paul Butterfield Blues Band were pioneers foreshadowing the psychedelic blues and acid rock. This was 1966 – it predates Jimi’s Are You Experienced by a year, Cream was hatching at the same time across the pond and the Grateful Dead’s debut was a year away.

If you love the Allman Brothers you are going to love this. Dueling guitars: Michael Bloomfield and Elvin Bishop. If you love classic rock – this is as foundational as the Stones, The Band, The Doors and most importantly: electric Dylan. Bloomfield was the guitarist on Highway 61 Revisited (arguably Dylan’s greatest LP).

This is a very cool blues take. These were the most legitimate white blues interpreters in America – overshadowed by the Brits – these guys were directly schooled by Chicago Blues royalty: Muddy & Howlin’ Wolf – to name drop two. This band is a little below the radar – they deserve more of a reputation – to have a broader audience – especially with rock minded millennials.

I have to admit, beyond the titular cut I am not that knowledgeable about their catalog. I know Bloomfield from Dylan. I just missed this – too much good music and too little time.

This is amazing stuff. Chicago Blues waiving its freak flag. At times, it is knocking on the jazz fusion door. British Blues had such a huge market share and lasting influence that Americans like this band are overlooked (although they were inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame).

Bloomfield is amazing. Per The Paul Butterfield Blues Band entry on the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame’s website:

Michael Bloomfield became one of the era’s first electric-guitar heroes, right there with Eric Clapton in terms of taking blues guitar to a new level. The gunpowder in the band’s equation, Bloomfield was a musician who saw no boundaries, only possibilities, and approached songs like they were vessels to be filled with his hugely impressionistic soundscapes. Joining the group for its first recording sessions, Bloomfield fit seamlessly with original guitarist Elvin Bishop, and together they built a sound perfect for Butterfield’s vocals and harmonica.

This album is a magic moment in the rock and roll timeline. It is great that after all these years, there are still hunks of gold to stumble on. I will be listening to this frequently over the next few months. I have found a new rabbit hole.

  1. A bit of a must album. I fell into it by way of my gal’s records when we hooked up. A long time ago.

  2. Great choice, a real favourite of my dad. I ‘ve never owned it but must have heard it about 40,000,000 times.

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