Blood, Sweat & Tears – Blood, Sweat & Tears (1969): Review

blood

Produced by James William Guercio
Label – Columbia

When Blood Sweat & Tears leader Al Kooper ditched the band following a moderately successful debut (“Child Is Father To The Man”), the remaining members deliberately toned down their experimentalism in favour of a beefier, commercial sound, more akin to long term comparisons with Chicago. Recruiting bellowing baritone David Clayton-Thomas on vocals, and increasing their horn section from four to five, the band would manipulate their cover recordings with a high level of originality, arranging far beyond the jazz/rock genre they are generally pigeon holed in. Indeed, there’s elements of soul (“God Bless The Child”), country (“And When I Die”), baroque pop (“Sometimes In Winter”) and classical to book end an impressively eclectic mix of sounds.

The strident groove of Traffic’s “Smiling Phases” is filled with powerful horn lines and an original jazz piano mid section, and the decision to keep the listener on his/her toes by changing tempo and generic approach works superbly. They transform Laura Nyro’s “And When I Die” into an upbeat cabaret/ragtime show tune. Their cover of Billie Holliday’s “God Bless The Child” starts as a stately honour to the original, only for the horn section to ramp up some energized soloing half way through. The Steve Katz penned and sung “Sometimes In Winter” has the feel of a Pete Sinfield creation for King Crimson. There’s reservations that the instrumental “Blues Pt II” is meandering and about five minutes too long, but it’s a minor blemish on an otherwise enjoyable collection.

Although its predominantly a covers album, the interpretations are at least original. What gives “Blood Sweat & Tears” its character is a certain sense of atmosphere and drama, with effective contrasts between restraint and aggression.

7/10

Track Rating
1 – Variations On A Theme By Erik Satie (1st & 2nd Movements (Adapted From “Trois Gymnopidies”) (7)
2 – Smiling Phases (9)
3 – Sometimes In Winter (8)
4 – More And More (7)
5 – And When I Die (9)
6 – God Bless The Child (8)
7 – Spinning Wheel (7)
8 – You’ve Made Me So Very Happy (7)
9 – Blues, Pt 2 (6)
10 – Variation On A Theme by Erik Satie (1st Movement Adapted From “Trois Gymnopedies”) (7)

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