His name, Fred Lipsius, may not slip off the tongue easily. But the lingering memory of Blood, Sweat and Tears is still strong for many rock fans. Lipsius was a strong factor in developing that refreshing jazz-rock sound in 1967.
Blood, Sweat and Tears emerged with one decidedly weird and fascinating album, CHILD IS FATHER TO THE MAN, followed by the more engaging, commercial BLOOD SWEAT AND TEARS. But, they all too quickly faded as their music eventually more formulaic and a bit flat. They lost their edge. Their best music utilized many musical forms and twisting it into their own intriguing, unique style. They borrowed from urban blues, pop rock, faux country western, swing jazz and classical impressionism. Some of Lipsius' brightest moments included his horn arrangements and execution on such notable songs as "Without Her" and "Spinning Wheel."
Blood, Sweat and Tears remains a fading shadow on Lipsius' latest release, BETTER BELIEVE IT. He recreates some of the signature horn arrangements, especially on the opening title track. As sole composer, Lipsius' concoction is a mixture of rock, jazz and funk. It's upbeat and danceable. But instead of drawing varied sources such as Al Kooper, Harry Nilsson, Laura Nyro, Billie Holiday or Eric Satie from the Blood, Sweat and Tears period, Lipsius' material on BETTER BELIEVE IT is far less eclectic and follows jazz-rock formulas. His vanilla choices are not nearly as wild and wooly as "House in the Country" from thirty years ago.
Similar to Blood, Sweat and Tears, the horn section of Lipsius, Lew Soloff, Alan Rubin, Jim Pugh and Keith O'Quinn is uniformly tight in execution. Guitarist Kevin Barry has his intense insightful moments on "Trippin' on the Stars" and "Beyond Illusion." Lipsius has a nice sentimental solo that reaches considerable emotional depth on "Pure of Heart." The best piece is "Halfway." There are nice solos even though one almost expects a vocalist to crack through. "Halfway" would make a terrific pop song.