It took me a couple of attempts to get through John Scheinfeld‘s What The Hell Happened to Blood, Sweat and Tears?, but I finally did. My basic impression is that it’s an odd tale — a curio — about a strange detour that BS&T, a hugely popular jazz-rock fusion group, took in ’70 when they went on a State Department tour of three Soviet bloc countries in Eastern Europe (one being Romania). The tour was frowned upon by rock culture cognoscenti, and seemed to underline a general impression that BS&T was an MOR group favored by squares.

They also played a big gig at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, which was even more unhip than performing to Eastern Europe. And they appeared on The Andy Williams Show…Jesus. And then came that hokey track from their third album, “Lucretia McEvil“…later.

There’s nothing “wrong” with being MOR or appealing to people with vaguely schmaltzy taste in music and…you know, it takes all sorts to make a world and all that.

And I’m not saying that Scheinfeld hasn’t assembled a reasonably absorbing, pro-level film with flavor and feeling — he has. But unlike my all-time favorite Scheinfeld doc, Who Is Harry Nilsson (And Why Is Everybody Talkin’ About Him?, it doesn’t have a lot of emotional resonance. You come out of it and it’s like “okay, not bad…diverting as far as it went.”

But then I read Owen Gleiberman’s 3.27 Variety review, and a paragraph about David Clayton-Thomas, BST’s lead singer from mid’68 onward (not counting an attempted solo-career detour)…this paragraph just hit the spot, man. I don’t mean to sound flip or cruel, but it almost gave me more pleasure than Scheinfeld’s doc, to be perfectly honest….not that there’s anything especially lacking or derelict about the film. It just didn’t get me high.

“The rock-‘n’-roll-ecstasy-meets-relax-the-’70s-are-here duality of Blood, Sweat & Tears was incarnated by the contradictory charisma of David Clayton-Thomas,” Gleiberman writes. “He favored skin-tight shirts with tie-dye stripes and leather pants, but he was no hippie. With his longish receding hair and sultry eyebrows and trucker’s build, he was like Joe Don Baker reborn as Elvis’s surly, sleazy bruiser brother, and he sang in an insinuating Mack-truck blues growl, like a wilder Tom Jones with a hint of Jim Jones. He was mesmerizing.”

We all know what it means to be a “surly, sleazy bruiser type” — it means that underneath the facade you’re a sniffing, panting, four-legged dog on the prowl for poontang. It means that you’re into compulsive muff-diving and getting blown in hotel rooms at 3 am and whatnot. A guy who summons notions of being the ornery bad brother of Elvis suggests a gauche, hormonally-unbridled truck driver with low-rent appetites.

Does anyone remember that photo of Jim Jones‘ corpse after he shot himself, sprawled on the ground of that big tent with that big pot belly poking out? Charismatic cult leaders always had the pick of the litter, or so the cliche goes, and we’ve all read stories about Jones being a brooding sexual conquistador and all that, and then you throw in an early ’70s image of Joe Don Baker, still best known for playing the baseball-bat wielding Buford Pusser…throw it all together and it seems as if the doc should have focused on DCT rather than BS&T…whaddaya think?

I’m not saying that Gleiberman’s description reflects who DCT actually is, mind. In recent interviews the 81 year-old seems like a mellow, moderate, likable guy. I am saying, however, that good writing flips a switch.