From sun-dappled Tampa, Florida, Blues Image featured Mike Pinera, they had a major hit single but fell into quick obscurity.
Written by: Eric
ARTIST: Blues Image
CD REISSUE: Discogs Reissue List
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: USA
LINEUP: Mike Pinera – lead guitar, lead vocals * Skip Conte – keyboards * Malcolm Jones – bass * Manny Bertematti – drums * Joe Lala – percussion, backing vocals
Additional Musician: Kent Henry – guitars
TRACK LISTING: 01 Love Is The Answer * 02 Running The Water * 03 Clean Water * 04 La Bamba * 05 Consuelate * 06 Ride Captain Ride * 07 Pay My Dues * 08 Fugue U * 09 Parchman Farm * 10 Wrath Of Daisey * 11 Take Me
Here’s an interesting outfit from sun-dappled Tampa, Florida that had a major hit single and fell into obscurity quicker than you can say one hit wonder. Formed in 1966 and moving to the Miami area a couple years later, the band helped create the now legendary club ‘Thee Image’ while becoming the house band and weekend support act for just about every major group that rolled into town.
With high-fives from the likes of Frank Zappa and Eric Burdon among others, Blues Image Latin-tinged debut impressed few and sold even less. But it was the second LP ‘Open’ which included the golden top ten hit ‘Ride Captain Ride’ that put the band on the Vietnam-era pop map.
Read any Blues Image biography and guitarist/vocalist Mike Pinera is colored as the group’s leader and standout player but he left in the middle of the ‘Open’ recording sessions. He was replaced by future Steppenwolf guitarist Kent Henry, and left for a more lucrative gig in Iron Butterfly and you gotta wonder what would have been if he stayed on board?
‘Love Is The Answer’ is a great opener, rocking and to the point although even better is ‘Running The Water’ which sounds like a less twangy Creedence Clearwater Revival, a band I never cared for to be frank, but this works. The bluesy ‘Clean Love’ is fairly average and I’m not sure if the cover of ‘La Bamba’ was a necessity but this and the brief ‘Consuelate’ will draw inevitable comparisons to Santana.
Next up is the aforementioned hook-laden blockbuster ‘Ride Captain Ride’ and it truly is a top-tier tune, deserving all the plaudits it’s received over the years. It’s still in heavy rotation on classic rock and oldies stations in every market across America, oh, to see that royalty check in my mailbox!
The short but proggy ‘Fugue D’ segues into a blues-by-numbers cover of Mose Allison‘s ‘Parchman Farm’. Meanwhile ‘Take Me’ is a classic finale, again with elements of Santana and extended jamming, something the band were known for going back to their early days at Thee Image.
Without Pinera’s leadership, the now fragmented Blues Image followed with one more album in 1970 ‘Red, White & Blues Image’ which included ex-Love Song vocalist Denny Correll. He also put out some seriously lacklustre CCM solo LP’s in the late 70’s, but without a hit, the record never charted and Blues Image ceased to exist.
Joe Lala moved on to a gig in the wonderful Manassas with Stephen Stills and tons of session work as well as an actor in TV and Movies. Keyboardist Skip Conte tagged along with Three Dog Night for a few years. Mike Pinera following his stint in Iron Butterfly ended up in several second and third division groups.
These included The New Cactus Band and the godawful Thee Image (that name again) who by what must have been an ill-advised stroke of A&R fuckery, ended up on Emerson Lake & Palmer‘s Manticore imprint.
In 1977 and for reasons that remain a mystery, Pinera resurrected the Blues Image moniker for a brace of albums, none of which I’ve ever seen or heard and probably better for it. He became Alice Cooper‘s guitarist in the early 80’s during that artist’s difficult to watch downward slide and today still seems to be active in various projects although ‘Ride Captain Ride’ remains the pinnacle of his long career.