Blood Sweat & Tears was formed in 1967 by keyboardist Al Kooper and became one of the most pioneering jazz-rock fusion bands in the world. Their debut album, Child Is Father to the Man, released in early 1968, is still considered one of the greatest jazz-rock fusion albums of all time, but it would be the only recording produced by the original Kooper-led version of the band.
By 1969 Kooper was out of the band and the remaining members recruited vocalist David Clayton-Thomas who helped them forge a completely different sound for their self-titled second album. Kooper's brilliant organ playing was no longer the focus of the music, as the horn section and Clayton-Thomas's bluesy, soulful baritone now took center stage. The results were equally impressive. The album was also far more accessible, reaching #1 on the charts and spawning three top-ten singles, something Child Is Father to the Man never came close to doing.
Spinning Wheel features archive footage from a BS&T performance at the Civic Theatre, in Halifax, UK on April 9th 1980. Clayton-Thomas had recently reformed the band and released the new album Nuclear Blues in 1980. Non of the original BS&T members remained in the band, but the group of musicians assembled for this album and tour were more than worthy counterparts. The show opener, "Overture", was the only song performed from Child Is Father to the Man and these guys certainly do it justice. Clayton-Thomas was still waiting in the wings during this explosive instrumental, allowing his new band's amazing virtuosity to be immediately put on display.
Clayton-Thomas took the stage for the second number, the title track to Nuclear Blues, and the intensity never let up. Most of the BS&T classics were covered here, but, disappointingly, three of their most beloved songs and biggest hits, "And When I Die", "Spinning Wheel", and "You Made Me So Very Happy", were lumped together in an all too short medley. Interestingly, the DVD case refers to the latter song as both "You Made Me So Very Happy" and "You Make Me So Very Happy", which is a slight variation to the original song title "You've Made Me So Very Happy".
"Spanish Wine", another new song from Nuclear Blues, showcased some brilliant Spanish guitar work from the very impressive Robert Piltch. After a few minutes the horn section joins in to turn the song into a flamenco-inspired jam that stirred up many old memories of my two years living in Spain. This eventually segues right into a song they referred to as "Blood, Sweat and Tears Blues", which again highlights some of Piltch's incredible fretwork - this time on the electric. It must run in the family, because his brother David had been laying down some staggering fretless bass grooves throughout the entire show, and here he gets an extended solo section to showcase the rest of his remarkable bass skills.