The legend of Moby Grape is a long storied tale. And it’s ironic that a group who has been tagged with a bad karma stigma (due to moves that was not the band's fault) for over 40 years now, is still considered (as they always were) one of the shining lights of the mid-60s rock bands. And while most bands from their era disintegrated or broke up to be little more than a footnote in a Nuggets box set collection as the legacy of their existence, the Grape has toured in recent years and even stole the show in 2007at the Summer of Love 40th Anniversary Celebration with their full-reunion (minus the late Skip Spence) set.
It was most likely at the 2007 gig that people remembered what a powerhouse of a live band the Grape was. First we got a great sampling of live cuts on the bands 2009’s The Place and the Time collection, and now the band has released a full-fledged live disc in Moby Grape Live.
The disc is essential if for nothing more than the inclusion of their set at the Monterey International Pop Festival in 1967. The quintet gleams throughout their four song (“Fall on You” was reportedly performed, but not included) blitzkrieg but reaches a climax on a killer take of “Omaha.” With Spence in his prime as vocalist and performer, the song is performed magnetically complete with a killer three guitar attack (Spence, Jerry Miller and Peter Lewis) and a total assault of the drum kit from Don Stevenson and the shrilling bass of Bob Mosely. Moby Grape certainly could have been the “Purple Haze” that Hendrix was talking about the next night!
Just as exciting are the seven songs culled from an Avalon Ballroom gig that same year. The standout songs being a grandiose rendering of” Bitter Wind” is followed up by “Changes,” a song whose frantic pace may (or may not) have been an ode to The Sonics (“Pshyco”) – another amazing five-man band who also did not get the proper recognition.
Hopefully the vaults are still stocked with unheard Moby Grape material, as the more we discover, the more likely it is that the band will someday be mentioned in popular culture in the same breath as other San Francisco greats as Sly, Creedence, and The Dead.
A place that they always should have been!