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Thursday, February 12, 2015

The Paul Butterfield Blues Band

Today I begin my annual look at the newest inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I discussed Lou Reed after his death over a year ago. First up: The Paul Butterfield Blues Band.

To be honest, I hardly knew anything about this group, as they really didn't have any hits and were never played on standard classic rock radio. Ironically, the one song I knew them for, "Love March," which is included on the original Woodstock soundtrack, is an anomaly to their sound.

Butterfield, who was already an acolyte of Muddy Waters in Chicago, and a prodigy on blues harmonica, formed the band in the early '60s with guitarist Elvin Bishop. Later they would add other members from other Chicago blues bands, and were perhaps the earliest integrated blues band. They added Mike Bloomfield later (interestingly, I've heard of members of the band even if I haven't known they were in this group) and gained heights by playing the Newport festival in 1965 (the one where Dylan went electric--a few members of Butterfield's group backed him).

The band had shifting lineups, and later took on a more jazzy sound, with saxophonist David Sanborn (for years a mainstay of Paul Schaeffer's CBS Orchestra). Butterfield died in 1987.

So what we have here is a group that appeals to a particular audience. I'm not much a blues fan--I can listen to it, but eventually it all sounds the same to me, as it always has the same rhythm. If you into long jams with long harmonica solos, this stuff is for you. There's some old standards here, like "Mystery Train," and new stuff, like "Born in Chicago." A lot of the titles seem standard fare, like "Shake Your Money Maker," "Walkin' Blues," "Work Song," "Mornin' Blues," and "Love Disease."

As for "Love March," it probably shows that I'm not much into blues as this is my favorite track. It's a drum march with lots of peace and love talk, including a rejection of the "sins of the father" argument. I also greatly admired "Song for Lee," which sounds like the theme song of a blaxploitation movie.

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