Michael Bloomfield's legend continues to grow out off the memories of those people who heard him perform live in the Sixties with the Butterfield Band, at Newport with Bob Dylan, and later with his own band – The Electric Flag. But when we share these memories with others and they go out and listen to his recordings, they seem to have a hard time understanding why we thought he was so great what all the excitement is about.
Somehow there was always a gap between what Michael was purported to be, and what material found its way to records. There are undoubtedly great moments of raw energy in his performances on the first Paul Butterfield Blues Band album and unique and striking arrangements on the first Electric Flag album, but even with the Flag he often laid back deferring to the big horn band concept, content to punctuate the arrangements with carefully placed "stings" and concise solos. Someho' we never got to hear him play the guitar like we had heard him perform live. Until now.
This recording captures Bloomfield's playing in a way that lays bare his genius and stands alone when compared to what has been available of his recorded work. These performances were recorded over a six month period from December 1976 through May 1977 in San Francisco, mostly at the Old Waldorf nightclub* where "Michael Bloomfield and Friends" was a regular attraction almost every weekend. Michael was in his own element here—his hometown, his close friends, and his fans. There were no expectations, it was a loose, friendly atmosphere with no pressure. So Michael and I thought it might be interesting to record everything and see what we would get.
To that end, Michael enlisted the best musicians he could think of to play with him, and more importantly a group of musicians who shared the same love of the same music with him, and had worked extensively with him in the past. On rhythm guitar and frequent lead vocals was Nick Gravenites, who was one of the key vocalists in The Electric Flag, a highly original songwriter who wrote for and performed with Paul Butterfield, Janis Joplin, and many others—an absolute legend and original in his own right.
On piano, Mark Naftalin, who came out of the original Butterfield Band with Michael, and is arguably one of the best blues pianists alive. On Fender electric bass and sharing the lead vocals, Roger "Jelly Roll" ITroy, who was a great blues singer, had played bas with many legendary rhythm n1 blues artists, and was widely admired as a "musician's musician." On drums and some lead vocals, Bob Jones, a talented drummer who drove the band like a runaway train and whose voice and Michael's guitar become at times, on this record, like one stunning unrecognizable new sound that is neither wholly Ivoice or guitar, but something new that is both.
Sitting in occasionally was Barry Goldberg, from Bob Dylan's first electric band at Newport on organ, Mark Adams, a bay-area harmonica player in the tradition of Butterfield, and George Rains, a local drummer of impeccable taste and sensitivity. These musicians were the perfect band to showcase Michael's extraordinary and absolutely original guitar playing. They always played under the name "Michael Bloomfield and Friends." Sometimes they were great, sometimes they were sloppy, and once in a while they were hair-raisingly unreal.
Those transcendent moments are the basis for Michael's legend, and for his reputation as a complete original. Those moments are what is captured on this recording. I listened to the accumulated output of this band in those magical six months and selected the best of what they did-those moments where it all jelled and they rose to an extraordinary level of musical synergy. I believe these performances reveal, finally, what Michael Bloomfield could really do with the guitar.
Live At the Old Waldorf is a gift, not only for his fans and all those who appreciate great guitar playing, but also for all those who have heard his legend and want to know what it was really all about. In my view, the uncovering of this material will lay to rest any doubts anyone ever had about Michael's authentic place in the history of American music. I am grateful to have had the privilege of recording and producing this album, and I am happy to have this opportunity to share these historic performances.
by Norman Dayron
1. Blues Medley: Sweet Little Angel/Jelly Jelly - 7:45
2. Feel So Bad - 4:26
3. Bad Luck Baby - 5:52
4. The Sky Is Cryin' - 5:53
5. Dancin' Fool - 3:49
6. Buried Alive in the Blues - 4:55
7. Farther up the Road - 3:16
8. Your Friends - 7:18
9. Bye, Bye - 4:25
(with the exception of'Blues Medley" which was recorded live before
an audience at The Record Plant in Sausalito on November 10, 1974)
*Mark Naftalin - Piano
*George Rains - Drums
*Mark Adams - Harmonica
*Bob Jones - Guitar, Vocals
*Barry Goldberg - Hammond Organ
*Nick Gravenites - Rhythm Guitar, Vocals
*Roger Troy - Bass, Vocals
*Michael Bloomfield - Guitar, Vocals