The Electric Flag - A Long Time Comin' (1968)

The Electric Flag were an American band originally formed in 1967 by blues guitarist Mike Bloomfield.

In 1967 guitarist Mike Bloomfield left The Butterfield Blues Band, with the idea to start his own group that incorporated a wide range of American music styles. He really wanted to incorporate a horn section as part of the band, inspired by the recordings of various Stax soul artists. He found an ally in keyboard player Barry Goldberg, and the two of them started work putting a band together. Harvey Brooks (whom Bloomfield had played with on Bob Dylan's Highway 61 Revisited album) joined on bass, and on drums they recruited a 19-year old Buddy Miles (who at the time was working for Wilson Pickett). For the horn section, they hired Peter Strazza on tenor sax and Marcus Doubleday on trumpet. Nick Gravenites was recruited as lead vocalist. Buddy Miles sang as well, having a fine soul voice himself.
The story of The Electric Flag is one of wasted potential, drug abuse and infuriating setbacks. It would be a long time before their album was released. Until then, they developed a unique fusion of rock, soul and blues, with the horn section an integral part of their sound. At the same time, the Butterfield Blues Band which Bloomfield had left was also doing a similar thing with horns.
Their career began with being hired to record the soundtrack to the film The Trip, with the help of keyboardist Paul Beaver (playing one of the first Moog Synthesizers to be recorded). The film recieved mixed reviews, but the soundtrack got a good critical response. The band then performed for the first time at the Monterey Pop Festival, and went on to tour whilst at the same time starting work on an album for Columbia Records. Herbie Rich was then added to help fill out the horn section.
During this period Goldberg, Bloomfield and Strazza all developed heroin habits (Doubleday had joined the band as an addict). The group was having a hard time, and Bloomfield was becoming disillusioned (the arrival of Jimi Hendrix on the music scene had severly shaken him up). Goldberg eventually left, and was replaced briefly by Michael Fonfara. Work on the album continued at a painful pace. Fonfara was then fired, and Herbie Rich moved over to keyboard duties, his place in the horn section being filled by saxophonist Stemzie Hunter.
Eventually the album came out in March 1968, aptly titled A Long Time Comin'. Though it could be argued that it fell short of its potential, and could have been so much more, it was still certainly a fine album, fusing psychedelic rock, blues, soul and jazz into a cohesive whole.
Within two months of its release, Bloomfield had left the band, exhausted through insomnia medicated by his heroin use. By this time however Buddy Miles had emerged as the band's leader, so the group moved on without him.

|> An American Music Band (1968)

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