Sunday, December 22, 2013
Live albums are hard. They’re rarely good, because they rarely deliver on what they aim to be: an encapsulation of an act’s live show experience. But they just can’t; a concert is more than just the songs played without multi-tracking and overdubs and with extra-long solos and appreciative crowd noise. A concert has a certain electricity in the air, certain smells (most of them illegal), and the sound is so much louder and fuller than any stereo or headphones can deliver. Plus, live albums are usually edited and tweaked or compiled from multiple shows, so what purports to be a live album or recreation of experience is not. This is why concert bootlegs are so popular with hardcore fans of individual bands—recordings of specific concerts capture and define a specific moment in time.
But that is what compelled me to raise my hand when Rhino Records offered us a two-disc set of four complete Iron Butterfly shows, recorded back-to-back-to-back-to-back over two days at the legendary Fillmore East in April 1968. Yes, of course they’ve been cleaned up a little, and thank god, because these recordings are nearly 44 years old, but Fillmore East 1968 is something more akin to an expertly recorded bootleg. It’s four complete concerts! (Except for the first two songs of the first show, which weren’t recorded properly.) That’s the best way to explore and try to understand the cultural and musical upheaval that were going on at the time. Fillmore East 1968 captures the raucous, drugged-out, musically progressive but post-Summer of Love sinisterism of an Iron Butterly show right when it was that band’s moment. And at one of the definitive venues of the ‘60s and psychedelic rock to boot.
The shows focus mainly on material from Iron Butterfly’s first album Heavy, and predate the official commercial release of Iron Butterfly’s most famous and definitive song, “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida.” Two versions of it are on Fillmore East (a 17-minute one and a 15-minute one), and they’re thrilling and bewildering in equal measure. It’s a treat to get to hear this song before it was a watershed, proto-metal moment, as a wild, free-form, jazz odyssey. For that alone, this live album works as a live album, because it’s a historical document, both culturally and musically.
Recorded Friday, April 26th 1968
01/Fields Of Sun/4:01
02/You Can't Win/3:13
04/Are You Happy/4:14
06/Iron Butterfly Theme/4:26
10/Iron Butterfly Theme/5:00
Recorded Saturday, April 27th 1968
01/Are You Happy/4:27
05/Iron Butterfly Theme/4:35
08/Are You Happy/4:17
09/Her Favorite Style/2:29
12/Iron Butterfly Theme/5:20
Doug Ingle/Vocals, Keyboards
Lee Dorman/Bass Guitar
Sunbeam’s 2010 release Tasting The Life: Live 1971 documents a concert from Mighty Baby on February 20, 1971, when they were the opening act for Quintessence, and adds two bonus tracks from an appearance at Glastonbury later that year for good measure. The source tapes are a little rough -- it’s a bit flat, feedback leaks in on occasion, sometimes the keyboard bleeds, and the vocals peak out -- but the group’s elliptical charms are evident via these winding, exploratory jams. These performances aren’t particularly purposeful -- “India” reaches a whopping 22 minutes without going anywhere in particular, but there’s a choogling energy to their boogie that sits in interesting contrast to their jazz- and world-inflected improvisations. The fidelity and indulgence certainly whittles the audience for this down to the dedicated, but those committed fans will find Tasting the Life worth their while.(Stephen Thomas Erlewine)
After five years of touring the English countryside and playing some of the finest mid-60’s R&B and blue-eyed soul to loyal crowds of Mods without ever receiving the wider recognition the band deserved, the Action went “underground” to later resurface, minus singer Reggie King, as the psychedelic progressives of Mighty Baby.
Mighty Baby was heralded by late-60’s UK scenesters for onstage improvisational journeys into jazzy, eastern-influenced rock and loose country-boogie jams, and Tasting the Life captures the group in full flight as they open for Quintessence at Malvern’s Winter Gardens on February 20th, 1971. While the original show’s centerpiece is an imaginative, 22-minute, free-flowing meditation on John Coltrane’s “India”, the album’s highlight is the bonus track “Blanket In my Muesli”. Recorded at Glastonbury Fayre that summer, this 16-minute, heavy-lidded, psychedelic adventure in controlled self-indulgence showcases the quintet’s liquid approach to playing, with Martin Stone’s ingenious guitar work leading the way. A certain amount of stamina is required of the listener but the rewards outweigh the effort.(By Alan Brown)
Trials Of A City
Keep On Juggin'
Woe Is Me
Going Down To Mongoli
Lazy Days (Bonus Track)
A Blanket In My Muesli (Bonus Track)
Now You See It - Live In Bristol 1971
Now You Don't - Live In Bristol 1971
A Blanket In My Muesli - Live Glastonbury Fayre 1971-06-23
Ian Whiteman - vocals, flute, alto saxophone, Fender Rhodes piano
Martin Stone - lead guitar
Alan King - vocals, guitar
Mike Evans - bass guitar
Roger Powell - drums, percussion