Big Brother & the Holding Company “Live at Carousel Ballroom” (1968) review

September 28, 2013

Big Brother & the Holding Company “Live at Carousel Ballroom” (1968) review

Big Brother & the Holding Company “Live at Carousel Ballroom” (Music On Vinyl, 1968/2013)
The first thing that struck me about this live
recording was that I thought (initially at least, from the sound and vibrations
that came off the Monterey-wowing, cheap thrillin’ opener ‘Combination Of The
Two’) was that this was probably gonna be pretty much bootleg-style quality,
and therefore I also gauged that it would no doubt be a little underwhelming
hi-fidelity wise. But listening on, I soon began to warm to the whole deal.
It’s actually been quite some time since I listened in to this group at any
length. I did used to be quite into Big Brother and the whole Janis scene back
in the early 80s; me in my late teens absorbing just about anything I could lay
my hands on from the far off, and yes pretty far out sixties, of which the San
Francisco scene, of course, loomed very large in my adolescent thinking.
By the time of this here Carousel Ballroom
show there’s a real sense one gets that BB&THC would’ve been pretty much at
the peak of their collective prowess, with the intuitive groove happening
between each other’s playing strengths totally apparent. Yeah I know, some
people out there believe the group to have been one of the most sloppiest
ensemble’s within what was already a very loose type of musical conurbation
indeed; yet also a very dynamic, and incredibly diverse arena of talent too.
Well OK, maybe there’s quite a few grains of truth in that former statement, at
least some of the time anyway, but I’m not sure BB&THC are always so
deserving of such negativity, and let’s face it the same could be said of a lot
of the more improvisational-heavy groups doing the rounds at the time and who,
especially, liked to get high a lot while playing. Take your pick! So, yeah,
back to the plot, I particularly like the rasping rawness that immediately cuts
through when guitarists Sam Andrew, and especially I think James Gurley, get
the chance to gallop to the front where they can really let loose with some
fret-blazing action.
Janis too is on fine form throughout and seems
not to be as self-absorbed as she certainly could be, as even I (a Janis Joplin
fan for the most part) can get a little tired of the over-used, over-emotional,
over-repeated use of “No no no no no …”’ and “tell me baby baby baby
b-b-b-b-b-b-b-baby it just, it just, it just caaaaaaaaaaan’t be” type
exhortations that can sometimes fill up the spaces within many a Joplin/Big
Brother excursion. Of course it wouldn’t be Joplin if there was none of those
quirky vocal personality traits on display, but, thankfully, they’re not all so
over-wrought here and on the whole come across sounding a lot more natural and,
therefore, I find that I can just get into it a lot more easily.
Of the more obvious selections the group
perform here, there’s an odd, kind of take-it-or-leave-it rendering of their
staple ‘Summertime’, while, contrastingly, during the performance of their
tough belter chart smash ‘Piece Of My Heart’ the group sound totally hungry for
it and consequently seem to really rock it out a lot more, bringing a
thoroughly raw style in the process which is most welcome. ‘Ball and Chain’ is
somewhat subdued here (and perhaps all the better for it), and the likes of
‘Down On Me’, the excellent ‘Coo Coo’ and the reflective ‘Call On Me’ ain’t
none too shabby either, the latter being aired twice, with one version culled
from another night showing up as a bonus. The mad blues jam, a rambunctious
‘Catch Me Daddy’ and crowd pleaser ‘Light Is Faster Than Sound’ are also among
the set’s highly appealing features.
made by Lenny Helsing/2013
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One Comment
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