Saturday, September 19, 2009

476. The Paul Butterfield Blues Band- Best discovery so far.

Album: The Paul Butterfield Blues Band.

Artist: The Paul Butterfield Blues Band.

Year: 1965

Genre: Blues.


1. Born in chicago

2. Shake your money maker.

3. Blues with a feeling.

4. Thank you Mr Poobah.

5. I got my mojo working.

6. Mellow down easy.

7. Screamin

8. Our love is drifting

9. Mystery train.

10. Last night

11. Look over yonder's wall.

There are a few albums on this list that are widely regarded as “slow burners.” Releases that you have to spend time with in order to fully appreciate. One such release was the Smiths, which I gave ample opportunity to burn at whatever speed it required but found it failed to ignite a spark of any description. I’ve given The Paul Butterfield Blues Band a good deal more than four listens, not because I was trying to appreciate it but because it’s brilliant. It’s both a quick and slow burner that ignited my interest immediately and then smoldered away happily, setting alight a series of fire analogies which I should probably extinguish now.

The first thing that hit me about PBBB was the guitar work of Mike Bloomfield. I’d had a run of guitarless releases recently that made me hunger for a good lead break and The Bloomster provided the goods. I was familiar with his work from Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited but was blown away by what he was pulling off here. Rolling Stone Magazines list of the top 100 guitarists has Bloomfield at 21. In the past I’d thought that was a bit high but having listened to this release a few times I can honestly say it’s well deserved.

Bloomfield is the best thing on this disc but for my initial listens he was distracting me from the other great appeal of this album which is Butterfield himself. As a vocalist The Butter is okay but as a blues harmonica player he’s sensational. I’d previously thought that the blues harp only existed to give lead singers who can’t dance something to do during the instrumental bits. If you hold this view then Butterfield will persuade you otherwise. He can produce a great range of soulful notes out of something that is basically just a metal box with a reed inside. Rolling Stone magazine has never produced a Top 500 Harmonica Solos list but it’s only a matter of time before they do and when it happens The Butter will be liberally spread throughout.

While the album is worth listening to for the two Fields alone, the rest of the band are no slouches either. The combination of a tight rhythm section and exceptional soloists mean there’s not much that can go wrong with an album like this. As long as they choose good songs to cover (and they do), listen to what the rest of the band is doing (and they do) and keep and eye on the time to make sure they don’t disappear up their own blues-inspired bottoms (and they don’t) they’ll come away with a great album. Musical maths is easy sometimes: Talent+great songs= a good listen. Paul Butterfield Blues Band (the album) is a sensational release full of blues tracks of every tempo and some original instrumentals with the obligatory silly names (“Thank you Mr Poobah” for example). The only thing that could stand in the way of PBBB from becoming huge was something like drug addiction and sadly both the Fields succumbed and died prematurely of narcotic-related mishaps.

The Paul Butterfield Blues Band is definitely the discovery of the countdown up to this point as far as I’m concerned. I’ve tracked down their other releases and enjoyed them as well although they’re not nearly up to this standard. But I wouldn’t say it’s a huge widening of my horizons. While they’re great at what they do the PBBB lives pretty firmly in a genre that I knew I liked anyway. Like the Yardbirds, the Rolling Stones, the Allman Brothers etc etc they’re a blues cover band who crank out blues standards way above everyone else’s standard.

By the way: If my name was Paul Butterfield (and I’m glad it isn’t) I think I’d probably adopt a stage name if I was going to become a recording artist. But if I hadn’t and if I was going to perform the blues I don’t think I’d name my band the Paul Butterfield Blues Band. And if I did I certainly wouldn’t call my debut album The Paul Butterfield Blues Band so people had to refer to it as the Paul Butterfield Blues Band by the Paul Butterfield Blues Band. But Paul Butterfield did so we have to put up with it.

Highlight: Bloomfield’s every guitar lick. May he rest in peace

Lowlight: The knowledge that this could have been the start of something fantastic instead of just a one-off.

Influenced by: Blues players named King.

Influenced: The Black Crowes and others like them.

Favourite Amazon customer review qoute: "this white boy blues stuff is so over-done. every band like this from this era all sound the same: boring, watered-down, stuck-in-the-same-groove, white-boy, schlock. pure torture!!"

-You sir are as dumb as toast. In fact I'd go so far as to say that you are dumber than toast. If I took the stupidest piece of bread from the dimmest loaf in the world's thickest bakery and then gave it five minutes in a combined toaster/stupiding machine the end result would still be clever enough to call you an idiot.

So is the PBBB Perfect Blues Brilliantly Bellowed, or Painful Bollocks Badly Botched? Let me know below.

1 comment:

  1. great album. what a discovery. only about 40 years after it was made.