Similar and Related Bands

After becoming a fan of BS&T, I became fascinated with Jazz-Rock.  I searched around for other bands with the same sound, the following is a list of those bands and how they rate compared to BS&T.

This Canadian group (ironic huh?) is probably the closest group to BS&T that I've found.  They released a lot of albums, but had very little commercial success.  I enjoy listening to them almost as much as BS&T.  They had one big U.S. hit, "One Fine Morning," from the album of the same name.  Other albums of theirs that I think are great:  One Fine Light, Thoughts of Movin' On, Can You Feel It, and Sunny Days.  Bruce Cassidy (Nuclear Blues) played with them for a while as well.  One Fine Morning and a greatest hits complilation are in print on CD currently, as well as a new album which I have yet to hear.  Basically if you like BS&T check these guys out.  I found most of their albums on LP for about $2 each.

Ides of March
The Ides of March were a Chicago-based band, known for their big hit of 1970, "Vehicle," which comes from the album of the same name.  It's obvious this was Warner Brother's attempt to cash in on the BS&T sound, and they did.  The song "Vehicle" was one of the biggest hits of 1970.  They have two other LP's, neither of which use the horns much, and a variety of other albums that came out on local Chicago labels.  If you can find it, there's a version of the song "Vehicle" that contains a long instrumental suite before it, it's rather good.  Vehicle has been re-released as an import CD, and it also features three bonus tracks which are really cool.  I believe it was manufactured in France. The mixing is a little less-than-wonderful, but I was happy to get this on CD finally.  They also just released a new album called "Ideology" which can be purchased at CDNOW.

Here is a quote from Jim Peterik about writing Vehicle:

"I started with the title "Vehicle". I've always loved one word titles because of their strong               impact. I wrote down the first line "I got a set of wheels pretty baby, won't you hop inside my car?" Musically I was working on a very simple minor key progression E minor to B minor. Rhythmically, I was doing the kind of choppy thing I first heard on the first Blood Sweat and Tears album. (The Ides were huge BS&T fans having seen them at the Kinetic Playground with Jethro Tull a few months earlier.) By the end of the day, I had morphed my emotion into a pretty slick 2 minute and 51 second song."

Led by Woody Herman trumpeter Bill Chase, these guys released three fine albums in the early 70s, Chase, Ennea, and Pure Music.  They had one hit off of their first album, "Get It On," which features a really ripping horn section comprised of four trumpets.  Chase's playing is incredible, he is up there with Jon Faddis and our own Lew Soloff.  At least the first album is definitely worth tracking down.  I had no problems finding all three of them and a quadrophonic pressing of their first one. Good Stuff, and Chase's soloing is out of this world.  All there albums Chase, Ennea, and Pure Music are available on CD!  The latter two are both on a single CD which costs about $10 shipped.  I encourage everyone to pick these up.  Chase's sololing is out of this world.

Dreams surfaced right after BS&T became chart-toppers.  They were an ensemble that veered heavily towards jazz, and featured former BS&T trumpeter Randy Brecker, as well as his brother Michael Brecker.  The music is very tight and the musicians are top-notch.  Even though they lean towards jazz, there are plenty of rocking moments on their two albums, "Dreams" and "Imagine My Surprise."

Electric Flag
These guys really beat BS&T and Chicago out the door when it came to horns in rock.  However, their sound tends more towards R&B and Blues than mainstream rock and roll.  Featuring drummer Buddy Miles and guitarist Mike Bloomfield, these guys burst onto the scene in 1967, released only a handful of cuts and a movie soundtrack, and were gone before you knew it.  It's too bad.  Luckily, Columbia released a really good compilation on these guys called Old Glory.  I would recommend it to all BS&T fans.  There's actually a whole bunch of other Electric Flag material out there now.  There's a pair of albums released this year, one called Small Town Blues, and one called Electric Flag: Live.  I haven't heard either of these and there weren't track listings, so let me know if anyone knows anything.  They also just re-released one called Groovin' Is Easy, which is says is from 1983.  It seems to have both album and live tracks on it, and features Mike BLoomfield on guitar.  All in all, I wholly reccomend any Electric Flag to BS&T fans.  They're funkier, they're blusier, they're rougher, but it's still great material.

It is impossible to avoid Chicago in this list, as the bands were almost constantly compared in the early to mid 70s.  However, after listening to the bulk of their material, very little of their catalog is in the same league as BS&T.  Their first two albums, Chicago Transit Authority and Chiacgo II, are two of the greatest horn-rock albums of all time, hands down.  I think they these two are on par with BS&T, as far as vision, musicianship, arrangements, power, however after that there is precious little that lives up to these two albums.  The only other album that I would recommend to the BS&T fan is Chiacgo 16, which features some inspired horn arrangements which were long overdue for these guys, especially on the tag to Hard to Say I'm Sorry, entitled, Get Away.  I always crank up the stereo for that one.

Buddy Miles
My dad kept insisting there was this great rock song with horns called Them Changes by that guy from Electric Flag.  I finally tracked down a Buddy Miles album, also called Them Changes, and boy, I'm glad I did.  Some of the best jazz and blues rock  I'd heard in a long time came pumping out of my speakers.  I also managed to find another album called We Got To Live Together and a Live album.  The horn arrangements are all top notch and the songs are completely hummable.  The LP's seem hard to find, but there was a CD released recently of the best of Buddy's stuff, including tracks from Them Changes, he also has a few other CDs in print, including an album from a couple years ago and a tribute to Jimi Hendrix (with whom he played with in Jimi's Band of Gypsies).

Tower of Power
After hearing "What is Hip" and "Bump City" on the radio, I rushed out and find some of TOP's LP's.  Although their sound trails off more towards funk, their early albums Tower of Power, Bump City, and Back to Oakland, really rock.  All three are in print on CD.  Also TOP's latest albums are a good source of new music for the music starved BS&T fan.  TOP and Sould Out are pretty darned cool.  I also got to see them in concert and they put on a great show.  Also some of their members appeared with Dave Bargeron and Chuck Winfield on a J Geils live album.

Spiral Starecase
As far as I know, these guys only had one album, entitled More Today Than Yesterday, which was also the name of one of their hits.  The other was No One for Me to Turn To.  Their two hits (as well as Get It On by Chase) are available on the CD Rock Artifacts Volume 1.  Their LP features some pretty good songs, including covers of For Once In My Life and Proud Mary.  The back of the record specifically mentions BS&T's success as why the group got a record released at all.  There is now a Very Best of Spiral Starecase available on CD.  They're more pop-ish, but still enjoyable to listen to.

Butterfield Blues Band
I've only heard one of their albums, but I really enjoyed it.  Powered by harmonica genuis Paul Butterfield and with a horn section led by David Sanborn, they recorded a few albums with a very liquid lineup (sound familiar).  The album I have, Sometimes I Just Feel Like Smilin' is pretty good and I intend to find more.  There's a few on CD, but I haven't heard them.

Cold Blood
I have only heard one of their albums, First Taste of Sin, but I like it.  They feature a large horn section and a female lead singer, so perhaps you can get an idea of what BS&T would have sounded like with Laura Nyro.  What I've heard of them, I like, they have quite a few albums out, it's just a matter of finding them of course, and so far, I've just the one.

Blues Brothers Band
This band causes me a lot of irritation and joy at the same time.  I find it irritating that the massess embrace them, not for the music especially but because they were part of the Saturday Night Live phenomenon.  Their music is pretty good mostly because of the virtuoso musicians.  Their entire horn section has appeared with BS&T.  Alan Rubin played Trumpet on the second album, while Lou Marini Jr. was on New Blood and No Sweat.  Tom "bones" Malone was on No Sweat as well.  The songs from the movie, and a couple of the others are all enjoyable R&B flavored horn-rock.

Ten Wheel Drive
The All Music Guide listed this group as being similar to BS&T.  I have one of their records a spin at a local used record store and I really really didn't like them.  Their sound is sort of country music with horns, and left a bad taste in my mouth, but that's just my opinion, one of these days I'll give them another shot.

This group was somewhat of a puzzle to begin with.  While flipping through an old Keyboard Magazine, I saw an equipment ad, that had a picture of this band in it.  It was a large band, ten pieces or so, it had a five piece horn section, in which I could clearly see Lou Marini, Tom Malone, Jerry Hyman, and Bill Watrous. I wondered if they were real or just something staged for the ad, and then one day I finally found a Matrix record.  it was called Wizard.  It was, however, one of their later albums and didn't have any players that I recognized, but it's pretty good stuff.  Some of their songs are instrumentals, but their horn arrangements are all cool and they sorta sound like progressive jazz-blues-rock if that's possible.  I think they're worth looking in to.  I have since discovered that the similarity to BS&T personnel was just a conicidence afterall and none of the people in the picture played in BS&T.

This was another group I basically discovered by accident.  I was looking for cheap records in a Goodwill store once and came across this group Myrth and their self titled album.  They were a six piece band only, but several of them played horns as well as other instruments.  I bought it and gave it a spin.  They weren't bad.  The sound is reminiscent of New Blood, sorta folk-jazz-rock in a way.  I like it enough to recommend it.

     Why do I think BS&T is better than the above groups?  The first thing that springs to mind is musicianship.  The many fine players that have made up the ranks of BS&T have all been musician's musicians.  They were in some cases highly trained and well-educated in their particular instrument and in music in general.  Some have gone on to great solo careers and success with other groups.  BS&T players turn up on hundreds of other albums as session muscians, sometimes they comprise the entire horn section of a particular recording.  Some recent examples include Steve Winwood, Paul Simon, and Sinead O'Connor.  (on Back in the High Life, Graceland, and Inspiring Songs, respectively).
    The music of Blood, Sweat, and Tears was always the cutting edge of jazz rock and blues rock.  While groups like Chicago constantly changed their sound to fit with the middle of the road pop of the day, BS&T continued to crank out the finest fusion and jazz rock available.  Their sound, save for some cuts on Mirror Image, and More Than Ever, really did not stray all that much.  After Chicago II, which gave the group their first real taste of superstardom, the music seemed to for the most part become less itneresting.  There were sporadic moments between their second and sixteenth album, but for the most part, they were lost in the shuffle of their popish ambitions.  In a way success was bad for Chicago because once they became huge moneymakers, it influenced the way they churned out records.  Slowly the horns disappeared more and more until finally you got Chicago 17 which while being their most popular album, was a far cry from the horn laced rock and roll that started it all going.  Chicago 16 was one of their best sellers as well, and it was a great album with just about every track using the horns to their fullest extent, why they decided to abandon that completely is beyond me.
     The musicians in these other groups are not bad, but they seldom matched up with the guys in BS&T.  In Chicago, for example, their best player is probably James Pankow.  He also writes a majority of their arrangements.  Pankow cannot match up with Dave Bargeron's playing, and certainly not Dick Halligan's arrangements.  (Which won a Grammy).  BS&T always had unpredictable and complex horn arrangements, while most of the other groups didn't really bother.  Finally, there's the Grammy awards.  BS&T won a total of five for their second album, while Chicago has a total of two, one of which was for best record cover.  (The Chocolate Bar one).
     I really get tired of the BS&T -vs- Chicago debate, even though here I am furthering it to an extent, but it's all a matter of taste really because the groups while starting out with the same mission really trailed off into two very different directions.  BS&T stuck with its sound and declined in popularity, while Chicago bought into just about every pop fad and therefore extended its life.  The saddest thing about Chicago, in my opinion, is how they can have three better than average horn players standing around during the increasing number of ballads on their albums.  In some of the videos they show them swaying to the music, sometimes with horn in hand, sometimes beating on some piece of percussion, but its a little sad to see them wasted.
     I have seen Chicago in concert once, BS&T five times, and Tower of Power once.  Of the three groups, BS&T put on the best show by far.  It does help having the same lead singer.  While Chicago has four of its original members, only one of them was really a vocalist, and Bill Champlin regularly mangles what were great Terry Kath songs with his nasal whine.  (Make Me Smile in particular, which is my favorite Chicago tune.)  It was very disappointing to me that they went ahead and had him sing them.  Scheff is getting better at the Cetera songs, but still doesn't have as good a voice, and Robert's range is getting smaller, but of the bunch, his songs sound the best by far.  David Clayton-Thomas on the other hand continues to have one of the best blues-tinged voices around, and still sounds as good as he did back in the 60s.  Another bit of irony is that the current Trumpet player (Steve Guttman) and Tenor Sax player (Dave Reikenberg) have been with the group longer than just about any musician other than David, roughly 15 years or so, bassist Gary Foote has been around for 8-10 years. Considering the great fluidity of their lineup during their heydey, that's a pretty good accomplishment.  I hope that BS&T will someday be noted for their contribution to rock and roll and the quality of their music and mucicianship.  They are the best horn-rock band, now and forever.

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