Paul Butterfield - Live New York 1970 album review

Sixties blues master greets new decade, in scintillating two-CD set.

Paul Butterfield Live New York 1970 album cover

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Paul Butterfield’s (justifiably proud) son Gabriel has overseen the reissue of this standout, recorded-for-radio performance, and it shows that his dad’s innovative, dynamic approach to the blues was still vital well after the 1967 departure of hotshot guitarist Mike Bloomfield.

Released for the first time in the UK and given a top-quality remaster, Live New York 1970 features a bigger band than the Live album recorded just months previously. The blisteringly improvised Born Under A Bad Sign has Butterfield’s demon harp duelling with a four-piece brass section – including bright, young tenor sax man, David Sanborn. Here and elsewhere, the celebratory and muscular musical gumbos delivered as a matter of course (Driftin’ Blues is simply awesome) effortlessly inhabit musical territory where Little Feat, Graham Central Station and Tower Of Power would soon roam.

Butterfield’s band-leader instincts are uncanny; a fortifying blend of pugnacious swagger informs every note played. His sensational mouth-harp skills get right to the nub of the tune when he tears into Everything’s Gonna Be Alright while the righteously rollicking band, seemingly capable of going anywhere with verve and ease, are, of course, right alongside. Heroic stuff.

Late NME, Daily Mirror and Classic Rock writer Gavin Martin started writing about music in 1977 when he published his hand-written fanzine Alternative Ulster in Belfast. He moved to London in 1980 to become the NME’s Media Editor and features writer, where he interviewed the Sex Pistols, Joe Strummer, Pete Townshend, U2, Bruce Springsteen, Ian Dury, Killing Joke, Neil Young, REM, Sting, Marvin Gaye, Leonard Cohen, Nina Simone, James Brown, Willie Nelson, Willie Dixon, Madonna and a host of others. He was also published in The Times, Guardian, Independent, Loaded, GQ and Uncut, he had pieces on Michael Jackson, Van Morrison and Frank Sinatra featured in The Faber Book Of Pop and Rock ’N’ Roll Is Here To Stay, and was the Daily Mirror’s regular music critic from 2001. He died in 2022.