Is it really 23 years since Mike Bloomfield shuffled off this mortal coil? On 15 February 1981, the blues guitar legend was found dead from a drugs overdose, slumped in his car in a side street in San Francisco.
During the 1960s, his guitar playing had ignited "live" performances and recordings by Bob Dylan, the Paul Butterfield Blues Band and The Electric Flag, among others. He had also provided much of the focus for the Super Session and Live Adventures projects on which he shared joint headline credit with Al Kooper.
Personal problems, and unease with the formulaic approach that success often demands, dogged many of his later recordings and diminished in many people's eyes the great contribution he had, undoubtedly, made to the electric guitar sound of the 60s.
IF YOU LOVE THESE BLUES, PLAY 'EM AS YOU PLEASE is a timely reminder of what a consummate musician he was. 22 tracks of this CD were recorded in 1976 and released originally with the same album title on Guitar Player/Takoma 3002. The remaining nine tracks come from the Norman Dayron recorded session featuring Bloomfield with guitarist Woody Harris and were originally released on Kicking Mule KM 164.
The 1976 sides were conceived by Bloomfield as a way of repaying the debt he felt he owed to his musical influences, the many black blues and white hillbilly performers from whom he had learned so much. Consequently, the musical performances range across a breadth of styles and are linked by simple narratives recited by Bloomfield himself. Rather than being something that wears thin with repetition, these link narratives are a rare opportunity to hear the man himself, talking about the music he loved best.
Recorded in a relaxed atmosphere in the dark San Francisco basement studio of David Blossom, the sessions obviously took Bloomfield back to the dark Chicago clubs that he had enjoyed so much in his youth and missed badly in the era of the stadium concert. His singing is warm and unforced and works well with his stunning guitar playing and the laid-back support from such musical friends as singer/guitarist Nick Gravenites, organist Ira Kamin, bassist Doug Kilmer, drummers Tom Donlinger and Dave Neditch plus the occasional added horns of Ron Stallings and Hart McNee.
For the session three years later with Woody Harris, the emphasis shifts from the secular to the sacred. All the tunes are gospel songs and the warm collaboration between the two guitarists is a joy. With the aid of studio overdubbing, Bloomfield plays both electric slide and acoustic guitars on the closing Peace In The Valley and both guitars, piano, organ, bass and drums on The Altar Song. Especially fine is Bloomfield's stinging, distorted electric guitar on Gonna Need Somebody On My Bond and Just A Closer Walk With Thee, both beautifully underpinned by Harris's acoustic guitar chords and picking.
by JOHN CROSBY