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Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Butterfield Blues Band: Keep On Moving

THE BUTTERFIELD BLUES BAND: KEEP ON MOVING (1969)

1) Love March; 2) No Amount Of Loving; 3) Morning Sunrise; 4) Losing Hand; 5) Walking By Myself; 6) Except You; 7) Love Disease; 8) Where Did My Baby Go; 9) All In A Day; 10) So Far, So Good; 11) Buddy's Advice; 12) Keep On Moving.

God, how boring. By 1969, both Elvin Bishop and Mark Naftalin had left the band, feeling that the ship had sunk low enough — but, of course, «The Butterfield Blues Band» may function under that title as long as it has at least one Butterfield in it. Keep On Moving features at least ten different players in addition to Paul, and I am not even completely sure who of them was «of­ficially» a band member and who was not at the time. Most importantly, the quality of the music hardly stimulates me to find out.

Basically, at this point they are acting as a weak, dis-focused substitute for Blood, Sweat & Tears. Lots of brass, lots of swinging' and funky rhythms, lots of swagger and agitation, but practically nothing by way of memorable tunes. Somehow, they have gradually entered a «loungy» phase of existence, where vibe and atmosphere are created by the players' tones and personalities rather than compositional findings — and other than a few more nice bits of Paul's harmonica, there is nothing particularly fascinating about these particular tones and personalities. For me at least, the «three listen test» was failed here 100%: glancing back at the song titles, I have not the faintest memory of how any of them originally went, other than a general vague remembrance of how much noise the brass section made and how Paul Butterfield worked so very hard to pass for a natural «soul screamer» and it still didn't help.

Now, with the help of the «play» button, just a few quick remarks: ʽLove Marchʼ is undescribably dippy and silly — and its organ-led gospel bridge, culminating in a "I know... THERE'S GOTTA BE A CHANGE!", is the biggest embarrassment in Butterfield history up to that date, just about everything about it being a poorly executed cliché. ʽWalking By Myselfʼ is the only song that even remotely tries to rock, and new guitarist Buzz Feiten adds a decent lead part, but he's defini­tely no new Mike Bloomfield. His only songwriting contribution, ʽBuddy's Adviceʼ, probably has the best brass riffs on the album, but they fall on a totally empty stomach anyway.

For objectivity's sake, I should probably state that the album is very well produced (by Jerry Ragovoy, the author of ʽTime Is On My Sideʼ and ʽPiece Of My Heartʼ), that the brass, keyboard, and guitar players are tightly coordinated, that at least some thought is included in most of the arrangements, and that Robert Christgau gave the album an A, saying about Butterfield that "he just gets better and better". Well, this ain't the first and ain't gonna be the last time that we don't exactly see eye-to-eye with Mr. Dean, and just so that this fact can be properly reflected, I'm going all out here and awarding the album a decisive thumbs down. Okay, honestly, this deci­sion has nothing to do with Christgau — I just thought that you should be aware of alternate opinions, no matter how puzzling or irrational they are.

1 comment:

  1. At least the cover art has improved. A slightly horizontal photo portrait of the band is far superior to the dreary watercolor nightmares conjured up by the last two releases.

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