Bloodstone – Reflecting on the 50th Anniversary of Their Self-Titled Debut Album | Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Bloodstone – Reflecting on the 50th Anniversary of Their Self-Titled Debut Album

The Album First Came Out on September 15, 1972

Sep 19, 2022 Bookmark and Share

Having begun as a teenage doo wop outfit in Kansas City, Missouri, Bloodstone gracefully evolved into a radical force within the era’s burgeoning progressive soul movement, embracing elements of pop, funk, and psychedelia, and emerging as leading architects of the funk rock fusion genre. While the group’s eponymous debut cannot match the majesty of the following year’s Natural High or 1974’s Riddle of the Sphinx (this progressive soul masterpiece being the group’s key offering), it is still a satisfying effort and boasts several of the group’s top songs. There is a certain thrill to Bloodstone, a tight and cohesive creative magic that transports the modern listener back to its era. The musical sophistication of each member ensures that even Bloodstone’s weaker entries are still of high quality, while its strongest cuts exist within a realm far closer to the ether than many of the decade’s musical offerings, equipping the album with a certain humble glory. Recorded at Command Studios in London, Bloodstone boasts stunning album artwork, as well as liner notes declaring the band “an entertainment whole, whose ‘in person’ projection is an extension of the album,” and indeed, each track feels remarkably intimate, providing the listener with a decent idea as to the group’s collective identity.

Opening cut “Sadie Mae,” penned by the group’s prolific drummer/keyboardist/musical director Eddie Summers, who wrote four of the album’s eight tracks, is a tight funk rocker, its irresistible grind steeped in sweaty passion, conjuring visions of the gritty Midwestern streets from which Bloodstone arose. Instantly, the group’s creative bond can be sensed, each member contributing to the greater whole, while managing to produce a sound both easygoing and determined. Likewise, the subsequent “Take These Chains” and “Don’t Mean Nothin’,” penned by bassist Charles McCormick, brim with a burning intensity, with the latter being especially remarkable, its smooth funk rock sound entitling the group to credit for the fusion genre’s advancement. The album’s centerpiece and greatest track, however, arrives in the form of a nine-minute funk reimagining of Bobby Russell’s pop standard “Little Green Apples,” which had become a hit for Frank Sinatra three years prior. Meticulously arranged by keyboardist Harry Williams, Jr., Bloodstone’s rendition is so pristinely empyrean, so full of beauty and melodic pleasure, that it almost makes one long to believe in something greater than oneself. That “Little Green Apples” did not launch Bloodstone to prominence as a premier musical group suggests that perhaps the band might slightly have been ahead of its time.

Elsewhere, McCormick offers his analysis of ’70s drug culture on the soulful “This Thing Is Heavy” and the group successfully channels early Funkadelic on the screaming “Friendship,” with both tracks being equally worthy, though the latter is especially lively. “Lady of the Night,” while still an admirable effort, is inferior to Bloodstone’s stronger cuts, though the infectiousness of its chorus is undeniable. Closing slow jam “Dumb Dude” stuns, with guitarist Charles Love taking over songwriting duties. Love is responsible for a number of understated Bloodstone gems, including the following year’s “Ran It in the Ground,” as well as 1974’s “Unreal” and “Something’s Missing,” his compositions tending to explore more melancholic modes of introspection. “Dumb Dude” is significant on many levels, not only as a relic of early-’70s soul and one of Love’s great creative accomplishments, but also as a unique Bloodstone cut, covering a far bluer emotional terrain than many of the group’s more blissful hits.

Released exclusively in Europe, Bloodstone boasted no hits and failed to reach an international audience. Classifiable as a “cult” release 50 years on, pressings of the album are rare, although its artwork alone makes it worth purchasing, if one can locate a copy. Bloodstone would find success the following summer with the release of its sophomore album Natural High, which went on to sell over one million copies, officially introducing the group to the mainstream. Though percussionist Roger Durham died in 1973 and Summers departed the band two years later, the group has, aside from its brief disbandment in the early-’80s, remained active over the course of its 60-year career, though Williams is its sole surviving original member—Summers and McCormick both died in April.

Twenty-four years after its initial release, director Quentin Tarantino would feature “Natural High” in one of the greatest scenes in 1997’s Jackie Brown, introducing Bloodstone to a new generation. Indeed, Bloodstone still matters, with its output worth exploring far beyond its hits. For those interested, Bloodstone is a great starting point, as it captures a promising young group on its journey toward success, the ethereal stirrings soon to become Natural High embedded deep within the album. There is likely something here for everyone, the welcoming universality reflected in the lyrics of “Friendship” embodied throughout, Bloodstone’s melodies a welcome vacation, however brief, from the unpleasantries of reality.

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