BLOOD SWEAT & TEARS — Blood, Sweat & Tears (review)

BLOOD SWEAT & TEARS — Blood, Sweat & Tears album cover Album · 1969 · Pop/Art Song/Folk Buy this album from MMA partners
4/5 ·
J-Man
While the debut effort from American jazz rock group Blood, Sweat & Tears did experience moderate commercial success, it wasn't until this self-titled sophomore effort that the band finally experienced the mainstream recognition that they truly deserved. Although the band's popularity would soon sharply decline, this well-known 1968 gem showcases Blood, Sweat & Tears at the absolute top of their game. On this LP, the listener will be treated to a fascinating marriage between jazz, psychedelic rock, blues, and pop that was unique for the time period, and still remains remarkably original to this day.

Keeping in mind that this observation was released before 'jazz rock' was truly solidified as a genre by innovators like Miles Davis, Chicago, and Frank Zappa (all of whom released some of their biggest contributions to the style in 1969), it's quite surprising how innovative Blood, Sweat & Tears is. Although the album rarely deviates into extended jams that characterized jazz-rock classics like In a Silent Way or Hot Rats, Blood, Sweat & Tears does exhibit a unique mix of brass and electric instrumentation, the raw power of rock music, and the instrumental prowess of jazz. Whereas Frank Zappa approached jazz rock from the 'rock' side of things and Miles Davis approached the genre from the 'jazz' side, Blood, Sweat & Tears approaches the genre from a more pop-oriented perspective. Whilst the band's style is not very commercial by today's standards, this is an album characterized by memorable hooks and unforgettable melodies - although there's much more to Blood, Sweat & Tears than simple pop choruses, the band manages to brilliantly incorporate melodic hooks into their style without sounding forced.

Although a very small amount of the music here was actually composed by the band (which is a minor turn-off for me), the song selection is top-notch and the performances are flawless. The brass arrangements complement the music perfectly, and the 'main' band is exceptional as well - lead singer David Clayton-Thomas especially deserves a shout out, as his warm tone and exciting delivery is a big part of what makes this album so enjoyable. The album is also quite diverse, sporting everything from the excellent ballad "You've Made Me So Very Happy" to extended jam sections in "Blues - Part II". While it does work really well for the most part, there is a bit of inconsistency in the quality of the songs ("And When I Die" is nowhere on par with the best the album has to offer), and the observation's high points can leave the listener a bit unsatisfied by its less impressive portions.

That said, however, Blood, Sweat & Tears is an excellent album in nearly every sense of the word, and a true joy to listen to. This is one of those records that always manages to put me in a good mood - whether it be the emotional melodies, funky instrumentation, or brilliant jamming sections, listening to this album is just a hell of a lot of fun in virtually any scenario. While it may not be entirely without its faults, Blood, Sweat & Tears is still an invigorating classic that deserves to be heard by every music lover.
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