East West, the second album from the Paul Butterfield Blues Band is rightly regarded as a seminal album in the evolution of late 60's rock music, it was certainly a protagonist for the emergence of psychedelic music on the West Coast with it's long extended blues jams. It was a significant step in the upward trajectory of Mike Bloomfield's career, and for the Butterfield band it was a departure of sorts away from their structured Chicago R&B sound. East West saw the band explore their jazz influences with extended jams and open improvisation, and it was this that so permeated the burgeoning West Coast scene. It has a sharper more concise sound than their debut, which was ragged and perhaps more along the lines of their live sound.
Walkin Blues the classic Robert Johnson number is given a thunderous workout, with new drummer Billy Davenport providing a solid platform and Jerome Arnold supplying that renowned walking bass line. Bloomfield and fellow string bending cohort Elvin Bishop capture the darkness of the original song, with Bloomfield firing off rapid twisted slide notes. The Lee Dorsey classic Get Out My Life Woman is a more straight ahead rocker, it sounds a little like the type of blues that Levon and the Hawks were plying in the clubs and dives of the deep south in 1965/66. I Got A Mind To Give Up Living is classic late night blues, the perfect setting for Bloomfields' moaning guitar, not sure there was a guitar player at that time who captured the spirit of the blues more so than Mike Bloomfield. It's not about the notes with his playing, it's all feel something that transcends and takes you to another plane. The Cannonball Adderley classic The Work Song provides a more than adequate jumping off point for extended explorations, Bloomfield plays beyond the blues his playing is sinuous, just stretching out no bends or breaks in his solo it's amazing to hear where he was going with his music. Butterfield as always is a harp player of great virtuosity with fire and brimstone inclinations. Elvin Bishop was standing in the giant shadow of Bloomfield at this point and his playing his more restrained and rhythmic, everyone seems aware that this is Bloomfield field to plough.
Side two kicks off with a version of The Monkees' Mary Mary which leaves the original in it's wake, it's got a distinct latin rhythm and Jerome Arnold really walks that bass as the song fades out, Butterfield has a growling expressive voice ideally suited to this version. There is the expected homage to Muddy Waters with a cover of Two Trains Running that is pure ballsy funk, with Bloomfield firing of wallpaper splitting solo with fluid runs that you didn't always hear him play. East West is a slow burning fuse, an amazing exploration into eastern music framed in the context of the blues and executed with the daring of jazz musicians. A duelling Bishop and Bloomfield take the song to another plane entirely, as they slowly ascend and dip, Bloomfield seeming to push his erstwhile colleague on. East West was the first sign of rock bands wanting to explore the boundaries of music, it was mantle that many would take up from The Doors, The Jefferson Airplane and The Byrds. Bloomfield always restless soon departed after the release of the album to start up the Electric Flag with Buddy Miles. In a way the Butterfield Blues Band was never the same again although Elvin Bishop rose to the occasion on the bands' follow up The Resurrection of Pigboy Crabshaw.