Thursday, July 14, 2011

The #27 Album of All-Time in the Rock Era: "Blood, Sweat & Tears" by Blood, Sweat & Tears

We began on June 1 saluting the Top 100 Albums of All-Time in the Rock Era* and one by one, we've gotten closer to #1.  Today we are up to #27.

It is the self-titled release from Blood, Sweat & Tears.  The album reached #1 for seven weeks, and was #2 for 11 weeks and #3 for six more weeks.  24 weeks inside the Top Three is pretty impressive, as is an incredible 50 in the Top 10.  All told, Blood, Sweat & Tears remained on the album chart for 109 weeks (over two years).  It has sold four million copies and has a Track Rating* of 9.2.

Al Kooper, who had started the group just one year previously, left along with two other members.  Sometimes things work out for the better, for BS & T found a gem in lead singer David Clayton-Thomas.  His distinctive style set the group apart and he is generally regarded as one of the best lead vocalists of the 60's if not the entire Rock Era.  The band scored another coup when James William Guercio was assigned to produce their album.  Guercio had been working with new group Chicago and worked his magic simultaneously with Blood, Sweat & Tears.  Further, CBS Studios had just received 16-track tape recorders from Ampex, which made overdubbing and mixing far easier than the four-and eight-track recorders before them.  This album was among the first 16-track recordings to be released.

Three big hits kept the album front and center on the radio.  "And When I Die", "Spinning Wheel" and "You've Made Me So Very Happy" all reached the top five.  Once the album was purchased, listeners discovered a gold mine of great tracks.  This is one of the most consistent albums you will find in the Top 100, and Blood, Sweat & Tears (along with Chicago) became one of the pioneers of the jazz-rock genre.  "Variations on a Theme By Erik Satie" starts out the album with a bang; "Sometimes in Winter", "Smiling Phases", "God Bless the Child" and "Blues-Part II" are all incredible featuring the expressive power of Clayton-Thomas and some fine jamming by the band.  You may even find yourself liking those tracks more than the three smash hits. 

The group won Grammy Awards for Album of the Year, Best Arrangement Accompanying Vocals ("Spinning Wheel") and Best Contemporary Instrumental Performance ("Variations on a Theme By Erik Satie").  They were nominated for Contemporary Pop Vocal Group, Contemporary Vocal Group, Record of the Year ("Spinning Wheel"), Best Arrangement Accompanying Vocals ("You've Made Me So Very Happy"), Best Engineered Recording and Best Instrumental Arrangement.

Blood, Sweat and Tears:

Side one
1.  "Variations on a Theme By Erik Satie" (1st and 2nd Movements) --2:35
          (adapted from "Trois Gymnopedies", arranged by Dick Halligan
2.  "Smiling Phases" (Steve Winwood, Jim Capaldi and Chris Wood) --5:11
3.  "Sometimes in Winter" (Steve Katz) --3:09
4.  "More and More" (Vee Pee Smith, Don Juan) --3:04
5.  "And When I Die" (Laura Nyro) --4:06
6.  "God Bless the Child" (Billie Holiday, Arthur Herzog, Jr.) --5:55

Side two
1.  "Spinning Wheel" (David Clayton-Thomas) --4:08
2.  "You've Made Me So Very Happy" (Berry Gordy, Jr., Brenda Holloway, Patrice Holloway, Frank Wilson) --4:19
3.  "Blues-Part II" (Blood, Sweat & Tears) --11:44
          (Interpolating "Sunshine of Your Love" (Jack Bruce, Pete Brown and Eric Clapton) and "Spoonful" (Willie Dixon)
4.  "Variations on a  Theme By Erik Satie" (1st Movement) --1:49

The new Blood, Sweat & Tears lineup for this album was:  lead vocalist David Clayton-Thomas, Lew Soloff on trumpet and flugelhorn, Bobby Colomby on drums, percussion and vocals, Jim Fielder on bass, Dick Halligan playing organ, piano, flute, trombone and vocals, Steve Katz on guitar, harmonica, backing vocals and lead vocals on "Sometimes In Winter", Fred Lipsius on alto sax and piano, Chuck Winfield on trumpet and flugelhorn and Jerry Hyman on trombone and recorder.

Blood, Sweat & Tears was recorded from August 2 to October 22, 1968.  As noted above, James William Guercio did a superb job producing the album, Fred Catero and Roy Halee were the Engineers, Halligan, Lipsius and Al Kooper arranged it, cover art was handled by Timothy Quay and Bob Cato.  Harrie George provided photography while John Berg did the album design.  The album was released December 11, 1968 on Columbia Records.

Blood, Sweat & Tears' self-titled classic comes in at #27.

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