Real Gone Music's release of The Paul Butterfield Blues Band's Live 1966
is a godsend for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that it reminds, if that's indeed necessary, of what a vital influence on contemporary blues was (and is) this sextet.
Forget for a moment the profundity of an integrated group of musicians bonded together at the time of civil rights upheaval in the United Statesthat's for sociologists. Better instead to focus instead on how righteously well-schooled were these players, having steeped themselves in the genre on Chicago's south side, among whom we can count America's first bonafide guitar hero, Michael Bloomfield
(if for no other reason than the height of his profile based on his participation in Bob Dylan
's gravitation to electric music, both on stage and in the studio).
Yet, as documented on the heretofore unreleased Got A Mind to Give Up Living
's eclectic song selection, the Butterfield blues Band was not satisfied to copy the work of their heroes, even as they covered some of their best material, such as Allen Toussaint
's "Get Out of My Life Woman." The dual guitars of Bloomfield and his counterpart Elvin Bishop (who actually preceded his fretboard partner in this lineup) widened up the path Elmore James' opened with "Look Over Yonders Wall," while the choice of jazz-oriented material such as (brother of Cannonball) Nat Adderley
's "Work Song" presaged not only its future studio rendition on East-West
(Elektra, 1966), but later incarnations of Butter's band with a horn section, not to mention its accurate reflection of the blues-heavy jazz scene of the times.
The presence of an equally authentic tune that would go otherwise wholly unrecorded by this incarnation of the Butterfield Band, Percy Mayfield's "Memory Pain" (which Johnny Winter
included on his three-lp-sided sophomore effort Second Winter
(Columbia, 1969)) further distinguishes the combination of fervent scholarship and fiery, disciplined musicianship that makes Live 1966
a treasure: though it lacks the band's raga-influence stylistic masterwork "East-West," there's plenty of concise jamming here as on "Comin' Home Baby." And "Born in Chicago," composed by Butterfield's early blues companion student Nick Gravenites, is an original that speaks to and describes the world discovered and revered by members of this group and like-minded aficionados such as the author.
Including the blurry likes of the stage shot at the center of the enclosed booklet,Live 1966 is adorned with vintage photos that capture a moment in time, images of memorabilia effectively replicating the graphic design and style of the Butterfield Blues Band's early Elektra Records releases Yet Got A Mind to Give Up Living is much more than an academic artifact: it is instead a living, breathing testament to the power and vision of one of America's most forward-thinking contemporary musical units and its stolid leader, whose impassioned harp work challenges those around him to elevate their own playing.
Even as the thin sound quality, as recorded in Boston's Unicorn Coffee House, leaves more than a little to be desired despite its remastering, the presence of Butterfield, Bloomfield and co.'s is so forceful, the compulsion to ratchet up the volume to compensate is ultimately as joyful as it is irresistible.