The songs on this album are tight; no superlong jams, no over-the-top hippyisms. At its heart lay the interwoven guitar work of Jerry Miller, Peter Lewis, and Skip Spence. All five band members contributed bright harmonies, with an emphasis on melody; many of the songs were uptempo, exciting numbers that captured some of the manic energy of the place and time, the band conducted subtle experiments in stereo mixing, and many of the tunes, in particular "8:05" "Hey Grandma" and "Omaha", sound like hits.
Unfortunately, Columbia Records nearly killed the band with hype right out the door. For reasons known only to Columbia execs of yesterday, a decision was made to release five singles from the debut album simultaneously; as a result, airplay was severely diluted for each, the sales for all of them were poor. "Omaha" did the best, making #88, and the album charted at #24. However, given the quality of the music, the local popularity of Spence, and the enormous commercial success of Jefferson Airplane, the numbers looked disappointing.
A serious problem also cropped up when three bandmembers were arrested for an incident with underaged girls. The charges were dropped, but the episode required a drawn-out legal process that kept the band's attentions away from the music. Their relationship with manager Katz also began to suffer around this time.
Still, Moby Grape had gotten enough notice that their 1968 follow-up, Wow/Grape Jam, was eagerly anticipated. Unfortunately, the disc was almost universally panned upon its release. A double album, with one live and one studio disc, the album did manage to reach #20 on the charts, the band's best showing, but showed little staying power, slipping off quickly.
Much of the criticism heaped on this record is valid; the live jam disc is long and unfocused and had few supporters even among fans.
Some subsequent re-releases of the album have uncoupled the discs. Its best moments are Bob Mosley's slow blues "Never" (which Led Zeppelin may have borrowed, or stolen, as a basis for "Black Current Jam"), and guest pianist Al Kooper's piano playing. "Lake" is an experimental poetry accompanied by sound-effects montage; it's pretty hard to take. The 13-minute "Marmalade" is a long road to nowhere, too, but it has its moments, mostly supplied by guest guitarist Mike Bloomfield.