The Paul Butterfield Blues Band album cover

The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, The Paul Butterfield Blues Band

Elektra, 1965, blues

B, 1966: A great record. Some real groovin’ blues here, unconstrained but clear. Had to go back and listen to this one twice, because we had people over the first time it was on, and it needs to be listened to loud! Favorite track: “Look Over Yonders Wall”

C, 2002: Fun record. Groovin the whole time and it’s fun to listen to. I had never listened to this group purposefully but they’re fun! Great record. Favorite song is probably “I got my mojo working.”

H, 1951: I have the original album cover from this LP hanging above my desk. This is such a great seminal recording. I’ll just note that it’s one of the first on this list where descriptions of the album make no mention of where it landed on the charts, and so no credit for its appearance here can be attributed to its popularity or its sales figures (it peaked at #123 on the Billboard pop albums chart). Frankly I have no idea who bought this album when it was first released in 1965. I don’t think there was anyone at that point saying, “Wouldn’t it be great to make an album of Chicago blues featuring four white guys with a black rhythm section? It’ll sell like hotcakes.” This album was also made two years before the origination of Rolling Stone magazine, and at least a year before there were any other journals of rock criticism in the US. In other words, although rock critics would later consider this recording to be hot stuff, they weren’t around to drool over it when it was first made. Note also that this interracial band predated The Jimi Hendrix Experience and Sly and The Family Stone by at least a year or two.

I guess what I love about this album is its air of primal innocence about white guys playing and singing the blues, along with a total, consummate devotion to the music. From the first to the last track, there is not a shred of pretension or self-consciousness or calculation or coy restraint: it’s just six guys (keyboardist Mark Naftalin being the one not pictured on the cover) flat-out playing as hard as they can, making the best Chicago blues album they know how to make, simply for the love of the music and those who make it. And while you can argue that a bunch of white guys singing and playing songs mostly written by and for black people might lack a certain authenticity, the sheer energy and exuberance these guys bring to every track makes up, in my mind, for any deficiencies in this or other areas.

Published 05 Oct 2019