Our Top 10 Mike Bloomfield Songs list looks back at a selection of songs and performances recorded by one of the most celebrated guitarists in classic rock history. Our attempt at presenting a selection of ten Mike Bloomfield songs will be balanced between showcasing songs from Bloomfield’s solo albums and the bands he recorded with.
This is not a top 10 Mike Bloomfield guitar solo list, but rather a look at the songs themselves and of course how impactful Bloomfield’s guitar work had on the recordings and vice versa. Although there is no denyiny, it’s the guitar solos that fueled our choices for this collection. In the end, it’s about picking out ten great Mike Bloomfield songs and performances that we hope inspire fans to explore the world of Mike Bloomfield.
Even though Mike Bloomfield had a rather short career due to his passing at the young age of 37 due to a drug overdose, he left behind a wealth of material to look through. Mike Bloomfield was born in Chicago in 1943. His birthplace had a major impact on him as an artist. The city of Chicago had been host to a wave of migration from the south that brought forms of Mississippi Delta blues into the city in the 1940s.
Blues music flourished in the city of Chicago throughout the 1940s, 50s, and 60s. Mike Bloomfield developed his skills playing with some of the great blues musicians of Chicago. In the early 1960s, Mike Bloomfield was jamming with such legends as Muddy Waters, Howling Wolf, and many others in the Chicago clubs. As people talked about this great young player jamming with the best, opportunities began to evolve for Mike Bloomfield. Through his work with the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Bob Dylan, Al Kooper, Janis Joplin, his own band Electric Flag, a nice collection of solo albums and live material, Mike Bloomfield cemented together a legacy of outstanding material that has inspired so many musicians.
Our Top 10 Mike Bloomfield Songs And Performances is just that; a nice collection of recordings in which Mike Bloomfield played a pivotal role in recording whether it was a song he composed or simply just played on. The list has been presented in mostly chronological order with just a few exceptions for various reasons and dramatic effects. Can you dig it!
# 10 – Screamin’ (1965)
We open up our Top 10 Mike Bloomfield songs list with an instrumental he composed for The Paul Butterfield Blues Band’s debut album entitled simply The Paul Butterfield Blues Band . The record was released in 1965. The smoking tune “Screamin,'” opened up side two of the album. The track featured Mike Bloomfield on guitar, Elvin Bishop on guitar, Jerome Arnold on bass, Mark Naftalin on organ, and Sam Lay on drums.
# 9 – Maggie’s Farm -Bob Dylan & Michael Bloomfield Live 1965 Newport
Bob Dylan’s decision to plug in his electric guitar was one of the most controversial and glorious moments in rock music history. When he did it, Mike Bloomfield was standing right beside him filling in between the verses with some tasty smoking guitar licks that turned that Newport performance into one of classic rock’s most magical evenings. Mike Bloomfield played on some Bob Dylan studio recordings most notably on the album Highway 61 Revisited, however, it was his performance at Newport with Bob Dylan that stands as the most interesting story of the collaboration.
# 8 – East -West (1966)
We continue our Mike Bloomfield songs list with another instrumental Bloomfield composed while he was a member of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band. “East-West,” a song composed by Mike Bloomfield was the title track to the band’s magnificent second album. Mike Bloomfield gave credit to John Coltrane as an inspiration for the approach Mike Bloomfield took on the record.
This is just fabulous stuff. Listen to the solo that Mike Bloomfield takes at the 3-minute mark. You can easily hear John Coltrane’s influence and Bloomfield’s exploration of modes as opposed to just blues scales.
# 7 – Texas (1968)
The great Mike Bloomfield song “Texas,” was released on the Electric Flag album entitled A Long Time Comin’. The band Electric Flag that Mike Bloomfield had put together had previously released a soundtrack album to the Roger Corman film The Trip in 1967. However, A Long Time Comin’ stood as the band’s studio debut.
It was a fascinating album that featured a host of great musicians including Buddy Miles on drums and vocals, Barry Goldberg on keys, Harvey Brooks on bass, Nick Gravenites on vocals and guitar, Herb Rich on organ, Michael Fonfara on keyboards, Marcus Doubleday on trumpet. Peter Strazza on tenor saxophone and Stemsy Hunter on alto saxophone. The album also featured appearances by Cass Elliot of The Mamas & Papas and the legendary Richie Havens.
The song “Texas,” was written by Mike Bloomfield and Buddy Miles. A slow soulful blues number, this one simply kills on all fronts. The horns, the vocals, and Bloomfield’s guitar work are just so gut-wrenching. Stevie Ray Vaughan was compared to Jimi Hendrix all the time, but we think that he was also listening to this record, as you can really hear the connections between the artists on this track.
# 6 – Killing Floor
As we continue with this top 10 Mike Bloomfield songs list we will stick with one more track from the great Electric Flag debut. The album’s opening number definitely deserves mention on this list. Mike Bloomfield’s approach to blending the blues with soul and funk works beautifully on this classic Howlin’ Wolf song entitled “Killing Floor.”
# 5 -[Please] Tell Me Partner
Fans have praised Mike Bloomfield’s guitar tone for years. If you want to understand what their talking about, well you can listen to just about any Mike Bloomfield recording. However, his tone really stands out on this great live recording of “[Please] Tell Me Partner“ The performance was released on the Al Kooper and Mike Bloomfield album Fillmore East: The Lost Concert Tapes 12/13/68.
# 4 – Her Holy Modal Highness
Once again, Mike Bloomfield explores modal soloing in the same fashion that John Coltrane and Miles Davis had done previously on some very groundbreaking albums. This great live track “Her Holy Modal Highness,” was released on the album The Live Adventures of Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper which served as the follow-up to the Super Session album. The Live Adventures of Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper was released in 1968.
The core band featured Mike Bloomfield on guitar, Al Kooper on keys, John Khan on bass, and Skip Prokop on drums. There were guest appearances by Elvin Bishop and Carlos Santana that were also released on the record. Steve Miller also performed at the concerts that the album came from, but his performances were never released due to record company issues.
# 3 – Stop
Super Session is one of the highlights of Mike Bloomfield’s career. Too bad he didn’t show up for the second half of the recording sessions and only wound up playing on the album’s A-side. But, oh what a side. We would love to include the entire A side on this list but there were just so many other great Mike Bloomfield songs to present we had to be picky with what we chose. This killer cut entitled “Stop,” included the musicians Mike Bloomfield, Al Kooper, Barry Goldberg, Harvey Brooks and Eddie Hih. One of our favorite classic rock albums of all time.
# 2 – Born In Chicago
As we wind down this top 10 Mike Bloomfield songs list, we circle back to the beginning of Mike Bloomfield’s career with a presentation of the great track “Born In Chicago.” The song has been credited as being written by Nick Gravenites. Nick and Bloomfield had performed the song in the clubs together as a duo in the early to mid-1960s. When Mike Bloomfield joined the Paul Butterfield Band, the group took the song, recorded it, and released it as the opening track on their debut album. Mike Bloomfield’s guitar work on the track lit it up and instantly turned heads.
# 1 – Albert’s Shuffle
We close out our top 10 Mike Bloomfield songs list with another killer album opening track. The song “Albert’s Shuffle,” served as the opening track to the soon to became legendary album Super Session. The song was written by Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper. It’s fitting to end with this one as “Albert’s Shuffle,” opens up with the very first note played magically by Mike Bloomfield and continues on a magnificent slow blues journey.
The horn section enters about a minute into the song but actually gets in the way and distracts from Bloomfield’s great playing, at least in our opinion. Al Kooper’s playing is grooving, tasty and top-notch, but it in no way compares to the depth of Bloomfield’s solo. We placed the original with the horns and the edited version in which the horns were taken out. Which do you think worked better?
Feature Photo: Michael Bernard “Mike” Bloomfield (July 28, 1943 – February 15, 1981), American musician, guitarist and composer. Photograph by Elliot Landy, circa 1960., CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
Top 10 Mike Bloomfield Songs And Performances article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2022
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