The Paul Butterfield Blues Band : Paul Butterfield (vocals, harmonica), Mike Bloomfield (electric guitar), Elvin Bishop (electric guitar & vocals), Mark Naftalin (piano, organ), Jerome Arnold (bass), Billy Davenport (drums)
The Paul Butterfield Blues Band were pioneers in the melding of blues, jazz, and rock in the early 60s. Led by three extremely talented musicians, the band started marking new territory in blues and rock with their first, self-titled album,* a combination of traditional blues and new material. Their second effort, East-West, is a classic.
Butterfield, of course, led the band and did most of the vocals, but he knew how to pick talent. His primary lead guitarist, Mike Bloomfield was an early guitar god, developing his reputation with the band. And Elvin Bishop also made his mark on the rock pantheon.
East-West uses many musical styles. “Walkin’ Blues” is from the great Robert Johnson, while “Get Out of My Life Woman” features the New Orleans based sound of Allen Toussaint. And jazz great Nat Adderley was covered with the instrumental “Work Song.”
But it is the title song that gets all the praise. Developed by Bloomfield, it’s a 13-minute opus that’s based upon Indian classical music mixed with modal jazz, and with a memorable tune to boot. The song was a fascinating exploration of new ways where music can go. It became an influence for the budding jam band scene.
It was unusual for an rock albums of the time to have two long instrumental tracks. Also notable is the inclusion of the song “Mary, Mary,” written by Michael Nasmith of the Monkees.
The album was a critical success. But Bloomfield moved on soon after it was released. He formed The Electric Flag, which put out a single album, played with Bob Dylan, and then with Al Kooper for the album Super Session. But he seemed to have develop a problem with drugs.** he recorded various solo albums and projects in the 70s, but, while well-received, nothing really gelled for him. He died in 1981 of a drug overdose.
Bishop took over as guitarist for the group when Bloomfield left; their next album, The Resurrection of Pigboy Crabshaw*** featured him taking over the guitar parts. Eventually, he moved on to a solo career, with the hit single “Fooled Around and Fell in Love,” which wasn’t really typical of his blues-based music.
Butterfield kept going, breaking up the Blues Band and recording as Paul Butterfield’s Better Days before going solo. His harmonica playing was highly influential in the field.
The album is one of the great landmarks of the era.
*Reportedly, the first album to have the liner instructions, “This record should be played loud.” The exhortation later became a punchline and a sign of a no-talent group, but in this case it was sincere.
**The Super Session was released with one side of Bloomfield material and another with Steve Stills. Bloomfield had been scheduled to appear on both sides, but didn’t show up for the second recording session.
***The name referred to Bishop.