East-West is the second album by The Butterfield Blues Band led by Paul Butterfield, released in 1966 on Elektra Records, EKS 7315 in stereo, EKL 315 in mono. It was recorded at the famed Chess Studios on 2120 South Michigan Avenue in Chicago. It peaked at #65 on the Billboard pop albums chart, but is regarded as highly influential by rock and blues music historians.
Like the band’s eponymous record debut, The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, this album features traditional blues covers and the guitar work of Mike Bloomfield and Elvin Bishop. Unlike the debut album, Bishop also contributed guitar solos; drummer Sam Lay had left the band due to illness and was replaced by the more jazz-oriented Billy Davenport. The social complexion of the band changed as well; ruled by Butterfield in the beginning, it evolved into more of a democracy both in terms of financial reward and input into repertoire.
One result was the inclusion of two all-instrumental extended jams at the instigation of Bloomfield following the group’s successful appearance at The Fillmore in San Francisco during March alongside Jefferson Airplane. Both reflected his love of jazz, as the blue note-laden “Work Song” featuring harmonica by Butterfield had become a hard bop standard, and the title track “East-West” used elements of modal jazz as introduced by Miles Davis on his ground-breaking Kind of Blue album. Bloomfield had become enamored of work by John Coltrane in that area, especially his incorporation of ideas from Indian raga music. The album also included Michael Nesmith’s song “Mary, Mary,” which Nesmith would soon record with his band The Monkees – although original pressings of East-West did not include a songwriter’s credit for this track.
On October 29, 2001, a reissue of this album remastered by Bob Irwin at Sundazed Studios and coupled with the debut appeared on Rhino WEA UK for the European market.
In 1996, original Butterfield Blues Band member Mark Naftalin (keyboards), who recorded on the album and is pictured on the cover of East-West, released a CD on his own ‘Winner’ label entitled East-West Live, comprising three extended live performance versions of the tune “East-West”. Noted music critic and prolific author Dave Marsh contributed a substantial essay in the liner notes regarding the historic importance of the song, both the original 1966 recording and the live versions.
Marsh, interviewing Naftalin, notes that the tune was inspired by an all-night LSD trip that “East-West”‘s primary songwriter Mike Bloomfield experienced in the fall of 1965, during which the late guitarist “said he’d had a revelation into the workings of Indian music.”
Marsh’s expansive liner notes observe that the song “East-West” “was an exploration of music that moved modally, rather than through chord changes. As Naftalin explains, “The song was based, like Indian music, on a drone. In Western musical terms, it ‘stayed on the one’. The song was tethered to a four-beat bass pattern and structured as a series of sections, each with a different mood, mode and color, always underscored by the drummer, who contributed not only the rhythmic feel but much in the way of tonal shading, using mallets as well as sticks on the various drums and the different regions of the cymbals. In addition to playing beautiful solos, Paul [Butterfield] played important, unifying things [on harmonica] in the background – chords, melodies, counterpoints, counter-rhythms. This was a group improvisation. In its fullest form it lasted over an hour.”
In his summation, Marsh points out that “‘East-West’ can be heard as part of what sparked the West Coast’s rock revolution, in which such song structures with extended improvisatory passages became commonplace.”
Going on to call the Butterfield Blues Band “one of the greatest bands of the rock era”, Marsh concludes that “With ‘East-West’, above any other extended piece of the mid-Sixties, a rock band finally achieved a version of the musical freedom that free jazz had found a few years earlier.”
The album is also credited with spawning the harder acid rock sound. The track “East-West”, with its early use of the extended rock solo, has been described as laying “the roots of psychedelic acid rock” and featuring “much of acid-rock’s eventual DNA”.
The band members appearing on the album were all inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2015.
The album front cover was photographed at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. (by wikipedia)
The raw immediacy and tight instrumental attack of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band’s self-titled debut album were startling and impressive in 1965, but the following year, the group significantly upped the ante with its second LP, East-West. The debut showed that Butterfield and his bandmates could cut tough, authentic blues (not a given for an integrated band during the era in which fans were still debating if a white boy could play the blues) with the energy of rock & roll, but East-West was a far more ambitious set, with the band showing an effective command of jazz, Indian raga, and garagey proto-psychedelia as well as razor-sharp electric blues. Butterfield was the frontman, and his harp work was fierce and potent, but the core of the band was the dueling guitar work of Mike Bloomfield and Elvin Bishop, especially Bloomfield’s ferocious, acrobatic solos, while Mark Naftalin’s keyboards added welcome washes of melodic color, and the rhythm section of bassist Jerome Arnold and drummer Billy Davenport were capable of both the rock-solid support of veteran blues players and the more flexible and artful pulse of a jazz combo, rising and relaxing with the dynamics of a performance.
The Butterfield Blues Band sounded muscular and exciting on classic blues workouts like “Walkin’ Blues,” “Two Trains Running,” and “I Got a Mind to Give Up Living,” but the highlights came when the band pushed into new territory, such as the taut New Orleans proto-funk of “Get Out of My Life, Woman,” the buzzy and mildly trippy “Mary, Mary,” and especially two lengthy instrumental workouts, the free-flowing jazz of Nat Adderley’s “Work Song” and the title track, a fiery mix of blues, psychedelia, Indian musical patterns, and several other stops in between, with Butterfield, Bloomfield, and Bishop blowing for all their worth. East-West would prove to be a pivotal album in the new blues-rock movement, and it was the Paul Butterfield Blues Band’s greatest achievement; Bloomfield would be gone by the time they cut their next LP to form the Electric Flag, and as good as Bishop was, losing the thrust and parry between the two guitarists was a major blow. But East-West captures a great group in high flight as the bandmembers join together in something even more remarkable than their estimable skills as individuals would suggest, and its importance as a nexus point between rock, blues, jazz, and world music cannot be overestimated. (by Mark Deming)
Jerome Arnold (bass)
Elvin Bishop (guitar, vocals on 08.)
Mike Bloomfield (guitar)
Paul Butterfield (vocals, harmonica)
Billy Davenport (drums)
Mark Naftalin (keyboards)
01. Walkin’ Blues (Johnson) 3.19
02. Get Out of My Life, Woman (Toussaint) 3.15
03. I Got A Mind To Give Up Living (Traditional) 4.59
04. All These Blues (Traditional) 2.24
05. Work Song (instrumental) (Adderley) 7.56
06. Mary, Mary (Nesmith) 2.53
07. Two Trains Running (Morganfield) 3.55
08. Never Say No (Traditional) 2.59
09. East-West (instrumental) (Bloomfield/Gravenites) 13.12