Blood, Sweat and Tears were the first important big band-rock act; they attempted to fuse the stylistic and harmonic diversity possible with a swing era ensemble with the power possible with a rock rhythm section. However, the absence of a first-rate songwriter and the constantly shifting personnel lineup within the group caused a loss of the creative momentum that fueled the first few albums. By the early 1970s, the genre’s innovative vanguard included Chicago, England’s Audience, and Canada’s Lighthouse.

The guiding light behind the formation of Blood, Sweat and Tears was Al Kooper; as a keyboardist with the Blues Project, he expressed the desire to test the stylistic limits of the blues—incorporating classical, folk and jazz influences—by means of an expanded horn section. He recruited the Blues Project’s rhythm guitarist, Steve Katz, who, in turn, contacted an associate, drummer Bobby Colomby, then with folk singer Odetta. During 1967 the threesome went about pulling additional musicians into their orbit, including bassist Jim Fielder, and horn players from various New York jazz and studio aggregates: Fred Lipsius, Dick Halligan, Randy Brecker, and Jerry Weiss.

The debut album, Child Is Father to the Man (Columbia 9619; 1968; #47), exhibited considerable musical promise, incorporating material by Nilsson, Tim Buckley, Randy Newman, Gerry Goffin and Carole King, and Kooper himself.. Recorded after a personnel shakeup—Kooper, Brecker, and Weiss departed, and were replaced by vocalist David Clayton-Thomas, trombonist Jerry Hyman, trumpeter Chuck Winfield, and trumpeter Lew Soloff—the follow-up release, Blood, Sweat & Tears (Columbia 9720; 1968), reached number one, selling more than three million copies and generating three gold singles: "You’ve Made Me So Very Happy" (Columbia 44776; 1969; #2), "And When I Die" (Columbia 45008; 1969; #2), and "Spinning Wheel" (Columbia 44871; 1969; #2). Winning the 1969 Grammy for Album of the Year, it set an artistic and commercial standard that the band was unable to equal again.

Although the next LP, the jazz-tinged Blood, Sweat & Tears 3 (Columbia 30090; 1970; #1), quickly achieved gold status, later releases—B, S & T; 4 (Columbia 30590; 1971; #10), Greatest Hits (Columbia 31170; 1972; #19), New Blood (Columbia 31780; 1972; #32), No Sweat (Columbia 32180; 1973; #72), Mirror Image (Columbia 32929; 1974; #149; New City (Columbia 33484; 1975; #47), and More Than Ever (Columbia 34233; 1976; #165)—met with increasing public apathy. By the mid-1970s, BST had become a middle-of-the-road nostalgia band, performing regularly at Las Vegas and other glitzy venues. Colomby (the last original member, who left in 1976 to do A&R, but retained co-ownership of the band’s name and catalog) and Clayton-Thomas would maintain control of BST, which continued to perform through the 1990s. Recording—with ABC-Paramount, LAX, and other labels—has been sporadic since the early 1980s due to the fact that none of the band’s releases have charted since August 1976.

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