Friday, 17 June 2016

"East-West" by THE PAUL BUTTERFIELD BLUES BAND (In Rhino's 2010 'Original Album Series' 5CD Mini Box Set Of Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...




"…All These Blues..."

Quite possibly one of the best Blues-Rock CD Mini Box Sets I have in my fine household (can’t tell the wife how many there are lest I suffer serious physical injury – after the mental torture that is) – Paul Butterfield’s Blues Band is a very definite jewel in the erratic crown of WEA's "Original Album Series" reissue series.

When the 5-disc sets began to appear in 2009  – 'some' of the first vanguard of 40 or so titles featured remasters (many unfortunately didn’t). This beauty is one that did – and from the second the opening track "Born In Chicago" on their incendiary debut LP hits your speakers – it rocks like a madman on Blues Boogie acid and doesn’t let up. And that’s only compounded by their equally wicked 1966 second-platter – the wonderful "East-West" LP on Elektra Records – supplied to us here in fabarooney Stereo. Here are the harmonica wails, guitar licks and chooglin’ white boys doing the blues…

UK released March 2010 - "Original Album Series" by THE PAUL BUTTERFIELD BLUES BAND on Elektra/Rhino 08122 79834 0 (Barcode 081227983406) is a 5CD Mini Box Set. "East-West" is Disc 2 and plays out as follows (44:47 minutes):

Side 1:
1. Walkin’ Blues
2. Get Out Of My Life, Woman
3. I Got A Mind To Give Up Everything
4. All These Blues
5. Work Song
Side 2:
6. Mary, Mary
7. Two Trains Running
8. Never Say No
9. East-West
Tracks 1 to 9 are the album "East-West" - released September 1966 in the USA on Elektra EKL 315 (Mono) and Elektra EKS 7315 (Stereo) and December 1966 in the UK with the same catalogue numbers. The STEREO mix is used for this CD. Produced by BARRY FRIEDMAN - the album peaked at No. 65 on the US LP charts.

ARTWORK/PACKAGING:
The five single card sleeves reflect the 'original' front and rear US LP artwork (the gatefolds are unfortunately not reproduced). Also each front sleeve is now 'bordered' with a colour and the label on the CD then reflects that colour code - Green for Disc 1, Light Blue for 2, Orange for 3, Dark Blue for 4 and Brown for 5. It would have been more appropriate to have the original label colour configurations - maybe even the Elektra inner bags (like they did on the Doors albums in the Complete Studio Recordings box set), but alas... The track list is to the left on the CD label with band members with recording credits listed on the right (as there's no booklet nor site to download details from - as there is on the Sony issues - this is some compensation to the lack of readable details). It has to be said that the outer card box is lightweight and therefore disappointingly flimsy (unlike the glossy hard-card Sony issues). Having said that the card sleeves still look cool once out of the box and it's nice to see the original artwork used. As you can see from the timings - there are no bonus tracks.

SOUND:
The music is incredibly bluesy and ballsy –truly stunning Paul Rothchild Sixties Production values coming at you on every disc. The instrumental “Thank You Mr. Poobah” for instance will probably have your speakers for breakfast. The opening guitars on “Walkin’ Blues” are the same – back in the mix – but still powerful. Don’t get me wrong – these CDs aren’t amped up for effect – they’re just beautifully handled – and it’s sonically obvious that the original master tapes are in tip-top condition. And throughout the records - you get Butterfield’s deep and muscular harmonica slaying all in its path.

"East-West" opens with a cover of Robert Johnson's "Walkin' Blues" - the mix deep, dark and Bluesy. I love the sound this band made - reverential but never po-faced - loose enough to make a noise recognisable as all their own. They then give it some chugging Funk-Blues with a take on Allen Toussaint's "Get Out Of My Life, Woman" - the piano and drums nicely to the fore. But then I go to mush because 'even' outdoing Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac (and I bow in humility to that holy outfit) - Butterfield's "I Got A Mind To Give Up Living" is probably my absolute all-time 60ts Blues Rock craves. The band had both Elvin Bishop and Mike Bloomfield as its guitarists - but it's on "I Got A Mind To Give Up Living" that Butterfield suddenly seems like some white boy genius on the axe. His Bluesy soloing throughout is the stuff of hair-raising legend. Driving-Harmonica action comes roaring in on the fantastic chugger "All These Blues" where our Paul urges his listeners to don their 'travelling shoes' if they can't sleep at night because she ain't treating you right (naughty woman). The remaster on this track too is fabulous - full of presence and powerful. Side 1 ends on the seven-minute instrumental cover of Nat Adderley's "Work Song" - Bloomfield letting rip on the axe and playing so fast at times that he feels like he's going to trip over his finger positions - while Butterfield just about manages to sneak in a Harp solo over all that riffage (superb remastered sound again).

Side 2 opens with Rock-Blues - a weirdly brill take on Mike Nesmith's Monkees Pop Classic "Mary, Mary" that completely grunge's up the original but still retains that slightly nasty streak that runs through the 'leaving you' lyrics. We get another boogie tune in their take on "Two Trains Coming" - the twin guitar set on fire throughout while Mark Naftalin's organ underpins the whole riotous thing. We slow right down to the wonderful Blues of "Never Say No" where a funeral-paced high-hat is accompanied by a pained organ note and guitar licks - while poor Mister Butterfield pleads "...baby please stop being mean to me..." (I'm not sure she's listening mate). And it finishes on the lengthy but brilliant title track "East-West". Co-written by keyboardist Mark Naftalin and Nick Gravenites (who would later join Janis Joplin's Big Brother & The Holding Co.) - it's a 13-minute wig out on Guitar and Harmonica that even to this day is mindblowingly good - ending a cracking album on a real high.

For me Paul Butterfield's "East-West" LP is even better than the great self-titled debut album of December 1965 (Disc 1 in this wicked 5CD Box Set) and has always felt to me like an 'overlooked' masterpiece of the Blues-Rock genre.

Complete with its dinky little card sleeve repro – just get with the beat brother, crank up that stereo and annoy the neighbours right away...Amen to that!

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