Moby Grape was a band of immense talent and versatility
but unfortunately they always labored under a dark star.
Everyone in the band could sing, was a fluent musician, and everyone contributed to the songwriting.
The Grape could really belt out the rockers, and sing beautiful harmonies on their slower songs. The wonder of all this is that the Grape didn't sound like any of their San Francisco peers or groups anywhere else for that matter.
Just to be sure that that the Grape's first LP sold well, Columbia decided on a
press junket at the Avalon Ballroom on the evening of June 6th.
The debut album was to be released the next day.
In a spectacular, over-the-top publicity stunt, Columbia released 5 singles from the album simultaneously which confused everybody including radio programmers. "Omaha" was the only single to chart, at an anemic 88.
The fun wasn't over yet. The cover photo of the group shows Don Stevenson with his middle finger prominently shown against a washboard. The poster inside is the identical album jacket. Mounting complaints forced Columbia to pull the album out of stores and airbrush out the offending digit.
Despite all the nonsense and controversy, Moby Grape is a great rock and roll album which holds up well today.
The band is sent to New York to record Wow. The album title is appropriately named. The results are dreadful, an embarrassment to everyone involved with the project.
The superior writing of the band's debut is gone. The production is awful. There are gimmicks such as glass shattering, and a song halfway through the first side that must be played at 78 rpm.
Wow has my vote as one of the worst rock records of all time.
Note: Soon after the release of Wow, Skip Spence was admitted to Bellevue Hospital for treatment of drug problems. Spence is later diagnosed as paranoid Schizophrenic
The back cover of Moby Grape 69 features a
long and I think heartfelt apology by producer David Rubinson.
The essence is that the Moby Grape got so caught in some "destination" they forgot to appreciate the journey.
The band is down to a quartet and as Rubinson states "starting over again".
Great comeback albums are rare but the Moby Grape pulls it off with this record. The Grape takes it in a totally different direction. The writing is superb, the singing and harmonies terrific and each side flows together as a suite.
The style might be seen by some as country rock,
but this album can't be pushed into any niche.
The Byrds, The Flying Burrito Brothers, and the disbanded Buffalo Springfield were hot at the time but sound nothing like the Grape. "Trucking Man" and "It's a beautiful day today" were the singles. Neither single charted but the latter song was a staple on FM rock stations for several years and its wistful beauty makes it timeless. The Moby Grape 69 was released on CD in 2007, and includes some out-takes and demo's. This is a great album for collectors of 1960's music.
This was to be Moby Grape's last album for Columbia. The record company separated the group from long time friend and producer David Rubinson.
Truly Fine Citizen was produced in Nashville by the legendary Bob Johnston [supposedly in three days]. The band is down to a trio [Peter Lewis, Jerry Miller, and Don Stevenson]. Johnston brings in session man Bob Moore to play bass. This album shows their facility with country-rock, a direction hinted at on Moby Grape 69.
Bright singing and vocal
harmonies and a set of very good songs make this album a winner.
Johnson has given Truly Fine Citizen an atmospheric sound and
it all pulls together into a nice tight package.
It's a must album for Moby Grape fans, and collectors of late sixties country rock.
The original Moby Grape quintet re-forms,
and newcomer Gorden Stevens is added to play viola and mandolin.
David Rubinson is back as co-producer [with the band] and plays electric piano and congas.
Twenty Granite Creek is an appealing "stew" of hard guitar rock, country rock and attractive ballads. It's all here as usual: memorable melodies, fine hooks, and the bands unique singing and vocal harmonies. There were singles from Twenty Granite Creek but they failed to as chart as did the album, probably for all the usual reasons.