Previously unissued, this live gem from ace Chicago blues band captures the band in the intimate setting of the Unicorn Coffee House in Boston circa 1966 and was taped by an aficionado. It is important historically firstly because the band were never officially recorded live and the classic R &B, blues-rock, jazz influences, and mixture of clovers and band originals stand the test of time and follows on from the group’s major national breakthrough at the Rhode Island Newport Folk Festival in July 1965. Secondly, the band were symbolically making a significant statement of resistance to segregationist philosophy with a visibly racially integrated band, and in their own way, of similar intent and persuasion to Sly and the Family Stone. This was a never repeated line-up with Billy Davenport on drums, Jerome Arnold on bass, as well as the tried and trusted Elvin Bishop and Mike Bloomfield on guitar and vocals with the leader doubling up on guitar, blues harp and vocals.
From a strictly musical perspective, in spite of sound quality limitations which is a tad tinny in parts, the atmospheric live feel more than compensates and the musicianship is second to none. This varies from a rollocking reading of the blues, ‘Born in Chicago’, complete with electric guitar, ad-libs and powerful lead vocals, to some funky New Orleans R & B flavours on the Allen Toussaint penned, ‘Get out of my life woman’, which features fine interplay between rhythm guitar, organ and tambourine percussion. A mid-tempo groove is created on ‘Got my mojo working’, while horn riffs adorn the drum roll intro to, ‘Comin’ home baby’. The versatility of this band is demonstrated on the jazz standard, ‘Work song’, where Butterfield adopts a surf-style guitar over the instantly recognisable chorus riff and with a gorgeous harmonica solo intro.
Formerly a bootleg, this recording is now officially available to a wider public and a key marker to an era. Seven pages of informative inner sleeve notes by Chris Morris are accompanied by some excellent black and white photos of the band at their peak in live performance plus a lovely DIY Hootenanny flyer that speaks volumes of the era. An important historical document of where both the blues and race relations were at in mid-1960s in the United States.