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

BLOOD, SWEAT & TEARS

Blood Sweat & Tears

 

Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.79 | 97 ratings

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Easy Livin
Special Collaborator
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.

Easy Livin | 4/5 |

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