I’m a big fan of twofer CD’s when the coupled releases are stylistically and thematically seamless.
Examples of what I think would be great twofers include:
Neil Young – “After The Goldrush” / “Harvest”
Boz Scaggs – “Slow Dancer” / “Silk Degrees”
Otis Redding – “Otis Redding Live In Europe” / “Otis Redding In Person At The Whiskey A Go Go”
An existing twofer that meets the criteria is Warner Music International’s repackaging of “The Resurrection Of Pigboy Crabshaw” & “In My Own Dream” by The Butterfield Blues Band (2004)
The original Butterfield Blues Band will go down in musical history as a ground breaking, superbly talented collective that stretched the boundaries of Blues while leading a North American resurgence of the genre. In doing so, they cast a spotlight on deserving progenitors of the style. (For example, B.B. King credits Butterfield for expanding his audience while paving the way for him to step away from “Chitlin’ Circuit” type gigs, play larger venues, and benefit from the associated increased earnings).
Led by Butterfield on harp & vocals, and the dual guitars of Michael Bloomfield and Elvin Bishop, they set a template that would be utilized by countless Blues bands on both sides of the Atlantic. Beneficiaries of a number of accolades, Butterfield’s band was the first biracial group to play The Newport Folk Festival, (1965), and was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame (2015).
When Bloomfield left the band to form The Electric Flag, Butterfield knew that while there were able guitar players that he could hire, he would never be able to recapture the magic of the original line-up. Instead, the ever resourceful Butterfield used the opportunity to re-invent the band, and change the overall sound, by adding horns.
This compilation pairs the first two recordings by the big band, and is a must for any true Paul Butterfield fan. It stands as one of the most creative of a number of creative turns by Butterfield through the course of his career.
A seemingly abrupt change in direction after fronting a high profile band with legendary status might be daunting for most artists – considering an unforgiving public that doesn’t readily accept change – but not so for Butterfield. His take on the Blues was that it was a feeling rather than a genre restricted to a specific form. As such, he sought to realize a vision of a free blowing band covering straight ahead Blues, R&B, and anything else that fit the “feeling” of Blues. Make no mistake, this band may not have had the Bloomfield – Bishop era notoriety but was just as influential; spawning the likes of Blood Sweat & Tears and The Chicago Transit Authority.
The first CD, “The Resurrection Of Pigboy Crabshaw”, finds the band testing the waters, hence the dependency on covers. That being said, the covers are anything but straight copies of the originals, and serve as a baseline for the high degree of musicianship that the band brought to the table. Elvin Bishop, (aka Pigboy Crabshaw), is one of the stars of this set displaying his Otis Rush and Albert King influences while unveiling a distinctive tone that he would carry with him for the rest of his career. Drummer Phil Wilson’s inventive shadings, Bugsy Maugh’s soulful vocals, Mark Naftalin’s keyboard textures, and Gene Dinwiddie’s and Dave Sanborn’s sax riffs and solos, combine to create a brand new sound that is the Butterfield Blues Band. Not to be outdone, Butterfield known for his super charged, explosive harp work moves to playing unamplified in the studio for the first time, revealing nuances not heard before in his always elegant style.
Notable is the band’s adventurous take on the opener – Marvin Gaye’s “One More Heartache”. Dig the hand clapping and bass intro, Butter’s pleading vocal, emotive harp playing, and Bishop’s economical, not quite, stop time solo that make this cut nothing short of breath taking.
The second disc, “In My Own Dream”, goes further; and may stand as the studio high water mark for the Butterfield big band. A true band effort, all members make strong contributions with Butterfield playing more of a cooperative role.
Bugsy Maugh puts forth 3 songs with Phil Wilson handling the vocals on one of them, “Get Yourself Together”. Bishop is the focus of an album highlight, “Drunk Again”, debuting his Tulsa farm boy persona before kicking the song into a high powered finale with a guitar solo that’s pure B.B. King turned up to 11. And Butterfield weighs in with fine harp throughout, (including an outstanding solo flight on “Get Yourself Together” that more than matches the urgency of Wilson’s vocal), leads a truly eerie take on Muddy Waters’ “Just To Be With You”, and is featured on marvelous opening and closing numbers powered by distinctive Sanborn alto solos. The opener “Last Hope’s Gone” borders on Jazz and the introspective closer “In My Own Dream”, (with Butterfield on guitar and Dinwiddie on mandolin!), is anything but pure Chicago Blues. However, with the structure, pacing and warm ensemble singing, “Dream” recalls formative field songs. Play “In My Own Dream “a few times and then try not to sing along!
As a postscript, I had the distinct pleasure of catching the “In My Own Dream” period Butterfield big band at The Inferno in Williamsville NY – the first of many times that I would catch Butterfield during his career. There were some line-up changes since the recording: Elvin Bishop, who had left for San Francisco to form The Elvin Bishop Group was replaced by 18 year old Buzzy Feiten; and Mark Naftalin had left the band; (Butter and trumpet player Keith Johnson covered electric piano when needed).
Other than the pure, high level of musicianship on display, what left the biggest impression was the band’s effective use of dynamics. I had never before seen or heard a roaring band that, for added effect, could take it down to a whisper in a heartbeat. Coupled with that, if a member wasn’t playing at a given interval in the song, he would pick up a tambourine, or a cowbell and drum stick, or clap his hands in percussive support like an old time rhythm band. A true band in every sense of the word!
If the above has piqued your interest, have a listen to “The Butterfield Blues Band Live” https://open.spotify.com/album/1SUb4oKWtQOWm4TPg1mpOc?si=F-oxoFyhRsmh98E0f4EJRw
- Rico Ferrara, August 2020