Blues is often best experienced live, and the Paul Butterfield Blues Band was as good a live band as anyone of their era. Now, for the first time, we can hear new live work of theirs — 50 years after the event.
Got A Mind To Give Up Living – Live 1966 was recorded in, as the title suggests, 1966, most likely before the release of their East-West album. It’s all previously unreleased tracks, brought to you by the fine folks at Real Gone Music.
It’s not exactly dance or party music. It’s have-on-in-the-background-when-drinking-a-cup-of-coffee music or drive-to-work music. It’s passionate and energetic, but it’s still the rough-yet-refined kind of musicianship that’s appreciated best through contemplation.
The true essence of blues music isn’t as easily felt when listening with crisp, perfect sound; rather, it’s best experienced through scratchy, mediocre recording equipment. If you think that sounds a bit too old fashioned, take a minute to think about how “well-funded blues” is something of any oxymoron.
As such, Real Gone Music had a tough task on their hands, but after listening to Got A Mind To Give Up Living, I’m about ready to definitely file them under “Can Do No Wrong.” They’re able to make it clear, pleasant, and easy to listen to while keeping in just enough of the rawness to keep it authentic.
This isn’t a typical live album, such as The Who’s Live At Leeds or any of the dozens of albums recorded at Budokan. This was recorded at the Unicorn Coffee House in Massachusetts and comes with all the rough edges. It’s a nontraditional sound for live albums, but should be pretty familiar to any fan involved in tape trading or bootlegs. That’s not to say the recording isn’t clear — each instrument is distinct, and the audio was likely taken directly from the board. It’s difficult to find such clear live music from any band of this era, save perhaps the Grateful Dead.
That’s not to say the recording isn’t clear — each instrument is distinct, and the audio was likely taken directly from the board. It’s difficult to find such clear live music from any band of this era, save perhaps the Grateful Dead.
The album’s essence is best summed up by the third track on the album, Butterfield standard “Born In Chicago.” It’s got high energy, high emotion, and it features a killer harmonica and two guitar solos. Make no mistake about it — Paul Butterfield, Elvin Bishop, Mike Bloomfield, Jerome Arnold, Billy Davenport, and Mark Naftalin are students of the blues, and combine their natural virtuosity with a deep understanding of the music at hand.
If you live or die on vocals — which, if you are a Butterfield fan, you probably don’t — this album isn’t for you. I constantly sing praises of how Real Gone remasters music so well it sounds like it was recorded yesterday, but even the best editors and best equipment on the planet can’t change the subpar recording equipment that was originally used. That said, the blues are only so much about vocals; as the saying goes, they’re not about the notes played, they’re about knowing why each note needs to be played. And that comes across crystal clear.
The star of the album, in the absence of clear vocals, is the musicianship itself. This is most on display on track eight, “Work Song,” clocking in at 12:33. There’s little-to-no singing, but everyone in the band gets a moment to shine. Organ, guitar, harp, even drums and a bit of bass — each gets a solo, each solo is memorable, and it’s clear how talented an outfit Paul Butterfield put together.
Got A Mind To Give Up Living doesn’t necessarily fill huge gaps in the Paul Butterfield Blues Band discography, but any fan of theirs would do well to pick up this album. It’s raw, authentic, and honest — the blues in a nutshell — and in a way that’s not always evident on polished EPs.
Get your copy of Got A Mind To Give Up Living is now from Real Gone Music’s online shop.