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If You Love These Blues, Play'em As You Please (Remastered)

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Album Review

If You Love These Blues, Play 'Em As You Please was an unusual project for Michael Bloomfield. Although recorded as a blues guitar instructional album for Guitar Player magazine, it ended up being acclaimed as one of his finest solo recordings, of interest to both guitar players and the general listening public. Bloomfield had been in commercial and artistic decline for years prior to cutting this disc, and there's the sense that he welcomed the chance to get back to what he knew and loved the best, selecting and laying down material without having to worry about how well it would sell. That relaxed quality comes through on the performances, in which he goes through a wide assortment of electric and acoustic guitar styles, the songs specifically designed to illustrate guitar sounds associated with heroes like B.B. King, Jimmie Rodgers, the Carter Family, T-Bone Walker, Blind Blake, Guitar Slim, Lonnie Johnson, and others. The cuts with band backing are no-frills, straight-ahead affairs that avoid over-production, interrupted by a few showcases for Bloomfield's considerable and underrated abilities as an acoustic guitarist. His singing, as always, was merely serviceable, but suitably respectful of the material and the styles to which he was paying homage. Sprinkled throughout the program are brief, unobtrusive spoken introductions from Bloomfield himself succinctly explaining the songs, what they're examples of, and how they're being played. Long after it was made, it's still useful as a primer for aspiring blues guitarists, but also reasonably satisfying as a blues record on its own terms. The 2004 CD reissue on Kicking Mule adds a lot of value by tacking on the entirety of his 1979 album Bloomfield/Harris, a joint effort by Bloomfield and acoustic guitarist Woody Harris that's a nice, if peripheral, wholly instrumental excursion into gospel-oriented folk-blues.

Biography

Born: 28 July 1943 in Chicago, IL

Genre: Blues

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s

Michael Bloomfield was one of America's first great white blues guitarists, earning his reputation on the strength of his work in the Paul Butterfield Blues Band. His expressive, fluid solo lines and prodigious technique graced many other projects — most notably Bob Dylan's earliest electric forays — and he also pursued a solo career, with variable results. Uncomfortable with the reverential treatment afforded a guitar hero, Bloomfield tended to shy away from the spotlight after spending...
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