Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Paul Butterfield's Better Days [extended]

  • Keep On Moving [Elektra, 1969] A
  • Sometimes I Just Feel Like Smilin' [Elektra, 1971] B-
  • Golden Butter: The Best of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band [Elektra, 1972] A-
  • Better Days [Bearsville, 1972] B
  • It All Comes Back [Bearsville, 1973] B+
  • Put It in Your Ear [Bearsville, 1976] B-

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Consumer Guide Reviews:

The Paul Butterfield Blues Band: Keep On Moving [Elektra, 1969]
People who liked Butter long ago usually don't like what he's become. I've only dug him over the past two years and I think he just gets better and better. This record, vocally oriented and produced by Jerry Ragavoy, is his best yet, hard-driving and very tight. Listen to "Love Disease," "Walking By Myself," "Buddy's Advice." A

The Butterfield Blues Band: Sometimes I Just Feel Like Smilin' [Elektra, 1971]
Proving once again that artists who make records you admire but never play often end up making records you're not so sure you admire. These days this is a blues band only in the broadest sense--Butterfield sings infrequently if well, some if not all of the arrangements sound like Stan Kenton believing himself superior to B.B. King, and the female chorus must have wandered in from the next studio. B-

The Paul Butterfield Blues Band: Golden Butter: The Best of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band [Elektra, 1972]
Butterfield's music has held up more convincingly than it's evolved, which is why forty-five out of eighty minutes were recorded between October '65 and August '66 and why the side featuring a cut each off his last three albums is the one you can skip. What sounded like "white blues" back then sounds like "rock" now--Butterfield is so modest any label fits. Prophetic guitarists, powerful drummers, better-than-average horn men, and one heck of a great harmonica player. A-

Paul Butterfield: Better Days [Bearsville, 1972]
Butterfield's new band--a Woodstock roots-blues supergroup of honest men singing honest songs--is his clearest concept since 1965. Unfortunately, the music is so relaxed it sounds as if they decided--collectively, of course--that laid back meant lying down. B

It All Comes Back [Bearsville, 1973]
In which Butter returns to his own better days, when his miraculously unaffected but colorless singing provided pleasant valleys from which his weirdo sidemen could peak. The prize here is Geoff Muldaur's rendition of Bobby Charles's "Small Town Talk," a song about back-stabbers that sounds as if it was made for the exurban bohemian community where the music originated--probably because that's the community it was written about. Ronnie Barron's frenetic remake of his own "Louisiana Flood" comes in second. B+

Paul Butterfield: Put It in Your Ear [Bearsville, 1976]
The modishly far-out rhythms and textures here are so authentic they recall Jimmy Witherspoon or Bobby Bland casting desperately about for a hit. The bluesman fluffs one ballad and sounds a little strange doing romantic patter, and producer Henry Glover has for some reason set his own "Breadline" amid enough instruments to feed a family of four for six months, but once you conquer your suspicion that this is a disaster it sounds pretty good. I don't hear any hits, though. B-