The band's first effort without Bloomfield, 1967's The Resurrection of Pigboy Crabshaw, is only represented by two songs on An Anthology. An inspired cover of Marvin Gaye's R&B classic "One More Heartache," with the new horn section stepping into the song hard, and a sultry take of Otis Rush's "Double Trouble" offer a tantalizing taste of the album's myriad strengths.
Butterfield's In My Own Dream
A year later, the often-overlooked In My Own Dream would find the band venturing into similar territory as the underrated fellow Chicagoans Rotary Connection, plumbing the depths of a fusion of blues, jazz, and soul with songs like the powerful soul-blues burner "Last Hope's Gone," or the raging wildfire that is the blues guitar showcase of Muddy Waters' "Just To Be With You," Bishop's single most shining moment with the band. Elvin Bishop would leave the band in 1968 after the release of In My Own Dream to pursue a successful solo career that carries on to this day; keyboardist Naftalin would follow soon afterwards.
Butterfield replaced the seasoned guitarist with the 19-year-old fretburner Buzz Feiten, and would add more horns to expand the ensemble to ten members. This is the band that would record 1969's Keep On Movin' and perform at Woodstock, a true ensemble in every sense of the word, with Butterfield sharing the spotlight with his guitarist and the large horn section. Of the three songs here from that album, the Chicago blues romp "Walkin' By Myself" is the best, the horns providing an R&B revue feel behind Butterfield's smoky vocals and imaginative harp solos.
The End of the Elektra Years
Unfortunately, music buyer's tastes had not kept up with the changes in the Butterfield Blues Band's unique sound, and although the band remained a popular live draw, their records didn't sell as well as those of contemporaries like Chicago or Blood, Sweat & Tears who had been influenced by the Butterfield sound. Elektra released The Butterfield Blues Band Live in 1970 to try and take advantage of the band's reputation on the street, and although they were selling concert tickets as fast as they could print 'em, the live album did little to reverse the band's commercial fortunes.
It's a shame, too, 'cause the live take on Little Walter's "Everything's Gonna Be Alright" proves Butterfield's status as one of the best amplified blues harpists, ever, while the dual assault of his electric and acoustic harps on "Driftin' and Driftin'" is amazing. The band wrapped up its seven-year run on Elektra with 1971's Sometimes I Feel Like Smilin', the engaging "Blind Leading The Blind" venturing into the sort of blue-eyed soul turf later popularized by Wet Willie and other Southern rock bands.
The Reverend's Bottom Line
An Anthology: The Elektra Years offers up thirty-three solid reasons for why the Paul Butterfield Blues Band was one of the best blues and rock outfits in the history of either genre (with a nod towards the world of jazz, as well). Influential far beyond their mediocre sales numbers, the band broke the blues out of the Southside clubs of Chicago and helped make it a worldwide phenomenon.
The band's incredible instrumental skills, its imagination, creativity, and musical passion have been unsurpassed in the years since. For the blues fan unfamiliar with the Butterfield band, An Anthology is a good place to start; after hearing this high-octane blues elixir, you'll want to venture into the band's other albums as soon as possible. (Elektra Records, released October 28, 1997)