"Blood, Sweat & Tears" on Double 45rpm 180g From ORG

Probably not by accident was this second Blood, Sweat & Tears album not called Blood, Sweat & Tears 2, even though that’s what it is. Child Is Father to The Man the first BS&T album, a jazz infused production featuring on occasion a string section and heavily under Al Kooper’s influence, including the some would call grotesque album cover, was a critical success and a commercial flop.

Most people who bought this one probably weren’t even aware of the first album’s existence and this album's producer (Chicago producer James William Guercio) and the label, Columbia Records, were happy to keep it that way. Or all of this is a hallucination of mine.

As much as the record buying public ate this one up, the critics positively hated it, one calling the new lead singer David Clayton Thomas, an England born Canadian citizen, a “glorified lounge singer”.

Back in 1969 you couldn’t call a rock singer anything worse—not that BS&T was a “rock” group. The critic’s charge was confirmed when the band played Caesar’s Palace a year after this album’s release.

Listening to some of Clayton-Thomas’s jive vocal affectations on “And When I Die” makes a good case for that one rock critic’s complaint but listening now it’s also easy to understand why suburban kids found attractive the Canadian’s smoky voice and this more pop oriented album and having penned the big hit “Spinning Wheel” Clayton-Thomas could afford to laugh at his critics all the way to the bank.

Al Kooper gets co-arranging credit on Stevie Winwood’s “Smiling Phases” on “More and More” and on “You’ve Made Me So Very Happy”, after which he was forced out. Most of the kids buying this record for songs like “And When I Die” and “Smiling Phases” probably had never heard of Laura Nyro or of Traffic for that matter.

No matter, this record won “Album of the Year” at The Grammy’s beating out, among others, Abbey Road. It was also topped the charts for weeks.

Yes, this album was big but was it any good? By now you can answer that question for yourself. My take is that it’s corny (the musical "Americana" on "And When I Die" always makes me gag), especially compared to the first BS&T album that featured Kooper and Randy Brecker who also quit after the first record.

This record is “jazz-affected”. The first album was “jazz-infused” despite the occasional strings. Both can rightly be accused of being gimmicky and both can rightly be lauded for featuring spectacular playing by all involved.

One thing is for sure: both of these BS&T albums sounded fantastic, particularly this “brightly lit” one, engineered by Columbia engineering team greats Roy Halee and Fred Catero (on one of New York City’s first AMPEX 16 track machines).

Everyone’s taken a swing at reissuing this, from Nashville’s DirectDisk (SD16605) cut half-speed by, I believe John Golden, to Mobile Fidelity cut half-speed by Stan Ricker, to more recently Pure Pleasure cut by Ray Staff and finally this most recent double 45rpm reissue from ORG cut by Bernie Grundman. And then of course there’s the original Columbia issue, which was no sonic slouch either.

I have them all and listened to them all, even though I was pretty much sick of the album back in 1969, other than to get sonic jollies, and that wears thin pretty fast!

Golden’s cut for DirectDisk is the warmest and despite half-speed mastering has very good bass, Staff’s for Pure Pleasure is the chilliest, though with particularly clean high frequency transients, Ricker’s is dry, a bit bleached and lacking in bottom-end energy as were many of Mo-Fi’s Anadisc 200s of that second Mo-Fi era and in my opinion the ORG double 45 is the best sounding of the lot (and well-pressed by RTI) though if you have any of them, unless you are BS&T obsessed, you are done. I am too.

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JC1957's picture

I recall enjoying this stuff back when I was in my early teens but the production doesn't hold up. Hard for my ears to digest these days.

firedog55's picture

Wow, this was the second album I ever owned (Abbey Road was the first). Got it as a Bar Miitzvah present. Still have the original LP, but listen to a DSD rip from an SACD - sounds better than the LP.

Have to disagree with you about the music, though. I'm not a critic, so I don't dismiss something because it is labelled "corny". I put this on and find the music fun to listen to and involving, even after all these years. And yes, the playing and arrangements are spectacular. This may be the best album of it's Genre (jazz-rock based on having a horn section).

Michael Fremer's picture

Don't dismiss anything you like because someone else doesn't! 

Dpoggenburg's picture

I always enjoy your reviews but this one was particularly resonant. I LOVED Spinning Wheel when it came out (c'mon I was in the 4th grade for chrissakes!), and I love the sound of this record and much of the playing, especially the drumming, but I listened to this ORG reissue and I was embarrassed -- like someone caught me jerking off embarrassed -- and it is exactly because of that corniness you identified. Well done

Michael Fremer's picture

I'm never embarrassed when caught jerking off! 

Avalon0387's picture

Child Is Father to the Man is one of my childhood defining albums. I still listen to it start to finish. An amazing achievement. 

torturegarden's picture

I've ignored this record for most of my life (I'm 40). I've heard a couple songs and always saw copies in the used bins but never picked one up. I finally grabbed an early pressing in excellent condition for $3.00 earlier this year. While musically it isn't what I usually listen to, it's better than I expected. The sound quality is excellent, and if the production is dated, it sounds a lot better than most modern LPs. I'm glad I fanally grabbed a copy and am content with my 40+ year old copy.

Jeffczar's picture

I think the review is a bit harsh.  Alright, the popular songs aren't the reason to buy the album.  However, nobody mentioned Blues part 2, the nicely done bookends of the Erik Satie piece, a decent version of God Bless the Child, Sometimes in Winter, and some nice guitar work in More and More, and Smiling Phases.  I  actually still play the album quite frequently.  I don't accept "dated" as valid criticism of music.  Is Bob Dylan dated?   How about Bach if we are using that line of logic.  Of course, what the hell do I know, 2 albums in heavy rotation for me right now are King Crimson's "Lizard" and The Moody Blues "Days Of Future Passed". I listen to them and don't hear "dated" so I suppose that disqualifies anything I might say !

Michael Fremer's picture

For admitting you still listen to "Coldhearted orb that rules the night! Empassioned lovers wrestle as one!" Etc. I bought that one along with Steppenwolf's debut album, both because I liked the covers. Spent many evenings in college with friends getting stoned and playing "Day's of Future Past"—especially after replacing the American copy with a UK Deram. It is still an amazing sounding record. And I play it as a reference when I evaluate cartridge and turntables but I don't admit it. I just did I guess, but strictly 'work related'....

Jeffczar's picture

However, growing up I had a lot of adult mentors that had me turned on to things like the  moodies and prog rock as well as Dylan, and Coltrane, Miles, and Leo Kottke in my room growing up as a very introverted 16 year old !!  Hopelessly tormenting my poor parents who were busy listening to Herb Albert and the Tijuana brass records .  I am the very definition of "old soul"  In fact I later came to adopt a slogan from your generation, only modified to pertain to music....."Never trust anything UNDER 30 years old" when it comes to music.   I always wished I had come of age a decade sooner to have experienced that wonderful, and unequaled period of unmatched creativity as you did.  Keep the prose intertwined with those music reviews, makes for much more interesting reading.  PROUDLY admit to still listen to those things brother!!!

Live hand and hand, and together we'll stand.....on the threshold....of a dream !!!

RobWynn's picture

I see that Friday Music is reissuing YES "Big Generator" on vinyl.  Audiophile treatment for that, really?  Seems to me to be a kindred album of this BS&T in it's datedness and corny factor, just a couple decades later.  What's next SUPERTRAMPs "Brother Where You Bound" with bonus dance mixes of the single(s) thrown in?  

OK, enough negativity.  I am indeed looking forward to your opinions on the ORG 2LP 45RPM jazz titles as I've been wanting to dive in, but was hoping you'd review first... perfect timing!!

craigh's picture

I'm glad to see that I'm not the only one to find that David Clayton-Thomas is annoying.

sluggobeast's picture

Anyone know if an audiophile release of the first album has been considered? That one is a classic for all times!

grant99's picture

Sluggobeast...the Speakers Corner label did a reissue on the first album.  A very nice sounding reissue at that...

Oystein's picture

"Don't dismiss anything you like because someone else doesn't! "

JohnEcc's picture

My original Canadian pressing was right up there with the original US pressing, great recorded record but I give the nod to the Direct To Disk pressing. I was in the audience when Al Kooper came on with his latest Band at The Toronto Pop Festival. They were followed by David Clayton Thomas who that day did not sound like any lounge singer. I agree about the music, although I still listen to it occasionally. Spinning Wheel got so much airplay on FM stations, to this day I cannot listen to it.

JohnEcc's picture

My original Canadian pressing was right up there with the original US pressing, great recorded record but I give the nod to the DirectDisk pressing. I was in the audience when Al Kooper came on with his latest Band at The Toronto Pop Festival. They were followed by David Clayton Thomas who that day did not sound like any lounge singer. I agree about the music, although I still listen to it occasionally. Spinning Wheel got so much airplay on FM stations, to this day I cannot listen to it.

Ricktpt1's picture

As a longtime fan of your gear reviews (and your setup DVD's), based on this music review, I'm inspired to once more fervently congratulate you on your gear reviews. Just sayin'. I loved this group. Still do. And so do most of the musicians I know. The politics of the group's career arc are unfortunate, but the music survived the politics. Long live the music. Forget the politics. They're what's dated, not the music.