Monday, July 19, 2021

Moby Grape : Moby Grape 1967 (Remaster 2007)

One of the best '60s San Francisco bands, Moby Grape, were also one of the most versatile. Although they are most often identified with the psychedelic scene, their specialty was combining all sorts of

roots music -- folk, blues, country, and classic rock & roll -- with some Summer of Love vibes and multi-layered, triple-guitar arrangements. All of those elements only truly coalesced for their 1967 debut LP. Although subsequent albums had more good moments than many listeners are aware of, a combination of personal problems and bad management effectively killed off the group by the end of the '60s.

Many San Francisco bands of the era were assembled by recent immigrants to the area, but Moby

Grape had even more tenuous roots in the region than most when they formed. Matthew Katz, who managed the Jefferson Airplane in their early days, helped put Moby Grape together around Skip Spence. Spence, a legendarily colorful Canadian native whose first instrument was the guitar, had played drums in the Airplane's first lineup at the instigation of Marty Balin.

Spence left the Airplane after their first album and reverted to his natural guitarist and songwriting role

for the Grape (the Airplane had already recorded some of his compositions). Guitarist Jerry Miller and drummer Don Stevenson were recruited from the Northwest bar band the Frantics; guitarist Peter Lewis had played in Southern California surf bands like the Cornells; and bassist Bob Mosley had also played with outfits from Southern California.

The group's relative unfamiliarity with each other may have sown seeds for their future problems, but they jelled surprisingly quickly, with all five members contributing more or less equally to the songwriting on their self-titled debut (1967). "Moby Grape" remains their signature statement, though the folk-rock and country-rock worked better than the boogies; "Omaha," "Sittin' by the Window," "Changes," and "Lazy Me" are some of their best songs.

Columbia Records, though, damaged the band's credibility with over-hype, releasing no less than five

singles from the LP simultaneously. Worse, three members of the group were caught consorting with underage girls. Though charges were eventually dropped, the legal hassles, combined with an increasingly strained relationship with manager Katz, sapped the band's drive.

Moby Grape's follow-up, the double-LP "Wow", was one of the most disappointing records of the '60s, in light of the high expectations fostered by the debut. The studio half of the package had much more erratic songwriting than the first recording, and the group members didn't blend their instrumental and vocal skills nearly as well. The "bonus" disc was almost a total waste, consisting of bad jams.

Spence departed while the album was being recorded in New York in 1968, as a result of a famous

incident in which he entered the studio with a fire axe, apparently intending to use it on Stevenson. Committed to New York's Bellevue Hospital, he did re-emerge to record a wonderful acid folk solo album at the end of 1968, but that would be his only notable post-Grape project; he struggled with mental illness until he died in 1999.

Another unexpected blow was dealt when Mosley, despite his membership in a group that emerged

from the Haight-Ashbury psychedelic scene, joined the Marine Corps at the beginning of 1969. The band struggled on and released a couple more albums during that year, and the best tracks from these (particularly the earlier one, "Moby Grape '69") proved they could still deliver the goods, though usually in a more subdued, countrified fashion than their earliest material.

The group broke up at the end of the '60s, although they would periodically reunite for nearly unheard albums over the next two decades, in lineups featuring varying original members. Their problems were exacerbated by Matthew Katz, who owns the Moby Grape name, and has sometimes prevented the original members from using the name when they worked together.
Artist Biography by Richie Unterberger

Moby Grape's first album was released in the USA with a large poster, repeating the cover image. The first issue has an image of the band with Don Stevenson ''giving the finger'' on both cover and poster.

As this was (belatedly) considered to be obscene, the second issue featured the same images, but with the offending finger airbrushed away.
Unfortunately some of the ''finger'' covers and posters slipped through after the change. That means that there are copies with ''finger'' cover and airbrushed poster and vice versa. Sealed copies (which are still around) should be checked to see if the poster is present and, of course, to see which image was used.

[Moby Grape's career was a long, sad series of minor disasters, in which nearly anything that could have gone wrong did (poor handling by their record company, a variety of legal problems, a truly regrettable deal with their manager, creative and personal differences among the bandmembers, and the tragic breakdown of guitarist and songwriter Skip Spence), but their self-titled debut album was their one moment of unqualified triumph.

Moby Grape is one of the finest (perhaps the finest) album to come out of the San Francisco psychedelic scene, brimming with great songs and fresh ideas while blessedly avoiding the pitfalls

that pockmarked the work of their contemporaries
-- no long, unfocused jams, no self-indulgent philosophy, and no attempts to sonically re-create the sound of an acid trip. Instead, Moby Grape built their sound around the brilliantly interwoven guitar work of Jerry Miller, Peter Lewis, and Skip Spence, and the clear, bright harmonies of all five members (drummer Don Stevenson and bassist Bob Mosely sang just as well as they held down the backbeat).

As songwriters, Moby Grape blended straight-ahead rock & roll, smart pop, blues, country, and folk accents into a flavorful brew that was all their own, with a clever melodic sense that reflected the

lysergic energy surrounding them without drowning in it. And producer David Rubinson got it all on tape in a manner that captured the band's infectious energy and soaring melodies with uncluttered clarity, while subtly exploring the possibilities of the stereo mixing process. "Omaha," "Fall on You," "Hey Grandma," and "8:05" sound like obvious hits (and might have been if Columbia hadn't released them as singles all at once), but the truth is there isn't a dud track to be found here, and time has been extremely kind to this record.

Moby Grape is as refreshing today as it was upon first release, and if fate prevented the group from making a follow-up that was as consistently strong, for one brief shining moment Moby Grape proved to the world they were one of America's great bands. While history remembers the Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane as being more important, the truth is neither group ever made an album quite this good.
By Mark Deming]

Moby Grape ‎– Moby Grape
Label: Sundazed Music ‎– SC 11190
Format: CD, Album, Reissue, Remastered, Stereo, Carded Sleeve - Jewel Case 2007
Country: US
Released: 1967
Genre: Rock
Style: Folk Rock, Psychedelic Rock, Classic Rock




01. Hey Grandma  (Written-By – D. Stevenson, J. Miller)  2:43
02. Mr. Blues  (Written-By – B. Mosley)  1:58
03. Fall On You  (Written-By – P. Lewis)  1:53
04. 8.05  (Written-By – D. Stevenson, J. Miller)  2:20
05. Come In The Morning  (Written-By – B. Mosley)  2:14
06. Omaha  (Written-By – S. Spence)  2:43
07. Naked, If I Want To  (Written-By – J. Miller)  0:55
08. Someday  (Written-By – S. Spence, D. Stevenson, J. Miller)  2:41
09. Ain't No Use  (Written-By – D. Stevenson, J. Miller)  1:37
10. Sitting By The Window  (Written-By – P. Lewis)  2:44
11. Changes  (Written-By – D. Stevenson, J. Miller)  3:21
12. Lazy Me  (Written-By – B. Mosley)  1:45
13. Indifference  (Written-By – S. Spence)  4:14

Extra Tracks: Studio Recordings, 1967

14. Rounder (Instrumental)  (Written-By – S. Spence)  2:02
15. Looper (Audition Rec.)  (Written-By – P. Lewis)  2:36
16. Indifference (Audition Rec.)  (Written-By – S. Spence)  2:51
17. Bitter Wind  (Written-By – B. Mosley)  2:48
18. Sweet Ride (Never Again)  (Written-By – S. Spence, B. Mosley, D. Stevenson, J. Miller, P. Lewis)  5:56

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