Tuesday, October 25, 2016

A Guitar Hero’s, Guitar Hero

Michael Bloomfield: the Rise and Fall of an American Guitar Hero – Ed Ward (Chicago Review Press)

If you’ve paid even passing attention to bluesy rock then you’ve likely heard the late guitarist Michael Bloomfield’s masterful licks; if not directly than via the legion of legendary players that he spawned, influenced or inspired.

Originally published in 1982, Michael Bloomfield: the Rise and Fall of an American Guitar Hero, by Ed Ward has been remixed and remastered for a completely updated publication featuring a foreword by ZZ Top guitar slinger Billy Gibbons. Ward, the longtime contributor and rock ‘n’ roll historian for NPR’s Fresh Air program and numerous print publications writes lovingly of Bloomfield’s guitar virtuosity without slipping too far into fanboy status.

Bloomfield’s is a cautionary tale that is so familiar to so many in the rock realm because it’s been repeated so many times. A young guy flashes on the scene and scores early success only to fall prey to the temptation of chemical abuse and his shining star flashes out too soon; Bloomfield succumbed to a drug overdose at the age of 38, almost ancient by rock standards, but still too young.

Ward details Bloomfield’s career in a way that he makes the case for his stature and legacy among the most influential guitarists of not only his era, but of all time. His flight path through the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, playing with Bob Dylan, founding Electric Flag and recording the seminal Super Session album are among his many transcendent credits the Ward uses to make a case that is pretty hard to argue against.

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