Jan 052012

Blood, Sweat & Tears (post-Al Kooper in particular) is not the most beloved group around Rock Town Hall – for good reason, too. They represent the bad side of the so-called “jazz-rock” trend of the early 1970s. Not only did BS&T render up laughably horrific versions of classic songs (“Symphony/Sympathy for the Devil,” which I proudly inflicted upon the hall in a previous post), but they also served up some of the most annoying radio fodder ever (“Spinning Wheel”, “Go Down Gamblin'”). While lacking in any real rock credentials (unlike early Chicago) or true musical vision (unlike near-progsters like Soft Machine), they offered up fourth-rate bland Kentonisms backing up immortally-bad vocalist David Clayton-Thomas, who always sounded like he was vomiting when he pushed himself. No jazz-rock could be more unlistenable than BS&T, right? Dear children, prepare yourselves for a plunge into the abyss….

Chase was a short-lived “jazz-rock” group active from 1971 to 1974. The band was founded by Bill Chase, a veteran trumpeter who had played with such luminaries as Maynard Ferguson, Stan Kenton, and Woody Herman. Chase explored the same basic musical territory as Blood, Sweat & Tears even to the point of having a singer (G.G. Schinn) who worked very hard at being a Clayton-Thomas clone. However, there were a couple of vital differences…

  • Their prime sonic shtick was four trumpets fiercely shrieking at maximum decibels. Bill led the four screamers with his trumpet pitched up to the point where human ears bleed and dogs run for cover. Unlike BS&T, there were no saxes or trombones to balance out the brass sound so everything was up at the high end.
  • They were rather more pretentious in that they wrote more of their own music (mostly Bill Chase again) and were given to multi-part themed suites about things like flowing rivers and Greek gods. They lacked even a semblance of the loose “good-timey” vibe that BS&T would occasionally exhibit.

Don't look now, but you're being Chased.

The group had one monster radio hit in 1971 with “Get It On”, which spent 13 weeks on the Billboard Top 100….

[audio:https://www.rocktownhall.com/blogs/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/Chase-Get-it-On.mp3|titles=Chase – Get it On]

As bad as that was, there were worse songs, though none were quite chartbusters. For instance, how about their version of “Swanee River,” which Bill Chase was generous enough to co-credit Stephen Foster?…

[audio:https://www.rocktownhall.com/blogs/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/Chase-Swanee-River.mp3|titles=Chase – Swanee River]

One more, then I promise I’ll stop: “Handbags and Gladrags,” the Michael d’Abo song made famous by Rod Stewart

[audio:https://www.rocktownhall.com/blogs/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/Chase-Handbags-and-Gladrags.mp3|titles=Chase – Handbags and Gladrags]

And now for a terrible confession: I liked this stuff when I was in high school. I can only blame an infatuation with horn bands plus, of course, the drugs. At any rate, tragedy struck after three albums. Bill Chase and a few other band members were killed when their chartered plane crashed in Minnesota on August 9, 1974. That was the end of the group, and only a cruel and heartless person would have to gall to suggest that divine justice played a part. A final note to the Chase story: when author Dave Marsh put together The Rolling Stone Record Guide in 1979, he had a single-word review for the entirety of Chase’s output: “Flee.”


  12 Responses to “Can Anything Be Worse Than Blood, Sweat & Tears? Oh, Yes!”

  1. BigSteve

    I remember these guys, and the tracks posted here are even worse than I remember. I hate the trumpet (unless it’s played by Miles Davis), so four of them is like my version of hell. My theory is that the vocalist was actually parodying David Clayton Thomas, and no one got the joke. I can’t think of any other excuse for aping the style so closely.

  2. misterioso

    tony, damn you for this! By which I mean: nicely done! Reading your post I was sure I had never heard these guys, but then I heard “Get it on,” which was (alas) familiar. Awful. You may well be right that “they represent the bad side of the so-called “jazz-rock” trend of the early 1970s,” but surely the only “good side” was the fact that the trend passed.

  3. tonyola

    Thanks for the kudos, but as for the “jazz-rock” genre, there were a few good-to-great albums…

    BS&T – Child is Father to the Man (the one with Al Kooper)
    Chicago Transit Authority
    Early Mahavishnu Orchestra (the quartet)
    Soft Machine (first three albums)
    Henry Cow

    It’s true that later Chicago, post-Kooper BS&T, Cold Blood, Ides of March, Ginger Baker’s Air Force, and the like gave the style a bad name that persists to this day. However, there were flashes of inspiration and even brilliance before the whole jazz-rock thing became stale and codified.

  4. The end of Get It On blows — thanks for reminding us of this one. Another late 60s, early 70s jazz rock dude — who I was actually listening to last night (he has new album) — is Brian Auger. I kind of like this version of Save Me he’s on with Julie Driscoll, who may be the best hippie chick dancer ever.

  5. Great write up and some of the funniest songs I’be heard around here in years. The brass arrangements are obscene, like the soundtrack to Ken Russell’s Maynard Ferguson biopic

  6. cliff sovinsanity

    The wife just came into the room and asked me why I was playing game show themes; see Family Feud


  7. ladymisskirroyale

    I thought “Get It On” was an outtake from Godspell.

  8. I keep thinking HVB did something on this band years ago, but I’m not finding it. Maybe he will find it when he’s back.

  9. mockcarr

    Promo c. 1973 – “Coming this fall on ABC, a divorcee seeks a new start by going back to college to study fashion design after a failed marriage to a San Francisco cop. Can she achieve a degree in hipness against all odds, with a wardrobe out of the fifties? The Handbags and the Gladrags. A Quinn Martin Production.”

  10. Happiness Stan

    I’ve not come across this lot before, it reminds me of a lot of bands I would like quite a lot if it weren’t for the trumpets/jazz organ solos – it’s as if they have removed everything I like about the Brian Auger album I bought because it had an amazing picture of Julie Driscoll on the cover, added the more indulgent organ soloing from Atomic Rooster, poured a ton of syrup on it and let it sludge down the hill towards civilisation.

  11. Happiness Stan

    I thought it might have been a cover of the T Rex single, (known as Bang A Gong in the US, I believe).

  12. hrrundivbakshi

    I did do a post about these guys a year or two ago — but it had more to do with my childhood desire to grow up and *be* a member of Chase.

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