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Zharth's Music Log

Week 48: Bloomfield & Friends

Preface: Michael Bloomfield was a virtuoso blues guitarist who paved the way for the guitar gods of the 70's. He emerged from the Chicago blues scene in the mid-60's, and moved out to the west coast to partake in the cultural revolution around the turn of the decade. He made a name for himself playing with all kinds of musicians, as will be explored in this week's theme, but dropped into relative obscurity in the 70's, not happy with playing the star game, until dying from a drug overdose under mysterious conditions early in the 80's. His name is mostly forgotten today, but back in those days he was the equal of the likes of Clapton and Hendrix, and there is a small but dedicated fanbase that continues to recognize his brilliance, which takes a little effort to uncover, but is totally worth it.

I'm obviously biased, seeing as Michael Bloomfield is one of my favorite guitarists of all time, but I'm hoping that with this week's selections, you'll get a chance to hear for yourself how Bloomfield plays, and maybe even say to yourself, "wow, I didn't realize Michael Bloomfield played with that musician!"

Monday (6/16/08): Bob Dylan - Tombstone Blues [Highway 61 Revisited, 1965]
Comments: Michael Bloomfield not only sat in as Bob Dylan's lead guitarist for the revolutionary record Highway 61 Revisited, but he also sat in on the infamous folk festival gig that same year where Bob Dylan first "went electric", to the alleged horror of folk purists everywhere - a stunt that is arguably equal to Hendrix playing the Star-Spangled Banner at Woodstock.

Tuesday (6/17/08): Mother Earth - Mother Earth [Living With The Animals, 1968]
Comments: Here Michael Bloomfield lends his guitar skills to Mother Earth, a band that very much epitomizes the sixties spirit, and features Tracy Nelson giving a powerful vocal performance, as if not to be upstaged by Bloomfield. She barely holds out. ;-)

Wednesday (6/18/08): Johnny Winter - It's My Own Fault [Al Kooper & Mike Bloomfield - Fillmore East: The Lost Concert Tapes, 12/13/68]
Comments: No stranger to the blues scene, on tour for his phenomenal collaboration with Al Kooper (the album titled Super Session), Bloomfield introduces a young and unsigned Johnny Winter to an unsuspecting audience, before plowing through a scorching blues, trading licks with Winter, that clearly captivates the audience - and, legend has it, got Johnny Winter a record deal!

Thursday (6/19/08): Muddy Waters - Can't Lose What You Ain't Never Had [Fathers And Sons, 1969]
Comments: Bloomfield grew up in the Chicago blues scene, sneaking off to the blues clubs on the dangerous side of town, even working up a reputation and getting to sit in and play with some of the blues masters, Muddy Waters included. In 1969, the Fathers And Sons project reunited Chicago bluesmen of the past and future, as here on this track Michael Bloomfield plays lead guitar for the legend, and one of his mentors, Muddy Waters.

Friday (6/20/08): Janis Joplin - One Good Man [I Got Dem Ol' Kozmic Blues Again, Mama, 1969]
Comments: Michael Bloomfield makes a not-unusual uncredited appearance on Janis Joplin's first album away from the San Francisco band Big Brother & The Holding Company which launched her career. Pitting Joplin's vocals with Bloomfield's guitar was an amazing idea, and it's a shame that their collaboration only lasted for a single song.

Saturday (6/21/08): Woody Herman - Hitch-Hike On The Possum Trot Line [Brand New, 1971]
Comments: Bloomfield steps a little out of his niche - not that he wasn't always interested in an eclectic mix of genres, as his band the Electric Flag demonstrated - and adds a bluesy touch to this inspired instrumental by Woody Herman's jazzy big band outfit.

Sunday (6/22/08): Barry Goldberg & Friends - Long Hard Journey (a.k.a. On The Road, a.k.a. One More Mile) [Recorded Live, 1976]
Comments: Michael Bloomfield played with tons of musicians over the years - credited and uncredited - and here he rejoins Barry Goldberg, with whom he had worked on Dylan's Highway 61 Revisited album, to play lead on a couple tracks with friends. If your interest in Bloomfield has been piqued this week, then check out some of his feature material, especially from the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, the Electric Flag, the above-mentioned Super Session with Al Kooper, and anything under his own name. Happy hunting!