When blues singer David Clayton-Thomas replaced founder Al Kooper in Blood Sweat & Tears, the band almost immediately enjoyed incredible success by performing in less experimental formats that evoked the Big Band era. 1969 was truly the year of the album Blood, Sweat & Tears, and I doubt any other new music performers (except possibly Led Zeppelin) did so well in that year. BS&T’s eponymous album, released in March 1969 got to #1 on the U.S. pop charts (#15 UK), and was awarded “Album of the Year” at the 1970 Grammys. From that initial album came a series of singles; all of the following reached #2 on the U.S. pop charts: You Made Me So Very Happy; And When I Die; and Spinning Wheel. However, upon release of their next album, Blood Sweat & Tears 3 in June 1970, their popularity was already starting to suffer. Though the album reached #1 in the U.S. (#14 UK), its most popular single release, Heigh-De-Ho only reached #14 on Top 40 radio. David Clayton-Thomas left the band in January 1972, and Blood Sweat & Tears would not reenter the Top 20 again.
Chicago was another brass band that got its start on the charts in 1969. According to William Ruhlmann of allmusic, Chicago is second only to the Beach Boys in Billboard singles and albums chart success among American bands, and is one of the longest-running and most successful rock acts in history. Its sound was built off the popular successes of the city of Chicago’s Buckinghams (Kind of a Drag and four other Top 20 singles) in 1967. Chicago’s initial album, titled Chicago Transit Authority was released in April 1969 and reached the #16 position in the U.S. The album did even better in the UK, where it made it to #9. From that album came singles Questions 67 & 68 released in July 1969 which reached #71 and Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is, released October 1970 that got so far as #7. Chicago’s second album, simply called Chicago, released in January 1970 got to #4 (#6 UK) and contained singles Make Me Smile, released March 1970 which rose to #9 in the U.S. and 25 or 6 to 4, released in June 1970, which took them to #4 on the U.S. hit parade and #7 in the UK. The band has had three #1 hits in the U.S., the first of which was released in July 1976, titled If You Leave Me Now (#1 UK also).
In August 1969, Santana released its first, eponymous album, which became immediately popular after their performance at the Woodstock Music Festival. Carlos Santana and his band marked the first time a Latin artist had scored a popular music success since Ritchie Valens (La Bamba) and Daniel Flores (Tequila), both popular in 1958; that is, more than a decade earlier. Santana continues to be the most popular of all rock acts to sing in Spanish (often in conjunction with English) on their recordings. Santana’s first single, Evil Ways, rose to #9 on the U.S. Top 40. Santana, the first album, reached #4 on the Billboard charts, and #26 in the UK. The band’s second album, Abraxas, released in September 1970, climbed all the way to the top of the U.S. charts (#7 UK). Two singles were released from that album: Black Magic Woman, which got to #4 on the American charts, and Oye Como Va, which rose to #13 in the U.S. Santana’s next album, Santana III, released September 1971 also got to #1 in the U.S. (#6 UK). Everybody’s Everything, from that album, got to #12 on the U.S.charts, while another album cut released as a single, No One to Depend On, only made it to the #36 slot.
After a stint with jazz composer & performer on trumpet, Miles Davis, with whom he recorded the jazz fusion album Bitches Brew, electric guitar soloist John McLaughlin formed his own jazz fusion instrumental band, the Mahavishnu Orchestra. Prominent in the experimental jazz ensemble were Jerry Goodman on violin and the frantic percussion of Billy Cobham. McLaughlin was known at this time for his lightning speed on guitar, and brought to his band an interest in exotic Indian musical scales and unusual time signatures. Like Carlos Santana, McLaughlin was in the early 1970s a disciple of Sri Chinmoy. The band’s first album, The Inner Mounting Flame, released in August 1971, reached #89 on the U.S. charts. Their second album, Birds of Fire, released in March 1973, did much better, getting so far as #15 in the States. (The Mahavishnu Orchestra didn’t make much of an impression in the UK.) A cut from this album, Miles Beyond, references both McLaughlin’s mentor Miles Davis, and Jimi Hendix, through an improvisation on The Wind Cries Mary. Unfortunately, the band dispersed before a third album was released. Recordings toward the third album were not made available until 1999 as The Lost Trident Sessions.