Monday, 30 April 2018

Moby Grape “Moby Grape” 1967 US Psych Rock masterpiece..! debut LP (500 Greatest Albums All Of Time Rolling Stone)

Moby Grape “Moby Grape”1967 US Psych Rock  masterpiece..! debut LP  (500 Greatest Albums All Of Time Rolling Stone)

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Absoulutely indispensible, is this the true masterpiece of the San Francisco 60s scene? I don’t know but it’s damn fine. The only great album they made but what a record! They were victimized by their label, CBS, who released five singles the same day and bad timing (Sgt. Pepper was released just after this in June, ‘67). No filler and a three-guitar attack that few could equal. Favorite tracks: “Hey Grandma,” “8:05,” “Omaha” and “Sitting By The Window.”….by….Smurphy …~

This is one of those legendary psychedelic albums which isn’t the least bit psychedelic. That’s not actually a criticism, in fact it means that it probably transcends its time better than a lot of deliberately psychedelic albums of its time. 
There are no freak outs here. Really what you get is some very energetically performed roots rock, with folk, blues, country and, I believe, gospel influences. The songs are all pretty strong as well and the combination works quite well. Very good stuff……..schicken46 …..~ 

Even one of the most misguided marketing campaigns in history couldn’t obscure the sheer brilliance of this San Francisco-based quintet’s self-titled 1967 debut. Guitarist Skip Spence was the original Jefferson Airplane’s drummer, and lead guitarists Peter Lewis and Jerry Miller, bassist Bob Mosley, and drummer Don Stevenson were seasoned garage-band veterans. Everybody sang, everybody wrote songs, and their musical influences were equally diverse. They favored tight compositions and performances in an era when most groups didn’t, so naturally they were the subject of a huge bidding war. To celebrate its triumph, the record label released five singles–and the album–simultaneously. People cried “hype” and not one of 'em hit. The album, however, was a solid seller and remains the rock upon which the group’s reputation still rests. The slashing guitars and soaring harmonies of “Omaha” and “Hey Grandma” still snap, crackle, and pop! The sock-it-to-ya soul of “Changes” and the dueling guitars and vocals of “Indifference” still rock. The gentle folk ballad “Fall on You,” the delicate “Sitting by the Window,” and the country-flavored “8:05” are all strong songs, distinguished by their balance of four-part harmonies and three-guitar power. –Don Waller…..~

Moby Grape’s career was a long, sad series of minor disasters, in which nearly anything that could have gone wrong did (poor handling by their record company, a variety of legal problems, a truly regrettable deal with their manager, creative and personal differences among the bandmembers, and the tragic breakdown of guitarist and songwriter Skip Spence), but their self-titled debut album was their one moment of unqualified triumph. Moby Grape is one of the finest (perhaps the finest) album to come out of the San Francisco psychedelic scene, brimming with great songs and fresh ideas while blessedly avoiding the pitfalls that pockmarked the work of their contemporaries – no long, unfocused jams, no self-indulgent philosophy, and no attempts to sonically re-create the sound of an acid trip. Instead, Moby Grape built their sound around the brilliantly interwoven guitar work of Jerry Miller, Peter Lewis, and Skip Spence, and the clear, bright harmonies of all five members (drummer Don Stevenson and bassist Bob Mosely sang just as well as they held down the backbeat). As songwriters, Moby Grape blended straight-ahead rock & roll, smart pop, blues, country, and folk accents into a flavorful brew that was all their own, with a clever melodic sense that reflected the lysergic energy surrounding them without drowning in it. And producer David Rubinson got it all on tape in a manner that captured the band’s infectious energy and soaring melodies with uncluttered clarity, while subtly exploring the possibilities of the stereo mixing process. “Omaha,” “Fall on You,” “Hey Grandma,” and “8:05” sound like obvious hits (and might have been if Columbia hadn’t released them as singles all at once), but the truth is there isn’t a dud track to be found here, and time has been extremely kind to this record. Moby Grape is as refreshing today as it was upon first release, and if fate prevented the group from making a follow-up that was as consistently strong, for one brief shining moment Moby Grape proved to the world they were one of America’s great bands. While history remembers the Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane as being more important, the truth is neither group ever made an album quite this good……. by Mark Deming …allmusic…~

So much has been written about Moby Grape (we’d be talking REAMS if it were all on paper, but these days we’re more likely talking mega-megabytes, I guess) that it’s next to impossible to come up with anything close to an original insight on this legendary group. So allow me a personal reflection, if you would. I was a mere slip of 15 year old when this record was released and a budding music freak, scarfing up everything I could get my hands on that got even a remotely favorable review in CRAWDADDY or HIT PARADER (ROLLING STONE was just getting off the ground in '67, of course, and had yet to make an appearance in my hometown). 
Back in those days, HIT PARADER, under the editorial leadership of a guy named Jim Delahant, was actually a pretty cool magazine and a great source of info about all the San Francisco bands–and they raved about Moby Grape and about MOBY GRAPE (the album). Not only that, they printed the lyrics of all five simultaneously released singles in their song lyrics section–as though they actually were HITS (which, of course, they famously were not). So for this boy, the first album was a must-have, but really only one of many from that Summer of Love and the autumn that followed. (Others included, of course, THE DOORS, STRANGE DAYS, SURREALISTIC PILLOW, FREAK OUT, YOUNGER THAN YESTERDAY and, of course, the Meisterstueck SERGEANT PEPPER.) 
I loved the record from the get-go, but my fevered 15 year old brain (come to think of it, I was actually still 14 when I picked this one up) I felt it wasn’t all that experimental or innovative. From everything I’d been reading about the music coming out of San Francisco, this seemed more like straight-ahead rock'n'roll than truly freaky stuff. Oh, sure, you got a little distortion at the opening of “Omaha” and some of the lyrics were fashionably obscure in that Dylanesque way that everybody and his brother and sister were emulating at the time. But where were the 15 minute jams? (We’d have to wait til the sophomore effort for those.) These songs were not just tight: they were punchy and SHORT. ’ Course in hindsight, that’s hardly a bad thing at all. 
Sometime around the mid-fall of that year, in fact, I realized that despite all the groovy experimentalism of the Beatles. the Doors and Zappa, say, THIS was the record I was playing most frequently. That was a bit of an eye-opener (or EAR opener). Maybe I wasn’t quite the budding avant-gardista I imagined myself to be. All I knew was that this was GREAT stuff. 
We all know about the bad luck and troubles that ensued. It seemed that the group named for the punchline of a typically 60s absurd joke went through a ton of, uh, stuff that wasn’t at all funny. Something wound up harpooning Moby Grape, and it was likely not JUST the bad management and marketing. The group’s history seems to be one perfect storm of troubles and misfires. 

I started this review by suggesting that everything that there was to say about the this beleaguered group’s history had already been said. But actually, one hypothesis that hasn’t been explored sufficiently–as far as I know–would be the claim that the group’s very unity, their tightness, professionalism and their emphasis on polished instrumentation may have actually worked against them. The three guitar sound, the strong shared vocals actually made it impossible to speak of a dominant figure or STAR within the band’s ranks. We tend to forget how star-struck a generation we really were, but the big guns of the era really were the bands that featured a VERY prominent individual (or two or three, in the case of the Beatles). Moby Grape could not boast a Lennon, a Morrison, a Jagger, Joplin or a Slick. In some ways, they were even more “communal” than the Dead (whose central figure even then was Jerry Garcia, who could boast of maybe a kind of anti-charisma). 
Moby Grape could boast of top notch vocalists (really! give 'em a listen) and great guitar work, but the glam-quotient was lacking. Does’t count that one of the band members was the son of a movie star. And even though two members would eventually be diagnosed with schizophrenia (and what are the odds of THAT,even among hippie freaks), Moby Grape’s MUSIC was not OUT THERE in the most outre sense of the term. Nowadays that scarcely seems like a weakness. This album has aged better than 90% of the product of that era. Musicianship matters. 

I guess my timing was off in one way. I seemed to have missed out on the re-mastered, expanded Sundazed version that briefly saw the light of day a few years ago, and while that seems to be available in downloadable form still, and for those for whom that’s an option, I’d say, go for it. This version, on Mr. Katz’s imprint, is also too pricey (and reportedly no revenues from its sale are actually going to the surviving band members). I can see why some die-hard fans recommend NOT buying this particular version of this historic album. There are authorized “best of” collections out there, the sales of which will benefit group members. Still this record exerts its own special appeal–and it goes beyond mere nostalgia. Moby Grape’s first album was near perfect AS AN ALBUM, near perfect from start to finish. 
If the notion of lining their former manager’s pockets is too disturbing, consider buying this one used. There’s also justification for buying an authorized anthology such as LISTEN MY FRIENDS as well, since the cuts are reportedly remastered and include the original non-fade-out endings on several tracks. That’s what I intend to do. Can’t have too much vintage Grape, after all……. Gregor von Kallahann…..~

First things first. I’d like to express my deepest gratitude to Mr. Matthew Katz, the Grape’s original manager and the GREEDY TROLL who has done nothing but rob fans both old and new of one of rock’s greatest groups. Katz could care about Grape’s legacy as much as Terry Knight cared about Grand Funk Railroad, and it doesn’t get any lower than that my friends! This reissue of Moby Grape’s debut album, complete with bonus tracks, was released in October of 2007 only to be withdrawn the following month because of a lawsuit by Katz. The following two titles, “Wow” and “Grape Jam,” were also pulled from production. It’s such a shame because Sundazed did a stellar job of restoring this classic back to it’s original sheen, only to have their time and efforts spit on by a money hungry jerk like Katz. So, if you already know about this album and are curious about one of the San Francisco music scenes hardest rocking outfits of the late '60s (seriously, The Grateful WHO? The Jefferson WHAT?), then put down the extra cash and pick up a copy of this reissue NOW! 

“So is it really that good?” Yes it is! Moby Grape was an incredible band of collective talent and a very sad story of one of rock’s could-have-been. Their overall sound was not unlike a harder rocking version of The Dead but with many more elements in the mix. One minute they were folky (see “8:05”) and the next they were prefiguring punk rock a decade ahead of schedule (see “Omaha”). Then you’ve got the whole “white boys loving black soul” thing going on sung at the top of bassist and vocalist Bob Mosley’s white-soul pipes. Mosely was undoubtedly one of the most powerful vocalist of the era. However, with the Grape, the spotlight didn’t just fall one particular individual. Every member of the band, including drummer Don Stevenson, could sing, play, and write. With the band’s debut album released on May 29, 1967, and considerable press coverage, it seemed 1967 might be the year of the Grape. That is, before a few unfortunate happenings took place. 

For starters, on June 1st, The Beatles turned the rock music world upside down with the release of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” only a scant few days after the Grape released their debut. The band’s performance at The Monterey Pop Festival, which should have propelled them into the stratosphere, was overshadowed by the likes of Janis Joplin, The Who, and Jimi Hendrix. Their record label, Columbia, sought to promote the band by issuing five singles off the L.P. (not one of them containing a non-album cut) all at once which confused the hell out of radio D.J.s! The only single to reach dry land was the fierce rocking “Omaha,” which peaked at no. 88 on the charts (at least it made the Top 100). 

Since this new, albeit limited edition, reissue has been remastered from the original master tapes, you’ll get a few surprizes. “Omaha” runs at least 15 seconds longer now and comes to a complete stop instead of fading out like fans have heard all these years on their original L.P.s. “Hey Grandma” runs a wee bit longer too but it still fades. “Hey Grandma” opens up the album in fine fashion (and it isn’t about a teenage boy having a sexual relationship with an older woman, it’s an ode to all the S.F. hotties running around in granny dresses so says Jerry Miller). The song features their trademark horse-galloping beat, fierce guitar pickin’ from Jerry Miller and the band’s harmonies in place. “Mr. Blues” swaggers in like a drunk returning home from a night at the bar and showcases Mr. Mosley on lead vocals. Peter Lewis then takes the lead for “Fall On You” which is a rocker. “8:05” is a resting spot with feathery layered harmonies and acoustic guitar. It caresses you gently before it’s time to get down and sweaty with the soul-shake of “Come In The Morning,” another Otis Redding meets The Grateful Dead moment. “Omaha” follows like a wrecking ball hitting you upside the head one direction then back the other! Truly one of the band’s finest rockers, it’s hard not to bounce off the walls to this one! “Naked If I Want To” closes side one of the album. It’s a short, harmony laden, acoustic ditty that lasts under a minute and tells the tale of the poor, misunderstood, free-loving hippie that just wants the older generation to understand and nothing more. 

Side two starts out with “Someday.” It’s a laid back tune that will conjure up the image of early morning sunlight beaming in through an open window as you sit in a chair and take another hit off that lit joint in your hand. Don’t get too relaxed though because you’ve got a barnyard dance to attend with the rollicking, countrified “Ain’t No Use.” The mood then shifts to not so much a gentle comedown as it does a completely depressing crash landing with Peter Lewis’ plaintive cry of loneliness in “Sittin’ By The Window.” Then it’s back on the runaway horse for “Changes” (one track on the album that I wish would’ve ran a bit longer, it really starts building steam on the fade). For “Lazy Me” it’s apparent that soul can be found in just being plain stoned as the lyrics suggest (“I’ll just lay here, and decay here”). “Indifference” caps off an incredible album with an incredible rocking arrangement that captures all the best elements of the band featured on all the previous tracks. I’ve always found the song’s ending quite hilarious. It seems right as the song is coming to a climax where the band will suddenly fire on all cylinders, the drugs they took earlier kick in and the band forgets exactly where they were going! “Moby Grape” closes on that one last, confused, tethered guitar note. 

Phew! That was a lot to write. Now onto the bonus tracks. “Rounder,” recorded during the sessions, was to be included on the album but vocals were never laid down. Needless to say, the song succeedes entirely on it’s own as an instrumental. It’s so good that it’s hard to imagine it WITH vocals! Next up are two demos from their January '67 Columbia Records audition. “Looper” is another groovy harmony filled rocker while the early version of “Indifference” sounds tighter but no less heavy than the full blown assault featured on the actual album version. “Bitter Wind” which would be recorded again and featured on their second album in a complete overblown, overly ambitious arrangement, sounds much better here. The last track “Sweet Ride (Never Again)” was recorded in November of 1967 for the film of the same title. Featured here is the unedited version where the band proceeds to crack me up again like on “Indifference.” Grape take off jamming and even though they begin to loose direction, they continue on until they cannot take it any further! It’s great! 

“Moby Grape” is an enduring classic and deserves a place in every serious rock fans music collection. It rocks and it lives up to it’s reputation as one of the best, if not THE best, album to come out of the San Francisco music scene in the late '60s. It’s a shame the Grape never got their due and it’s even more upsetting that their former manager Katz does his best to keep it that way. If you can find this great reissue at a reasonable price then grab it as fast as you can. Chances are you’re gonna have to pay a pretty penny from here on out to buy one. I’m happy to be a fan of this awesome group….The Moby Grape…they were a GREAT BUNCH…….M. McKay……~

You probably already have heard how awfully good these guys were. I heard this album mentioned enough times by artists that I admired that I finally broke down and ordered it. I liked it so much that I immediately wanted to own more of their stuff. Thats the only bad news. This album is their one and only. They made others under that name but this is the only one all original members really wholeheartedly gave their all to. Every song is memorable and different in some very creative way. I suspect Skip Spence was the leader because once he departed Moby Grape became a country blues fusion band. Skip too went off in a quieter direction, a direction inspired by a folksy sensibility but making of it something uniquely his own, acid folk his one solo album has been called(Oar,69). Moby Grape with Skip is incredible though. The other players are all more than competent songwriters and players. Three guitar players, five songwriters, and none of them really dominant. Perhaps too much diverse talent for one band to manage for more than one album. They pull it off for the one though. Country blues are here as well as the SanFransisco sound but the overall feel is Brit pop rock as played by coolheaded Californians. The lyrics are some of the best of the era sometimes laid back and sometimes inspired mayhem, there must have been some readers in the band. If you don’t already like the sixties don’t bother but if you do this disc will sit comfortably next to your Beatles and Byrds and Jefferson Airplane and Dead CD’s…..By Doug Anderson….~

The best compliment I can make about Moby Grape’s debut and its not one I give to many albums: I like every song and I have yet to tire of listening to them. What makes this album so good, besides the songwriting? Is it the manic energy of songs like “Omaha” (yes, it should be called “Listen My Friends”), “Come in the Morning”, and “Fall on You”? Is is the achingly beautiful ballads with amazing harmonies like “8:05”, “Someday”, and “Sitting by the Window”? Is it the hard driving rockers like “Changes” and “Hey Grandma”? Yes, of course, to all of the above. If you have never heard this music, your life is missing something. As you listen, pay attention to the guitar interplay, the harmonies, and the strong backbeat. Too many groups have one main writer, and/or one main singer, but Moby Grape’s musicians all took turns writing songs and singing lead. Sadly, nothing else they did measured up to the brilliance of this debut, but “Moby Grape '69” makes a fine second choice of an album. From there you can download the better songs from “Wow” (their second album), and “Truly Fine Citizen” (their last album from Columbia. If you can find it, the “Vintage” collection is a fine overview of the band, excluding some pointless studio chatter from some of the “Moby Grape” tracks. This first album is best heard in stereo as mono literally kills some of the effects like the bouncing backward drum solo on “Omaha” and the background harmonies on “8:05.” This bonus album comes with the blistering “Rounder” in instrumental form, a mysteriously unfinished track…..ByMy Two Cents…..~

Hopping on the Moby Grape bandwagon 35 years after their eponymous debut LP was released may seem silly, but in 1967 I was only 23 years old - til November - and the music scene was exploding, like nothing before or since. The British Invasion was still enjoying its run, with The Beatles and Stones cranking out hit after hit, and many other fine groups playing on the success of the pioneers of the English Sound tagged along. Cream had released “Fresh…”, but Led Zeppelin was a couple years off, and Jimi Hendrix, well maybe you had to be “experienced” to dig him. American bands had taken a back seat, albeit a comfortable banquette, to British groups, if not on pop charts, at least in the musical vanguard. Number One Hits included `Happy Together’, `Kind of a Drag’, `The Letter’ and `Light My Fire’ ( the first song not to be edited for AM airplay, or so it is said ). 
It was into this creative melting pot that Moby Grape poured its juice, and were it not for the Philistine ignorance of Columbia Records, this pop/psychedelic band might have been the biggest hitmaker of the year. If you read the liner to the 2 CD compilation released on Sony Legacy in 1993, you will learn that the over-hype that accompanied the release of the `Moby Grape’ LP ( two weeks after Sgt. Pepper ) made it difficult for the band to maintain serious focus, in addition to which, being the 60s, there were busts and catastrophes that made for interesting press but not a good environment for touring to support an LP. 
The music, even 35 years later, speaks for itself. Each song is a morsel, with the vocal appropriate to the musical arrangement, with the guitar/bass/drum parts always recessed a bit, to perfectly balance with the delicious vocals. The guitar breaks don’t stand up to Clapton’s virtuosity, but MG is not a band that scores in the instrumental arena. The sublime perfection of this remarkable collection of songs rests in the way voices are hung together, like ornaments on a tree. Take `Changes’: the lead is rough and ready, and as the song proceeds, the verse is sung by two or three voices in unison. This creates a feverish tension, as if the voices were competing for prominence. 
`8:05’, a mostly acoustic diamond, begins with a devilish guitar intro, followed by sweet three part harmony on the verse, with counterpoint harmony. The vocal arrangement is so well crafted that it is challenging at times to realize how complex it is, the flow gentle and the pace serene, yet the lyric is poignant and the song ends on a dying chord. 
If you have never heard `Moby Grape’ you have yet to experience one of the most profound musical tragedies of the 20th Century, how five monstrously talented guys could be milled into has-been in the span of 18 months. This was their shining hour, so spend 40 minutes with them….~

Moby Grape’s debut encapsulates the frantic power and inspired genius of the group in the brief moment that it existed. All members contributed songs to this explosive record, giving each song a fresh feel within the triple-guitar rock/country/psych Grape sound. The songs are quick, great, and perfect illustrators of the San Fransisco sound from whence they came. 

The problem is, things practically fell apart for the Grape after their debut record; it’s widely reported that the talents of this great, legendary band fell prey to mismanagement. If the Jefferson Airplane were today’s “Strokes,” then Moby Grape were “The Vines” or “Jet” or whatever over-hyped carbon copy band the music industry could get on the shelves in the wake of the former. Their record company released five singles at once, trying to stir up an artificial demand. Worst of all, the mismanagement continues today with the Moby Grape name being held hostage by some guy named Matthew Katz (hence, the still exorbitant CD price). The 2007 reissue of this record from Sundazed has been halted as well, producing a stilted run of 180G vinyl lps that are going for hefty prices on ebay. 

Following the recording of this record, frontman Skip Spence lost it Syd Barrett style and took an axe with him on a short rampage at his band member’s hotel before being committed to Bellevue Hospital. After his release, he would take off on his motorcycle, equipped in pajamas rather than leather jacket, on the way to record his magnificent, and only solo album, Oar. 

But despite these unfortunate circumstances, Moby Grape’s eponymous debut remains well respected as one of the best albums of the psychedelic era, its sound still holding up extremely well. In fact, you may have even heard the sometimes classic rock radio-worthy Omaha. And while this powerful debut may be one of the best rock records of all time, the Grape managed to reinstate its spirit in moments over several more excellent albums during their frenzied life span. ….by Brendan McGrath…..~

The short and dramatic story of San Francisco psychedelic folk-rockers Moby Grape is one of the collision of blazing musical talent, shonky management, record company overkill and bad luck. And it all happened in less that a year. 
Within six months of their classic self-titled debut album released in mid '67 – a fortnight after the Beatles’ baroque-pop Sgt Pepper’s, but a world removed – Moby Grape were disintegrating. And although they limped on to a few other albums (with an ever-decreasing line-up as drugged or disaffected members left) this was a band that could have, and should have, been serious contenders. 
The evidence is all on that debut, an album frequently accorded five-star status and – as with Jimi Hendrix’s Are You Experienced released two months later – almost profligate of genius and musical ideas. 
Here were blistering radio-rock songs, gentle acoustic folk, heart-melting ballads, humour, finger-pickin’ country-rock and, in Omaha, one of the great psychedelic rock singles of all time. 

So how did it all go so wrong? 

To backtrack: the five members of Moby Grape came together from diverse musical and social backgrounds in SanFran in late '66. Guitarist-songwriter Peter Lewis was the son of television actress and Hollywood star Loretta Young and had spent time in military school and the airforce but fell in love with the Byrds’ jangle-rock, and Bob Mosley had played in bar bands in San Diego. 

Jerry Miller and drummer Don Stephenson came from Pacific Northwest bands (Miller had briefly been in the Bobby Fuller Four and Stephenson had backed jazz and r'n'b legends such as Big Mama Thornton and Etta James) – and then there was Skip Spence about whom legends would be spun. 
Spence was from Canada and had been in an early version of the Bay Area band Quicksilver Messenger Service before joining Jefferson Airplane in time for their debut album for which he wrote two of their best early songs, Blues From An Airplane and My Best Friend. 
At that time Spence was a drummer but in Moby Grape he went back to guitar. The Grape line-up had three guitarists capable of playing lead and that – along with having five songwriters and excellent harmony singing – meant they hit the ground sprinting. 

Their rehearsals at The Ark, a paddleboat which had been turned into club in Sausilito, and their few early gigs brought record company executives waving chequebooks – but it all happened too fast. 
The band had barely got to know each other on a personal level (aside from old pals Stephenson and Miller, they rarely wrote together) and within six months of forming they were in a Hollywood recording studio for Columbia. 
To celebrate the release of this obviously thrilling album Columbia went for overkill: they released five singles simultaneously (thus bewildering radio DJs, losing the brilliant Omaha in the confusion, and alienating the hippie counterculture from which Moby Grape had sprung). They launched the band with a gig during which 10,000 purple orchids fell from the ceiling (which only made the floor slippery). There were 700 bottle of wine with Moby Grape labels 
– but no corkscrews apparently. 

The hype almost did the band in – but actually they did it to themselves. In the early hours of the following morning three of them were arrested for being with underage girls, and Miller was busted for possession of marijuana. 

It was the start of the remarkably rapid unravelling. 

Then the record company noticed that on the album cover Stephenson was giving the finger so subsequent copies had to be airbrushed, and Columbia boss Clive Davis let it be known he didn’t approve of their on and off-stage behaviour. 

Moby Grape had angered the wrong people. 

Later the band learned their manager Matthew Katz owned the rights to the band name – but by then they were all but done in. 

The Moby Grape album didn’t do the business it deserved to, they partied too hard in Malibu, were hastily re-assembled for a follow-up album recorded in New York by which time they were splintered (Lewis quit briefly), and within a few months Spence – always a fragile but gifted intellect – had become drug-addled and physically dangerous. 

That second album Wow (which came with a free album of studio jams with Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper) was actually pretty good – especially given the circumstances – but then Spence was out and the band limped on to other albums (the modest Moby Grape '69 and the patchy Truly Fine Citizen recorded in Nashville by which time they were a three-piece). 

And that was about it. 

But that self-titled debut is an exciting album even today. 

The opening track Hey Grandma (about hippie girls wearing granny dresses) announces it with a blast of bluesy guitars and driving drums, and that energy leaps out elsewhere in Fall on You, Omaha, Changes and Come in the Morning. 

But the other side of Moby Grape is their harmony vocal ballads and acoustic songs: the aching 8.05 and Someday, the disarmingly beautiful Sitting by the Window … 

And there is the country-rock of Ain’t No Use. 

Moby Grape were, live certainly, a psychedelic band – but they were also a damn fine pop-rock band. They had an economy of style that stood some distance from the jamming SanFran bands of their day (the longest track on Moby Grape is a tidy 4.14 and Omaha rips through at a mere 2.43). 

Their closest cousins were Country Joe and the Fish – whose Electric Music For the Mind And Body released in January '67 could equally be an Essential Elsewhere album – and early Jefferson Airplane. 

Moby Grape have become one of those cautionary stories in rock'n'roll – but that takes nothing away from this exceptional debut which should be in any serious music collection. 

Using it as a cornerstone you can move through their later career (expect diminishing returns however), seek out Spence’s enticing if addled solo album Oar from '69 (he was the Syd Barrett of the band), go sideways into the Haight-Ashbury scene of the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Country Joe and others – or follow Moby Grape’s acoustic ballads and country-folk styles into the early 70s singer songwriters, the Byrds’ Sweetheart of the Rodeo and the Flying Burrito Brothers. 

Moby Grape took their name from a joke (“What’s purple and lives at the bottom of the sea?”) but they were far from a joke themselves. 
That joke-Moby might have been a bottom-dweller, but these guys flew…….Graham Reid …..~

One of the best '60s San Francisco bands, Moby Grape were also one of the most versatile. Although they are most often identified with the psychedelic scene, their specialty was combining all sorts of roots music – folk, blues, country, and classic rock & roll – with some Summer of Love vibes and multi-layered, triple-guitar arrangements. All of those elements only truly coalesced, however, for their 1967 debut LP. Although subsequent albums had more good moments than many listeners are aware of, a combination of personal problems and bad management effectively killed off the group by the end of the 1960s. 

Many San Francisco bands of the era were assembled by recent immigrants to the area, but Moby Grape had even more tenuous roots in the region than most when they formed. Matthew Katz, who managed the Jefferson Airplane in their early days, helped put together Moby Grape around Skip Spence. Spence, a legendarily colorful Canadian native whose first instrument was the guitar, had played drums in the Airplane’s first lineup at the instigation of Marty Balin. Spence left the Airplane after their first album, and reverted to his natural guitarist and songwriting role for the Grape (the Airplane had already recorded some of his compositions). Guitarist Jerry Miller and drummer Don Stevenson were recruited from the Northwest bar band the Frantics; guitarist Peter Lewis had played in Southern California surf bands like the Cornells; and bassist Bob Mosley had also played with outfits from Southern California. 

The group’s relative unfamiliarity with each other may have sown seeds for their future problems, but they jelled surprisingly quickly, with all five members contributing more or less equally to the songwriting on their self-titled debut (1967). Moby Grape remains their signature statement, though the folk-rock and country-rock worked better than the boogies; “Omaha,” “Sittin’ by the Window,” “Changes,” and “Lazy Me” are some of their best songs. Columbia Records, though, damaged the band’s credibility with over-hype, releasing no less than five singles from the LP simultaneously. Worse, three members of the group were caught consorting with underage girls. Though charges were eventually dropped, the legal hassles, combined with an increasingly strained relationship with manager Katz, sapped the band’s drive. 

Moby Grape’s follow-up, the double-LP Wow, was one of the most disappointing records of the '60s, in light of the high expectations fostered by the debut. The studio half of the package had much more erratic songwriting than the first recording, and the group members didn’t blend their instrumental and vocal skills nearly as well. The “bonus” disc was almost a total waste, consisting of bad jams. Spence departed while the album was being recorded in New York in 1968, as a result of a famous incident in which he entered the studio with a fire axe, apparently intending to use it on Stevenson. Committed to New York’s Bellevue Hospital, he did re-emerge to record a wonderful acid folk solo album at the end of 1968, but that would be his only notable post-Grape project; he struggled with mental illness until he died in 1999. 

Another unexpected blow was dealt when Mosley, despite his membership in a band that emerged from the Haight-Ashbury psychedelic scene, joined the Marine Corps at the beginning of 1969. The band did struggle on and release a couple more albums during that year, and the best tracks from these (particularly the earlier one, Moby Grape '69) proved they could still deliver the goods, though usually in a more subdued, countrified fashion than their earliest material. The group broke up at the end of the '60s, although they would periodically reunite for nearly unheard albums over the next two decades, in lineups featuring varying original members. Their problems were exacerbated by Matthew Katz, who owns the Moby Grape name, and has sometimes prevented the original members from using the name when they worked together. ~ Richie Unterberger……~

Moby Grape is not a forgotten band, but they are a band remembered as little more than a footnote: the ultimate answer-to-a-trivia-question band. You may already be familiar with the tale – Summer of Love, June 1967: Columbia records unleashes a promotional blitz that includes the simultaneous release of FIVE Moby Grape singles (one featuring each member of the group) and landing the band a slot at the Monterrey Pop Festival. But the Heads are turned off by the stench of plastic hype (“The Man Can’t Bust Our Music”) and Moby Grape is scorned as Monkees-like “crap” (or so the legend goes.) A simpler version of the story focuses on the fact that the original printings of their album had to be withdrawn from stores because of the cover photo where drummer Don Stevenson is extending his middle finger (American slang gesture for “fuck you.”) 

But whatever the unintended consequences of the marketing strategy*, if you get past the hype & lore and listen to the record you can see why the record company was so gung-ho about Moby Grape’s potential as a hit-making machine. They had as good a shot as anyone (The Byrds, The Monkees) of becoming that legendary holy grail of the US record industry in the 60’s: “America’s Answer To The Beatles”! 

Simply put, this was a phenomenally talented band. All five members sang and wrote their own original songs, and with three guitarists they had instrumental muscle to spare. The only Graper who was famous already in 1967 was Skip Spence who had briefly been the drummer for the Jefferson Airplane, and who would leave his Grape gig (where he mainly played rhythm guitar) in 1968 to record a solo album “Oar” and become a musical cult figure (sort of an American version of Twink.) 

Of the others, Jerry Miller is perhaps the one who most deserves elevation to some sort of pantheon: you’ll never hear his name mentioned in the same breath as Kaukonen, Garcia & Cippolina but you should. Only unlike those shambolic jammers, Miller often takes the “San Francisc-a-delic guitar sound” and puts it in the service of bluesy-country-pop riffettes that recall George Harrison’s tasty licks for the Beatles. (Interesting trivia fact: in 1966 Miller played guitar on the Bobby Fuller Four’s “I Fought The Law”!) 

Bassist Bob Mosley was the bluesiest singer/songwriter in the band, with a deep yet controlled wail that rarely sank into Doug Ingle territory. Peter Lewis (rhythm guitar) was the crooning baladeer of the group, and a uniquely skilled composer of hook-laden pop songs. And finally there was Miller’s longtime songwriting partner, drummer Don Stevenson (who also played guitar and sang.) 

For their debut the boys produced 13 totally memorable and varied nuggets of San Fran Acid Pop with Nashville overtones that whiz by in a mere 31 minutes. This concise style is perhaps one of the things that caused the “Hip” to tune out Moby Grape, it being a period when album-side-long tracks and monster drum solos were coming into vogue. 

“Hey Grandma” is one of my all-time favorite songs of 1967, and also one of the greatest obscure B-sides ever. Miller spews out a steady stream of wailin’, crunchin’ smoovely-controlled-feedback lead guitar while the two rhythm guitars lock in on stairstep chord progressions, the rhythm section pulsates like a big glob of coloured oil projected on a screen at an Acid Test, and two or three singers drawl in a semi-ridiculous falsetto harmony: “hey gram-maaaaw, yore so young / yore ole maaaaan is just a boy” – “everything is upside down, upside down!” Actually the song is about the “granny dresses and glasses” hippy chicks wore in those days – but it isn’t hard to misinterpret it as a psychedelic “Little Old Lady From Pasadena” novelty song. 

“Fall On You” (another B-side) is an uptempo country-rocker not far from the sound of the Beatles’ “Rubber Soul” or the Byrds’ “Younger Than Yesterday” (another unsung landmark released the same year as Moby Grape’s debut) but with less jingle-jangle and more brrrrranngg!! than either of those groups. Like all of Lewis’ tunes this one is crammed to bursting with hooks, and it also features the most sizzling rawk lead guitar break on the whole LP. 

Bob Mosley’s spotlight single A-side is the Cali-rockin’ ray of sunshine “Come In The Morning” (dunno if the title is meant to be dirty but heh, wouldn’t surprise me.) I bet the granola munchers were swingin’ and swayin’ when they played this one at the Fillmore. 

“Omaha” was their highest-charting single, peaking at a pathetic #88. It begins with a series of !!cosmic!~~!brainflashes!! that are among the most memorable “psychedelic sounds” of the whole 60’s (an audio effect created by feedback and cymbal crashes played backwards and wildly panned between stereo channels.) The tune that follows the atttention-grabbing opening noise lives up to the promise, a sort of acid cowboy gallop with complex rhythm changes (you can tell it was written by a drummer.) The overall effect is something like Love’s classic single “7 And 7 Is” only less “apocalypse” and more “spaghetti western.” When trying to describe Skip Spence songs adjectives like “inscrutable” and “indecipherable” come to mind. This song has nothing to do with the city in Nebraska, from the chorus you’d guess the song was called “Listen My Friends”. 

“Sitting By The Window” is the standout contribution by Peter Lewis on this LP, and his A-side single feature. Looooove the guitar arrangement here: one plays spidery lead raga arpeggios, another does a chunka-chink laid back rhythm, and the third sprays a fine mist of tremelo & reverb over the whole thing. Sweeet! Wonderful production touches subtly using echo on a sung word or guitar lick here and there – a song that absolutely reeks of patchouli, incense and “exotic smokables” in the best possible way. 

“Lazy Me” is one of the few songs on the album NOT released on a single, and way too brief at 1:40 in length. A complex and melodramatic “uptempo bluesrock ballad” by Mosley, it features an unforgettable heartbreaker of a vocal hook: “I’ll just lay here … and decay here.” Shivers! 

The final track “Indifference” is another inscrutable Skip Spence Acid Cowboy Tapdancin’ Boogie. The chorus: “what a difference a day has made / what a difference and more of the same!” And another line that sticks in your head: “what once brought you up now brings you down.” (Sounds more like a sentiment from 1970.) By far the longest track on the album at over 4 minutes in length, at the end they bring it way down and then build back up with interlocking guitar ragas, launching the kind of jam that the Airplane would have kept playing for a good 5 minutes (the Dead for at least 20) – but having proven that they can jam if they want to, the Grape lets it melt away into the ether in under a minute. 

SEE ALSO the accompanying review of the 2 CD compilation “The Vintage Years” (1993) which includes every song from this album, plus outtakes and demos and material from their later albums. 

* In fact “Moby Grape” peaked at #24 on the US album charts, making it the 2nd best-selling record by a San Fran band in 1967 (behind only “Surrealistic Pillow.”) They handily outsold the debuts by Big Brother and the Dead, their class of '67 peers.  … Dog 3000…Head Herirage…..~

This album has stood the test of time better than most of its contemporaries, but it’s not the band’s collective “genius” that accounts for it - rather it’s just the band’s collective pool of meticulous, hardworking capacities. At the heart of Moby Grape may have been a mad genius (Skip Spence), but Skip actually only gets two of his songs on here, with all the other band members also songwriters. And this is good, professional songwriting, which eventually gets to you; not a single song is really “misguided” or “fillerish”. 

One thing I can’t quite understand is why this album is often called “psychedelic”. Oh sure, it was written by a bunch of free-thinkin’ hippie-minded people smack dab in the middle of 1967 smack dab in the middle of San Francisco. I guess that kinda nails it, doesn’t it? Wrong. Nothing on this record is psychedelic, except that the guitar tones often remind one of Jefferson Airplane (which doesn’t immediately make them psychedelic) and there’s a limited amount of weirdness running through the songs, but Frank Zappa was weird, too. No, indeed, in reality Moby Grape’s debut is mostly reminiscent of contemporary Buffalo Springfield records, with a little less country influence, mayhaps. It’s straightahead pop that often has its roots in traditional American music, no more and no less. 
And thus the serious implication: Moby Grape is a record I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend to anybody who can’t stand a single whiff of the psychedelic excesses of bands like the Airplane or QMS or the pre-1970 Grateful Dead. It’s an honest, down-to-earth, “authentically moving” record. For me, the problem is that, just like the Springfield, Moby Grape don’t much care about instant memorability. The songs are complex enough and they’re wonderfully conceived and planned out, but very few equal “pop genius”, for me, at least. Upon first listen I could very well say it’s one of those albums that I like much more “in theory” than “in practice” - the very idea of an intelligent, provoking, half-rootsy/half-poppy album with songs carefully thought over, coming from a bunch of supposed potheads, appealed to me on a very basic level, but I was somewhat disappointed about the actual realization. Yet the idea it was that actually kept me listening, and you know what? Most of these tunes you get warmed to pretty quickly. 
Some people seem to think that in general the Grape were better when it came to softer, more sentimental material, and I think they’re right. See, it’s not that they really suck at rocking out; it’s rather that when they rock out, they do it in the traditional Californian matter, which can be summarized as “I’m rocking harder than Cream or Jimi Hendrix even if I’ve never heard either”. In other words, they take your basic Fifties-level electric guitar soloing and try to make it “tougher” by playing higher notes than usual. That’s all very well, but that’s definitely below the 1967 standard. 
Even so, 'Hey Grandma’ is a lot of boogie fun (and was even covered by The Move a year later!), and Peter Lewis’ 'Fall On You’ is one of the best rockers to come out of the entire Californian scene of the time. The guitars may be thin-sounding, but you can’t beat that paranoid 'yes I know it’s falling! yes I know it’s falling!’ harmonizing in the background while we are getting all the bad news in the main lyrical body. Skip’s 'Omaha’ lacks a centralized hook, but once again the harmonies save it from being a disgrace, and besides, at least these guitars are energetic in places. And 'Changes’ boasts a generic, but catchy pop vocal melody. I don’t care much for the rest of the rocking numbers - Skip’s second contribution, 'Indifference’, is perhaps the best indication of the guy’s lunatic state of mind at the time, but it’s predictably messy and clumsy; and then they go for sort of a soulful R'n'B-ish approach on some of the tracks which just doesn’t seem to gel at all. I mean, 'Come In The Morning’? Wouldn’t you rather wanna put some Sly & The Family Stone on instead? 
But like I said, it’s the slower stuff here that really does the trick anyway. All of the ballads are good, and it’s a rare thing in my book when a band is able to do their ballads better than their rockers - when a band is able to rock out at all, that is (I mean, naturally the Beach Boys’ ballads are better than their “rockers”, but the thing is, they don’t often do those, and when they do, they almost always suck, so there). '8:05’ is a whole load of unpretentious, friendly prettiness, with tasty acoustic flourishes and heart-melting falsetto harmonies. Jerry Miller’s hilarious folksy interlude 'Naked If I Want To’ is notorious for featuring the question 'can I buy an amplifier on time?’. 'Someday’ isn’t memorable at all but features a brilliant contrast between the main body of the song (falsetto vocals) and that operatic soaring part at the end. The country-rock ditty 'Ain’t No Use’, in dire contrast, is one of the album’s catchiest numbers (Gram Parsons might have learned a thing or two from these guys, if you don’t mind me saying so!). 
And finally, 'Sitting By The Window’ is just absolutely gorgeous - proving my hypothesis that Lewis was the most accomplished songwriter of the bunch (he wrote the album’s best rocker too, remember that). The chorus is pure brilliance, with the slightly crooning vocal intonation on the 'but just the same, I’m playing my game’ lines and the atmospheric harmonies whirling around it. I guess you could try to pick the psychedelic influences on that one, with the moody mysterious guitar arpeggios and the way the harmonies are like little angels flying around the main melody… ah well, never mind. 
It is, actually, one of those albums where the songwriting is so even it’s hard to pick favourites; I know I’ve pinpointed some songs as great and some as so-so but that may all be vice versa in your opinion. Even the worst material here has something to offer, whereas even the best material on here still couldn’t compete with Beatles-quality pop (well, maybe 'Sitting By The Window’ could, but geez, it’s more Bing Crosby in essence than the Beatles). One thing’s for certain - the record really stands out from everything else made in the same environment in the same time period……~

Moby Grape was a band that stood noticeably apart from its main San Francisco contemporaries, the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Big Brother & the Holding Company, and Quicksilver Messenger Service. In addition to being excellent instrumentalists, all five of the quintet?s members were also accomplished vocalists and exceptional songwriters. Additionally, the unit?s material consistently shows far greater diversity and taste than most of their Summer of Love brethren, eschewing unfocused jams and taking in not only rock, psychedelia, and pop, but also country, blues, and folk. Unfortunately the band was mercilessly dogged by problems ranging from poor management to guitarist/vocalist Skip Spence?s legendary mental instability, and only managed to record a handful of albums before the original lineup splintered at the close of the ?60s. Nonetheless, Moby Grape?s flawless self-titled 1967 debut, which contains the driving, neon-bursting hits ?Hey Grandma? and ?Omaha,? to many remains the single greatest album of the entire San Francisco era…..~

The fact that Moby Grape has been lost to the annals of rock music’s history will always be one of its most shameful sins. As a larger rock music community, we are all responsible for this calamity. Moby Grape really had it all: exceptionally talented songwriters, incredible guitar players, a rhythm section on par with any in the world and a unique diversity that spoke volumes in the relatively streamlined San Francisco psychedelic scene of the 1960’s. That they fizzled out in anguish, poverty and obscurity is not only tragic, it’s damn near criminal. More than any band of that scene, Moby Grape deserved the world, and for a moment, seemed poised to have it in their grasp. Their pop masterpieces spanned multiple musical genres often in one song, something that many contemporaries only half-heartedly attempted with bloated, self-absorbed results. While Jefferson Airplane was busy shedding their most inventive songwriter (original drummer and Moby Grape’s very own Alexander “Skip” Spence), trying really hard to shock middle America, getting Jerry Garcia to write their best electric guitar leads and blowing smoke up their own @$$, Moby Grape were crafting indelible masterpieces. While The Grateful Dead and Quicksilver Messenger Service (who also counted “Skip” Spence as an original member) were still trying to catch the lightning of their live improvisations in the bottle of a recording studio session, Moby Grape were laying magic onto tape. While Sly Stone was still assembling what would become the most important rock n’ soul band of all time and attempting the move from studio musician to big-time bandleader, Moby Grape came pre-assembled and ready to ignite. Indeed, aside from the criminally overlooked Country Joe and the Fish, no San Francisco band emerged more fully realized than the legendary Grape, and their story is as noteworthy as their classic debut. 

In 1966 a long-haired weirdo in a San Francisco coffee shop named “Skip” Spence was approached by award-winning douchebag Matthew Katz. He tells Spence he’s the manager for an electric blues band being assembled called the Jefferson Airplane and they need a drummer. Despite the fact that Spence has never touched a drum set in his life, Katz assures him that it’s no problem. Spence, he insists, looks like a drummer. Spence, a natural musician, learns fast. Three months into his tenure in the band, Jefferson Airplane lands a record deal (puns!). After recording their debut album, however, Katz reveals that he has other plans for Spence. Knowing that Spence is primarily a guitarist, the shady manager (recently let go by the Airplane) suggests forming a guitar music supergroup with members of Washington garage rock band The Frantics. Before long, Spence and Frantics guitarist Jerry Miller and drummer Don Stevenson were joined by Cornells guitarist Peter Lewis and Misfits bassist Bob Mosely (no, not THAT misfits). Thus, Moby Grape is born. With three guitars instead of the typical two, Moby Grape already stood out. A rhythm and lead player was nothing unheard of in the world of electric blues, but THREE interchangeable lead and rhythm players" The revolutionary concept had been in use by Buffalo Springfield, but not to the mind-melting extent it would be explored with Spence, Miller and Lewis. Furthermore, the fact that even the rhythm section played guitars and wrote their own songs cemented Moby Grape as destined to destroy all competition in their path. Within months, the band became the talk of the town and were signed to Columbia records. This, however, was only the beginning of the saga of Moby Grape. 

With Grape hype comes great responsibility, something that five dudes who were struggling musicians less than a year earlier were anything but prepared for. Touted as “America’s answer to the Beatles”, the Grape were flooded with excesses of drugs, groupies, cars and cash. Columbia, in a face-palmingly stupid move, released ten of the albums twelve tracks as five singles with album B-sides simultaneously. Yes, you read right, SIMULTANEOUSLY. The public was confused, to say the least. Then, at the album release party for their debut, some of the band unknowingly “consorted” with some underage girls. This, needless to say, was not good for the band’s public image (no John Lydon). As if it could not get any worse, Katz was a notoriously greedy and underhanded manager. Frequently cutting corners off the band’s profits into his own pockets, Katz continuously hindered the band’s progression. Perhaps no such hinderance is as awe-inspiring as his head-scratchingly evil move regarding the band’s exhilarating and epic performance opening for Otis Redding at the famous Monterey Pop Festival in the summer of 1967, a few weeks after the release of their debut. Aware that a film was being made of the event, the band was eager to both annihilate the crowd and be involved in the now ground breaking project. Widely being praised as one of the most memorable performances of the weekend, the band were set to become one of the most pivotal parts of the film. Katz, however, refused to allow the band to be in the film unless they were paid an outrageous amount of money (I’ve heard rumors it was upwards of three million in today’s money). Sadly, another chance to make an impression had been blown. Yet, despite the bad luck and bad lucy that would later prove to be the band’s down fall, their debut shines with a divine light rarely glimpsed in the world of popular music. 

The album opens with a roaring country-rock classic “Hey Grandma”, an exercise in three guitar brilliance. The song is one of the few indescribable tunes I’ve ever heard, neither rock, blues, country nor folk but all of the above. Then follows the blues-country classic “Mr. Blues” sung by the soulful Bob Mosley. A unique exercise in electric roots music and angelic harmony, Mosley’s bass shines here, easily as fluidic as any lead guitar part on the record, and the tune ends with a groove that would make the Grateful Dead in their prime sound like ambient music. Then comes the Lewis-penned “Fall On You”, one of the best examples of vocal harmony I have ever had the privilege of hearing. It doesn’t hurt that the lead guitar is aural candy either, as sweet and smooth as any Kaukonen lead with twice the tonal experimentation. Not bad for a band only on their third track! “8:05” follows, an acoustic country-folk Miller tune that must be heard to be understood. It is perfect. Literally. It is the most beautiful song on side one by far, and probably one of the most beautiful songs of all time. “Come in the Morning” is the quintessential example of the San Francisco sound. The vocals are ridiculously well put together and the string interplay is unbelievable. Listen to this on a rainy day and I swear the sun will shine in your mind. Then comes the Spence-penned stand out “Omaha”. The musical chemistry on this song is outstanding. The guitars interconnect so vividly and with so much enthusiasm that at times they sound like one guitar. “Naked, If I Want To” is the best one minute song I’ve ever heard in my life. It’s at once beautiful, funny and even a little somber. Miller’s guitar and harmonic arrangements shine here, and the song contains some of the best lyrics on the album. I listen to this song every Fourth of July. Check it out and find out why. It is the perfect closer to an amazing first side. 

Just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, in comes side two. “Someday” is one of the most foreword-looking tracks on the album and a precursor to the dream pop of our millennium’s indie scene. The song’s quiet dignity and angelic harmony transitions into a masterful second vocal, one minute faint and whispered, the next soulful and rich. The song ends with an incredible jazz-influenced solo courtesy of the talented Jerry Miller that I desperately wish could have gone on for a few more measures. “Ain’t No Use” is a hillbilly country shuffle that excels with a brightness rivaled only by “Come in the Morning”. It is a truly catchy work of scintillating joy with a truly groovy lead guitar breakdown. The song then leads into the sullen and lovely Lewis-penned “Sitting by the Window”. If any song has ever sounded like the color blue looks, it’s this one. Tranquil and inventive, the song yet again showcases not only Lewis’ gorgeous sense of tone, but his beautiful voice as well. “Changes” is another rock n’ roll foot stomper in the vein of “Hey Grandma” that grooves as it chugs. The guitar interplay, as expected, is nothing short of brilliant and the vocal harmonies are almost as dense as the string arrangements (not to mention the somewhat undermined work of drummer Stevenson). “Lazy Me” is Mosley’s masterpiece. The dismal and even somewhat macabre lyrics predate the lyrical formula of punk rock while the music has hints of spanish classical tucked amidst folds of misty folk. If “Sitting by the Window” sounds blue, “Lazy Me” is undoubtedly royal purple. Then comes “Indifference”, the second and last Spence-penned masterpiece of the album. There could be no better album closer than this song. Spence is a genius songwriter (see his only solo album “Oar” for further proof) and this song’s uproarious take on the electric blues is musical ecstasy at its very core. The lead guitar work is phenomenal and indescribable, with the end of the song culminating in a soft jam that propels the song to its humble end. 

Despite this remarkable testimony, Moby Grape gradually splintered and split apart. Spence would later suffer from acute mental disorders exacerbated by excessive drug use that would leave him battling homelessness and addiction for the rest of his life. As if some dark curse hung over the band, Mosley tragically suffered a similar fate. Katz, being the terrible person that he is, continuously ruined chances for the band until he was dismissed as their manager in 1968. However, it was too late. After four more albums (two minus Spence, who by their second album had already begun to lose his mind) that failed to fully recapture the magic of their debut, the Grape was over. Though occasionally rejoining for one-off concerts, all hopes of a full reunion tour were shattered when Spence passed away homeless and unstable in 1995. Despite the tragedy of their untimely demise, Moby Grape still stand tall as one of the most important bands in the history of rock music. Their debut is still considered a classic and musicians from Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant to Beck have paid tribute to the brilliance of the sixties’ most overlooked and underrated rock group. To this day, from dream pop to alt-country to the electric blues and everywhere in between, the Grape’s influence is still felt. What a difference an album has made!…. by lootbrute1 ..sputnik….~

San Francisco, 1966, the Summer Of Love … it was all of that, much more and much less. When one thinks of the music scene that flourished during that year, one usually thinks of that the artists were from the Haight Ashbury District, when in fact, most of them, nearly all who became legends, transplanted themselves to The Haight, as it was the new youth and cultural center of the universe. Groups like The Grateful Dead, Steve Miller, Big Brother and The Holding Company, Santana, Canned Heat, and others quickly established themselves and rose to the surface as spokesmen for their generation … but truth be told, for every Jefferson Airplane or Grateful Dead, there were dozens of great bands that made little more then a ripple, like H.P. Lovecraft, Ace Of Cups and the all but forgotten Moby Grape. 

The story of Moby Grape is a strange on, one that runs parallel to that of Pink Floyd, and Roky Ericson … filled with love, anger, death, drugs and insanity. Moby Grape was not so much a band that came together out of friendship and the love of music, as they were incorporated, developed and built … but in the case of The Grape, that was not necessarily a bad thing, as they fast became good friends, relentlessly practicing and practicing, playing and playing, and developed the following of a band who would need to be reckoned with. Sadly Columbia, in all of their divine wisdom, put so much hype onto the band from the get go that they were doomed to failure … as hype was considered antiestablishment, needing to be finessed so that the hype was cool rather than a sales pitch. This hype came to a head, and the results can be seen on the cover of their 1967 album, where in true ‘prisoner of war’ fashion, the finger is given right to the camera … a statement that says, “We don’t dig what Columbia’s done, and this finger is testament to that!” thus reestablishing the fact that the band was cool and not just corporate puppets. 

The music of Moby Grape would fit well with the jam bands of today. Though all of the songs are short, they are exceedingly tight, up tempo, exciting, well thought out and reflected the manic energy of the times … being much more in line with what The Band was working out on the east coast. Every member wrote songs, every member could sing, there was tremendous talent within the ranks and they worked hard for every step they took. All the guys were playing melodies and counter melodies, and all that was balanced by rhythms there to for, unheard of. And yes, Moby Grape gained attention and a following on both coasts, as they toured non stop. I saw Moby Grape perform several times, and there was a magic to the shows that was only equaled by Buffalo Springfield, another group of guys for whom the music was everything. Eric Clapton has cited Jerry Miller as the best guitar player in the world … Led Zeppelin touted Jerry and the band as one of the reasons they came to San Francisco, and have even played Moby Grape songs in concert … Jerry had early work playing guitar on Bobby Fuller’s “I Fought The Law” … and still tours as the Jerry Miller Band, playing his and Moby Grape songs. 

But there were problems rising in the band, Spence would go insane, and recover enough to crawl into the bottle dying of alcohol related issues, another member, Bob Mosley joined the Marines, hoping to go to Vietnam, but was discharged and diagnosed with schizophrenia, he lived in a box on the streets for nearly thirty five years… no one is sure where he is now. 

As they say, a candle that burns so brightly burns half as long … and while Moby Grape never achieved the success of the Quicksilver Messenger Service, they certainly should not be forgotten for the perfect music they laid down that summer in 1967. 

Question: Hey!!! What’s big and purple and swims in the ocean? Answer: “Moby Grape” … yes, that’s where the name came from, but these guys were not joking……by…..streetmouse ….~

This album is a prime example of why the radio is evil. Has anybody ever heard any of these songs on any radio station worldwide? The answer is no. Here’s another question; why? Probably because they weren’t among any of the other famous San Francisco bands like, Grateful Dead or Jefferson Airplane, but who cares! In fact, I’m almost going to venture in saying that Moby grapes songs are even more radio friendly than the most of the San francisco groups. One would assume that this album has the same hippie philosophies, banal psychedelic overtones, sprawling jams, and all of the other characteristics of a typical frisco band, but it doesn’t. This album may come across as stoner music, but it really has so much more than just that. Moby Grape played with style rather than substance. This album sounds almost Beatles-eque in parts; with its choir harmonies, catchy pop melodies, and its occasional folk rock ditties. Another highlight is how stunning Skip Spence’s guitar work is, some of the licks from this album are some of the most melodically gifted sounds I have ever heard. The other thing I liked best about it is the fact that they kept all of their songs concise and focused. They never meandered with jams longer than they should’ve played, and never came across as pretentious or preachy. I could pin this album down to a multitude of genres like folk-rock, pop-rock, psychedelic-rock, etc. Though some of this album can be considered psychedelia, the scarce amount that had shades of psychedelia was a nice change of pace, and was only light psychedelia at most. Whoever overlooks this album because it wasn’t popular is really judging it for the wrong reasons. To put this all in perspective I would have to say, boldly but honestly, that this is the most underrated album by the most underrated band out of the 60’s to date. Get this album and find out for yourself exactly what we, unfortunately, seemed to never hear….by..wotsuhthedeal ……..~

Moby Grape has often been called one of the very most talented bands on earth, but only ruined by bad issuing policy and happenings in the members’ minds. The band’s eponymous album makes me want to disagree, because none of the tracks is really special. I mean, 1967 was half-filled with excellent music, some realised well and some less so, and some even sharing the same styles of music with Moby Grape. The Byrds, for example, did an excellent job with Younger Than Yesterday. Jefferson Airplane succeeded almost that finely on Surrealistic Pillow. Pink Floyd’s Piper at the Gates of Dawn wasn’t very solid but much more innovative. Moby Grape is only half fine, half fair. None of the tracks is bad, hence the album is primarily quite good. But it doesn’t shine like a great part of what was going on in '67. 

“8:05”, “Ain’t No Use”, “Sitting by the Window” and the very brief “Naked, If I Want To” sound fine. “Omaha” feels a little more chaotic but not in a bad way, while “Someday” is quite all right as well. Personally, I am not very fond of “Fall on You” and the last three tracks, but still, they are passable. Thus, Moby Grape sounds like a promising debut, which is accurately what it must have been back in 1967. A classic? Not. …….fairyeee …..~ 

This band had everything in their hands to succeed and consecrate as the best group of the West Coast of the USA but nevertheless a series of setbacks, bad decisions and erratic luck made that they were only remembered as a great band by the specialized critics but dodging the massive public. In the same year they ascended quickly winning the praise of many among them public, critic and colleagues but as his rise was meteoric his fall was resounding. That same audience that initially loved them ended up turning away when their record company, Columbia, made a very unintelligent move by releasing five singles simultaneously. All very good but ended up attacking the band because none finished exploiting one hundred percent and the public even thought that they had “sold” and already at that time this was considered little less than a crime. However, the disc out of these details, is comfortably within one of the best in the history of rock. The song “Hey Grandma” with which the Lp opens has some very good vocal harmonies and a very interesting guitar arrangement that makes it a hit wherever you look at it. “Fall on You” is a direct rock that spreads immediately but its short duration make us deny that it lasts so little. Not everything is a rock in front but they also kept a sweet acoustic ballad like “8.05” or “Someday”. For its part, the “Come in the Morning” or the shrill “Omaha”, They are presented as invigorating, energetic and positive songs. To mention one topic over another would be to underestimate it, the whole album is a great work and it is unfair that it is only within the category of cult album when it distils good harmonies, great instrumental arrangements and excellent compositions throughout its duration. As data of color it is necessary to add that also the lid of the Lp had its setbacks since in the same the drummer Don Stevenson made a “hidden” gesture of fuck you towards the camera which was seen by the directors of Columbia and the cover had to be “retouched” However, and as a gesture of nobility towards purists, today you can get that version with the “obscene” cover. To mention one topic over another would be to underestimate it, the whole album is a great work and it is unfair that it is only within the category of cult album when it distils good harmonies, great instrumental arrangements and excellent compositions throughout its duration. As data of color it is necessary to add that also the lid of the Lp had its setbacks since in the same the drummer Don Stevenson made a “hidden” gesture of fuck you towards the camera which was seen by the directors of Columbia and the cover had to be “retouched” However, and as a gesture of nobility towards purists, today you can get that version with the “obscene” cover. To mention one topic over another would be to underestimate it, the whole album is a great work and it is unfair that it is only within the category of cult album when it distils good harmonies, great instrumental arrangements and excellent compositions throughout its duration. As data of color it is necessary to add that also the lid of the Lp had its setbacks since in the same the drummer Don Stevenson made a “hidden” gesture of fuck you towards the camera which was seen by the directors of Columbia and the cover had to be “retouched” However, and as a gesture of nobility towards purists, today you can get that version with the “obscene” cover. great instrumental arrangements and excellent compositions throughout its duration. As data of color it is necessary to add that also the lid of the Lp had its setbacks since in the same the drummer Don Stevenson made a “hidden” gesture of fuck you towards the camera which was seen by the directors of Columbia and the cover had to be “retouched” However, and as a gesture of nobility towards purists, today you can get that version with the “obscene” cover. great instrumental arrangements and excellent compositions throughout its duration. As data of color it is necessary to add that also the lid of the Lp had its setbacks since in the same the drummer Don Stevenson made a “hidden” gesture of fuck you towards the camera which was seen by the directors of Columbia and the cover had to be “retouched” However, and as a gesture of nobility towards purists, today you can get that version with the “obscene” cover….by…Mocker ……~

Among the pillars of the west coast psych scene, this debut displayed all of the promise that this wonderful band held, promise that would go unrealized through over-hype and mismanagement. The psychedelic aspects of this album are more a result of influences, rather than actual style, with the music being the first flavored pop, with strong use of vocal harmony, somewhat similar to The Byrds at times. It is truly an excellent example of period flavor, unquestionably their crowning glory.  The original issue came with a poster of the cover artwork in all it’s splendor, finger and all. In fact, the original cover is now known infamously as the “finger cover”, highly sought after by collectors. The very first press run somehow got passed the Columbia censors, unencumbered by any obstructions whatsoever. Shortly after this original release, Columbia applied a large round promo sticker directly over the offending portion of the image. But since this was on top of the shrink wrap, it did not spoil the cover in any way. Ultimately, the errant finger was airbrushed out completely for the second and subsequent pressings…….tymeshifter ….~

The true “San Francisco Sound” involves interplay of at least two lead guitars. Exponents of this were: QMS, Moby Grape, Frumious Bandersnatch, Tripsichord Music Box, Strawberry Window. 
The greatest true SF albums are the first two QMS and the first Moby Grape. 
Not all the songs on this album epitomize this style, but every track is great, regardless. 
best of the Haight-Ashbury and an example of the birth and trend-setting of a musical genre……..oregondonor1 ……….~

One of the greatest albums ever made. This is one of the few albums that I really listen all the way through on every listen (because it’s short enough and the songs are so gripping). The songwriting is flawless, the harmonies are great and the work of the three guitarists is astonishing. Jerry Miller is one of the best guitarists of all time - but sadly overlooked, as is the whole band. 

I don’t get it why some people are disappointed with the fact it’s not “psychedelic enough” - that’s what I absolutely love about Moby Grape. They weren’t trying to be some trippy, psychedelic hippie band like so many of their colleagues - they went their own way and had their own sound. Honestly, I don’t think any other band sounds the same. If I had to choose one album to “represent” this era of American folk rock, this would be it for sure. 

Song highlights; “Mr. Blues”, “8:05”, “Someday”, “Sitting by the Window” and “Indifference….by…MrBlues …..~

Moby Grape were the best band to come out of the San Francisco scene of the late 1960s. Their music was a soulful, psychedelic blues flavored by Motown and the quirkier pop of The Beatles. 

The band boasted five songwriters and three lead guitarists. Rolling Stone called this record "an American Rubber Soul.” The album was so good, in fact, Columbia Records released five singles simultaneously. A risky marketing decision that ultimately backfired, making the band seem over-hyped and manufactured. The irony—any of the five could’ve been hits. 

Rollicking numbers like “Omaha” and “Hey Grandma” burn with youthful incandescence, while the more melancholy “Sitting By The Window” and “8:05” give the disc its shadow and depth. 

Unfortunately, Moby Grape buckled under the stress of over promotion, greedy managers, and bad trips. They performed at the legendary Monterey Pop Festival, but could only watch as other San Francisco groups like the Dead and the Airplane sustained much longer and more lucrative careers. 

In true rock n’ roll fashion they were duped and grafted out of most of their royalties. Even losing the rights to the Moby Grape name. 

“Who cares who the members of Moby Grape are? A handful of dumb rock fans? I own the name. It’s mine.” —A quote from former manager Matthew Katz. 

In the afterglow, Skip Spence became the band’s most visible casualty. The troubled guitarist’s misadventures with LSD earned him a stay in New York’s Bellvue hospital. After his release, Skip managed to record one brilliantly flawed album he titled OAR before fading into obscurity. Joining Syd Barrett, Roky Erickson, and Peter Green, on the list of rock’s most famous burnouts. 

The final verdict: not just a cherished hippie relic, but a true classic……by…..DesolateAngel J……~

This 60’s nugget is pretty darn perfect. I really enjoy listening to this each and every time I turn it on. All I have to hear is the riff on 'Hey Grandma’ and I am hooked. Guess I’d rank it top 250 of all time, and that is being quite conservative. If you don’t have this, download it immediately. 
Come in the Morning, ho man, great, changes, thought it would mire the record, again reminds me how great every song is. Fun, real fun. You know how other records can be a chore? This is the polar opposite, poppy, but VERY, VERY well written. The songs are short but there is so much detail, so many great parts to each song. Each song is like a punch to the face of straight song-juice, like orange juice but much better sounding….by….catalogueatolic ….~

One of my favourite albums of the late 60s, and definitely the best one to be released by any of the Frisco bands in '67. By some strange twist of fate, Moby Grape were destined to be “could have beens”. They had all the elements that superstardom requires: instrumental prowess; great songwriting; and strong group vocals. However, due to bungled record company tactics, they choked on their own hype and were rejected by the hipper-than-thou, anti-establishment music scene of the time. It’s a damn shame, but at least the Grapes left behind this stellar album for music nerds like myself to cherish. This is great, genre-bending stuff which contains hints of jazz, blues, country, rock, and pop, and all of it quite simply sounds great. I must have listened to this album a hundred times, and it still exites me every time. It’s just one of those albums that takes you on a musical journey that you’re much richer for having experienced. Great stuff……by….deadlybreakfast ….~ 

  San Francisco in 1967 depending on your personality, must of been quite the place. Granted, I am sure the whole scene has been sugar-coated into a nostalgic neverland that probably never existed, but for a few weeks there, it seemed like it captured rock 'n roll lightning in a bottle. 
We all know the usual suspects by now, The Grateful Dead, Quicksilver, Big Brother and Janis, etc. Of them all, Moby Grape may be the best, or at least shot out of the (golden) gate the fastest. This, the Grape’s debut and widely considered their best album is a record full of white blues, acid rock, with a tiny touch of country. It’s fun and the tempo buoys the whole thing. I love when an album sounds like the time and place it was made in. The cheap drum sound, the psych guitar work, all wrapped up with strong songwriting and five lads who knew how to jam. Very 60’s California and always a good listen. 
Whether or not it is a true classic, well I dunno, considering just the freshman class of '67 had The Doors, Jimi Hendrix Experience, Pink Floyd and the Velvet Underground, I would say that it would be a thrill just to be nominated….by…cancon ….~ 

In 1966, after Skip Spence left Jefferson Airplane, Moby Grape was formed with Spence on guitar, drummer Don Stevenson, bassist Bob Mosley, and additional guitarists Peter Lewis and Jerry Miller. The band started out touring around the San Francisco club scene before getting involved in a bidding war between labels. The band finally settled on Columbia Records (according to Lewis, this was because Columbia was the label of The Byrds, a band who Moby Grape admired). At the time, it was supposedly the biggest contract Columbia had given to anyone and when the band finished recording this album - their label debut - it all went downhill. 

Columbia’s marketing department put together a ridiculous album launch party which included “Moby Grape” wine but someone forgot to include corkscrews to open the bottles. There were also purple flowers strewn everywhere, which had the same effect as banana peels on the floor. To top this all off, the night ended with the band getting into some trouble for partying with underage girls. The next tumble came when Columbia decided to release five singles at once. This left radio programmers confused as to what they should play, and many of them opted for nothing. The absence of radio play hit sales, and the album stalled at #24 on the Billboard Pop Albums chart and the “Omaha”, the only single that charted, stalled at a paltry #88. 

All of this aside, Moby Grape recorded what is easily one of the best debut albums in the history of rock 'n’ roll, and for me, one of the top 10 albums of the 1960s. The band had been together less than six months, yet their songwriting partnerships, musicianship and pure energy rival bands that had been together far longer. There is no pretentiousness here, no long jams, none of that. This is just straight ahead rock 'n’ roll with some psychedelic overtones, kept short, sweet and to the point. From the opening notes of “Hey Grandma” to the closing notes of “Indifference”, there is not a bad moment to be found anywhere. Also worth mentioning is the great mix of rockers (“Hey Grandma”, “Fall on You”, “Omaha”, “Changes”), laid back jams (“Mr. Blues”, “Come in the Morning”, “Lazy me”, “Indifference”) and ballads (“8:05”, “Naked, If I Want To”, “Ain’t No Use”, “Sitting by the Window”) that really give you a great idea of the band’s versatility. Some have called Moby Grape “The Byrds with the blues”, and many of these songs would definitely support that contention. If you can listen to this album all the way through and not have a satisfied grin on your face at the end, make sure you’re still breathing. 

This is without question the best place to start in Moby Grape’s catalog as it never got better than this. This is one of the most criminally forgotten albums of its time, perhaps of all time, and one listen all the way through will explain why. Unfortunately this album is currently out of print. It was reissued by Sundazed Records on October 9, 2007, stunningly remastered from the master tapes, on both CD (stereo) and LP (mono), only to be pulled on November 3, 2007 due to a legal dispute between Columbia and original manager Matthew Katz regarding the artwork on the first three Moby Grape albums……..analogdemon …..~

moby grape has produced a maddening effect on me, it goes so fast and far but never leaves the ground, well very infrequently and only for brief moments ventures into the trip of 67 california which is so tremendous. So the beast stays underneath the sound, eighteen guitars all playing a small part in a puzzle smaller than the sum of its parts tiny windows into the band rehearsal room, where they all bring their songs everyday and who knows what will stick and lets just each do I a little bit, yeah they get through the album no problem, without a weak moment lickety split. On the sporadic trips, you see what they really got, but they ain’t just gonna give it up, listen to the songs, they could pass for just a normal band if you didn’t know any better, just little differences that mean everything….by….eatyourmouth …..~ 

Killer record. It holds up better than most 1967 recordings... solid playing, great songs, and though Moby Grape didn't last that long, and didn't often show up at gigs with all their members, it was none the less one of the foundations of the "San Francisco Sound". 

"Hey Grandma", "805", "Mr. Blues, "Sitting by the Window"... and more great songs, icomplex and difficult music, harmonies that rival the LA bands (I always felt the San Francisco bands were more instrument orientated while the LA bands were more lyrical). And this is with 3 guitarists in the band... still great lyrics and singing are the high-light .....~

 This is without a doubt a great album but I've always considered it to be a bit over-rated. Despite the fact that the songs themselves are all very good and the member's musical skills are superb the album itself is a bit flat. "Omaha" is by far the best song. I don't think mismanagement was the sole reason for the groups' failure to "make it big". Perhaps different production values might have made this a bigger seller. Highly recommended and yet somehow ....~ 

Absolutely incredible album from the band that hype killed. Actually owned the original album (with the finger)before it was pulled and the finger airbrushed out. Too bad someone stole it (at least i have the original poster,which used to hang on the back of the door so parental units wouldn't notice the offending digit) ....~

One of those rare 1967 psychedelic albums that actualy sounds as fresh today as it did some 37 years ago. 
Excellent songwriting, singing and playing equally by all 5 members. 
Also a plus is, it doesn't have any side long unfocused jams that were so popular of San Fransico(and most other)groups of that time. 

Record company Columbia helped kill the group with hype. Released 4 singles from the album at the same time, which just confused the hell out of the record buying public and the majority of the radio programmers. 
Instead of giving the 4 songs--"Omaha", "Fall On You", "Hey Grandma", and "8:05"--a chance to be a hit on their own, the flood of all of them at the same time, negated the power of any of them making any ....~

This album is a fast paced and frenetic style of conventional blues rock for the most part, this seemed to ride the giddiness of a mid 60's lysergic journey rather than display the dreamlike trippy psychedelia most of their contemporaries were performing. 

The highlights include "Hey Grandma" which is definitely one of my favourite upbeat cuts from '67 with it's trippy hectic sound. "8:05" shows a more mellow acoustic sound for the band and I like this little number. "Omaha" is another classic upbeat hit. "Someday" is a bit of a proto "CSN" number and another good mellow track and "Sitting By The Window" is as psychedelic as the group gets on here really. 

This is far from being one of the more psychedelic albums of it's time and to be fair it's a pretty conventional album but the quality of the performance's are all very high and I'm tempted to give it 4 stars for that reason, but really this album fails to properly resonate with me despite being a solid collection of .....~

“What’s big and purple and lives in the ocean?” Moby Grape. Change the color to green and you get Moby Pickle. Change it to yellow and you get Moby Banana. Ha, ha. 

In preparing for this review, I had a long discussion with my father about the colloquial humor of the 1960’s. Apparently there was a lot of it. 

“Every morning before school you’d gather with your friends and share the latest jokes. There was plenty of ethnic humor, of course, most of which started off as “moron” jokes, then you just changed “moron” to whatever nationality you wanted to make fun of. I remember the first victims were the Italians, then the Polish—and by the time you came around, the same jokes were recycled as blonde jokes.” 

“Lucky me.” 

“There were all the ‘a guy walks into a bar’ jokes, dirty jokes, and the fad jokes like the Moby series. The biggest craze I remember was Tom Swifties.” 

“What’s a Tom Swifty?” 

“It’s where you describe something that’s happened and then Tom makes a pun with an adverb.” 

“Who’s Tom?” 

“I don’t know—he’s the guy in the joke. Like this, ‘I worked in the garden today,’ said Tom, earthily.” 

“That’s terrible.” 

“Yeah, that’s not one of the best.” 

“Let me Google them.” I pulled out my laptop and found a Wikipedia article on Tom Swifties. “Oh, I see. I like this one: ‘I’ll have a martini,’ said Tom, drily.’ This one’s good: ‘Careful with that chainsaw,’ said Tom, offhandedly.’ This was a fad?” 

“Oh, yeah. The DJ’s used to tell Tom Swifties in between tracks, there were books of Tom Swifties . . .” 

“I see here that Time ran a national contest in 1963. Oh, here’s a period piece: ‘Someone has stolen my movie camera,’ Tom bellowed and howled.’ I like this one, too: ‘I have no flowers,’ said Tom, lackadaisically.” 

“Yeah, we used to spend hours trying to come up with good Tom Swifties. You know, it’s kind of sad that people don’t tell jokes any more—the whole politically-correct movement pretty much killed them off.” 

“I’ll withhold comment,” said his blonde daughter, unremarkably. 


There are several albums in this series that were highly overrated on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. Moby Grape was ranked #121, and while it’s a good record, to call it one of the great albums of all time is a stretch, given the fact that producer David Rubinson had no idea how to record rock ‘n ‘ roll and never figured out how to properly channel the multi-dimensional capabilities of the band. The acoustic pieces sound nice, but the rock songs could have been sounded much better with more help from the booth, and the lyrics range from decent to what-the-fuck. Putting all of that aside, I’m delighted to report that I think Moby Grape is one of the best albums to come out of that amorphous movement known as The San Francisco Sound. Even with the so-so recording quality, the sheer talent and power of the band shine through. Moby Grape was a more-than-competent rock band that explored multiple genres; a group where everyone contributed to the vocals and the songwriting. They clearly had the talent, but sometimes talent isn’t enough to make it in the loony world of music. 

Everyone knows the story of how the band’s trajectory was limited by the overenthusiastic hype machine at Columbia Records, how everything they touched seemed to turn into a legal hassle and how Skip Spence fell victim to way too much LSD. Few bands have ever had worse luck than Moby Grape, but the “I coulda been a contendah” theme that runs through the stories about Moby Grape is really tiresome. The band showed tremendous potential and did not live up to that potential due to a combination of circumstances, naiveté and listening too much to the experts. Sorry, but you don’t get extra credit for what you could have been: all that counts is what you actually did. What Moby Grape did was release a pretty good début album, nothing more, nothing less. 

They certainly introduced themselves to the listening public in fine fettle. “Hey, Grandma” kicks things off in high gear, with guitars flying, drums pounding and the vocal harmonies right on the money. The lyrics range from nonsensical to oh-so-sixties, as it turns out that Grandma has a bit of a drug problem (“Robitussin make me feel so fine/Robitussin and Elderberry wine.”) In a song like this, though, the lyrics don’t matter that much: it fucking sounds good, it feels good and the semi-stop time choruses kick ass. I love The Move, but their version of “Hey Grandma”—a song perfectly designed to play to Roy Wood’s harmonic strengths—sounds clunky and uninspired in comparison to the original.

As I mentioned, Moby Grape played in multiple genres, and Bob Mosley’s contributions on the album fall more on the R&B/Soul side. The problem is that Mosley was a terrible soul singer: a white guy trying way to0 hard to be a black guy and not making it. His vocals are so over-the-top that songs like “Mr. Blues” are nearly unlistenable. The band gets back into gear with the rocker “Fall on You,” with its irresistible riff and fabulous call-and-response vocals. What really makes this song an absolute killer is Jerry Miller’s guitar solo, which bursts out of the background like a sonic rocket, with lick after lick of pure fire over a counterpoint guitar playing the main riff. This is where I really get pissed off about Columbia’s insistence on limiting The Grape to three-minute tracks so they could release five singles simultaneously as part of one of the dumbest marketing efforts in music history. Jerry Miller clearly deserved a second shot on the fade—a good two or three minutes weaving in and out with Skip Spence on rhythm would have elevated this song into one of the greatest guitar songs ever. 

There I go—doing what I said I wasn’t going to do—musing on the what-ifs of Moby Grape. I’ll try to restrain myself, but dammit, the first solo forced my fingers to start twiddling my diddle and I didn’t have time to achieve orgasm before the fucking song ended like someone put an ice pack on my lover’s nuts! Harrumph! 

Cruelly robbed of a moment’s pleasure, I am soothed by the Miller-Stevenson number “8:05,” one of the prettiest songs to emerge from the general madness of psychedelia. The relative clarity of the recording allows the listener to appreciate the band’s vocal strengths, combining sweet harmonies and an inspired vocal arrangement that allows the voices to separate and meld again without losing the beauty of the melodic flow. The acoustic guitar is simply gorgeous, providing sympathetic support for the wistful tone of the lyrics. The chord progression masterfully adds the necessary builds with just the right amount of variation from the key structure. Most importantly, the song extends the perceived range of the band, strengthening the entire album with a touch of diversity. Lovely!
“Come in the Morning” falls somewhere between The Temptations and The Turtles: funky, but with a build that’s very similar to The Turtles’ “You Baby.” Mosley is a teensy-bit more restrained but still too animated. What saves the song from total oblivion are the background vocals, which are pretty decent. The only one of the five singles to break into the Billboard Top 100 comes next, Skip Spence’s “Omaha.” The opening is the ultimate ear-grabber, with the guitar feedback and cymbal blur whizzing through your ears through fluid panning, then exploding into a three-part guitar harmony with bass and two six-strings that absolutely sizzles. The guitars fly throughout this song, making the well-executed vocals almost superfluous, and Don Stevenson rips it on the drums. The lyrics make no sense and have no connection to Omaha, and the whole thing sounds terribly rushed as the band tries to get it done under the clock, but “Omaha” is still great garage rock played with maximum intensity. 

Jerry Miller’s “Naked If I Want To” is a curious acoustic interlude that seems to start in the middle and vanishes in fifty-five seconds, but for some damned reason I like this little fragment—it serves as sort of a catch-your-breath moment after “Omaha.” It’s followed by the dreamy folk-rock sounds of “Someday,” a song with diverse parts that never quite come together, especially when Mosley drops in with his black guy act in what you think might be the bridge but turns out to be the start of the fade. “Ain’t No Use” picks up the tempo and adds more diversity with its bluegrass feel. The harmonies here are especially good, and I love the unusual chord and rhythmic shifts in the middle, but again, it feels like they’re working under the gun again and have to wrap it up too soon in order to make Columbia happy. 

Peter Lewis’ “Sitting by the Window” is clearly the strongest composition on the album. Opening with a guitar duet dominated by mellow arpeggiated chords, the verse remains stuck in E minor, reflecting the lyrics that describe the stuck feeling of a rainy day. When the lyrical tone shifts and opens our eyes to what’s really going on—a virtual stare-down between two lovers waiting for the other to blink and pick up the phone—the key shifts to D major and the chord progression becomes more complex. The transition is effortless; it’s one of those songs where the pattern makes you want to pick up your guitar and figure out the chords. The background harmonies on the chorus and the counterpoint guitar are quite pretty. Another key change occurs in the instrumental passage where the guitar duet has almost a southwest flavor, and again resolves effortlessly back to the root key. I’m surprised that this song didn’t become a popular cover song—it’s a beauty that allows for multiple interpretations and variations.
“Changes” is a Skip Spence call-and-response number designed to pick up the energy, but it doesn’t have the excitement or tightness of “Hey Grandma” or “Omaha” (though it features Mosley’s most energetic bass work). It’s followed by another Mosley soul number, “Lazy Me,” notable only for the line “I’ll just stay here and decay here,” to which I respond, “I’m good with that.” Moby Grape comes to a sudden end with Skip Spence’s rocker, “Indifference.” The opening guitar is fabulous, but the harmonies aren’t as compelling and the song tends to meander and lose focus about a minute into the track. 

Although I completely disagree with the Rolling Stone rating, and the three-minute limitation gets to be a drag, Moby Grape is a pretty good record. We can speculate all day on the what-ifs and missed opportunities, and bemoan the fact that although they were better musicians than many of their contemporaries, Moby Grape didn’t get the attention they deserved. What’s past is past, what’s done is done, and frankly, I’m just happy that three albums into the Psychedelic Series I’ve finally found some music that I enjoyed . . . even though it’s the least psychedelic of the three. 

“I like Moby Grape, but I remain skeptical on the value of psychedelic music,” she said, acidly.........By altrockchick .....~ 

Moby Grape 

*Peter Lewis - Rhythm Guitar, Vocals 
*Bob Mosley - Bass, Vocals 
*Jerry Miller - Lead Guitar, Vocals 
*Skip Spence - Rhythm Guitar, Vocals 
*Don Stevenson - Drums, Vocals


A1 Hey Grandma
A2 Mr. Blues
A3 Fall On You
A4 8:05
A5 Come In The Morning
A6 Omaha
A7 Naked, If I Want To
B1 Someday
B2 Ain't No Use
B3 Sitting By The Window
B4 Changes
B5 Lazy Me
B6 Indifference 

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I Love Rock n` Roll

I Love Rock n` Roll




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