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Blood, Sweat & Tears : Child is Father to the Man

Child is Father to the Man
Blood, Sweat & Tears

Sundazed Music
33rpm 180 gram Vinyl LP

Not what you might have expected…

Child is Father to the ManEveryone knows Blood, Sweat & Tears, right? “Spinning Wheel”, “And When I Die”, right? The instantly-recognizable growl of David Clayton-Thomas’ gravelly voice, right? Well, that was my take on BS&T, until I first heard Child is Father to the Man. In this debut album the band evidenced a style that, while not completely different to what was to follow, was nevertheless quite distinct.

Much of this is due to the influence of Al Kooper – songwriter, arranger, instrumentalist and singer. I’m a fan (see earlier reviews in Affordable Audio of his Super Session and Live Adventures of Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper albums, also reissued by Sundazed). Kooper was talented, and he was good at many things. His influence on this album led to a kind of rock/jazz hybrid sound… but very much a rock band with jazz inflections rather than vice versa. Yes, Child is Father to the Man is Al Kooper’s vehicle, and the album benefits from it.

The LP is very sixties, with a conceptual edge that reminds one of early Van Morrison, or Santana, or the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds, or, oddly enough, Frank Zappa (think Hot Rats). The groovy front cover, complete with bubble writing and a twee photo of band members with matching ventriloquist dummies, makes the point at the outset. But the album has more lasting importance than that: It provides a kind of precursor for albums like Chicago Transit Authority and Chicago II, which feature the prominent horn section that BS&T later accentuated in their albums. In Steely Dan albums, particularly those of the seventies, one can hear echoes of BS&T’s maiden effort.

The album opens with a peculiar, and somewhat recherché “Overture.” This is among the most dated of the cuts on the LP, with sound effects (crazed laughter over strings). It’s all a bit too obvious. The rest of the first side, however, is something special. The Tim Buckley-penned ballad “Morning Glory” is a beautiful song, and excellent versions of the Harry Nilsson song “Without Her” and Randy Newman’s “Just One Smile” show how accomplished Kooper was as an arranger.

Side two takes a slightly more experimental twist, after “I Can’t Quit Her.” “Meaghan’s Gypsy Eyes” is the most sixty-ish track on the album. “House in the Country” is a decent song which is not helped by sound effects of animals, children, crying and alien voices. “The Modern Adventures of Plato, Diogenes, and Freud” – once you get past the painfully self-conscious title and lyrics – is not a bad song, and features a lovely string accompaniment. The final cut on the album, “So Much Love,” is a classic Goffin-King tune, and BS&T do it justice.

This Sundazed production is, typically, of very high quality. The album cover reproduces the original graphics faithfully, and the LP itself was flat and free from surface noise and other artifacts. It’ll be worth giving the LP a clean before first playing to remove the bits of paper left on it by the unlined paper inner sleeve, but this minor bit of cheapness does not meaningfully detract from top-rate production. The LP sounds warm, and very “of the era,” which is a good thing. There is a three-dimensionality to the sound that renders the album eminently listenable.

Child is Father to the Man is perhaps not the first BS&T album that one might buy (no, it wasn’t for me either). But it is a very worthwhile addition to the collection for both its historic value (as the progenitor of other seventies sounds) and the quality of the musical experience. This Sundazed reissue is a winner.

System Used for Review

  • Anthony Gallo Acoustics Reference 3.1 speakers
  • McIntosh C712 preamplifier
  • Yamaha MX-D1 stereo power amplifier and Anthony Gallo Acoustics Reference 3 subwoofer amplifier
  • Sony XDR-F1HD tuner
  • VPI Classic Turntable with JMW-10.5i Special Edition Tonearm
  • Benz Micro Glider SL Cartridge
  • Musical Surroundings NovaPhonomena Phono Preamplifier
  • Shanling SCD-T200 SACD player
  • Apple iPod Classic, 160 gb
  • Mapleshade speaker wire, Blue Jeans speaker cable and interconnects, Ultimate Cables, AudioQuest, ProSolutions and AR interconnects

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