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Moby Grape Live


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Audio CD, April 20, 2010
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Scuttled by internal scuffles and bad management, Moby Grape only lasted a few years. They were one of the most revered bands in the Bay Area, though, and this is some find for fans: 19 unissued live cuts from their 1966-69 heyday. Witness their triple-guitar attack, soaring harmonies and masterful mix of country, folk, blues and garage rock as you hear 'em at the Avalon, Monterey Pop Festival and on Dutch radio, doing Rounder; Ain't No Use; Looper; Bitter Wind; Changes; Someday; Indifference; Omaha; Mr. Blues , and more on CD or two 180-gram vinyl LPs!

Review

Ask anyone: Moby Grape blew every other San Francisco band clean out of the Bay. Moby Grape Live double-underlines the fact that their all-singing, all-dancing schtick was every bit as intimidating and irresistible on stage as it was in the studio. The performances herein - ranging from an unreleased 17- minute take of the lost and shivering Dark Magic in the Avalon Ballroom in 1966 to a set recorded for Dutch radio in 1969 - burn with the righteous fire you'd expect from a band who knew they were the best and couldn't wait to tell you about it. Quite apart from the scarcely believable audio quality of these recordings, it's the sense of mutual respect which most impresses. The guitars of Skip Spence, Peter Lewis and Jerry Miller are subtle, spacious and unobtrusive on lambent readings of Someday and Sitting By The Window (from Monterey, 1967), while the euphoric group hollers on Omaha and Changes sound like the devotional affirmations of lifelong blood brothers. We all know and revere Spence's contributions to the legend: now let's hear it for bassist Bob Moseley. If Skippy was Moby Grape's antic spirit then Moseley was the band's soul, as his lionheart bellow on Bitter Wind and Trucking Man gloriously attests. -- Record Collector, June 2010

Forgive David Fricke if he succumbs to hyperbole in his liner notes to Moby Grape Live. This collection of concert recordings captures the band's skill and effervescence to such a degree, they do sound like that spirit of those times when everything seemed possible.

Indeed, upon the release of their eponymous debut album in 1967, fame, fortune and historical prestige seemed inevitable for Mody Grape. Alas, it wasn't to be, due to various forms of mismanagement plus personnel problems, but during these 1966 and 1967 recordings from various venues including the Monterey Pop Festival this San Francisco quintet play like they couldn't miss. Despite Bob Irwin's mastering expertise, the sound is such it's difficult at times to discern just how detailed the guitar work of Jerry Miller, Peter Lewis and Skip Spence is, as they interweave strains of rock country and blues, but their own excitement in the moment compensates. As it does for the slightly ragged vocal harmonies on "Changes" and "Looper" from the Avalon Ballroom: that interplay also reaffirms the versatility of a band that, as composers of stellar originals such as those and "Bitter Wind," should've scaled a pinnacle of popularity in the Summer of Love (and perhaps beyond).

Enclosed in beautiful packaging with embossed cover lettering and stylish photos alongside Fricke's essay inside the multi-fold digipak, this seventy-plus minute CD concludes with an extended, largely instrumental piece titled "Dark Magic:" in its progression of Indian drones, blues paraphrasing and rock rhythms that ebb and flow in an ever widening circular pattern, it is a tour-de-force that suggests that Moby Grape had even greater things to offer than even that which is so fully on display elsewhere on this album.

-Doug Collette -- Glide Magazine, May 13, 2010

How nice it is to finally have live, prime Grape with decent (though not brilliant) fidelity after suffering through nasty bootlegs that have circulated. It's not up to the standard of their best country-folk-psychedelic-folk-rock-blues studio recordings, whose ultra-tight guitars and harmonies make this seem a tad ragged. But there are fresh and energetic versions of most of the songs on their first and best album, highlights from their subsequent LPs and a few surprises. The live versions of the early 1967 outtakes Rounder and Looper are the best of those, and the cover of B.B. King's Sweet Little Angel the most unexpected. Less thrilling is the 17-minute Skip Pence-penned psych dark jam Dark Magic, but the inclusion of their complete Monterey Pop set more than compensates, even if Spence is missing from the 1969 cuts. -Richie Unterberger -- Mojo, April 2010

Something tells me, if I had been at San Francisco's Avalon Ballroom in June of `67 to witness Moby Grape at the height of their powers, scorching through their set of two-minute pop blasts, blaring triple-guitar action and five-part harmonies soaring, I might not have survived the night. None was the match of the mighty Grape in those days; the band was "flying musically" and easily the toughest act around. Moby Grape Live is the first official release to afford a glimpse into the raucous and entrancing stage performances of one of the most exciting, original, and underappreciated bands of the '60s.

Separated into four sides, this double LP takes us to performances from the same weeks their infamously overhyped masterpiece Moby Grape was released, to their few high-octane minutes at the legendary Monterey International Pop Festival, jumping forward to a 1969 performance in Amsterdam featuring cuts from Wow and `69, and ending back at the start: a full side of "Dark Magic," recorded New Years Eve, 1966. This one's worth the purchase for Side 1 alone. The rabid energy of the band, issuing rapid-fire gems like "Rounder" and "Looper," hits a high point in "Changes" into "Indifference" featuring Jerry Miller's careening lead guitar. Skip Spence turns in a beautifully honest vocal to cap the blistering set with "Someday." The highlight for me, however, are the post-Skip tracks from 1969 on Side 3. "Murder in my Heart for the Judge" shows the band at their loosest, the slack and soul of the rootsier Grape a refreshing contrast. "I am Not Willing," one of their best songs, gets a grooving drawn out treatment and it's interesting to hear a matured group attack earlier hits "Fall on You" and "Omaha." The closing 17-minute raga, "Dark Magic," is more than a piece of rock music history, an actually listenable and fascinating performance, it features inspiring guitar leads, primitive electronic squeals, Skip's far out vocal, and the driving force of sound that made Moby Grape one of the hottest band of the era.

Sundazed has curated an important document here. Hardcore Grape addicts should note much of this material has been featured on bootlegs over the years (notably the tracks from Monterey Pop and "Dark Magic") but none of this has ever been officially released, and never with such pristine sound quality. David Fricke's notes are the icing on the cake. After the essential debut record, this is the Moby Grape record I would recommend next. -Brendan -- The Rising Storm, April 9, 2010

This stellar '60s San Francisco band's heartbreaking demise is so well-documented, the luckless tale often seems more celebrated than their mindbending music. Maybe that's because the group, during the hallucinatory apex of the Haight-Ashbury, wasn't actually a part of the community. Their individual talents were formed in other places, so it almost seemed like a whole band of designated hitters, maybe even carpetbaggers to boot, was at the center. But so what? Everybody has to be from somewhere, right? Moby Grape also committed the grevious error of releasing a perfect album in the Summer of Love, and that wasn't allowed either. Too commercial. The Grape's future soured and got squished almost immediately, but not before sunshine-saturated songs like "8:05," "Someday," "Omaha," "Changes" and "Indifference" showed the locals how to record timeless tracks. To this day, very few rock releases match that 1967 debut. Now, finally, a strong legitimate live collection surfaces, and it is shattering. Collected from Avalon Ballroom shows, their entire 4-song set at the Monterey International Pop Festival and a Netherlands radio broadcast, Live is exactly what it says: a turbulent but always beautiful journey through a seminal group's brief life. It is mostly joyous in its rocking glimpse at the birth and death of a band. The last song, the legendary but never officially released "Dark Magic," proves once and for all Moby Grape could ride the crest of acid-infused creativity with the best of them. At over 17 minutes, Skip Spence, Jerry Miller, Peter Lewis, Don Stevenson and Bob Mosley fly to the stars and back. That it was on December 31,1966--when this part of the Earth must have felt brand new and all possibilities endless--only adds to the vibrant poignancy of the sound. The Human Be-In was still two weeks away and all the good and not-so-good qualities of the exploding counterculture were soon to spread across the country. On this night and this song, though, there was probably no higher place to see the view of what was to come. And, most likely, Moby Grape knew it. Bless their pointed little hearts. -- Sonic Boomers, April 20, 2010


1. Ain't No Use (Avalon Ballroom, San Francisco, 1967)
2. Rounder (Avalon Ballroom, San Francisco, 1967)
3. Looper (Avalon Ballroom, San Francisco, 1967)
4. Bitter Wind (Avalon Ballroom, San Francisco, 1967)
5. Changes (Avalon Ballroom, San Francisco, 1967)
6. Indifference (Avalon Ballroom, San Francisco, 1967)
7. Someday (Avalon Ballroom, San Francisco, 1967)
8. Introduction (Monterey International Pop Festival, 1967)
9. Indifference (Monterey International Pop Festival, 1967)
10. Mr. Blues (Monterey International Pop Festival, 1967)
11. Sitting by the Window (Monterey International Pop Festival, 1967)
12. Omaha (Monterey International Pop Festival, 1967)
13. Sweet Little Angel (San Francisco, 1967)
14. Murder in My Heart for the Judge (RAI, Amsterdam, Netherlands, 1969)
15. I Am Not Willing (RAI, Amsterdam, Netherlands, 1969)
16. Trucking Man (RAI, Amsterdam, Netherlands, 1969)
17. Fall on You (RAI, Amsterdam, Netherlands, 1969)
18. Omaha (RAI, Amsterdam, Netherlands, 1969)
19. Dark Magic (Avalon Ballroom, San Francisco, 1966)

Product Details

  • Audio CD (April 20, 2010)
  • Original Release Date: 2010
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Sundazed Music
  • ASIN: B0039208V2
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #66,448 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

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33 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Stuart Jefferson TOP 100 REVIEWER on April 20, 2010
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
73 minutes in length approximately. The mostly mono sound is good,considering the various recording sources,and the age of the tapes,but don't expect crisp,clean sound. "Dark Magic" is not up to the fidelity standards of the other (sometimes muddy) tracks,sounding a bit distant,but it's certainly worthy of inclusion. This release is for those who value the music over sound quality. The cardboard foldout booklet is up to the usual standards of Sundazed Records,with photos and information on the band and recordings. Sundazed has gone the extra distance with heavily embossed lettering on the cover-a nice touch. The disc is snapped in,inside the cardboard holder.

By now most listeners of 60's rock music are familiar with the band's first (and best) album,or have at least heard of MOBY GRAPE. Their first album is legendary,and their other original albums all contain some fine music. While the group came out of the psychedelic era (forming in 1966),their blend of rootsy,basic rock/blues/country/and folk music stood out from other bands of the time. And the promise found in their studio albums can be heard on this live release. But it took until now for most listeners to hear,at length,what the band was capable of on stage.

This release has several good examples of the take-no-prisoners,triple-guitar sound of Alexander "Skip" Spence,Peter Lewis,and Jerry Miller,and the group's (including Don Stevenson and Bob Mosley) soulful singing style,both individually and collectively. Like their studio albums,this set focuses on the band's concise songwriting and powerful guitar sound. It's interesting that the group's vocal approach is mirrored in their guitar sound.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Kevin D. Rathert on April 23, 2010
Format: Audio CD
First off, let me say I am a huge Moby Grape fan, but I was leery of a cd full of previously unreleased, at least legitimately, material. However, just minutes into the cd I was reminded just great these guys were live, and how unfortunately the promise of their first, classic, lp was nullified by the ensuing mayhem well documented elsewhere. However, what we have here, thanks to the meticulous mastering job by Bob Irwin at Sundazed Records. The source tapes are not of ideal quality, but is consistently better than any live Grape previously available on bootleg. On the menu here are pieces from 5 separate Grape live recordings, 1 in 1966 (the stunning 17 minute closer "Dark Magic" which shows the newly formed band jamming a la Quicksilver Messenger Service. The bands 1967 appearance at the Monterey Pop Fest is found here featuring 4 songs from the then recently released self-titled debut album, all performed effortlessly as the triple guitar attack of the band is in tune, while the bottom end is held down effortlessly yet quite effectively by bassist Bob Mosley and drummer Don Stevenson. Two versions of the band's classic Skip Spence tune "Omaha" are included. The band's cover of B. B. King's "Sweet Little Angel" shows the group's versatility as they deliciously unveil the blues band within the rock band within the psych band within....The word that keeps coming to mind throughout the discs 74 minute run time is "effortless." No three guitar players should be able to play so seamlessly, never play over each other, and always be willing to sit back and let a mate take the break. The tragic train wreck which was the Grape's career is certainly not discernible on "Live.Read more ›
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By My Two Cents on January 18, 2011
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
I have all of Moby Grape's studio recordings, and for those new to the group, the Vintage collection is the essential overview. The first album is what really matters, with Moby Grape '69 a close second. The mixed quality of these live recordings show how good they were in the studio. On the first album, the energy, vocal harmonies, and guitar interplay are simply amazing. On this live album, the vocals are rough sounding, to put it politely, and the guitar playing is simply not as crisp. The best songs are a slowed down bluesy version of "Murder in My Heart for the Judge" and a high energy version of "Trucking Man." As for the 17 min. instrumental jam "Dark Magic," it is one of those tunes that most people need only hear once. It gets better as it goes along, but will appeal to a limited audience. I came across some unreleased concerts online that sounded far better than this release, so those show the group could really shine in concert. If you are a Moby Grape fan, you will probably want this for your collection. If you are not a fan, you might walk away wondering why fans are so devoted to the group.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By David Whiting on May 9, 2010
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Living in the Bay area in the late sixties and early seventies, and being into the music scene there were a lot of well known bands but not all were "must see" acts.
Moby Grape, Quicksilver Messenger Service and the Flamin' Groovies were.

The band that should have been the band of the era, drugs and marketing robbed this amazing group of a greater share of fame than they received.

While the compilation,Vintage-Very Best of has a few live cuts, this is all live and the highlight is the long jam, "Dark Magic"

So much energy in this CD, it's as close as you can get to having seen them on stage.
Skip Spence, the haunted genius behind much of the band's energy can be heard here at his best.
Like so many other fine musicians of that brief but exciting time in American rock history, his hard and full throttle life style took him out for many years. His short lived comeback ended with his death from cancer.

Having been there when this San Fran scene was in the center of eye of the rock storm, this was one band that everyone wanted to see perform.
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