Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Moby Grape (album)

Moby Grape is Moby Grape's eponymous 1967 debut album. The Grape–coming off the San Franciscan Scene but otherwise apparently appearing out of nowhere–were almost as manufactured as The Monkees but without the television contract, and they could play their instruments as well as sing. Skip Spence, ex-drummer of Jefferson Airplane, traded his drum kit for guitar and between the five Grapes thirteen songs of exceptional staying power emerged. Psychedelic and rocking at the same time, Moby Grape was able sustain for a short time the energy of the Frisco scene and the power of good old rock'n'roll. As managed by Matthew Katz and produced by David Rubinson they managed to focus their energies (unlike so many of the SF psychedelic bands) into their debut.

Alas, their label (Columbia) chose to release ten of the thirteen songs as singles ("Fall on You"/"Changes", "Sitting By the Window"/"Indifference", "8:05"/"Mister Blues", "Omaha"/"Someday" and "Hey Grandma"/Come in the Morning") which may have diluted the power of the entire album. By the time of their 1968 follow-up (titled "Wow"), the group had virtually completed their disintegration.

Nevertheless, as Gene Sculatti and Davin Seay write in their book San Francisco Nights (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1985 and out of print), Moby Grape "remains one of the very few psychedelic masterpieces ever recorded," while the 1983 Rolling Stone Record Guide said their "debut LP is as fresh and exhilarating today as it was when it exploded out of San Francisco during 1967's summer of love." In 2003, the album was ranked number 121 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.

On the cover from the UK Edsel/Demon Records re-issue, Don Stevenson is flipping the bird on the washboard. It was airbrushed out on the original cover.

"Omaha" was covered by The Golden Palominos in 1985 on their Visions of Excess, with Michael Stipe on lead vocal. The song has also occasionally been performed live in concert by Bruce Springsteen.