The Austin Chronicle

Phases & Stages


Reviewed by Raoul Hernandez, May 14, 2010, Music

Moby Grape

Live (Sundazed)

Taking cues from Dark Magic, a vintage bootleg fusing disparate sonic sources into a representative and revelatory whole, Live proves both the first commercially available live document of Moby Grape's peak performances and a definitive encapsulation of the original San Francisco quintet's alchemic earthquake. The raw fidelity of a 1967 Avalon Ballroom recording opens on all five singing band members sounding like a bag of cats, with late great band spark Skip Spence's yowl on second track "Rounder," still the band's opener today, plowing into the men's chorus broil of "Looper." That dynamic magnifies tenfold at Monterey Pop the same year. "You can't believe what it's like up here seeing all of this," bassist Bob Mosley wonders aloud before hollering his "Mr. Blues." By the fifth song it's "Thank you and goodbye" as the Grape sets fire to its unofficial theme song, Spence's "Omaha." Spence's gone by the time the group nails five tracks on Amsterdam radio two years later, Jerry Miller and Don Stevenson's Wow standout "Murder in My Heart for the Judge" taking wing into the succeeding "I Am Not Willing," a sweet-and-sour shot of Peter Lewis' Summer of Love vocals and Miller's stinging accompaniment. Mosley's pile-driving "Trucking Man" proves a white-knuckle antidote next, his tonsils owning Spence's "Omaha," a six-minute force of nature setting up 17-minute acid jam "Dark Magic." Pity that title was taken, because Live pulls the proverbial rabbit out of the sorcerer's headband.


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