Praise the Lord for tag sales, flea markets, and garage sales. A couple of weeks ago I came across Listen My Friends! The Best of Moby Grape in a dollar bin. My Moby Grape music had been confined to their original vinyl albums, so this was a good and, better yet, cheap purchase.
Moby Grape was a part of the sixties west coast psychedelic movement. It featured three guitarists, Jerry Miller, Peter Lewis, and former Jefferson Airplane drummer Skip Spence, plus bassist Bob Mosley and drummer Don Stevenson. All three guitarists were capable of playing lead, plus when they combined together, they would produce one of the more unique and creative sounds of the era. They also had four fine voices that would gel in tight and precise harmonies.
Their self-titled debut album was viewed as a classic at the time of its release. It achieved some national success reaching Number 24 on the United States album charts. The problem was the group was over-hyped, which reached a crescendo when their label, Columbia, released five singles at the same time. The only one to chart was “Omaha,” which stalled at Number 88.
They continued their success with their second album, Wow/Grape Jam, which reached Number 20, but problems began shortly after. Spence had a breakdown which reduced the band to four members. Shortly thereafter Bob Mosley joined the Marines, then reducing the group to three. The original five members reunited for an album during 1971, but the band was basically finished. They have reunited off and on over the years, with and without Skip Spence. The four original members of Moby Grape, with Omar Spence substituting for his father, have been performing together since 2007.
Listen My Friends! The Best Of Moby Grape is a nice retrospective of their career. The twenty tracks represent most of what can be considered their best. Tracks such as “Hey Grandma,” “8:05,” “Motorcycle Irene,” “Going Nowhere,” and “Omaha” among others are all nice relics of the psychedelic era. Their ability to fuse blues and folk into a psychedelic mix enabled them to produce some of the best music of the late 1960’s.
The packaging is first-rate with some rare pictures and a couple of interesting essays included. Columbia has also done a good job of cleaning up the sound.
Today Moby Grape has been regulated to the second tier of 1960’s west coast bands along with the likes of the Electric Flag and Country Joe & the Fish, which is good company indeed. Listen My Friends! The Best Of Moby Grape is a fine document of some of the best and underrated music of the psychedelic movement.