Mike Bloomfield – A Retrospective

Album Review | Retroworld | Review by Allan Wilkinson | Stars: 4/5

When Peter Yarrow of Peter Paul and Mary fame made his rambling introduction at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival, clumsily introducing the Paul Butterfield Blues Band to the stage, he probably didn’t have a clue of what was about to happen a few hours later when the band returned to the stage in order to back Bob Dylan in what became a notable turning point in popular music. This announcement precedes “Born in Chicago”, one of the previously unreleased songs on this magnificent retrospective of Mike Bloomfield’s contribution to popular blues music when it was first released as a two-LP set in 1983. The two-disc set, now reissued as a double CD set with additional material, captures Bloomfield at his rawest, a massively overlooked guitarist at the cutting edge of contemporary blues from the mid 1960s to the early 1970s, as part of such outfits as the Electric Flag, Al Kooper’s Super Session and the Butterfield band. The 18-song compilation is intercut with several interview segments, giving the collection some historical context, such as the inclusion of a candid admission by Bloomfield of the difficulty in working with the notoriously complex Butterfield. It’s Bloomfield’s peerless guitar playing though that brings this compilation to life, especially on such tracks as the Al Kooper collaboration Really, the live recording of “I Wonder Who” also with Al Kooper from 1968 Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco and something slightly more understated on the rather soulful version of “It Hurts Me Too”, featuring a vocal by John Hammond and Dr John tinkling the ivories.