Your Sister’s (Record) Rack: Blood, Sweat & Tears
Well, it’s been a long hot summer and my sister’s bedroom door is unlocked and her room is pretty much unoccupied. She dropped us a line from California and told us she’s going to stay there a while and see how it goes. My dad started to clean out some of her stuff but he just stopped for some reason. I went in my sister’s room and found a big box of her records in the closet.
Today I’m going to play Mirror Image, the 1974 album by Blood, Sweat & Tears. It was made a few years after BST’s “hit” period, in which the band produced a couple of No. 1 albums (including the 1968 Grammy-winning multi-platinum classic Blood Sweat & Tears, which featured three top five singles). Lead singer David Clayton-Thomas, who sang on such BST hits as “Spinning Wheel” and “And When I Die,” left in 1972 after the band split into rock and jazz factions.
Needless to say, by 1974 the band was in commercial decline. Columbia Records president Clive Davis hand picked a new lead singer, Jerry Fisher, who was recording singles in New York with New Design, a subsidiary of Columbia. By the time the band was ready to record Mirror Image, Davis had also invited Jerry LaCroix, a singer/saxophonist who had worked previously with Edgar Winter’s White Trash.
By this time there were a handful of bands featuring the brassy rock that BST pioneered in the late 1960s, and the guys within BST honestly didn’t know if they wanted to be a rock band or a jazz band. Mirror Image best illustrates this conflict – it’s more jazz than rock, and it has its moments.
Perhaps the best of the bunch is “Look Up To The Sky,” co-written by trumpet player Tony Klatka along with LaCroix and his younger brother Julian LaCroix. Fisher and LaCroix trade off on vocals, and the sound is closer to Philly Soul than rock, but it was the album’s best shot for a hit single. The song’s easy melody and tasty horn fills immediately bring to mind Chicago, the horn band that was currently rocking the top of the charts.
“Hold On To Me,” written by trombonist Dave Bargeron, showcases Fisher’s vocal style while “Thinking Of You” features LaCroix’s soulful croon. “Tell Me That I’m Wrong,” was written by former Motown tape librarian Patricia Cosby. She just happened to be married to Hank Cosby, the great Motown songwriter who wrote hits for Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye, and who also produced Mirror Image. Many people say “Tell Me That I’m Wrong” is their favorite, but it loses a few points in my book because its horn section presages disco four years early.
Anyhow, the album wraps with a suite of sorts, “Mirror Image,” with four parts. Obviously inspired by Herbie Hancock, it’s Blood, Sweat & Tears’ jazz side coming out – with a little Jerry LaCroix soul-rock tossed in for good measure. LaCroix would leave after this album and a world tour, he would go on to front another fading rock band, Rare Earth. Julian LaCroix is a good friend of my brother; he says you can hear “Look Up To The Sky” every once in a while on “Late Show with David Letterman” because the house band bassist Will Lee is a big BST fan.
YouTube: “Look Up To The Sky” from 1974