Paul Butterfield Blues Band play “East-West”

Back in the 1960s at the height of “Beatle mania” many of the British bands were taking music from the blues and R&B artists in America and Anglicising them with remarkable success.

People like Georgie Fame, Graham Bond, John Mayall, the Pretty Things amongst others were releasing songs by Chuck Berry, Muddy Waters, Howlin Wolf, Bo Diddley as well as more esoteric artists like Blind Lemon Jefferson, Sleepy John Estes, Son House and Furry Lewis.

A lot of criticism was subsequently aimed at many of the British artists for so called “ripping off” the original artists. But is was because of the championing of these bluesmen by British artists that many had extended careers and made trips to the UK and Europe where their music was so popular. Moreover, they were shocked in many cases to find they could go in restaurants, pubs, and clubs, places they would have been banned from entering back in their native country.

As Bonnie Rait said a little while ago when being interviewed “it took the British artists back in the 60s to introduce us Americans to our own folk music through their championing of people like Muddy Waters, Howlin Wolf and Otis Spann.”

In addition to listening to many of the British R&B groups in the late 60s, I was exploring music from America and came across an album by a group that I heard about but had not been able to access any of their music (this was the day long before YouTube). The album was called “East – West” by the Paul Butterfield Blues Band and featured the guitarists Mike Bloomfied and Elvin Bishop.

I had managed to track down the album to a small specialist shop in Salford and paid 45 shillings (a very expensive import at the time) for this Elektra album. I listened to the vynil album and was very impressed with the musicianship

What really blew me away was the final track on the album. “East-West” was a modal experiment in fusing blues and Indian music, in an extended free jazz format, it was ground-breaking at the time and mind-blowing in terms of its scope and its length. It influenced many other blues and rock bands (particularly on the West coast) to stretch out and explore different kinds of music.

Just listen to the bass riff and then the interplay between Bloomfield and Bishop, this is a landmark track on a landmark recording. And make sure you go with it for the full 13 minutes…………..prepare to have your senses assaulted!

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