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Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Blodwyn Pig: Live At The Fillmore West 1970


1) It's Only Love; 2) Ain't Ya Comin' Home Babe?; 3) Dear Jill; 4) Worry; 5) San Francisco Sketches; 6) It's Only Love; 7) Change Song; 8) Cat Squirrel; 9) See My Way; 10) Slow Down; 11) Rock Me.

And, as a last word on Blodwyn Pig, here is a quick account of one of those archival releases that are almost impossible to listen to because of awful sound quality. This here is a show that the band played on the 3rd of August, 1970, shortly before the break-up, but still in peak form: they now had two albums behind their belt, almost two years of gig experience, and some sort of rock vision that they tried to break through to us on Getting To This. And they were playing at the Fill­more West — a good chance to try and blow the Grateful Dead off the stage with some brusk, brawny, British rock'n'roll.

The album loyally presents both of the short sets that the band played on that day, opening for not-too-sure-whom, but the «official bootleg» tag should count as a warning, since the sound quality is that of a good front row audience recording — you can hear all the instruments, but there is no question of any sort of «mixing» present, and this, as far as I can tell, is the norm for most of Blodwyn Pig's non-BBC live recordings, so get ready to live with this if your soul hap­pens to vibrate on the same amplitude with Mick Abrahams.

The biggest problem for me, unfortunately, is not the sound quality, but the fact that this is still only Blodwyn Pig, and that means «B-level». The band was reasonably tight, but never really «Fillmore-proof»: the level of transformation that was implicitly required from studio bands as they became live bands in 1970 is not reached. True, some of the songs are expanded with addi­tional jam sections, and there is also a twelve-minute run through ʽCat's Squirrelʼ, which Mick took with him from his This Was legacy. But their attempts to plow through these sections in «Cream mode», with lengthy solo passages from Abrahams' guitar or Lancaster's sax, end up boring — loud, proud, and sincere, but lacking individuality.

There are also some «atmospheric mistakes» that may embarrass the listener — for instance, in­serting a Tull-esque flute lead part in the beginning of Larry Williams' ʽSlow Downʼ is a classic «conflict of interests», somewhat typical for early 1970s art-rockers wanting to «embellish» the rockabilly oldies with artsy flourishes. On the other hand, when they don't offer no embellish­ments (ʽRock Meʼ), the results are simply non-descript.

On the whole, the album has mostly historical importance — as in, this is the way (or one of the ways) a typically solid, but unexceptional British roots-rock band would structure and conduct its show when guesting on the West Coast; also, in the light of the overall legendary status of Bill Graham's Fillmore enterprise, any extra small piece of the puzzle is always welcome to complete the picture. (For instance, it may be useful to know that Blodwyn Pig weren't booed off the stage or anything — Californian audiences being quite friendly and receptive towards their guests, even if the music was decidedly non-psychedelic). But only a thoroughly omnivorous person, I sup­pose, could listen to this and experience genuine pleasure; in every respect other than historical, this is a thumbs down in the context of all the truly great live shows from its era.

1 comment:

  1. While noting G.S.'s comments and lack of approbation, I will remark only that it's a pleasure to hear Mick Abrahams at length in an immediate post-Tull environment. His signature sound made the first Tull LP the legend it became, and I at least, while wishing I could hear it again, never knew enough to pursue it Blodwynwise. So it's an enjoyable listen on those grounds, if no others.