"New York 1970 2-CD Review "
By 1970 The Paul Butterfield Blues Band had changed from their interpretations of Chicago Blues style towards a jazzy-blues influenced R&B sound. The shift in genre was augmented with a four-piece horn section featuring, future multiple Grammy winner David Sanborn on alto sax, and the underrated tenor sax-player and flutist Brother Gene Dinwiddie who also sang. This edition of Butterfield’s band from December, 1970, showcased the band in performance at A&R recording studios in New York City in front of a live studio audience; it was simulcast on classic-rock radio station WPLJ-FM.
This set and many other great performances were sponsored by Singer; Yes, the sewing machine company, who also had a record department in their NYC area stores. The band members are similar to the Butterfield live recording for Elektra, available as a single-disc set, and reissued as a Rhino Handmade limited edition expanded double-CD set. The Elektra set was recorded at the Troubadour in Los Angeles nine months prior to this two-cd release. This late 1970 set includes; Paul Butterfield’s vocals and harmonica, David Sanborn’s alto saxophone, Gene Dinwiddie on tenor saxophone, flute and vocals, Trevor Lawrence’s baritone sax, Steve Madaio’s trumpet, Ralph Wash’s guitar, Rod Hicks’ bass, and Dennis Whitted on drums.>
Disc One: Strolls in with a heady jam covering William Bell and Booker T. Jones’ often covered classic “Born Under a Bad Sign”, sloppily credited here to just: King, nonetheless this track simmers for over twelve minutes with powerful solos by Butterfield, then Sanborn sailing, the horn section wailing, as Butterfield croons –whew. They push the pedal with Butterfield’s raging, nine and a half-minute, “Play On”. Here again the horn section smokes throughout and the rhythm section of Walsh, Hicks, and Whitted nail the shifting foundation that includes a lengthy but tasty solo from Hicks’ four-string bass stick. “Play On” tastefully segues into Charles Brown’s popular “Driftin’ Blues”, concluding the mostly action-packed first disc with a stretched out, nearly fifteen-minute rendition. *Note: “Drifin’s Blues” is at times chaotic – meandering on for far too long.
Disc Two: Opens with bassist Hicks’ “The Boxer”. Hicks is the uncredited vocalist; his voice is not special though the tune humorously makes it point about a lady who should have been a boxer because she’s so mean. Unfortunately this song also contains a lengthy drum solo, otherwise it’s a knockout performance. Next is Big Walter Horton’s rollicking “Everything Going to be Alright” setting up a potent harp workout by Butterfield and bolstered by the burning horn section. Butterfield follows with his “Stuck in the Countryside”; it’s funky and okay, but not overly memorable. One of the many Woodstock Festival anthems: Brother Gene Dinwiddie’s “Love March” is also co-credited to Butterfield’s recently departed drummer: Phillip Wilson. This “Love March” picks up steam like a powerful locomotive that cannot be stopped, though no one wants it to, as the band quietly slides into Butterfield’s soulful “Back Together Again”, a tune that also wanders along for longer than it should. WPLJ’s announcer (Dave Herman?) asks for an encore and gets his wish with another Rod Hicks’ penned tune “So Far So Good,” entering uncharted jazzy territories that roam off-course making for an unusual encore. Butterfield, like the great bandleader he was, guides his band back home for a furious jam that allows the under-utilized, David Sanborn some concluding alto sax solo time.
This recording was originally released in the UK on Floating World Records and the German based (forty + year old) reissue specialist: Bear Family Records. Butterfield’s son Gabriel has also secured USA distribution through Rock Beat Records with the over three decades, well-established MVD Entertainment Group.
Those looking for the earlier stylings of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band with dual guitarists Michael Bloomfield and Elvin Bishop will be disappointed with Paul Butterfield “New York 1970.” But this ample, nearly ninety-minute performance, finds Butterfield and his band-mates exploring new and fertile ground with a four-piece horn section, one guitarist, bass and drums, without a pianist. I find this album fresh sounding, fascinating and at times exciting and suspect you will enjoy Butterfield’s fusion of Blues, Soul, Jazz and Rock. Its heady music from nearly fifty years ago; it also has stood the test of time. Define this music as being truly timeless. Enjoy.
For 17 years Bob Putignano has been pivotal with his Sounds of Blue radio show. Hear new Homegrown Sounds of Blue internet radio shows: http://soundsofblue.com/radioshowsmp3.htm
Previously a contributing editor at Blues Revue, Blueswax, and Goldmine magazines, currently the Music Editor for the Yonkers Tribune www.YonkersTribune.com & www.MakingAScene.org Bob was also the 2003 recipient of the “Keeping the Blues Alive” award (given by the Blues Foundation in Memphis) for his achievements in radio broadcasting. Putignano can be contacted at: BobP@SoundsofBlue.com