Monday, March 27, 2023

What The Hell Happened To Blood, Sweat & Tears? Original Soundtrack (2023) CD Review

I am looking forward to seeing the new documentary What The Hell Happened To Blood, Sweat & Tears? because, while being a fan of the band’s music, I know very little of the story. I know these guys put out some fantastic material over a very short period of time, and then continued in various configurations without duplicating the early success. But that’s about it. And of course the documentary has a damn good soundtrack. What’s interesting (and wonderful) is that the soundtrack is not some ordinary greatest hits package. Sure, the hits are here. But the tracks are live recordings from concerts the band put on in the summer of 1970, at the height of its power, during the Iron Curtain tour. And all the tracks were previously unreleased. Now, how is that for a great soundtrack? The disc contains more than an hour of music. And it includes liner notes from original band member Bobby Colomby and from the film’s director, John Scheinfeld.

The album opens with “Something’s Coming On,” a song written by Joe Cocker and Chris Stainton, and included on the band’s third album. It’s a cool song, with that lonely horn blowing in the middle of the track, and featuring some delicious drumming. The jazzy jam then features some great stuff on organ. That’s followed by “God Bless The Child.” Sure, many people know this song because of Billy Holiday’s original version, but when I was growing up, it was the Blood, Sweat & Tears version that I heard first, and it was that version, from the band’s self-titled album, that made me fall in love with the song. The version here is nearly eight minutes long, and features an excellent vocal performance by David Clayton-Thomas. I love those moments when he pulls us in with a softer delivery and then the horns answer with a powerful burst. In the second half, the band suddenly starts cooking, and everything is working so well. By the way, the sound is excellent. The recordings were restored by Tal Miller at Next Gen Audio, and mixed by Allen Sides and Bobby Colomby.

“Spinning Wheel” is one of the band’s biggest hits, and as soon as they begin it, the crowd begins to clap along. This song was released as a single, and was also included on that incredible self-titled album (an album that should be in everyone’s collection). This is a really good rendition. I’m seriously digging the bass here, and of course the horns totally shine. “Somethin’ Goin’ On” is a song from Child Is Father To The Man, the group’s first album, when Al Kooper was the vocalist in the band. It is a song that Kooper wrote. The band delivers a seriously cool, raw, somewhat wild rendition. It gets loose, and is paired with “Blues – Part II,” a piece from the self-titled album. On this track, the longest of the disc at approximately fifteen and a half minutes, each of the musicians gets a chance to shine. There is a cool lead on bass, followed by an exciting drum solo, and the horns are completely mesmerizing. Toward the end, there are those “Sunshine Of Your Love” and “Spoonful” teases. Oddly, this track fades out at the end while David Clayton-Thomas is singing the lyrics of “Blues – Part II.” Seems like there is more of this song that is not included, perhaps another two minutes.

“Hi-De-Ho” is introduced as a new song “that we have never performed before.” This song was on the band’s third album, which was released in June of 1970. The audience is asked to sing along on the chorus. There is a funny moment during the introduction when the interpreter simply repeats what the band is saying in English rather than translating, leading them to urge him, “In Polish, in Polish.”  This song would be a hit too. It is a cool number, one that always makes me feel good. It was written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King. This version features another strong vocal performance, and I love that work on harmonica. That is followed by yet another fantastic track from the band’s self-titled album, “And When I Die.” As soon as they start it, the crowd gets excited. This song was written by Laura Nyro, and it features more great stuff on harmonica. I love the playfulness of this song, in some of the music, and in that great line, “I can swear there ain’t no heaven, but I pray there ain’t no hell.” And hey, there is even a shout of “Yee-haw!” “Carry on, children,” he shouts at the end. We then get another gem from that self-titled album, “Sometimes In Winter.” This one is a softer, sweeter number, written by Steve Katz, who provides the lead vocals.

“Smiling Phases” is a song written by Jim Capaldi, Steve Winwood and Chris Wood, and originally recorded by Traffic. But again, it was the Blood, Sweat & Tears version that I heard first. It too was included on that self-titled LP. This live version has a good energy. “Life is what you make it.” That is followed by yet another excellent song from that self-titled album, “You’ve Made Me So Very Happy.” This is a song that Brenda Holloway co-wrote and recorded first, but to this day I don’t think I’ve heard that version. It’s always been the Blood, Sweat & Tears recording, and the band delivers a really good rendition here. “I’m so glad you came into my life.” I love that vocal riffing toward the end of this version. The album then concludes with “I Can’t Quit Her,” one of the Al Kooper songs from the band’s first album. This one comes on strong, with a powerful vocal performance and a great, raw energy. I’m especially enjoying that guitar. There is a sort of odd ending to the song here.

CD Track List

  1. Something’s Coming On
  2. God Bless The Child
  3. Spinning Wheel
  4. Somethin’ Goin’ On/Blues – Part II
  5. Hi-De-Ho
  6. And When I Die
  7. Sometimes In Winter
  8. Smiling Phases
  9. You’ve Made Me So Very Happy
  10. I Can’t Quit Her

What The Hell Happened To Blood, Sweat & Tears Original Soundtrack is scheduled to be released on April 21, 2023 through Omnivore Recordings.

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