The Paul Butterfield Blues Band / The Paul Butterfield Blues Band
Fan Post by Josh Denny
I find myself increasingly fascinated with albums that could be considered signifiers of a shift in the musical landscape. The albums that encapsulate a generation of music or boldly proclaim where the next frontier lies. The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s and The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds are monumentally influential in the production, artistic freedom, and composition of music in the late 60s. Dark Side of the Moon changed how music was marketed and led to the death of Progressive Rock and over-commercialization of popular music.
But one of my favorite categorizations is something I refer to as a “snapshot album.” This is an album that perfectly encapsulates the musical moment in which it was released, and, in some cases, is a predictor of future trends. The Paul Butterfield Blues Band is one of those albums.
The PBBB’s first album is a perfect capturing of the advancement of Chicago blues in the mid-60s, as well as an indication of the future explosion of blues-driven rock of the late 60s through the mid-70s. This album is an incredible reinterpretation of music put down by legends like Willie Dixon, Howlin’ Wolf, Elmore James, and Muddy Waters while also setting a course for the future. Their version of “Shake Your Moneymaker” sounds startlingly like an early Aerosmith deep cut. “Thank You Mr. Poobah” sounds like a Derek and the Dominoes alternate take that never made the album. And “Mellow Down Easy” might’ve been a song that Led Zeppelin covered during their early touring days. I’m actually convinced that Cream based their modern version of “Crossroads” off of the first track, “Born in Chicago.” I might be crazy, but give the two a listen and get back to me.
I was deeply surprised by this album for two reasons: one, it absolutely kicks ass. And two, I had never heard of it. My whole musical life has been steeped in rock music, particularly late 60s and early 70s, and this album was completely foreign to me. I’d been familiar with notable blues rock bands like Allman Brothers, Cream, John Mayall, early Zeppelin, and I was even familiar with master bluesmen like Howlin’ Wolf, John Lee Hooker, Albert King, BB King. Even still, The PBBB slipped through the cracks. Had it not been for this list, I may have never stumbled upon this great album, and now I have another artist to explore and figure out how they fit into the grand history of music.