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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Blood, Sweat & Tears: New Blood


1) Down In The Flood; 2) Touch Me; 3) Alone; 4) Velvet; 5) I Can't Move No Mountains; 6) Over The Hill; 7) So Long Dixie; 8) Snow Queen; 9) Maiden Voyage.

And lots of it, too. By 1972, the band had lost not just Clayton-Thomas, who thought his position solid enough to try and go for a solo career, but also two more of its founding fathers — Lipsius and Halligan, whose arranging and songwriting talents had been one of the band's assets. In their place, the remaining veterans hired Jerry Fisher, a big fan of the jazz-rock sound who'd been hanging around Dallas for a couple of years, playing BS&T and Chicago covers; Lou Marini on woodwinds; and Larry Willis on piano. In addition, Georg Wadenius was added to the lineup on extra lead guitar — maybe because the band just couldn't stand the prospect of not having a band member whose family name ended in "-ius" among them.

However, strangely enough, the basic essentials of the BS&T sound remain the same even with all the «new blood» pumped in those not-too-attractive veins. The new vocal guy sounds some­what like a deflated version of Clayton-Thomas — a barroom screamer who'd like to have the same amount of brawn, but is incapable of conquering his gene machine. That is a change, but not a very significant one. In all other matters, this is still the same old brand of roots music with horns — a little jazz, a little blues, a little pop, and a lot of blowing.

One change for the worse is that, with the departure of Clayton-Thomas and Halligan, the band is once again deprived of the songwriting initiative. Trombonist Dave Bargeron tries his hand in the business, but his ʽOver The Hillʼ ends up being a fairly standard pub-rock cut, very much influen­ced by Joe Cocker's ʽDelta Ladyʼ — the grizzly wah-wah riff that drives the song is a nifty inven­tion, but everything else about the song is way below par. New band member Lou Marini also jumps in with a slice of soulful funk (ʽAloneʼ) that only shows signs of life during the instrumen­tal jam section — in other respects, it's just your Vegas show most of the way.

Elsewhere, the impoverished band has no choice but to fall back on covers, trying out everything from Bob Dylan to Carole King to Herbie Hancock to Teddy Randazzo. Naturally, the choice could have been much worse, and the decision to cover ʽMaiden Voyageʼ alone signified that the band was not yet done with its «artsy» pledge — the mid-section with scat singing over a nimble jazz guitar solo by Wadenius could hardly qualify as «commercial» stuff in 1972. However, it is hard to sense any genuine inspiration in most of these covers: on the whole, the band does not seem to understand very well why exactly they are making these particular choices.

Thus, Dylan's ʽDown In The Floodʼ is unexplainably set to a slowed-down variant of the bassline from Cream's ʽCrossroadsʼ and transformed into a less-than-subtle blues-rock rucus — not too bad per se, but what's that got to do with Dylan? Randazzo's ʽTouch Meʼ is arranged as a bona fide Elton John piano ballad — all fine, but we already have an Elton John, and he sings better than Jerry Fisher. ʽSnow Queenʼ is a good song, but, from this particular rendition, you'd never guess it had anything to do with Carole King — and so on.

I suspect that the album would have worked much better as a fully instrumental project: almost everywhere on here, the tracks are easier to appreciate when the band just «gets it on» — nobody is able to deprive Jim Fielder of his great bass skills, and all the trumpet and trombone solos and duels are completely on the level with many jazz greats of the era. The cover of ʽMaiden Voyageʼ, which is completely instrumental, is unquestionably the highlight here for that very reason. But every time these guys drift off in a pure «entertainment» direction — and this happens way too often for comfort — they run out of purposes faster than you can pull that mouthpiece away from your lips. Nothing on here sucks bad enough to warrant a negative assessment, but RateYourMu­sic currently evaluates the record as «#868 for 1972», and I'd say that's a fairly rational place for it — be sure to check out those other 867 albums first.

Check "New Blood" (MP3) on Amazon

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