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Moby Grape

by David Greenberger on August 18, 2010


Moby Grape’s spectacular flame-out is an often-told tale in the annals of rock music history. It’s not hard to imagine its elements of good and evil, bright expectations, dashed hopes, and madness becoming a bedtime folk tale in centuries to come. Their 1967 debut remains a sterling example of a great album from any era, ever, period. That is how most people know them, but for a brief couple of years, with the original lineup, they were also recognized as a ferocious live band. It is said that when Stephen Stills heard the group’s three-guitar front line he decided that was the recipe he’d use for what became Buffalo Springfield.

There’s an immediacy to this lovingly compiled Sundazed set, which draws from five different performances. It includes their very brief opening set at the Monterey Pop Festival as well as five songs recorded in Amsterdam after Skip Spence left the fold. (The latter have previously surfaced on murky bootlegs, but they positively sparkle here.) The real excitement is right at the top of this disc: seven songs recorded at San Francisco’s Avalon Ballroom in 1967. You don’t even have to be Steve Stills to want to take their idea and run with it. A crack rhythm section, an entire quintet of fine writers, smartly braided guitar parts, and casually masterful harmonizing on top of it all.