Graded on a Curve:
The Electric Flag,
A Long Time Comin’

This album is an abomination. The only things that make the Electric Flag better than their horn-heavy brethren in Blood, Sweat & Tears is their guitarist (Mike Bloomfield) is 1,000 times better than BS&T’s and they don’t have David Clayton Thomas on vocals. David Clayton Thomas ruined lives. Oh, and they didn’t give us “Spinning Wheel.” “Spinning Wheel” is one of those gifts you can’t give back. Once you’ve heard it, you’re soiled forever.

Michael Bloomfield was one of the premier blues guitarists of his (or any) time, but he shouldn’t have been allowed to get within 500 yards of a horn section. This is what ambition can do to a person—they end up hurting people. Admittedly he wasn’t the only musician to come up with the idea of fusing jazz and the blues. B.B. King and Booker T & the M.G.’s (amongst others) had already done it, and they bear part of the blame.

But Bloomfield—who dubbed his new sound “American Music” as if Chuck Berry hailed from Uzbekistan—took things too far with Electric Flag and their 1968 debut album A Long Time Comin’. But let’s be fair; as with the Kennedy assassination, Bloomfield did not act alone. He had accomplices on the grassy knoll in Buddy Miles, Nick Gravenites, Barry Goldberg, and Harvey Brooks. I will omit the names of the others (particularly the horn players) out of respect for their families.

As for that album title, I would argue a long time isn’t long enough. The ideal release date for A Long Time Comin’ would have been ten years after my demise. Which isn’t to say the album is a complete waste. Its cover—which depicts a “groovy” chick in an LSD haze encircled by some of the boys in the band—is a classic example of Haight-era psychedelic kitsch. And that band name is great. Lose the band, and we’d have a winner on our hands.

To Bloomfield’s credit, some of these songs deserve the horns. For the most part the horn arrangements are cheesy, but then again so are some of the songs, making them perfect if you’re aiming for Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass. Chief offenders include a cover of Bobby Hebb’s “Sunny” (unspeakable) and “Sittin’ in Circles” (which can’t be saved by Bloomfield’s stinging guitar), “Another Country”–which goes from bad 1960s theme song to admittedly cool “freak out”) to mediocre jazz fusion and so on—has more moving parts than your average orgy. But orgy’s last more than nine minutes and are a hell of a lot more fun (not that I’d know).

“Groovin’ Is Easy” is one notch above Blood, Sweat & Tears and is redeemed (as are virtually all of these songs) only by Bloomfield’s guitar. I can literally hear some Vietnam era U.S. Army guy in charge of boosting the morale of the troops saying, “We have to get these boys to play to our brave boys at Khe Sanh.” And the same soldiers muttering, “First they try to kill us from the front, now they’re trying to kill us from the rear.” And so it goes with “Over-Lovin’ You” and “Should Have Just” (add Barry Goldberg’s organ for maximum kitsch),

The only songs worth a cursory listen are “Texas,” on which Electric Flag put the blues before the horns rather than the other way around, which is what they should have down in the first place. Bloomfield’s stinging guitar is front and center and the results demonstrate what might have been had the horn section play a supporting role. “Wine” is the odd song out, a jumping jive meant to capture the spirit of Mardi Gras. And Electric Flag pull it off, because New Orleans was founded on horns. Had Electric Flag explored this approach they might have made a splash, but they had more important things in mind, primarily finding ways to make me suffer.

Sad’s the only word to describe seeing a couple of extraordinarily talented musicians waste their valuable time traveling a road that led only to Chicago, and by that I mean the band, not Bloomfield’s hometown. “A man has got to know his limitations,” said Clint Eastwood in Unforgiven, and a fusion such as Bloomfield envisioned would have surpassed most (if not all) musicians’ ambitions.

He does things on guitar on this album that virtually no one else on this planet could have done, and the other guys play excellently throughout. But will I ever sit through Long Time Comin’ again? No. Make that a hell no. Make that should I ever hear this album playing in a house down the block I’ll pack my bags and move to North Korea, a country enlightened enough to ban the damn thing.

GRADED ON A CURVE:
D-

This entry was posted in The TVD Storefront. Bookmark the permalink. Trackbacks are closed, but you can post a comment.
  • SUPPORTING YOUR LOCAL INDIE SHOPS SINCE 2007


  • Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text
  • Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text