Moby Grape “Live”

Something tells me, if I had been at San Francisco’s Avalon Ballroom in June of ’67 to witness Moby Grape at the height of their powers, scorching through their set of two-minute pop blasts, blaring triple-guitar action and five-part harmonies soaring, I might not have survived the night. None was the match of the mighty Grape in those days; the band was “flying musically” and easily the toughest act around. Moby Grape Live is the first official release to afford a glimpse into the raucous and entrancing stage performances of one of the most exciting, original, and underappreciated bands of the ’60s.

Separated into four sides, this double LP takes us to performances from the same weeks their infamously overhyped masterpiece Moby Grape was released, to their few high-octane minutes at the legendary Monterey International Pop Festival, jumping forward to a 1969 performance in Amsterdam featuring cuts from Wow and ’69, and ending back at the start: a full side of  ”Dark Magic,” recorded New Years Eve, 1966. This one’s worth the purchase for Side 1 alone. The rabid energy of the band, issuing rapid-fire gems like “Rounder” and “Looper,”  hits a high point in “Changes” into “Indifference” featuring Jerry Miller’s careening lead guitar. Skip Spence turns in a beautifully honest vocal to cap the blistering set with “Someday.” The highlight for me, however, are the post-Skip tracks from 1969 on Side 3. “Murder in my Heart for the Judge” shows the band at their loosest, the slack and soul of the rootsier Grape a refreshing contrast. “I am Not Willing,” one of their best songs, gets a grooving drawn out treatment and it’s interesting to hear a matured group attack earlier hits “Fall on You” and “Omaha.” The closing 17-minute raga, “Dark Magic,” is more than a piece of rock music history, an actually listenable and fascinating performance, it features inspiring guitar leads, primitive electronic squeals, Skip’s far out vocal, and the driving force of sound that made Moby Grape one of the hottest band of the era.

Sundazed has curated an important document here. Hardcore Grape addicts should note much of this material has been featured on bootlegs over the years (notably the tracks from Monterey Pop and “Dark Magic”) but none of this has ever been officially released, and never with such pristine sound quality. David Fricke’s notes are the icing on the cake. After the essential debut record, this is the Moby Grape record I would recommend next.

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“Murder in My Heart for the Judge” (1969, Amsterdam)

:) 180 Gram Vinyl | 2-LP | 2010 | Sundazed | buy at sundazed ]
:D CD | 2010 | Sundazed | buy at sundazed ]


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9 Comments.

  • dk

    Strong praise from a site that practically features Moby Grape as its house band. Now on my wishlist…

  • Brendan

    I should have mentioned there is also a promo 7inch pressed as a Record Store Day exclusive.
    Details here. And yeh, they are the house band!

  • Yair

    Thanks for that. Moby Grape are amazing

  • Still dying to check this lot out as part of my “classic acts I’ve heard of but never heard” program – very expensive on CD.

  • Len Liechti

    Hi, Lad – the best intro to the Grape at a very reasonable price is the double CD anthology Vintage: The Very Best Of Moby Grape on Columbia Legacy. All the key recordings and an excellent liner booklet to boot (or to read, if you’re not into kicking books about). Highly recommended and available at an Amazon webpage near you.

  • Machas gracias, Len! I’ll go with your recommendation. Fascinating that the Airplane’s first drummer became one of the leading lights of Grape as a singer guitarist.

  • Len Liechti

    Skippy wasn’t a drummer. The story of how he became the Airplane’s drummer is one of rock’ s great legends, and may even be true. You’ll find a good account here: http://www.gotarevolution.com/skipandsigne.htm .

  • what’s big and purple in the deep blue sea?

    MOBYGRAPE!

  • Every serving of Moby Grape that gets out there is a cause for celebration. But these albums also make it increasingly clear the enormous loss suffered when this band went haywire far too early. Forget the sampler, just start buying the CDs!

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