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Blood Sweat & Tears - Blood, Sweat & Tears CD (album) cover


Blood Sweat & Tears

Jazz Rock/Fusion

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Easy Livin
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars "What goes up, must come down"

History has not been as kind as it might, and arguably should, have been to Blood Sweat and Tears. In their day, they made some of the most exciting progressively influenced jazz rock ever. Their greatest asset was the wonderful voice of David Clayton- Thomas, but there was far more to the band than simply a voice and a brass section.

Confusingly, this self titled release was actually the band's second album. By this time, Al Kooper had already left the band (he was invited to leave), his keyboards duties being assumed by the multi-talented Dick Halligan. Clayton-Thomas, who was not present on the first album, makes his debut here.

The album opens with a brief interpretation entitled "Variations on a theme by Eric Satie", taken from his "Trois Gymnopedies". This offers a misleadingly classical hint before the brass kicks in to introduce an upbeat cover of Traffic's "Smiling phases". Here, Clayton-Thomas makes an immediate impression, his gruff tones carrying the song to an altogether higher level.

Steve Katz gets a rare shot at centre stage providing lead vocal on the lilting "Sometimes in winter". His voice is pleasant but far less distinctive, giving the song a mellow, west coast feel. Clayton-Thomas soon returns though with a couple of magnificently powerful pieces "More and more" and Laura Nyro's "And when I die". The former features some fine guitar work by Katz, while the latter has a noticably more intricate structure. Side one closes with a joyful interpretation of Billie Holiday's "God bless the child". Just when the track appears to have ended, a wonderful impromptu jam bursts forward.

"Blood Sweat and Tears" enjoyed significant chart success, due almost entirely to the inclusion of what are arguably the band's best known songs. "Spinning wheel" and "You made me so very happy" may have been huge hit singles, but that in no way diminishes the quality of the product. Indeed, there is a surprising jazz core and degenerated ending to "Spinning wheel" which belies its status as a single at all. If Vanilla Fudge showed how a simple pop song could be transformed into a heavy anthem, BS&T similarly showed how a brass/jazz interpretation could be used equally effectively. "You've made me so very happy" may have started out as a soul standard, but here it becomes one of the late 60's most enduring works. Interestingly, the arrangement here was reportedly by the departed Al Kooper.

The 11+ minute "Blues-Part2" may at first appear to be the prog core of the album, but it is in reality a relatively weak piece of indulgence or perhaps padding. The mini-suite opens with some stimulating organ work, which is linked through some phasing and a brief brass burst to an unnecessary bass and drum interlude, which in turn leads into a jazzy sax solo. Bizarrely, the bass then picks out the main theme to Cream's "Sunshine of your love", which the rest of the band then pick up on in fanfare fashion before Clayton-Thomas brings things to a more orthodox conclusion with a bluesy vocal. The album closes with a reprisal of Satie's "Trois Gymnopedies".

In retrospect, if "Blues part 2" was indeed intended as filler on the album, it was unnecessary, the album running for a reasonable length even without it. The track does have its merits, which become more apparent after a number of listens. It is however at odds with the instant accessibility of the rest of the album.

"Blood sweat and tears" is unjustly forgotten in the history of rock. It laid the foundations for many of the jazz prog bands who followed, and indeed in a wider context in contributed significantly to the general progression in music in the early 1970's. If you are looking for a place to start with Blood Sweat and Tears, this is undoubtedly their finest work.

Report this review (#127430)
Posted Tuesday, July 3, 2007 | Review Permalink
Eetu Pellonpaa
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars I'm really fond of this artistic and emotional record, which manages to uplift me in a really special way. The album is surrounded by dreamy excerpts of the romantic piano tunes of Eric Satie, which make a contrast for the mostly bluesy & jazzy brass rock grooves of the vinyl. The most pleasant of these kickers are in my opinion "Smiling Phases", which has some nice instrumental passages for free playing on it, and "You've Made Me So Very Happy", which has very pleasant harmonies and melodies typical to 1960's music. From the mellow numbers "Sometimes in Winter" is my biggest favorite here, satisfying my year for moodier soft tunes, a song which I have to listen in wintertime when the snow has fallen. There's also a Billie Holiday number "God Bless The Child" included, a nice homage for the iconic singer. Some subtle experimental blues pickings in the end occasionally seem to refer Cream's "Sunshine of Your Love"'s theme. I haven't heard the CD bonus tracks as I managed to get this album as an LP, which inner gatefold cover photo collages I really also admire. As an anecdote, the singer David Clayton-Thomas has fellow singer with nearly a 100% similar voice, him being British born Frank Robson, who sang in Finnish Tasavallan Presidentti. If you don't believe, check out their "I" and "II" records, there's even a quite similar ballad on their 1st album "I Love You Teddy Bear" resembling the winter song of this adorable album.
Report this review (#128386)
Posted Saturday, July 14, 2007 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
Prog Folk
3 stars With genius Al Kooper out of the group (the man was to hold a production job inside the Columbia house and still remains a solo recording artiste), but also trumpeters Jerry Weiss and Randy Brecker and the great input of John Simon on their debut; BS&T is a different group although remaining ambitious and producing more cheese than the Swiss and Dutch altogether. The problem is that Kooper's role is taken by Canadian David Clayton-Thomas who will quickly become an insufferable pompous pretentious crooner-type singer, but this is not right from the start, even if traces can be found as early as this. One of the other effects of Kooper's departure is the songwriting gap as on their second album, only three originals are on the slice of wax, even if it includes the huge (and cheesy) hit Spinning Wheels. This album is produced by Chicago's producer William Guercio.

With a drawn front artwork and a cheap psych rear-sleeve artwork, BS&T is book-ended by the group's rendition of Satie's theme of Three Gymnopedias and even if impressive in its overture, it doesn't help making this album as a unit much. Among the covers are Traffic's Smiling Phases, a correct rendition, but I prefer the original, even with the daring mid-section brass work, or Nyro's disastrous but #2 hit And When I Die (she was thought of the lead singer and even rehearsed with the group) and an interesting version of More And More, one of the album's highlights.

Amongst the other hits with the public and airwaves were the ambitious but over-cheesy version of Billie Holiday's God Bless The Child, the ambitious but overtly-cheesy Motown classic Made Me So Very Happy (I would've loved Vanilla Fudge deconstructing/destroying this one) and of course their own Spinning Wheel. Among the originals is the correct but unremarkable Katz-penned Sometimes In Winter, the absolutely ugly and overblown, but hugely successful Spinning Wheel (this track always rubbed me the wrong way, despite Colomby's excellent drumming) and Blues - Part II, which is mostly a space for the musicians to blow up steam and despite the drum solo, it's my fave track onto this album.

If you thought a good part of BS&T's debut lacked cohesiveness, wait until you get to their second album, despite the book-ending, it's absolutely only a collection of unconnected songs, making the album's listen arduous and nevertheless sometimes challenging. Still a worthy album, despite it being a monstrous seller.

Report this review (#204278)
Posted Wednesday, February 25, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars BS&T found their success with this one. They had three hits, which were: "You Made Me so Very Happy," "And when I Die," and "Spinning Wheel." The last song being one of my favorites. I like most of the album. At the time it was a fresh and exciting sound that I wanted to keep hearing. Later, I would lean more toward guitar music alone, but as a teenager who was top forty savvy, I liked the band.

The music starts with a simple tune by Erik Satie and then the second part blows you away. It is like an explosion of sound. I thought it was great.

I also liked "Smiling Phases" a lot. The band knows how to play some interesting and jazzy themes. I didn't care for "More and More" and "And When I die." I wished they didn't have either one on the record.

"God Bless the Child" is a killer tune. They really compliment Billie Holliday's song. It is a real treat to listen to. They do some great jamming on it.

The second side is just excellent. I especially enjoyed, Blues part 2, the way the band experimented and ended up with David Clayton Thomas wailing his love for his woman. It used to give me goose bumps, it was so good. Then a reprise of the first movement by Erik Satie.

This is a good one for anyone who likes orchestra instruments blending with a rock sound. You won't be disappointed. I give this 4 stars due to the 2 songs I didn't like, yet they are all well played.

Report this review (#281421)
Posted Tuesday, May 11, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars I'm honestly not sure why this album hasn't received more attention on PA, given how important it was to the development of jazz fusion. That said, "proto prog" might be a better way to refer to this album, as it's a little more focused on R&B and country than your average jamfest. In truth, that's one of the things that works to it's strength: It has a very unique sound, with David Clayton-Thomas' gruff, soulful vocals contrasting with and anchoring the big band horn arrangements and Bobby Colomby positively ripping the skins up in what has to be one of the most underrated drum performances on an album from the '60s. There's versatility here, too: The band channels some classical influences on their opening and closing songs and "And When I Die" seems to be aping Ennio Morricone in places. It's rare to hear a band with such a unified sound that manages to craft such distinct songs, but Blood, Sweat and Tears does it here without a sweat.

It's not a perfect album-it's downright hokey in places and "Blues Part II" drags on for too long- but it's distinct, expertly preformed and a whole hell of a lot of fun. In my mind, those are grounds for being called an "excellent addition to any prog rock music collection" any day of the week.

Report this review (#341282)
Posted Thursday, December 2, 2010 | Review Permalink
Tarcisio Moura
4 stars One of the most important and revolutionary albums of the late 60´s. A very insteresting, and quite a novelty back then, mix of jazz, rock, soul, blues, even classical music put together in one great single record that deserverly became a huge seller at the time. Unfortunatly it is almost forgotten today, which I think is really criminal. I only had the chance to listen to it as a whole in the last few weeks and I loved it. Of course I had heard Spinning Whell and You Make Me So Very Happy on the radio. Those giant hits were quite well played in Brazil during the years and the latter is still being played on those classic rock stations. But Blood Sweat & Tears second album is much more than those two.

I´m not a big fan of jazz rock or brass driven bands like this, but you have to be deaf not to see their talent and skill. Most important,. they play SONGS and play it greatly. Well, with one exception, the group´s 11 minute jam Blues-Part II. Typical of the period, but still interesting anyway. I loved their versatily of tackiling so many different styles and doing that so well. the cover of Traffic Smiling Phases is absolutely awesome! The slow ballad Sometimes In Winter is another good surprise. Amazingly is very well sung, even though is the only track that is nor perfomed by the great David Thomas Clayton. Guitarrist David Kats does a fine job here (granted: the tune is not too demanding, but his voice here is warm and convincing). More And More is also a highlight. The only flaw I saw here was an overlong and not very good version of Billie Holliday´s classic God Bless The Child, but that´s just my personal taste.

After just a few spins I was completely taken by this CD. The combination of the band´s instrumental prowness. creative arrangements and Clayton´s terrific, soulful delivering was a rare breed indeed. I don´t know if the following albums were that good (probably not), but this one is a masterpiece in its genre, whatever it is. As a prog site goes I wouldn´t go as far as giving it five stars. Still, an essential addition to any prog rock music collection for its boldness. greatness and groundbreaking status.

Report this review (#688706)
Posted Monday, March 26, 2012 | Review Permalink
3 stars The earlier career of Chicago is among my favourite groups to listen to, but here's a band that put albums BEFORE Chicago. Meet Blood, Sweat and Tears, a band that also is categorized as jazz-rock with a strong horn section (if I have my information correct, one of the Brecker brothers was in the band, but not on this album), a singer with a raspy voice (Kath to Clayton-Thomas) and guitarists with similar names (Terry Kath to Steve Katz). If you drew a Venn diagram with the two bands, producer James William Guercio is in the intersection. The punchline is BST has not the ''wow'' factor Chicago does despite debuting a year earlier.

Whereas Chicago were a rock band with heavy jazz influences interspersed with R&B, classical and psych, and all of those styles meshed together well in highly original tunes, BST has mostly covers and adaptations here that are more jazz-pop with slightly haphazard minglings with classical, blues, rock, and even can show off some Broadway flair. Some of the tunes have quite desirable melodies that good pop has in the form of ''And When I Die'', ''You Make Me So Very Happy'' and ''More and More''. The hitch is that David Clayton-Thomas is singing, and unlike Kath's warm rasp, Clayton-Thomas sings like he's trying too hard to hit high notes he simply cannot hit. The horn section picks up that flaw.

The self-titled album is too hit and miss all over the place. Whatever magic befell on the better poppier tracks never happened on ''Spinning Wheel'' and ''Sometimes in Winter''. The band can get a bit too humdrum and can never spark amazement like their rivals can. Even on three star albums, Chicago can really get some pizazz going to make me forget about other flaws (until review time). ''Blues Part II'' is the huge elephant in the room that lingers on a jam for too long (and references without credit Cream's ''Sunshine of Your Love''; doesn't work in a jazz-pop context) and pales in comparison to ''Liberation''.

If you love jazz-rock, get Chicago's first, second and seventh albums, and if you want ''More and More'', seek out this. Not that shabby, but you won't remember half the album five minutes later.

Report this review (#743710)
Posted Tuesday, April 24, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars While the debut effort from American jazz rock group Blood, Sweat & Tears did experience moderate commercial success, it wasn't until this self-titled sophomore effort that the band finally experienced the mainstream recognition that they truly deserved. Although the band's popularity would soon sharply decline, this well-known 1968 gem showcases Blood, Sweat & Tears at the absolute top of their game. On this LP, the listener will be treated to a fascinating marriage between jazz, psychedelic rock, blues, and pop that was unique for the time period, and still remains remarkably original to this day.

Keeping in mind that this observation was released before 'jazz rock' was truly solidified as a genre by innovators like Miles Davis, Chicago, and Frank Zappa (all of whom released some of their biggest contributions to the style in 1969), it's quite surprising how innovative Blood, Sweat & Tears is. Although the album rarely deviates into extended jams that characterized jazz-rock classics like In a Silent Way or Hot Rats, Blood, Sweat & Tears does exhibit a unique mix of brass and electric instrumentation, the raw power of rock music, and the instrumental prowess of jazz. Whereas Frank Zappa approached jazz rock from the 'rock' side of things and Miles Davis approached the genre from the 'jazz' side, Blood, Sweat & Tears approaches the genre from a more pop-oriented perspective. Whilst the band's style is not very commercial by today's standards, this is an album characterized by memorable hooks and unforgettable melodies - although there's much more to Blood, Sweat & Tears than simple pop choruses, the band manages to brilliantly incorporate melodic hooks into their style without sounding forced.

Although a very small amount of the music here was actually composed by the band (which is a minor turn-off for me), the song selection is top-notch and the performances are flawless. The brass arrangements complement the music perfectly, and the 'main' band is exceptional as well - lead singer David Clayton-Thomas especially deserves a shout out, as his warm tone and exciting delivery is a big part of what makes this album so enjoyable. The album is also quite diverse, sporting everything from the excellent ballad "You've Made Me So Very Happy" to extended jam sections in "Blues - Part II". While it does work really well for the most part, there is a bit of inconsistency in the quality of the songs ("And When I Die" is nowhere on par with the best the album has to offer), and the observation's high points can leave the listener a bit unsatisfied by its less impressive portions.

That said, however, Blood, Sweat & Tears is an excellent album in nearly every sense of the word, and a true joy to listen to. This is one of those records that always manages to put me in a good mood - whether it be the emotional melodies, funky instrumentation, or brilliant jamming sections, listening to this album is just a hell of a lot of fun in virtually any scenario. While it may not be entirely without its faults, Blood, Sweat & Tears is still an invigorating classic that deserves to be heard by every music lover.

Report this review (#800059)
Posted Friday, August 3, 2012 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars "Blood, Sweat & Tears" is the self-titled 2nd full-length studio album by US rock act Blood, Sweat & Tears. The album was released through Columbia Records in January 1969. Three members of the band, including lead vocalist Al Kooper, had left the band since the release of the debut album "Child Is Father to the Man (1968)". An album released only 11 months prior to this second studio album. The band brought in new lead vocalist David Clayton-Thomas to replace Al Kooper and also added three additional members to the lineup, to bring the total number of members up to nine. "Blood, Sweat & Tears" proved to be a huge commercial success for the band as it sold more than 4 million copies...

...which is a testimony to how open minded listeners, radio stations and labels were in those days. There are definitely some mainstream oriented material on the album, but to my ears this is predominantly a semi-progressive jazz rock album and at times a fairly challenging one at that. Blood, Sweat & Tears have further developed on the brass rock sound of their debut album (which also included strong elements of r´n´b, classical music and mainstream pop) and added more jazz elements and at times progressive elements like complex songstructures and strong classical music leanings. Apparently this adventurous fusion of music styles went down well with the music listeners in 1968.

I love the fact that those listening to the album back then (and with 4 million copies sold I assume that some of them weren´t necessarily accustomed to more adventurous music) could actually embrace such a diverse and relatively complex album. Just take a listen to the three opening tracks on the album to get an idea of how diverse this album is. The opening track "Variations On A Theme By Erik Satie (1st and 2nd Movements, Adapted from "Trois Gymnopedies")" is a classical piece, "Smiling Phases" is a progressive jazz rock tune and "Sometimes In Winter" is a more mellow and pop oriented track. Brass are omnipresent throughout the album and define the band´s (at the time) unique sound. New lead vocalist David Clayton- Thomas is a more raw sounding vocalist than Al Kooper, and as a result the music on the album features slightly more edge, than the case was on the debut album.

"Blood, Sweat & Tears" is one of the first albums recorded on a 16-track recorder, in a time when 4- and 8-track recorders were the norm. And it´s audible. Not that the debut album didn´t feature a professional and well sounding production, but this sound production is even more detailed and well sounding. All in all "Blood, Sweat & Tears" is a step up from the debut album in every department and also a very strong release on it´s own merits. A 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.

Report this review (#1154692)
Posted Friday, March 28, 2014 | Review Permalink

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