The Electric Flag
Listen – The Electric Flag – Grooving Is Easy – MP3
Today’s selection is a tune that I only discovered in the last year or so.
Though I was certainly aware of the Electric Flag since I was a kid, via all manner of rock lit and 99 cent cut out bin litter, the band never really grabbed my interest.
It was only upon the death of Buddy Miles – who I knew mainly as a member of Band of Gypsys – that I decided to seek out and listen to the sounds of the short-lived Electric Flag.
I suppose one of the reasons I never really dug into the EF was the Mike Bloomfield association. As an avid reader of rock history and criticism since my early teenage years Bloomfield was one of those guys that seemed to have gotten a tremendous amount of shine in his day, looked upon as a wunderkind of sorts via his time in the Butterfield Blues Band as a solo, sideman (Super Session) and then as founder of the Electric Flag. Though Bloomfield’s heart was clearly in the right place, and he was a more than able guitarist he stands as an example of white critics deification of white “bluesmen” (quotes added as a pejorative indicator) in near total ignorance of the players they worshipped and copied. I wouldn’t go as far as to blame this on Bloomfield, or Clapton or Peter Green, but as a segment of rock criticism it died a justifiable death a long time ago. It didn’t take much digging to realize that for every Clapton or Bloomfield there were tons of Hubert Sumlins, Albert (and Freddy) Kings, Otis Rushs and Buddy Guys.
That said, this particular argument isn’t one hundred percent relevant when discussing the Electric Flag. Though a portion of their repertoire was recycled blues, Bloomfield’s intention on forming the band was to embrace what he called “American Music’, with the blues, jazz, soul and R&B mixed together with the added power of a horn section.
The first full length LP by the Electric Flag, 1968s ‘Long Time Comin’’ (preceded by contributions to the soundtrack to ‘The Trip’) was a mixed bag of grooving blues, R&B and soulful pop. My favorite track is today’s selection, ‘Groovin’ Is Easy’, written by singer/guitarist Nick Gravenites. Gravenites had written for the Butterfield Blues Band and went on to work with Janis Joplin and Quicksilver Messenger Service among others. He’s still grooving and can be found (along with lots of music, including live sets) at www.nickgravenites.com .
‘Groovin’ Is Easy’ is a great example of the perfect intersection of often incongruous sounds/vibes that happened so often in the 60s. The music world was a fertile crucible where artistic collisions that might look like a disaster on paper sometime produced magical results. ‘Groovin’ Is Easy’ is one of those.
Opening with a majestic fanfare, the tune has a soulful underpinning but the driving force is one of mid-60’s sunshine. It’s the kind of pop-inflected record a blues band never would have made a few years before or after, but in 1967/68, it was just what the doctor ordered.
I hope you dig it and I’ll see you all on Monday.