Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Moby Grape '69 1969

I suppose by now everyone's heard the sorry tale of this great band. Their debut, Moby Grape 1967 was and still is one of the finest rock and roll records. Perfect rock and roll. The debacle that was the promotion of the record and the band are well documented, and there was never a repeat of the success, either commercial or artistic, of that debut. The second album, Wow, was a scattered mess with several great songs, and was packaged with the yawn-inducing Grape Jam.

But Moby Grape '69 was an overlooked gem. The blues-y R&B of Ooh Mama Ooh starts the record off with a wonderful display of their vocal prowess. It's A Beautiful Day Today is a gorgeous ballad that could only be from sixties San Francisco, but in a good way. We should have heard it on the radio for years, especially given some of the dreck from the era that we still must endure from time to time. I Am Not Willing is a slow love ballad with a sweet Peter Lewis vocal.

Side two comes out of the gate with Trucking Man, a real pile driver of a song with a great riff and driving drums. If You Can't Learn From My Mistakes is a charming country ditty with a fun lyric. Captain Nemo hearkens back to the fabulous syncopation, vocal harmonies and guitar interplay of the debut album. Going Nowhere rocks hard, with big riffs and hooks. Seeing is a early example of the soft-loud-soft aesthetic that would get famous thirty years later. The song was written by Skip Spence, who had by now left the band in a fit of psychosis, and the blues-y guitar is some of Jerry Miller's fine work.

This one might not be quite as timeless as their debut. But it's their next best, and it's the sound of a super-tight band out to prove something. They get it done in spades.

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