Sunday, June 22, 2014

# 50 Fenway Theater Boston December, 1971

   In retrospect, the success of most really influential bands seems to be accidental rather than premeditated. For example, in the 60's, the music of groups such as the Beatles, the Band, and of course, The Paul Butterfield Blues Band actually change the direction of popular music, but this contribution is mostly product of circumstance rather than planning.

    The impressive feat of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band is that their music captures the imagination of a generation of listener without any mainstream hits, and a relatively small advertising budget. This is an notable accomplishment for any band, but for a blues band, it is especially significant.

    However, similar to all important bands, the creative energy of the Butterfield band is profound, but brief.  After East West, it seems they are just approaching their peak, but nobody considers that two albums is all the music they have to contribute. This timely departure from the music scene could explain why both albums are still in print, and selling fifty years after their release date.

    One of the perks of groups disbanding is that they leave their audience hungry for more music.  After the original Paul Butterfield Blues Band ends, there are a number of press rumours about reformation of the band, probably fueled by industry money eager to make cash from the resurrection of the original band. There are even stories about band manager Albert Grossman trying to entice Butterfield and Bloomfield to reunite the famous partnership, but these stories prove to be baseless, and probably a product of wishful speculation on the part of concert promoters.

    So, what happens when the principal members of the The Paul Butterfield Blues Band do reunite? In December of '71, it happens in Boston, and the results are anticlimactic, proving that sometimes a yearning for past experiences is best left to the imagination.

    Back then, film maker Bob Lewis takes the initiative to film a semi-reunion of the band in an effort to capture some of its past glory, but his efforts fall flat. Not because of his technical expertise, he does manage to cull 40 solid minutes of the concert, but the film captures none of the band's original energy.

   There are some brief glimpses of the band principals in their heyday, but the changes are obvious. Everything from the body language of the musicians on stage, to the music they play lacks much of the fervour of the original band. They are obviously unrehearsed, and for the most part, all performances are tentative, even lethargic.

   If you are a fan of the original band, the anticipation of viewing this film will spark excitement, but it doesn't take long for that enthusiasm to spiral into disappointment. The whole project is probably an attempt by the artists, and the promoters at making some quick cash.

   Over the past few decades many successful bands reunite well past their due date, it is a lucrative industry for promoters, and the artists. However, the wise (or wealthy) bands like the Beatles or Led Zeppelin shy away from this activity, and the decision is probably is best for them, and their fans. It's too bad The Paul Butterfield Blues Band isn't wealthy or wise enough to recognize this reality in December of '71.

The Reunion of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band Fenway Theater, Boston, Mass., December 10 - 11 1971.

Paul Butterfield: Harmonica & vocals.
Mike Bloomfield: Guitar, piano & vocals.
Mark Naftalin:  Keyboards
John Kahn: Bass
Billy Mundi: Drums

Video Recording © 1971, 2013 Robert C Lewis - incidentally my first ever 2-camera live-switch direction - and without camera monitors or a clue ... recorded on an IVC 1" - and transferred to 3/4" that wouldn't play because of tape breakdown - careful pre-baking and dozens of head cleaning sessions, most of the set finally played well enough to post. I've omitted really unwatchable parts but left it if the distortion was short. thanks for watching ...    

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