Blood Sweat & Tears: Child is Father to the Man

Trevor MacLaren By

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Blood Sweat & Tears
Child is Father to the Man

Most people remember Blood Sweat & Tears as the incarnation led by the gravel-voiced white blues of David Clayton-Thomas. During his tenure as leader, the hits "Spinning Wheel," "And When I Die," and "Hi-De-Ho" helped to bring pop/rock/jazz to mainstream audiences. BS&T's debut, Child is Father to the Man, didn't feature Clayton-Thomas, nor did it spawn any hits, yet its remarkable influence—due primarily to Al Kooper—opened the door not only for the latter day BS&T but also for such '70s pop/rock/jazz mavericks as Steely Dan and early Chicago.

Producer, session organist, guitarist, and Dylan band mate Al Kooper put the band together with the idea of incorporating his love of jazz (especially Maynard Ferguson) into a working jazz-oriented rock band. Kooper originally wanted to make this happen in Britain, but after a few shows with a handful of musicians in New York, Kooper formed the original BS&T.

As the group's self-appointed leader, the former Blues Project member intended to create a sound that utilized horns as much as rock guitar. Unlike R&B groups, the horns were not used to accent choruses; they played complex arrangements that flowed throughout, and Kooper and guitarist Steve Katz gave them room to solo. What is interesting about this record, unlike the more commercially successful followup, Blood Sweat and Tears II, is that it lacks the sappy commercialism that imbued tracks like "You Made Me So Very Happy."

Child is Father to the Man is not only one of the finest jazz/rock hybrids, it is one of the finest records of the late '60s, standing up along side the Rolling Stones' Beggar's Banquet, the Beatles' White Album, the Velvet Underground self titled, Van Morrison's Astral Weeks and Dylan's John Wesley Harding. It boasts many choice cuts from Kooper, as well as covers of Tim Buckley, Harry Nilsson and Gerry Goffin & Carole King. Though the album is enveloped with a great horn sound, the drops of Kooper's organ recall Jimmy Smith, while Katz plays some smokin' guitar solos that rival much of San Francisco's acid rock of the period.

Interestingly enough, Kooper also wanted to bring symphonic composition into the band's sound as well. Classical styles appear in the mix, but they do not copy the chamber pop of the Beatles, the Bee Gees, or Left Banke. Kooper uses a piano based style of composition that uses elements of 18th Centaury composers rather than arranging a pop piece into a chamber composition as George Martin would do with the Beatles. Unlike the rest of the record, the opening "Overture" mixes a healthy dose classical composition with pyschedelic grooves of laughter.

Then music works into Kooper's legendary blues grooves on "I Love You More Than You'll Ever Know" and "I Can't Quit You." But tracks such as the Buckley cover "Morning Glory" and the Kooper-penned "My Days are Numbered" feature a blazing jazz sound that works within the pop sound. "My Days are Numbered" features a bass and horn interchange that shows off just how brilliant an arranger Kooper could be.

Unlike the work of fusion giants who began to appear at this time, BS&T started from a rock environment, which formed the backbone of the group's music. Still, this record's progressive vibe and sound will be of interest to jazz fans looking for a little something out of the ordinary. Child is Father to the Man is one of the most original, eclectic, and brilliant recordings to come out of late-'60s rock and '70s fusion.

Suggested Spins:
Tim Buckley, Blue Afternoon (Bizarre, 1969)
Chicago, Chicago Transit Authority (Columbia, 1969)
Chicago, Chicago II (Columbia, 1970)
Van Morrison, Astral Weeks (Warner Bros. 1968)
Van Morrison, Moondance (Warner Bros. 1970)
Santana, Caravansera (Columbia 1972)
The Soft Machine, Volume One (One Way 1968)
The Soft Machine, Volume Two (One Way 1969)
The Soft Machine, Third (Columbia 1970)
Steely Dan, Citizen Steely Dan 1972-1980 Box Set (MCA 1993)
Frank Zappa, Hot Rats (Bizarre/Reprise 1969)
Frank Zappa, Waka/Jawaka (Bizarre/Reprise 1972)
Frank Zappa, The Grand Wazoo (Bizarre/Reprise 1973)


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