It’s hardly essential, but this curious 1966 compilation has distinct attractions to fans of the featured artists. Elektra, the label that first issued it, was a folk powerhouse just feeling its way into the rock/electric music arena at the time, and owned scattered tracks from five acts, three of whom never even wound up on the label. So they simply put the fourteen cuts together on one slapdash album with no uniting theme except, perhaps, that it was all groovy, man.
With his colorless remake of Fats Domino’s “I’m In Love Again”, veteran folkie Tom Rush represents the old guard struggling to stay hep. Al Kooper also had just one cut, a jazzy and relatively restrained interpretation of Blind Willie Johnson’s “I Can’t Keep From Crying Sometimes” that I prefer to the version he later cut with the Blues Project — which, like most everything Kooper did back then except his work on Dylan sessions, tended toward the overblown and hysterical.
The Big Three here are the Lovin’ Spoonful, Eric Clapton & the Powerhouse, and the Paul Butterfield Blues Band. On their four tracks, the Spoonful is reaching for the “Good Time Music” (to quote one of the titles) sound they’d soon make famous, but they’re not quite there yet.
The three Clapton tracks are by a one-shot supergroup also featuring Stevie Winwood and Jack Bruce (and cut just months before Bruce and Clapton formed Cream with Ginger Baker). Like pretty much all of Clapton’s supergroups, this one made music that was overhyped and underachieving, though the tone he gets on this version of “Steppin’ Out” is unlike anything else available back then.
Finally, the pioneering Butterfield Band contributes five tracks. All were recorded around the same time as Butterfield’s first attempt at a debut set, which was shelved until finally seeing the light of day on a 1995 CD. “Off The Wall” swings hard enough, but for me the effort that has always redeemed this album is the closing “One More Mile”, on which guitarist Mike Bloomfield lays out pretty much everything that was good about the whole blues-rock thang.
The guy’s all nervous energy, providing bristling, towering solos and manic fills and rhythm licks that drive the band the way he drove Dylan’s electric breakthroughs. Maybe it’s not for blues purists — that’s doubtless why it’s gotten so little attention over the years — but it’s definitely what was shakin’ at the time.