It’s not easy to replace a legend. It’s not easy to revive a legend. Heck, it’s not even easy to be a semi-legend.
For Bo Bice, none of that matters. The former American Idol finalist is happy to be part of Blood, Sweat & Tears as that band tours the country and the world, and maybe even produces a new recording.
“We’ve done about 30 shows together. We’re working toward a new album – the first in four decades,” Bice says.
Blood, Sweat & Tears, fronted by Bo Bice, will perform at Bay View Aug. 2.
The group was arguably the best of the jazz-rock horn bands that emerged in the 60s and 70s, racking up a boatload of hits, particularly with its second album. The self-titled disc, singer David Clayton- Thomas’s first with the band, scored with singles “Spinning Wheel,” “You Made Me So Very Happy,” “And When I Die,” and a remake of Billie Holiday’s “God Bless the Child.” The recording beat out the Beatles’ Abbey Road for Album of the Year at the 1970 Grammy Awards, one of three Grammys it won that year.
It was Bice’s performance of “Spinning Wheel” on American Idol that brought him to the attention of Bobby Colomby. Colomby was the group’s original drummer and still oversees the group.
“Bobby Colomby and the (Blood, Sweat & Tears) team saw my performance of ‘Spinning Wheel.’ For several years, unbeknownst to me, they were trying to reach out to me, and I never got the message.
“In June last year we finally got together. We had dinner, and it was one of those things,” he says.
Now Bice and the band are out on the road, performing the band’s hits and other tracks from its dozen albums. The first, Child is Father to the Man, came out in 1968; its last was Nuclear Blues, released in 1980.
In the years since, Blood, Sweat & Tears continued to tour. Clayton-Thomas fronted the band, following his three-year sabbatical in the early 70s, until his final departure from the group a decade ago. Various others have since served as lead vocalist, and a host of musicians have passed through its ranks since its formation – over 140 and counting.
On the band’s website, Colomby compares the band to the New York Yankees. The names on the jerseys may change, but the commitment to winning – or in this case to quality music played with flair and style – does not.
For his part, Bice makes it clear in conversation that he is not trying to take over the band but is simply happy to be a part of it. “My goal isn’t to say this is the new Blood, Sweat & Tears. This is Blood, Sweat & Tears. It’s been around since 1967. We’re the Star Trek of music.”
Today’s version of the band follows in the footsteps of its predecessors, with a four-person rhythm section, four horns, and Bice out front. Drummer Joel Rosenblatt, guitarist Dave Gellis, and Glen McClelland on keyboards make up the core of the group, according to Bice. Others, such as trumpeter Carl Fischer, are typically part of the touring group but given that members of the group are also members of other bands, they may have other commitments. So while the lineup can vary, the quality doesn’t.
Artists such as Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel, Barbra Streisand, Special EFX and others enlist them in the studio or on tour. Over the past few years, the horn section has appeared on albums by or featuring jazz keyboardist Jeff Lorber.
Blood, Sweat & Tears is pretty much obligated to perform hits like “Spinning Wheel,” “Go Down Gamblin’,” and “Hi-De-Ho.” Bice promises there will be some surprises as well. He says the set changes based on the crowd and how band members feel.
And BS&T isn’t simply a nostalgia act. Given its reputation as what Clayton-Thomas characterized as “a player’s band” and its deep catalog, the audience should expect the unexpected. The different styles the band has embraced, from rock to jazz to pop to country and blues, coupled with various members’ musical abilities, give it the depth to shift gears at a moment’s notice. Even those songs that are a part of each show change subtly.
“Every night’s a little different,” Bice says. “I admire the willingness of Bobby Colomby to experiment with the band without compromise.”
Bice also continues his own solo career separate from the band, relying on a more southern rock/ country style, though he’ll occasionally throw in a “Spinning Wheel” or the like. He intends to keep utilizing both sides of his musical personality as long as he can.
“I’ll be here as long as Bobby Colomby wants me here. It’s a great gig,” he says.
Tickets for Blood, Sweat & Tears at Bay View are still available. For more information, go to BayViewFestival.org or call the box office at 888-596-1027