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Sweet Blues: Guitar Legend Mike Bloomfield Celebrated On New Box, Bob Dylan Tracks Debut on Set

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???????The time was 1965, the place was Columbia Records’ studios on Seventh Avenue in New York City between 52nd and 53rd Streets, the occasion was the recording of Bob Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited. Al Kooper – he of the famed organ riff that propelled “Like a Rolling Stone” – recalled, “Suddenly Dylan exploded through the doorway with this bizarre-looking guy carrying a Fender Telecaster guitar without a case. It was weird, because it was storming outside and the guitar was all wet from the rain. But the guy just shuffled over into the corner, wiped it off with a rag, plugged in, and commenced to play some of the most incredible guitar I’ve ever heard. And he was just warming up!”

Kooper recounts the whole story of his first encounter with Michael Bloomfield in his indispensable tome Backstage Passes and Backstabbing Bastards. Kooper’s fateful introduction to “the man who can still make me pack up my guitar whenever his music is played” led to the seminal Super Session record in 1968 and further collaborations. Now, decades later, Kooper has produced and curated what may well be the definitive anthology dedicated to the music of Michael Bloomfield, the guitarist Bob Dylan recognized as “the best.”  On February 4, 2014, Legacy Recordings will unveil From His Head To His Heart To His Hands, a career-spanning 3-CD/1-DVD box set chronicling the life and times of the late artist.  The box premieres a number of unreleased tracks including rare cuts from Bob Dylan like an alternate of “Tombstone Blues” featuring The Chambers Brothers, or a Bloomfield/Dylan live performance of “The Groom’s Still Waiting at the Altar.”

Born in Chicago and discovered by Columbia’s John Hammond, Bloomfield participated in sessions for the label in 1964 but soon joined the Paul Butterfield Blues Band alongside Butterfield, Elvin Bishop, Sam Lay, Jerome Arnold and Mark Naftalin.  But the same year Butterfield’s group debuted with its first Elektra long-player (1965), Bloomfield was making history with his friend Bob Dylan. In addition to lending his scorching guitar to Highway 61, Bloomfield was among the musicians backing Dylan on his legendary, first-ever electric performance at the Newport Folk Festival.  But there were many other paths for the guitarist with the fire in his soul to pursue.  He joined the genre-bending “horn band” The Electric Flag in 1967, debuting with the group at the Monterey Pop Festival and issuing a 1968 album on Columbia.  Shortly after the album’s release, The Electric Flag imploded, but Bloomfield bounced back that same year.

Super Session was recorded with Al Kooper, the composer-singer-organist behind the original Blood, Sweat and Tears.  David Fricke wrote in 2001, “Bloomfield and Kooper, with pianist Barry Goldberg, bassist Harvey Brooks [both of The Electric Flag] and drummer Eddie Hoh, cut enough music for one whole side of an LP…[but] Bloomfield didn’t play another note on the record.  A chronic insomniac sinking into long-term heroin addiction, he abruptly split for home the next day, leaving Kooper to finish the album with a hastily recruited Steve Stills.  But what Bloomfield left behind is still the best half an album in late-Sixties rock.”  Bloomfield continued making incendiary music until his untimely death in 1981 at the age of 37.  In addition to recording solo albums such as 1969’s debut It’s Not Killing Me, Bloomfield found time to perform and record with Janis Joplin, Dr. John, John Cale, and The KGB Band (with Ray Kennedy and Barry Goldberg) and even sat in again with Dylan in 1980.

What will you find on the new box?  Hit the jump for details and the full track listing, plus pre-order links!

From His Head to His Heart chronicles Bloomfield’s career via 46 songs on 3 CDs, from his first demos for John Hammond Sr. to his final public performance.  It’s arranged thematically, with discs dedicated to Roots, Jams, and Last Licks.  Twelve previously unreleased tracks illuminate his art, including “The Groom’s Still Waiting at the Altar” from his 1980 “reunion” concert with Bob Dylan in San Francisco and the band performance of “Like a Rolling Stone” from the Highway 61 sessions.  The anthology blends solo tracks with material from bands (The Paul Butterfield Blues Band and the Electric Flag) and solo artists (Muddy Waters and Janis Joplin) and more.  The fourth disc is a DVD premiering director Bob Sarles’ documentary Sweet Blues: A Film about Michael Bloomfield. It features vintage audio interviews and live performance footage of Bloomfield with newly-shot reminiscences about the artist from friends and fellow musicians.

The box set features new remastering from Vic Anesini, and also includes a 40-page booklet featuring a photo gallery as well as extensive liner notes from musician and music journalist Michael Simmons.  It’s available in stores on February 4, 2014, and you can pre-order at the links below!

Michael Bloomfield, From His Head To His Heart To His Hands (Legacy Recordings, 2014) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K. Link TBD)

CD1 – ROOTS

  1. I’m a Country Boy 2:45*
  2. Judge, Judge 2:03*
  3. Hammond’s Rag 2:09*
  4. I’ve Got You in the Palm of My Hand 2:26
  5. I’ve Got My Mojo Workin’ 2:36
  6. Like a Rolling Stone (Instrumental) 6:35* – performed by Bob Dylan
  7. Tombstone Blues (Alternate Chambers Brothers Version) 5:58* – performed by Bob Dylan
  8. Michael Speaks About Paul Butterfield 0:39
  9. Born in Chicago 3:05 – performed by The Paul Butterfield Blues Band
  10. Blues with a Feeling 4:23 – performed by The Paul Butterfield Blues Band
  11. East-West 13:12 – performed by The Paul Butterfield Blues Band
  12. Killing Floor 3:51 – performed by The Electric Flag
  13. Texas 4:47 – performed by The Electric Flag
  14. Susie’s Shuffle (Live Jam) 3:42* – performed by The Electric Flag
  15. Just a Little Something (Live) 3:22* – performed by The Electric Flag
  16. Easy Rider 0:47 – performed by The Electric Flag

CD2 – JAMS

  1. Albert’s Shuffle 6:55
  2. Stop 4:17
  3. His Holy Modal Majesty 7:17
  4. Opening Speech (Live) 1:23
  5. 59th Street Bridge Song (Feeling Groovy) (Live) Hybrid Edit 5:39*
  6. Don’t Throw Your Love on Me So Strong (Live) 7:49
  7. Santana Clause (Live) 4:41*
  8. The Weight (Live) 4:08
  9. Opening Speech (Live) 1:27
  10. One Way Out (Live) 4:17
  11. Her Holy Modal Highness (Live) 6:09
  12. Fat Grey Cloud (Live) 4:30
  13. Mary Ann (Live) 5:19
  14. That’s All Right (Live) 3:42

CD3 – LAST LICKS

  1. I’m Glad I’m Jewish (Live) 3:15
  2. Men’s Room – Spoken Word Segment from McCabe’s (Live) 0:51
  3. Don’t You Lie to Me (Live) 3:09
  4. Can’t Lose What You Ain’t Never Had (Live) 3:04 – performed by Muddy Waters
  5. Gypsy Good Time (Live) 4:29
  6. One Good Man 4:02 – performed by Janis Joplin
  7. It’s About Time (Live) 5:15
  8. Carmelita Skiffle (Live) 2:53
  9. Darktown Strutters Ball (Live) 3:56
  10. Don’t Think About It Baby 3:31
  11. Jockey Blues/Old Folks Boogie (Live) 3:15
  12. A-Flat Boogaloo (Live) 3:55
  13. Glamour Girl (Live) 8:02*
  14. Spoken Intro – Bob Dylan (Live) 2:02*
  15. The Groom’s Still Waiting at the Altar (Live) 5:50* – performed by Bob Dylan
  16. Hymn Time (Live Excerpt) 1:53

(*) denotes previously unreleased track

DVD – Sweet Blues: A Film About Michael Bloomfield

  • A Ravin’ Film. Directed by Bob Sarles. Produced and Edited by Bob Sarles and Christina Keating. Director of photography: Ted Leyhe. Producers: Ted Leyhe, Larry Milburn & Bruce Schmiechen.

Written by Joe Marchese

October 23, 2013 at 13:16

8 Responses

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  1. The Chambers Brothers version of Tombstone Blues is on Bob Dylan’s Bootleg series already… the volume which was the soundtrack to the Scorcese documentary.

    Dougie

    October 23, 2013 at 13:42

    • The version on the Bloomfield box is indeed previously unreleased; it is NOT the same track as issued on “The Bootleg Series” but rather another alternate take. Thanks for reading!

      Joe Marchese

      October 23, 2013 at 14:16

  2. This looks good!

    zekedog

    October 23, 2013 at 17:16

  3. MY Generation!!!!! Thanks so much! Please stop by and visit my blog some time…did a posting for Dylan this morning.

    ileneonwords

    October 24, 2013 at 06:57

  4. Definitely gotta save up for this one! Maybe if the box is properly publicized and promoted, Mike’s music will finally reach a much larger audience; it surely deserves to. And HUGE kudos to Al Kooper. Without his pushing and prodding, I highly doubt anything like this would’ve ever seen the light of day–at least on a major label.

    Chief Brody

    October 24, 2013 at 08:37

    • That’s likely true. I first read that Al was working on a Bloomfield box in the Washington Post in 2003, which reported that it would be released the following year. Obviously that didn’t happen. As the years rolled by, I occasionally e-mailed Al and Allen Bloomfield, Mike’s brother, about the project, and they invariably replied. At some point years ago, Sony killed the project. So I was very pleased when, a few months ago, there was news of its revival. I have to think that Al and perhaps Allen ultimately changed some corporate minds. (I don’t know what’s up with Allen; his website hasn’t been updated in a long time.)

      ed

      October 24, 2013 at 09:24

      • Ah! No sooner do I say that than I discover that Allen’s website has been updated with news of the box.

        ed

        October 24, 2013 at 09:31

      • I met Al briefly in the late ’90s, and I actually asked if there would eventually be some kind of extensive compilation of Mike’s material. He replied something to the effect, “I’d love to see that, but there are a lot of factors working against such a project.” He didn’t elaborate further. Guess he was right! I could tell, even from that brief meeting, that he cared religiously about Mike’s legacy and wanted to see it handled properly. It’s really a sad commentary on the industry’s overall (lack of) appreciation of Bloomfield’s career that Al met so much resistance and that it took this long. But his and Allen’s persistence obviously paid off. We’ll see the fruits of their efforts in February, I suppose. With Vic Anesini involved, I’m sure it’ll sound stunning. He’ll wring everything there is out of those tapes. I’m really geeked about this release!

        Chief Brody

        October 24, 2013 at 10:16


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