Michael Bloomfield

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Matt Wilson
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Michael Bloomfield

Postby Matt Wilson » 13 Jan 2020, 21:05

Been on a Bloomfield kick recently. I've always appreciated his '60s work, but lately I love it. I'm thinking of buying the Guitar King book as well as the From His Head to His Heart to His Hands box. But until then let's look at his '60s LPs:

Bob Dylan - Highway 61 Revisited 1965
Well, he's the lead guitarist on "Like a Rolling Stone," "Tombstone Blues," "Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues," and maybe some others, I'd have to look it up. Brilliant stuff though. I almost wish he'd stayed with Dylan.

Paul Butterfield Blues Band 1965
Great (classic?) first LP by this almost-forgotten multi-ethnic (including Howlin' Wolf's rhythm section) band from Chicago. Every song counts here folks, and all leads are by Bloomfield. Elvin Jones was relegated to rhythm guitar only.

Paul Butterfield Blues Band - East-West 1966
This is the better of the two in my estimation. If nothing else than for the title tune - an early example of Eastern-influenced jamming in rock or blues music. It also contains Michael Nesmith's "Mary Mary" before the Monkees did it.

The Electric Flag - The Trip (soundtrack) 1967
Music for the psychedelic exploitation film by Roger Corman. Not essential by any means, but right up yours truly's alley.

Electric Flag - A Long Time Comin' 1968
Popular San Fran band LP which despite plenty of goodwill, never sold many copies. Michael's ambitions were more-or-less in line with Kooper's Blood, Sweat and Tears and the later Chicago, only this group didn't have that kind of success. "Groovin' is Easy" is a wonderful 45 from the late '60s.

Bloomfield, Kooper, Stills - Super Session 1968
This is the shit. Mike is on side one only and it's probably the best playing he ever did in the studio. It sold more than any album on this list save for the Dylan record. More than any Buffalo Springfield album too. Bloomfield hated when audience members would call out for "Season of the Witch" when that track didn't even feature his playing.

Bloomfield - It's Not Killing Me 1969
The beginning of the end. He unwisely is the singer on this platter and doesn't even play all that much guitar. A series of solo albums followed but I've heard none of them.

The Live Adventures of Michael Bloomfield and Al Kooper 1969
Just what it says it is. A fine LP, even though like it's studio forebear, Michael isn't on every track.

Anyway, probably the finest white American guitarist of the '60s (I mean - who else?).

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Re: Michael Bloomfield

Postby Charlie O. » 14 Jan 2020, 01:13

I think he's over-rated. That doesn't mean I hate him. When he was good, he was a very, very good blues player. But he was very erratic.

For example, I enjoy East-West, but I almost think I enjoy it in spite of Bloomers. He deserves some kudos for exploring other (non-blues) modes, but really, most of his playing on that album is sloppy and incoherent - the guitar equivalent of amphetamine babble - and his tone is shrill and irritating. His playing on the first Butterfield album is way better, as is his sound. (As it happens, I've played both albums in the last few days, so - good timing, Matt!) I also enjoyed that lo-fi CD of live versions of "East-West", although I haven't listened to that in years.

His Dylan tracks couldn't be wonderfuller, his performances on the Super Session album are, as you say, superb (even if I don't like the album much otherwise), and he's similarly excellent on The Live Adventures (which I like a lot). I don't know the Electric Flag stuff too well. It's Not Killing Me is crap, and the post-'60s albums that I've heard are a real mixed bag, to put it charitably - none of them are exactly inspiring.


Matt Wilson wrote:probably the finest white American guitarist of the '60s (I mean - who else?)

I dunno. How about Robbie Robertson? Jerry Garcia? Danny Kalb? Jerry Miller? Zal Yanovsky? Just off the top of my head. Aside from Jerrybear, none of those guys received the wide-eyed hero-worship Bloomfield got in the '60s, and for my money they were more worthy.
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Re: Michael Bloomfield

Postby Matt Wilson » 14 Jan 2020, 01:43

Well, that's one Charles' opinion. :D

The thing about Bloomfield is he was so influential to guitarists at that time. Certainly more so than any other player you named. None of those guys pushed the envelope like Mike did on that "East-West" track alone, and the Super Session tracks seem to me to be an extension of that type of playing. I'm sure his solo stuff in the '70s is erratic because of his addiction - though I'll reserve judgement until I read the book. I know you're a Spoonful guy, but Zally, really?

"Sloppy and incoherent?" Hmmm.... I think you're in the minority on that one. His tone was a tad shrill at times, but that's deliberate. Again, players say they knew it was him the moment he started playing. He wasn't disciplined and took more chances than he should've perhaps, but I'm not hearing the incoherent part. Then again what sounds incoherent to you might sound exploratory to me. I'm loving those two Butterfield albums lately. I picked up the Audio Fidelity SACDs. I feel a 'phase' coming on... I haven't played It's Not Killing Me in years, nor The Live Adventures of... to be honest. I'll have to find them first. The debut Electric Flag album (the only one he's one) is pretty good, but honestly, not as good as either of the first two B,S&T records or any of the first three Chicago LPs. He doesn't have that many solos for one thing.

But, to each his own, of course.

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Re: Michael Bloomfield

Postby GoogaMooga » 14 Jan 2020, 03:14

Dick Dale? Nokie Edwards? Must be others, too... James Burton, Duane Allman - do you mean American only?
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Re: Michael Bloomfield

Postby Six String » 14 Jan 2020, 06:20

Matt Wilson wrote:Well, that's one Charles' opinion. :D

The thing about Bloomfield is he was so influential to guitarists at that time. Certainly more so than any other player you named. None of those guys pushed the envelope like Mike did on that "East-West" track alone, and the Super Session tracks seem to me to be an extension of that type of playing. I'm sure his solo stuff in the '70s is erratic because of his addiction - though I'll reserve judgement until I read the book. I know you're a Spoonful guy, but Zally, really?

"Sloppy and incoherent?" Hmmm.... I think you're in the minority on that one. His tone was a tad shrill at times, but that's deliberate. Again, players say they knew it was him the moment he started playing. He wasn't disciplined and took more chances than he should've perhaps, but I'm not hearing the incoherent part. Then again what sounds incoherent to you might sound exploratory to me. I'm loving those two Butterfield albums lately. I picked up the Audio Fidelity SACDs. I feel a 'phase' coming on... I haven't played It's Not Killing Me in years, nor The Live Adventures of... to be honest. I'll have to find them first. The debut Electric Flag album (the only one he's one) is pretty good, but honestly, not as good as either of the first two B,S&T records or any of the first three Chicago LPs. He doesn't have that many solos for one thing.

But, to each his own, of course.


Don't listen to Chazz, he was great. ;). The Live Adventures album is not great but it has its moments but most of his studio work is very good to great. He was a dedicated player despite his issues.

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Re: Michael Bloomfield

Postby Charlie O. » 14 Jan 2020, 13:15

Matt Wilson wrote:I know you're a Spoonful guy, but Zally, really?

I knew you would say that. ;)

And my brilliant rejoinder is: why not Zally?

He could wail the blues as good as anybody when he chose to, but could do a lot of other, subtler things undreamt of in Bloomfield's philosophy (or almost anybody else's) - while always sounding like no-one but himself. From the ocean breezes of "Coconut Grove" and the words unspoken in "Didn't Want To Have To Do It" to the gleeful vulgarity of his playing on "Jug Band Music" and "4 Eyes" (for examples), he pretty much had it all. (Except, sadly, the discipline to stick it out for more than a few years and develop his gifts further.)

What makes a great guitarist? I suspect we all have different ideas about that. Zally, like Robbie, was never known to take extended solos; to me, that's a point in their favor, as I figure that a guitarist who can't say what he needs to say in two choruses or less is probably just jerking himself off. (As with every rule there are exceptions, of course. If the guitarist has an exceptional melodic/harmonic imagination, and/or if the supporting musicians are as adept at exploring as he is, the results can be pretty exciting... if we're lucky.) You mention Bloomfield's influence - but aside from encouraging guitar slingers to "express themselves" at length, whom of note would you say he influenced, and how? He was certainly well loved by his fellow players, but I sense that that may have had more to do with his off-stage personality than his actual playing.

Matt Wilson wrote:"Sloppy and incoherent?" Hmmm.... I think you're in the minority on that one. His tone was a tad shrill at times, but that's deliberate. Again, players say they knew it was him the moment he started playing. He wasn't disciplined and took more chances than he should've perhaps, but I'm not hearing the incoherent part. Then again what sounds incoherent to you might sound exploratory to me.

I admire Bloomfield's (or anybody's) exploratory inclinations. But his phrasing on the East-West album is all over the place, utterly spasmodic, and most of the solos don't go anywhere (the notable exceptions being on the title track, where the inherent structure of the piece forces him to arrive at certain key destinations by certain times, rather than just filling time). His shrill tone (again, I'm just talking about this album) undoubtedly was deliberate, but that's no more testimony to his aesthetic judgement than the average metal wheedly-whee-er's equally "deliberate" tone is to his.

I may be in the minority, but I'm also right.

Interesting that the one album Six String seems to be lukewarm about may be the one I enjoy most! :)
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Re: Michael Bloomfield

Postby Matt Wilson » 14 Jan 2020, 14:36

Charlie, as always, I respect your opinion. As to whom he influenced: Everybody. Especially guitarists on the West Coast after he settled in San Fran. But you don't care for him, no biggie. Neither one of us is going to convince the other on matters of taste. And I've never heard that his phrasing on the East-West album is peculiar in any way, but if that's the way you hear it.....

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Re: Michael Bloomfield

Postby Charlie O. » 14 Jan 2020, 15:48

Again, it isn't that I don't like him - I do enjoy his playing on a number of those records we're talking about. I'm just saying he was erratic, and suggesting that he was over-deified in the '60s, and perhaps again after his death.

Which isn't really his fault, of course.

I don't question that the Butterband inspired a lot of their contemporaries to stretch out in general, for better as well as for worse - but I don't particularly hear Bloomfield in the other major guitarists of the era (or since). (Excerpt maybe in Jorma. Funnily enough, Bloomfield didn't rate him!) I don't deny that he was admired.
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Re: Michael Bloomfield

Postby Six String » 14 Jan 2020, 17:23

When I entered this thread it was based on Mike's blues playing. I didn't mean to compare him to other guitar players in a general way and that's on me. Those other guitarists sited are very good, no question but as a blues guitarist Bloomfield was better than them. He was really dedicated to the genre.

I had that Live Adventures album in high school but sold it off decades ago but all I remember is long solos that I eventually got tired of. They were fun when it was fresh to my ears but over time I just got bored.

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Re: Michael Bloomfield

Postby modharper » 15 Jan 2020, 11:09

Charlie O. wrote:

Matt Wilson wrote:probably the finest white American guitarist of the '60s (I mean - who else?)

I dunno. How about Robbie Robertson? Jerry Garcia? Danny Kalb? Jerry Miller? Zal Yanovsky? Just off the top of my head. Aside from Jerrybear, none of those guys received the wide-eyed hero-worship Bloomfield got in the '60s, and for my money they were more worthy.


Robbie Robertson is Canadian! ;)
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Re: Michael Bloomfield

Postby Charlie O. » 15 Jan 2020, 14:53

modharper wrote:Robbie Robertson is Canadian! ;)

Canada is in North America! :P
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Re: Michael Bloomfield

Postby C » 15 Jan 2020, 20:20

Matt Wilson wrote:
Bloomfield, Kooper, Stills - Super Session 1968
This is the shit. Mike is on side one only and it's probably the best playing he ever did in the studio. It sold more than any album on this list save for the Dylan record. More than any Buffalo Springfield album too. Bloomfield hated when audience members would call out for "Season of the Witch" when that track didn't even feature his playing.



This is the only one I own and I was never keen on it

Rather boring methinks





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