Judging from an article in Bam magazine and news reports on their live gigs, The Linda Imperial Band is building quite a fanbase on the West Coast. Judging from their new album, the second for Imperial, that base should widen to include anyone who fondly recalls late ‘60s Bay Area rock and would like more of the same with a fresh new punch.
Take, for example, the co-producer of the album, Linda’s husband David Freiberg. He was a founding member of Quicksilver Messenger Service before signing with the latter day Jefferson Airplane and then became a main motor in the on-again, off-again Paul Kantner-led Jefferson Starship. It was in Starship where Imperial herself first began to get some notice as a guest vocalist.
The “all stars” of LIB include Peter Harris from the Jerry Garcia Band on guitars and keyboardist David Kaffinetti. He’s perhaps better known as Viv Savage from Spinal Tap. The rhythm section includes Drummer Doug Freedman (Iron Butterfly) and Steve Valverde on bass. Together, all four sound like a tight ensemble that’s been playing together for years, even if not all the way back to the heyday of the San Francisco Sound.
With a few notable exceptions, what few bands of the psychedelic era had was a strong lead singer, and here’s where Imperial really shines. Her soulful, belting vocals are exactly what a cooking band would want to support. That’s clearly evident in the very hot opener, “Heart Rocks” which does exactly what the title implies. It would be no surprise for a vocalist like Imperial to dive deeply into the blues, and she does that on two numbers, the scorching “Desperate Times” and “Loving You All the Way Down.”
Throughout the set, each song provides ample samples of what the band behind Imperial can do with extended solos in the mostly five-minute songs. You can’t miss the influence of Freiberg’s first band in “Hold Me Close,” and there’s a lot of “Fresh Air” Quicksilver, as well as nods to Santana in “Destination You.” In “You Gotta Know,” everything you liked about the ‘60s is pulled together in one track where Harris, Kaffinetti and company offer a tight jam that would have been an FM staple had it come out back in the day.
The only complaint I have about The Linda Imperial Band is its length. It’s only six songs and runs close to a mere half-hour. What we get are six gems with no filler built on straight-up, no frills musicianship. Imperial’s singing seems torn from the heart, like a bird freed from a cage flying effortlessly into the electric mist surrounding it. Like I said before, more, please.