Soul Serenade: Bloodstone, “Natural High”
Did you ever wonder how music moved from the doo-wop sounds of the ’50s, to the soul boom of the ’60s, and on to the funk craze of the ’70s? If so, one group you might be interested in is Bloodstone, a band that played a key role in that entire transition.
They were from Kansas City, and it was there that they got their start in 1962, singing doo-wop in a group called the Sinceres. After several years of toil, they finally made it to the “big time,” which for them meant a lounge gig in Vegas. It was at that point they made an important decision about their future.
It was really pretty simple. Rockers like the Jimi Hendrix and Sly & the Family Stone were ruling the charts in those days. What those bands had that the nascent Bloodstone did not was the ability to play their instruments. So the band decamped to Los Angeles and began to learn to play. They borrowed a Hendrix riff here, and a Isley Brothers riff there, and before you know it the Sinceres became Bloodstone and became a pretty good funk band.
Unfortunately no record company in LA evidenced any interest in the band, and soon it was time to move on. This time the band went to London, and that was the move that made all the difference. There they landed a deal with Decca Records and hooked up with producer Mike Vernon who had worked with blues luminaries like Otis Spann, as well as blues-based bands like the early Fleetwood Mac and Savoy Brown.
It was Bloodstone’s second album, Natural High, that put them on the map. The album reached the Top Ten on the R&B chart and sold over one million copies. The single “Natural High” made it all the way to #10 on the pop chart.
“Natural High” was Bloodstone’s biggest, but not only hit. Moving into the ’70s they had hits like “Never Let You Go,” “Outside Woman,” and “Little Lady.” In all there were seven Top 20 R&B singles, and most of those made the pop Top 40 as well.
Following their involvement in one of the funniest of the ’70s blaxploitation films, Train Ride to Hollywood, Blackstone began to fade from the public view. They had a brief renaissance in the early ’80s when they signed with the Isley Brothers T-Neck Records label. The resulting album, We Go A Long Way Back, was produced by the Isley Brothers and did well commercially. The title single reached the Top Ten on the R&B chart. There were a few more singles for T-Neck, but for all intents and purposes it ended there for Bloodstone.
In a way, Bloodstone was a band that represented the whole history of black music over a 30 year period. By blending the vocal harmonies of the ’50s with the acid rock of the ’60s and the funk of the ’70s, Bloodstone became the living embodiment of all of that music, and by that measure alone one of the most important groups of the 20th century.