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Blood Sweat & Tears - New City CD (album) cover

NEW CITY

Blood Sweat & Tears

 

Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.51 | 17 ratings

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Easy Livin
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars "Hey guys, I'm back.. Wait a minute, I don't know anybody"

In 1975, David Clayton-Thomas was persuaded to rejoin the Blood Sweat and Tears line up for a one off show. Jerry LaCroix had left the band after just one album, but Jerry Fischer was still on board and Luther Kent had also been brought in resulting in the band having three lead singers. Fischer and Kent both left before recording commenced on this album, leaving DC-T in situ as the sole lead singer.

The band he rejoined was very different to the one he left a few years previously, with just Bobby Columby remaining from the original line up. The musicians now in the band were essentially the same as those who had recorded the previous "Mirror image", an R&B based album with little in common with those DC-T had previously appeared on.

"New city" is therefore something of a crossroads album. The R&B influences are still there, but the familiar vocals instantly remind us of the band's glory days. The tracks are split roughly 50-50 between compositions by members of the band and covers of other people's songs. The outside writers include Randy Newman, John Lee Hooker, Janis Ian, and the Beatles. The first couple of tracks are decent if unremarkable brass rock numbers. It is only when we get to bassist Ron McClure's instrumental "No show" that we find something of real value. This piece starts out as gentle symphonic jazz developing via some synthesiser (played by Bob Mason) into a jazz/fusion workout. The track is a one off in terms of the album though, the others all focusing on the vocals of Clayton-Thomas.

The softer "I was a witness to war" is an ideal vehicle for DC-T's fine voice; it is more ballad than rock, but the arrangement of the track is superb. Clayton-Thomas provides the arrangement for a sparse interpretation of John Lee Hooker's "One room country shack", a simple blues standard. The mood remains downbeat for the highly talented Janis Ian's "Applause", at almost 8 minutes the longest track on the album. While the extended length offers the band the opportunity to jazz things up again, the song is not a great choice, and certainly not one of Ian's best.

"Yesterday's music" reverts to the slower, big sounding arrangement which lends itself so well to the music of the band. The song has great live written all over it, with a sing-a-long style (DC-T even intones "Sing the song with me" at one point), and repetitive chorus. Randy Newman's "Naked man" bizarrely sets out as "Eine kleine nacht muzike" before descending into a barroom comedy routine. The song is mildly amusing and certainly a radical diversion from anything the band have recorded before. Taken in the right context, we can perhaps forgive the band for letting their hair down here.

In an obvious effort to regain credibility, a cover of Lennon/McCartney's "Got to get you into my life" follows. The brass rock arrangement suits the song well on this otherwise faithful rendition. The album closes with Bobby Colomby's brief instrumental "Takin' it home".

While it is good to hear David Clayton-Thomas voice on a BS&T album once again, the line up changes since he left took with them much of the band's originality and inspiration. This is an enjoyable album, but it is also a very safe and generally commercial collection of songs, with little sense of adventure.

Easy Livin | 3/5 |

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