Michael Bloomfield ‘Don’t Say That I Ain’t Your Man!’ (Floating World / Retroworld) 4/5

This is a re-issue of a compilation that originally came out on Sony, and focuses attention on the classic Columbia recordings between 1964 and 1969. These include studio and live dates and feature the who’s who of the Chicago electric blues musicians scene, from leader Paul Butterfield through to the harmonica of Charlie Musselwhite, guitarist Elvin Bishop. keyboardist Al Kooper, drummer Buddy Miles and a host of others. Mike Bloomfield soaked up the sounds of Chicago’s south side in the 1950’s, and in the process became exposed to the fabulous sounds of Magic Sam, Otis Spann, not forgetting Muddy Waters when they were all in their absolute prime and that proved to be a priceless musical experience. Thereafter, Bloomfield was signed up by John Hammond Senior who had already displayed a keen ear for emerging talent (Billie Holiday, Aretha Franklin, Stevie Ray Vaughan) and the musician was thus enlisted to the Paul Butterfield Blues band. The music on this anthology varies between separate sources with three to four songs alone emanating from the collaborative work that Bloomfield recorded as part of the Paul Butterfield Band, and those Elektra albums of that particular band are well worth acquiring. Elsewhere, examples of the super session of Bloomfield and Al Kooper as well as the live recording at Fillmore West are showcased here. Most impressive to these ears are ‘Carmelita Shuffle’, ‘Don’t Think About It Baby’ and ‘It Takes Time’, as prime examples of Chicago blues guitar, while for a more soulful take, a cover of ‘Work Song’ works a treat. In fact, the only thing that is missing here to complete the picture is the mid-1960’s work with Bob Dylan, but that is easily available elsewhere, with his performance on ‘Highway ’61’, especially praiseworthy. A fine overview, then, of a musician who could sometimes be inconsistent with his own work, hence the advantage of acquiring this selected ‘best of’. Useful inner line notes on his career, with the personal testimony of Al Kooper in particular shedding light on the recordings. A forthcoming CD of the complete ‘Live at Bill Graham’s Fillmore West’ will see the light of day on the label.

Tim Stenhouse