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Blood, Sweat & Tears (also known as "BS&T") was an American music group, formed in 1967 in New York City. It fused rock, blues, pop music, horn arrangements and jazz improvisation into a hybrid that came to be known as "jazz-rock". Unlike "jazz fusion" or simply "fusion", which tended toward virtuostic displays of instrumental facility and some experimentation with electric instruments, Blood, Sweat & Tears' sound merged the varied stylings of rock, pop and R&B/soul music with big band coupled with "combo" (small ensemble) jazz.
The Al Kooper era:
Al Kooper, Jim Fielder, Fred Lipsius, Randy Brecker, Jerry Weiss, Dick Halligan, Steve Katz, and Bobby Colomby formed the original incarnation of the band. The creation of the group was fueled by the "brass-rock" ideas of The Buckinghams its producer, James William Guercio as well as the early 1960s (according to Kooper's autobiography) Roulette era Maynard Ferguson Orchestra.
Blood, Sweat & Tears was purportedly a name chosen by Al Kooper after seeing a 1963 album of this title by Johnny Cash. Kooper was bandleader, having insisted on that position based on his experiences with The Blues Project, his previous band with Steve Katz, which had been organized as an egalitarian collective. Jim Fielder was from Frank Zappa's Mothers Of Invention and had played briefly with Buffalo Springfield. But undoubtedly, Kooper's fame as a high profile contributor to various historic sessions of Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, the Rolling Stones, and so forth, was the catalyst for Blood, Sweat & Tears' prominent debut in the counterculture.
The group's first live introduction was at Cafe Au Go Go in New York City in 1967, opening for Moby Grape; the band was a hit with the audience, who liked the innovative fusion of jazz with acid-rock and psychedelia. After signing to Columbia Records, the group released perhaps one of the most critically acclaimed albums of the late 1960s, Child Is Father to the Man that featured the Harry Nilsson song, "Without Her" and perhaps Kooper's most memorable blues number, "I Love You More Than You'll Ever Know". Characterized by Kooper's penchant for studio gimmickry, the album slowly picked up in sales amidst growing artistic differences between the founding members. Colomby and Katz wanted to move Kooper to the keyboard and composing chores exclusively, and hire a stronger vocalist for the group.
As Blood, Sweat & Tears' musical genre slowly achieved critical mass alongside similarly configured ensembles such as Chicago Transit Authority and the Electric Flag, Kooper left the group to become a star record producer for Columbia. The group's trumpeters, Randy Brecker and Jerry Weiss, also left after the album was released, and were replaced by Lew Soloff and Chuck Winfield. Brecker joined Horace Silver's band with his brother Michael, and together they eventually formed their own horn-dominated musical outfits, Dreams and The Brecker Brothers. Jerry Weiss went on to start the similarly styled group Ambergris.
The David Clayton-Thomas era:
Colomby and Katz started recruiting singers, considering Stephen Stills and Laura Nyro before settling on David Clayton-Thomas, a Canadian singer. Reportedly, folk singer Judy Collins had seen him perform at a New York City club and was so taken and moved by his performance that she told her friends Bobby Colomby and Steve Katz about him (knowing that they were looking for a new lead singer to front the band). With her prodding, they came to see him perform and were so impressed with him that Clayton-Thomas was offered to be lead singer of a re-constituted Blood Sweat & Tears. Halligan took up the piano chores, and Jerry Hyman joined to replace him on trombone. Trumpeters Lew Soloff and Chuck Winfield joined to bring the band up to nine total members. Blood, Sweat & Tears, the group's second, self-titled album, was produced by James William Guercio and released in 1969. The album was much more pop-oriented, featuring decidedly fewer compositions from within the band. It quickly hit the top of the charts and won Album of the Year at the Grammy Awards. It spawned three major hit singles: a cover of Brenda Holloway's "You've Made Me So Very Happy", Clayton-Thomas' "Spinning Wheel", and a version of Laura Nyro's "And When I Die".
Arguably, as a result of Al Kooper's exodus, Blood, Sweat & Tears had difficulty maintaining a hippie cachet at a time when this was deemed very important in the youth market. This was compounded by a United States Department of State-sponsored tour of Eastern Europe. Any voluntary association with the government was extremely unpopular at the time, and the band was ridiculed for it. In retrospect, it is now known that the State Department subtly requested the tour in exchange for more amicability on the issue of Clayton-Thomas' visa.
After returning to the U.S., the group released Blood, Sweat & Tears 3; which was a popular success, spawning hit singles with a cover of Carole King's "Hi-De-Ho" and another Clayton-Thomas composition, "Lucretia MacEvil". While this was a successful attempt to re-create the amalgam of styles of the previous album, it depended almost exclusively (again) on cover material. Many journalists felt the need to slag the band over a disastrous U.S. State-Department sponsored tour which did not fare well with the counterculture. Many succeeding album reviews would focus solely upon that instance, without bothering to discourse on their music. Compounding the image problems was a decision to play at Caesars Palace on the Las Vegas Strip, a notoriously unhip place in an unhip city. In 1970, the band provided music for the soundtrack of the film comedy The Owl and the Pussycat.
Following all of this turmoil, the group reconvened with jazz writer Don Heckman serving as their producer and, with Dave Bargeron replacing Jerry Hyman, recorded material that would comprise their fourth album, Blood, Sweat & Tears 4. For the first time since the first album, Blood, Sweat & Tears presented an outstanding repertoire of songs written mostly from within the group, which even included a cover of Al Kooper's "Holy John (John The Baptist)". Loaded with hooks and a wide variety of moods ("Go Down Gamblin'", "Lisa Listen To Me", "HIgh on a Mountain", "Redemption"), "4" broke through the album and singles charts and bagged a gold record. It is ironic that this defined as well the peak of Blood, Sweat & Tears' commercial heyday.
The Jerry Fisher era:
Difficulties arose inside the group the between its pop-rock and jazz factions, with Clayton-Thomas striding the middle and eventually choosing to pursue a solo career. He was momentarily replaced by Bobby Doyle, and then Jerry Fisher who went on to front the next generation of Blood, Sweat & Tears. Fred Lipsius left and was replaced by jazz legend Joe Henderson (but did not stay long enough to record), before Lou Marini settled into the new lineup. Two founding members also departed: Dick Halligan was replaced by jazz pianist Larry Willis, and guitarist-singer-harmonica player Steve Katz retired from active playing, taking on an A&R job. Swedish guitarist Georg Wadenius joined as lead guitarist around the same time. Amidst the personnel changes, a Greatest Hits album was released, which hit the top 20 and eventually went gold. It would be their last gold album.
During this time, a proliferation of similarly styled bands flourished to compete in the popular music marketplace (Chase, Ides of March and Lighthouse among others).
The new edition of Blood, Sweat & Tears released New Blood, which found the group moving into a more overtly jazzy repertoire. The album broke through the top-40 charts (their last to do so) that spawned a single ("So Long Dixie", chart peak: 44) that received massive AM radio airplay and a cover version of Herbie Hancock's "Maiden Voyage" featuring the voice/guitar soloing of Georg Wadenius.
Blood, Sweat & Tears' following album, (1973)'s No Sweat, continued in a Jazz fusion vein and featured outstanding horn work. The 1974 release Mirror Image, saw the addition of vocalist Jerry LaCroix, sax player Bill Tillman, and the exodus of long time members Lew Soloff and Jim Fielder. This recording features the adoption of a sound pitched between Philly Soul and the mid-1970s albums by Herbie Hancock's Headhunters, along with aspirations to Chick Corea's Jazz-Fusion group Return to Forever.
Personnel changes continued, capped by the return of David Clayton-Thomas and the release of the comeback album New City. This album charted higher than any of their previous albums since New Blood. This was chiefly the result of an entry in the singles charts with a cover of the Beatles's "Got To Get You Into My Life". It did not sell as well as albums from the group's 1969-71 apex. They released a final album for Columbia Records, More Than Ever, before the last original band member, Bobby Colomby, left in 1976. The band then signed a new contract with ABC Records, with Colomby serving as its album's executive producer. Their sole album for that label, Brand New Day, did not fare well in the charts and, following a European tour in 1978 to promote the album, the group ceased activity.
In 1980, David Clayton-Thomas decided to re-form Blood, Sweat & Tears, consisting of Canadian musicians. They signed to Avenue Records subsidiary label LAX (MCA Records), and with producer and arranger (War), Jerry Goldstein, recorded the album Nuclear Blues. The album was clearly another attempt to reinvent the group, showcasing the group in a funk sound environment that recalls (among others) Tower of Power. The album, unfortunately, was regarded by longstanding Blood, Sweat & Tears fans as uncharacteristic of the group's best work. Following a brief tour, including Australia, the group disbanded again.
Clayton-Thomas attempted to restart his solo career after the album failed to chart. He did not own the rights to the Blood, Sweat & Tears name. This caused complications during his initial months on the road, when promoters would book his group and instead use the Blood, Sweat & Tears name on the marquee. Consequently, his manager at the time, Larry Dorr, negotiated a licensing deal with Bobby Colomby for rights to tour using the band's name. For almost 20 years afterwards, he toured the concert circuit under the name "Blood, Sweat & Tears" until his final departure in 2004, with yet another failed attempt at a solo career. Clayton-Thomas now performes at oldies shows under only his name.
Blood, Sweat & Tears continues its heavy touring schedule throughout the world with its current line-up of members, some of whom have been in the band 20 years. Under the direction of Larry Dorr and founding member Bobby Colomby, the band has enjoyed a resurgence. Blood, Sweat & Tears donates money through its "Elsie Monica Colomby" music scholarship fund to deserving schools and students who need help in prolonging thier musical education, such as the victims of Hurricane Katrina. The year 2007 witnessed the band's first world tour in a decade.
All of the band's albums, except for Brand New Day, are currently available on compact disc. BS&T's first four albums were reissued by Sony Records in remastered editions (usually with bonus material), except for its third album, which has been reissued by Mobile Fidelity. The later Columbia albums have been reissued by Wounded Bird Records, and Rhino Records has reissued Nuclear Blues. Brand New Day was issued on CD (possibly legally unauthorized) in Russia in 2002.