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east-west direction

East-West

[eest-west]

East-West is a 1966 album by The Paul Butterfield Blues Band which was the group's second full album release. The record's title track is a long improvisational instrumental piece inspired by blues, jazz fusion and raga that was considered groundbreaking at the time of release, and over four decades later stands out as a turning point in the history of rock and blues music. The album contains another lengthy blues/jazz/rock instrumental in the tune "Worksong", which also features extended solos by Butterfield and his bandmates.

Like the debut, the album features traditional blues covers and the guitar work of Elvin Bishop and Mike Bloomfield, the latter having just recorded Highway 61 Revisited with Bob Dylan.

Bishop makes his recorded lead vocal debut on the slow ballad "Never Say No". "Mary, Mary", written by Mike Nesmith, would later be recorded by The Monkees.

The tune "East-West" in music history

In 1996, former 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."

Track listing

  1. "Walkin' Blues" (Robert Johnson) – 3:15
  2. "Get Out of My Life, Woman" (Allen Toussaint) – 3:13
  3. "I Got a Mind to Give up Living " (Traditional) – 4:57
  4. "All These Blues" (Traditional) – 2:18
  5. "Work Song" (Nat Adderley/Oscar Brown) – 7:53
  6. "Mary, Mary" (Michael Nesmith) – 2:48
  7. "Two Trains Running" (Muddy Waters) – 3:50
  8. "Never Say No" (Traditional) – 2:57
  9. "East-West" (Mike Bloomfield, Nick Gravenites) – 13:10

Personnel

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