Elizabeth & the Catapult return with a new album "The Other Side of Zero" & Fall Tour Dates

“If I had to compare our albums,” says Elizabeth Ziman, the singer/songwriter/keyboardist behind Elizabeth & the Catapult, “I’d say Taller Children has the sarcastic lightness of a Woody Allen film, and the new record’s more like Kubrick or Lynch—a little darker, a little more tongue-in-cheek.”
Not that any of these shifts are a surprise. After all, Elizabeth learned how to manipulate moods through music at an early age, whether that meant performing a wildly-expressive piano piece or belting out bizarre harmonies in New York’s world-renowned Young People’s Chorus.
And now this: The Other Side of Zero, an Elizabeth & the Catapult album that started with a Lincoln Center song cycle—performed last spring after a commission from NPR’s John Schaefer—and a cover-to-cover study of Leonard Cohen’s Book of Longing collection. As the latter’s pages sunk in, Elizabeth couldn’t help but draw parallels between Cohen’s failure to meet Buddhist goals in a monastery and her own coming-of-age struggles in the big city. (The New York native grew up in the heart of Greenwich Village.)
She also wrote Elizabeth & the Catapult’s rawest set of recordings yet, including the clanging chords and galloping groove of “The Horse and the Missing Cart,” the sputtering, string-grazed percussion of “You and Me,” “We All Fall Down, the Buddhist twist on a classic love song, “Julian Darling,” a wake up call to a friend and the hopeful but heartbroken contrasts of “Thank You For Nothing.” And then there’s the title track. Led by a lean, winding piano line, it builds to a spine-tingling crescendo alongside the honey-dipped harmonies of Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings—a collaboration that was completely unplanned. Not that you’d notice, considering how seamless it sounds.
Unlike their thoroughly-demoed debut—an album that took two years to complete—the Zero sessions boiled down to a month of recording with producer Tony Berg (Peter Gabriel, Phantom Planet, Jesca Hoop) and such respected sidemen as guitarist Blake Mills and Tom Waits’ longtime touring keyboardist, Patrick Warren. The result was rough but refined, bruised but beautiful, as if Berg had placed a mic in a room and walked away, letting Elizabeth and drummer/multi-instrumentalist Danny Molad do their thing.
As Molad puts it, “The record is more blatantly honest, even rude at times..." Elizabeth continues, "Even the happiest sounding pop songs on this record have a tinge of regret and darkness to them…And thank goodness for that. Ultimately that’s the only way I’d feel comfortable singing them. I’m drawn to the ambiguity like a menacing smile.”
Elizabeth & the Catapult Fall Tour Dates
Sept 25 - Variety Playhouse - Atlanta, GA #
Oct 2 - Rusty Rudder - Dewey Beach, DE    
Oct 7 - Bates College - Benjamin Mays Center - Lewiston, ME    
Oct 11 - 7th Street Entry - Minneapolis, MN *
Oct 12 - Cactus Club - Milwaukee, WI *   
Oct 13 - Schubas - Chicago, IL *   
Oct 14 - Radio Radio - Indianapolis, IN *  
Oct 15 - The Brillobox - Pittsburgh, PA *   
Oct 16 - Black Cat - Washington, DC *
Oct 22 - Cornell University, Just About Music Residence Hall - Ithaca, NY    
Oct 23 - Rockwood Music Hall - NY, NY    CMJ
Oct 28 - The Red Room @ Cafe 939 - Boston, MA    
Nov 4 - NightCat - Easton, MD
# w/ Aimee Mann
* w/ Jukebox the Ghost

Phish: Coral Sky Amphitheater (audio & video!)

On October 19th, JEMP Records will release Coral Sky, a 2-DVD set capturing Phish’s November 2, 1996 performance at Coral Sky Amphitheater in West Palm Beach, FL. The complete, uncut concert was created from archival videotapes of the multi-camera lawn screen feed and the audio was mixed from multi-track masters in stereo PCM and 5.1 surround.

Amid the swaying palms and soft breezes of South Florida, the two-and-a-half hour plus concert showcased some of the most unique and compelling playing of the band’s career, including a transcendent pairing of “Crosseyed And Painless” and “Run Like An Antelope.” Santana’s Karl Perazzo was featured on percussion throughout the show. Perazzo, who had become acquainted with the band members during their 1992 and 1996 summer tours with Santana, added polyrhythms that explored new space within Phish's music in this deeply experimental show. Allman Brothers Band drummer Butch Trucks sat in for the encore, “Funky Bitch.”
Check out some videos samples from the show, including 'Harry Hood' & 'Julius'
You can learn more about JEMP Records, including browsing through other JEMP releases here.

Have Yourself a Fabulous Swingin' Holiday Season with "Christmas With The Puppini Sisters"!

Swingin’ and rockin’, sexy and eccentric have never before described a Christmas album--until now.  Then again, there has never before been an artist who claims both The Andrews Sisters and The Smiths as influences.  Holiday music finally puts on red lipstick, slips into a silky cleavage-celebrating ballgown, and goes gorgeous and glamorous with Christmas With The Puppini Sisters (Verve), released October 5, 2010.
A female vocal trio featuring ‘40s-style close harmony, backed by a fearless jazz threesome, the retro-futuristic Puppini Sisters put their signature sequined stamp on timeless songs of the season for the sensational group’s third album.  From a scorching cover of Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas,” hyperspeed “Step Into Christmas,” oh-so-sexy “Santa Baby,” cabaret “Here Comes Santa Claus” and lilting “Last Christmas” to a weirdly wonderful “White Christmas,” scat-filled “Let It Snow,” ukulele oozing “Mele Kalilimaka,” uber-trad “Winter Wonderland” and divine “O Holy Night,” the Puppini Sisters (no, they’re not really sisters, that would be so on-the-nose) deliver original twists rather than nostalgic flashbacks.
Whether imaginatively reworking standards such as “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” and recent pop such as Beyonce’s “Crazy In Love,” or introducing new songs, the classically-trained London-based trio first captured the hearts of fans around the world with their international gold 2007 debut Betcha Bottom Dollar (#2 on the U.S. Jazz chart) and 2008’s The Rise And Fall Of Ruby Woo (#5 on the U.S. Jazz chart).
Brunette Marcella Puppini, a former assistant to fashion icon Vivienne Westwood, had dreamed of becoming opera’s next star.  Redhead Stephanie O’Brien began in music as a maverick of the classical world but found her niche playing gypsy jazz violin, South American harp and singing.  Blonde Kate Mullins, well, she sings like an angel and swears like a sailor.  The vocalists/multi-instrumentalists met in 2004 at London’s Trinity College of Music while pursuing Jazz Performance and Composition degrees.  Offered a gig at an outrageous gay nightclub, they jumped at the chance to perform.  Marcella, who gave the band her name, worked out a hasty arrangement of Kate Bush’s “Wuthering Heights” inspired by ‘40s swing and jazz.  The crowd adored their stunning vocals and cocktail hour charisma.
Since then, along with releasing several singles and two albums, they have performed at the Glastonbury festival and on an American stadium tour supporting Cyndi Lauper; been heard on TV series in the U.K. and the U.S., including “Grey’s Anatomy”; and been in constant demand as guest performers at notable entertainment and fashion events across the globe.  Even Prince Charles personally told them he thought they were “splendid” (seriously, we could not make that up).
The Puppini Sisters may have started out retro but they have become true originals.  With Christmas With The Puppini Sisters, holiday music never sounded so fresh and new.

Miles Davis/Sonny Rollins, Chet Baker, Wes Montgomery, others reissued on Concord

Concord Music Group is scheduled to reissue five new titles in the Original Jazz Classics Remasters series on September 28, 2010. Originally launched in March 2010 — and enhanced with 24-bit remastering by Joe Tarantino, along with insightful new liner notes — the series showcases some of the most pivotal recordings of the past several decades by artists whose influence on the jazz tradition is beyond measure.

The five new titles in the series are:

•    Vince Guaraldi Trio: Jazz Impressions of Black Orpheus
•    Miles Davis featuring Sonny Rollins: Dig
•    Wes Montgomery: Boss Guitar
•    Chet Baker Sings: It Could Happen to You
•    Bill Evans Trio: Waltz for Debby

“Like the previous titles in the series, these are all-time classic recordings by some of the most legendary artists in the history of jazz,” says Nick Phillips, Vice President of Catalog and Jazz A&R at Concord Music Group and producer of the series. “Anyone looking to build a collection of timeless, essential jazz recordings could begin by simply selecting titles at random from the Original Jazz Classics Remasters series.  Their collection would be off to a terrific start.”

Vince Guaraldi Trio: Jazz Impressions of Black Orpheus

Recorded in late 1961 and early 1962 for Fantasy, Jazz Impressions of Black Orpheus — featuring bassist Monty Budwig and drummer Colin Bailey — was Guaraldi’s celebration of Brazilian bossa nova for Stateside audiences. Propelled by the surprise radio hit single “Cast Your Fate to the Wind,” Jazz Impressions of Black Orpheus is the album that made Guaraldi a household name,” says Phillips.

The Guaraldi reissue also includes five bonus tracks — the single version of “Samba de Orfeu,” as well as four previously unreleased alternate takes: “Manhã de Carnaval,” “O Nosso Amor,” “Felicidade,” and “Cast Your Fate to the Wind.”

“Close to half a century later, the music on Jazz Impressions of Black Orpheus remains as fresh and vibrant as it was when first heard in the spring of 1962,” says Derrick Bang, author of the new liner notes for the reissue. “The album has remained in print the entire time: no small thing, in an era when all music has a much greater risk of becoming ephemeral.”

Miles Davis featuring Sonny Rollins: Dig

Miles Davis and Sonny Rollins recorded Dig for Prestige in October 1951, with help from alto saxophonist Jackie McLean, pianist Walter Bishop, bassist Tommy Potter, and drummer Art Blakey. The reissue features two bonus tracks, “My Old Flame” and “Conception.”

“Miles Davis and Sonny Rollins form one of the most empathetic and powerfully moving duos in jazz,” says Ira Gitler in his original liner notes. “Although they had recorded together before (“Morpheus,” “Down,” “Whispering,” “Blue Room”), this was their first chance to stretch out together on records.” This extra room was made possible via the advent of the LP, which allowed for longer tracks and lengthier solos. “Looking back,” Gitler writes nearly six decades later in his new liner notes for the reissue, “the new latitude attitude sometimes led to LPs with some interminable solos, but for the most part it gave extremely creative players and writers a chance to fully speak their minds and hearts. Dig passes the half-century plus test.”

In addition to changes in recording technology, the significance of this recording is also about changes that were taking place in the music itself. “The early ’50s was a period in which a stylistic progression from bebop to what became known as hard bop was happening,” says Phillips. “So this is a snapshot of two artists who would later become absolute legends, making music history together in what was an important transitional period for both of them.”

Wes Montgomery: Boss Guitar

Recorded in April 1963 for Riverside, Wes Montgomery’s Boss Guitar features Mel Rhyne on Hammond B-3 organ and Jimmy Cobb on drums. In addition to the eight original tracks, the reissue also includes three bonus tracks: alternate takes of “Besame Mucho,” “The Trick Bag,” and “Fried Pies.”

“I think most jazz fans and guitar aficionados would agree that Montgomery was at the peak of his creative powers during his Riverside period,” says Phillips.  “Clearly the musicianship and the virtuosity that’s on display in Boss Guitar leaves no doubt as to why his guitar playing continues to be so influential.” 

Journalist Neil Tesser, who penned the new liner notes to the reissue, suggests that Montgomery “inspired something close to deification among his fellow guitarists.” While the title Boss Guitar was originally a reference to Montgomery’s excellent guitar chops, it has taken on a new meaning in the intervening decades. “These days,” says Tesser, “I think of it as a nickname for Montgomery himself: an accurate and respectful way of denoting the guitarist who, in the brief and shiny playground called the '60s, unexpectedly found himself calling the shots, leading the way, and – in his wholly unprepossessing manner – letting the jazz world know who was in charge on the instrument he played.”

Chet Baker Sings: It Could Happen to You

Recorded in August 1958 for Riverside, Chet Baker Sings: It Could Happen to You spotlights Baker’s vocals as well as his trumpet playing. It also features his first scatting on record. Backing him on this date are pianist Kenny Drew, bassists George Morrow and Sam Jones, and drummers Philly Joe Jones and Dannie Richmond. The reissue includes four bonus tracks: “While My Lady Sleeps” and “You Make Me Feel So Young,” and previously unreleased takes of “Everything Happens to Me” and “The More I See You.”

“It’s very easy to tell that the vocalist and the trumpet player on this record are the same person,” says Phillips. “Stylistically, Baker’s vocal approach — the nuances and phrasing — is very similar to the relaxed, effortless way he plays trumpet, and by the same token, there’s a certain lyrical quality to his trumpet playing.”

Despite Baker’s rocky personal life, he’s at the top of his game creatively on this recording. “Here is Chet Baker at 29, smack in the middle of the New York scene,” says jazz journalist Doug Ramsey in his liner notes for the reissue. “He is in good musical company and good spirits, beautifully singing a dozen great songs. His playing, particularly when he uses the Harmon mute, indicates an awareness of Miles Davis, but Baker’s style and individuality make it impossible to take him for anyone else. As always in Chet’s life, there was tumult and trouble, but when it came time to create, the strength of the artist overcame the weakness of the man.”

Bill Evans Trio: Waltz for Debby

Captured live at the Village Vanguard in June 1961, Waltz for Debby is the last recording of Bill Evans’s classic lineup of bassist Scott LaFaro and drummer Paul Motian (LaFaro was killed in a car accident less than two weeks after these performances). Bonus tracks on the reissue include the Evans Trio’s rendition of Gershwin’s “Porgy (I Loves You, Porgy)” and alternate takes of “Waltz for Debby,” “Detour Ahead,” and “My Romance.”

“This is one of Evans’s most popular and critically acclaimed recordings, and for good reason,” says Phillips. You could easily make the argument that Waltz for Debby was not only the high point in Evans’s career, but it also set a benchmark for the jazz piano trio format that has yet to be surpassed.”

Some 50 years after producing this legendary live session, Orrin Keepnews recalls in the new liner notes:  “I was convinced that this trio would not go on forever and might not even survive the upcoming tour. Learning that they would soon be at the Village Vanguard for two weeks shortly before going out on a long road trip, I started to lobby in favor of taping them in performance . . . It is by now a very well-established and accurate part of modern jazz lore that on Sunday, June 25, all went incredibly well . . . including the trio’s handling of the leader’s basic premise that this was to be music performed by a well-integrated trio, not a piano player with two accompanists.”

Keller Williams Announces Fall Tour, New Album

On the heels of much-praised summer festival plays and the release of his first-ever all covers collection, Thief, Keller Williams’ today announces some exciting fall plans. In addition to his always popular live performance making stops in western states this season, Keller today expands his touring (and recording) horizons to include kids and families - no kidding!

With the October 26, 2010 release of his first-ever album for kids and families – appropriately titled KidsKeller Williams once again breaks new ground, proving his infectious spirit, quick wit and incredible musicianship speaks to music lovers of all ages. Keller will introduce his new Kids tunes as a “Super Music Friend” along select Yo Gabba Gabba tour dates this fall. Keller’s complete list of currently confirmed fall tour stops is included below.

A true original, Keller Williams has already won the hearts and imaginations of a seething tide of young adults who are musically “in the know.” With his sixteenth album, Kids, Keller stakes out his next conquest – the absolute adoration of the under-10 crowd and their parents, caregivers, and relatives. With Kids, Keller creates a style of family music that’s all his own and reaches his young audience in a way that matters. For the album, Keller takes influences of traditional bluegrass, “Chester & Lester” innovative guitar technique, Robin Williams, and Bobby McFerrin and transports them to warp level. And though Keller’s virtuosity extends through his phenomenal instrumental technique and range of vocal styles and effects, he never allows his supreme musicianship to get in the way of the pure joy of the music. Keller Williams’ high standards are unfailingly preserved in Kids.

Long considered one of the most unique and prolific performers in all of rock, the Fredericksburg, Virginia native has built a career on his uncanny ability to captivate a packed house—all by himself. He’s been called a “one-man band.” A “solo cult-hero.” “Music’s mad-scientist.” All of which are clever labels for what seems to be an essential truth: On stage, Keller Williams works alone. For over 100 shows a year, Williams has proven himself to be a master of improvisational performance art. In his one-man show, he pads barefoot from guitar to bass to percussion stations, using looping effects—and enough instruments to stock a strip- mall music store—to layer sound atop sound until the stage swirls with a full-blown composition.

KELLER WILLIAMS FALL TOUR DATES:

Thursday, August 26 Outer Banks Brewing Station Kill Devil Hills NC
Friday, August 27 Music on the Mountain Top At The Old Fairgrounds Boone NC
Thursday, September 2 Bottle & Cork Dewey Beach DE
Saturday, September 4 Stir Fry Music Revival Festival Morrisville PA
Saturday, September 11 The Catskill Chill Music Festival - Camp Minglewood Hancock NY
Sunday, September 12 Infinity Hall Norfolk CT
Friday, September 24 Bourbon Theatre Lincoln NE
Saturday, September 25 Ames Community Auditorium Ames IA
Friday, October 1 Pisgah Brewing Company Black Mountain NC
Saturday, October 2 Starry Night Bowling Green KY
Sunday, October 3 Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Speedway Meadows San Francisco CA
Friday, October 8 The Jefferson Theater Charlottesville VA
Thursday, October 14 Bluebird Nightclub Bloomington IN
Saturday, October 16 Mulberry Mountain Harvest Music Festival Ozark AR
Thursday, October 21 Sellersville Theater Sellerville PA
Saturday, October 23 Magnolia Music Festival Live Oak Fl
Saturday, November 6 Rock For Hunger Orlando FL
Friday, November 12 INB Performing Arts Center Spokane WA Yo Gabba Gabba! Live
Saturday, November 13 Tacoma Dome Tacoma WA Yo Gabba Gabba! Live
Sunday, November 14 Memorial Coliseum Portland OR Yo Gabba Gabba! Live
Monday, November 15 Hult Center for the Performing Arts Eugene OR Yo Gabba Gabba! Live
Tuesday, November 16 Rock For Hunger Orlando FL Yo Gabba Gabba! Live
Thursday, November 18 Memorial Sacramento CA Yo Gabba Gabba! Live
Saturday, November 20 Great American Music Hall San Francisco CA
Sunday, November 21 Bill Graham Civic Auditorium San Francisco CA Yo Gabba Gabba! Live

Additional dates to be announced.

Phish's "Live Bait" from Summer 2010

In case you missed this news, we have released a Free download sampler from Phish's Summer Tour 2010 Leg 1 called "Live Bait" which is the first in a series of free downloads that will be offered from livephish.com.  This volume of Live Bait will feature 10 tracks gleaned from the tour’s first leg, including older songs from the band's vast catalog (“Alumni Blues,” “Letter to Jimmy Page”) as well fan favorites (“Tweezer,” “Backwards Down the Number Line”) and a new track, “Show of Life,” which debuted this summer. It includes a widget through which fans can post to their favorite networking sites and share with friends. Live Bait is available now here.

Check out lots of summer Phish coverage on Grateful Web:

Telluride

Merriweather Post

Portsmouth, VA

White Rabbits Announce US Tour With Interpol

After spending the better part of two years on the road (including festival stops at Lollapallooza, Glastonbury (UK), Sasquatch, Monolith and tours with The Walkmen, Spoon, Richard Swift, The Cribs, White Denim and Tokyo Police Club) White Rabbits hunkered down in their Brooklyn practice space to set about re-envisioning the dark pop of their debut Fort Nightly, while adding new sounds and influences to achieve an original work.  The result is It’s Frightening, their second full-length album.

White Rabbits signed to TBD Records (US home to Radiohead/Other Lives/Hatcham Social) and erected a makeshift studio in their basement rehearsal space to demo new material.  Band members popped in and out over the course of several months lending ideas and personality to a new batch of songs that defy instant categorization. After enlisting tourmate, friend and songwriter Britt Daniel (Spoon) as producer, the pair began the process of exchanging demos between Brooklyn and Portland.  White Rabbits recorded It’s Frightening over the course of four weeks, only taking a break to play the Transmusicales Festival in Rennes, France.  The sessions were recorded by visionary engineer Nicholas Vernhes (Animal Collective, Deerhunter) at Rare Book Room in Brooklyn, NY.  Taking special care to recreate the unhinged nature of the original demos, the band utilized the wide range of tools in the analog-friendly studio to shape the personal spirit infused in the new tracks.  Upon the completion of tracking, White Rabbits traveled to Austin, TX to mix the record with studio wizard Mike McCarthy (Spoon, Trail Of Dead) using his exceptional ears to transform It’s Frightening into a uniquely rewarding headphone experience.

It’s Frightening plays like a classic reel of tape from start to finish. Opening with the visceral drums of “Percussion Gun,” it is clear that time-off from the road has served the band well.  The many highlights include the emotional centerpiece “Company I Keep,” the new sonic territory of “Lionesse” and the macabre lyrics of “Right Where They Left.”  Fans of Fort Nightly will find much to go weak in the knees over and new listeners are in for an awakening as White Rabbits flip the switch on an already impressive beginning. It’s Frightening is a journey into the playfully dark musings of Everyman.

The lineup : Stephen Patterson (vox/piano), Jamie Levinson (drums), Matthew Clark (drums, guitar), Alex Even (guitar), Gregory Roberts (guitar/vox). A U.S. tour will follow the May release of It’s Frightening

US Tour Dates With Interpol

10/18 - Fox Theater - Oakland, CA

10/21 - Soma - San Diego, CA

10/22 - The Joint - Las Vegas, NV

10/23 - Greek Theatre - Los Angeles, CA

10/25 - Ogden Theatre - Denver, CO

10/27 - The Palladium Ballroom - Dallas, TX

10/28 - Stubb's Waller Creek Ampitheatre - Austin, TX

10/29 - Verizon Wireless Theatre - Houston, TX

11/01 - The Tabernacle - Atlanta, GA

11/03 - Constitutional Hall - Washington, DC

11/04 - Tower Theatre- Upper Darby, PA

11/05 - United Palace - NY, NY

11/06 - United Palace - NY, NY

MMJ's Carl Broemel Shares Video Performances of Three Solo Songs

Leading up to the release of his solo album All Birds Say, which is out next week on August 31st (ATO Records), My Morning Jacket guitarist Carl Broemel has been steadily revealing performances of some of the tracks off the record.   You may have seen Broemel do a rendition of “Questions” over at MOG, creating an epic solo version of the track that builds to a thrillingly noisy climax.  He also played the earnest and whimsical “Enough,” which recently debuted at My Old Kentucky Blog. Lastly, his version of “Carried Away,” a contemplative and heartfelt ballad that My Morning Jacket recently performed, premiered at JamBase.  Please feel free to post and share all three videos!

As evident by these three clips, Broemel is a sophisticated songwriter  and an elegantly effortless performer.  He has the lyrical perspective of an individual who truly reflects and learns from his life’s experiences.  However, Broemel favors a Zen-like approach, keeping his philosophical musings from getting anywhere near being preachy.  Needless to say, MMJ fans who know him solely from the fiery riffs and guitar solos he performs with the band are going to see a whole other side of him.

Click HERE for photos of Carl, an mp3 off the album (which you are also welcome to post/share), and more info on him.

Click HERE to Watch Carl Perform “Questions”

Click HERE to Watch Carl Perform “Enough”

Click HERE to Watch Carl Perform “Carried Away”

FOLK-ROCK DUO LONG WOODSON TO RELEASE 2ND CD

Folk-rock duo Long Woodson, the prolific pair whose songwriting prowess extends to book-intricate concept albums, will release its second, ROBYVILLE (Robyville Records; Sept. 21, 2010), with a show in Austin to celebrate just two days later.

Long Woodson backed by its band plays at 10 p.m. Thursday, September 23, at Saxon Pub, 1320 S. Lamar Blvd. Cover is $5; information: 512.448.2552. Matt King will play at 8 p.m. and David Beck at midnight.
ROBYVILLE details a fictional West Texas town full of misfits hiding out from mainstream America, each song written about or from the perspective of one of them. Dark lyrics, harmony hooks and gritty vocals paint a picture of survival and hope behind mandolin, Spanish and acoustic guitars, harmonica, and distorted electric guitar.
Matt Long and Gunter Woodson met at The University of Texas and played together in several Austin rock bands. After a time, the duo began to record some of the songs in what has become a growing catalog of co-written material. The result was its first concept album, the acclaimed GIRL UPSTAIRS, which was released in 2009.
ROBYVILLE promises listeners a stimulating journey and a fascinating visit with a colorful cast of characters — with “Nikki,” “Jimi,” “Creole Man” and nine more tracks.
For more information, visit www.longwoodson.com.

Four Never-Before-Released Live Albums By Jefferson Airplane

The argument rages on, but for many music fans in the ’60s, the best live band from the Bay Area was Jefferson Airplane. Formed during the summer of 1965 in San Francisco, the group triumphed in 1967 with Surrealistic Pillow, one of the key recordings of the Summer of Love, containing the hits “Somebody to Love,” “White Rabbit” and “Today.” The Airplane featured three master instrumentalists (Jorma Kaukonen, Jack Casady and Spencer Dryden) and three vocalists: Grace Slick (replacing original singer Signe Anderson in 1966), Marty Balin and Paul Kantner. The Rock ’n’ Roll Hall of Fame inductees made a total of eight studio albums and released a smattering of live albums including 1969’s Bless Its Pointed Little Head.

But what most fans don’t know is that there are vast reserves of never-released live material by Jefferson Airplane capturing key moments in their history. On October 26, 2010, Collectors’ Choice Music Live will release four previously unreleased live albums: Live at the Fillmore Auditorium 10/15/66 Late Show — Signe’s Farewell, Live at the Fillmore Auditorium 10/16/66 Early & Late Shows — Grace’s Debut, Live at the Fillmore Auditorium 11/25/66 & 11/27/66 — We Have Ignition, and Return to the Matrix 2/1/68.

The first three releases document the astonishing growth of the band, and follow the near-seamless absorption of Grace Slick’s voice and material into the Airplane’s sound just as they were entering the studio to record Surrealistic Pillow. The fourth release captures the group triumphantly returning to their home turf at Marty Balin’s club The Matrix for a relaxed, exploratory set in an intimate setting, performing material from their first four albums, including Crown of Creation, seven months before its release. Taken together, the four releases confirm that at its best, when Jorma was soaring, Jack rumbling and the three voices joining in ecstatic melisma, no other band could ascend to the heights attained by the Airplane. Hand-picked by a team of devotees, annotated by frequent Airplane flyer Craig Fenton (author of the book Take Me To A Circus Tent: The Jefferson Airplane Flight Manual), and featuring rare photos inside handsome digi-packs, these concerts distill and express the dream and promise of the Haight-Ashbury scene.

• Live at the Fillmore Auditorium 10/15/66 Late Show — Signe’s Farewell: The Grace Slick era of the Airplane has understandably received most of the attention paid the band over the years. But they had released a good album (Jefferson Airplane Takes Off) and were already a powerful live outfit before Slick came aboard. The 10/15/66 release not only marks the first appearance on CD of a live recording featuring Signe Anderson with the band, but also her very last show. Both Marty Balin and the Fillmore’s Bill Graham give her shout-outs. Songs include “3/5ths of a Mile in Ten Seconds,” “Tobacco Road,” “Midnight Hour,” “High Flyin’ Bird” and “Chauffeur Blues” (which Grace never performed out of respect for Signe, who’d made the old blues tune her own). It was the end of an era. But a new one was about to begin the very next day, and is the subject of the 10/16/66 release.

• Live at the Fillmore Auditorium 10/16/66 Early & Late Shows — Grace’s Debut: The 10/16/66 volume chronicles the first set of concerts featuring Grace Slick as a member of the Airplane, a mere day after Signe Anderson officially left the band. The band has yet to add the material Slick brought to the band (“Somebody To Love” and “White Rabbit) to the set list, but Grace’s harmony work with Marty and Paul is impressive, and you can literally hear her confidence growing from the first set to the second. The album contains “The Other Side of This Life,” “Let Me In,” “Don’t Let Me Down,” “Run Around” and “High Flying Bird,” plus versions of “3/5ths of a Mile in 10 Seconds” and “Tobacco Road” with the new line-up, and Leiber & Stoller’s “Kansas City,” which has never appeared on any Airplane studio or live album. Surrealistic Pillow photographer Herbie Greene contributes photos. Things would never be the same for the band or for ’60s rock.

• Live at the Fillmore Auditorium 11/25/66 & 11/27/66 — We Have Ignition:  CCM Live subtitled these shows We Have Ignition as they believe this is when the Airplane transformed from a high-flying bird into a psychedelic spaceship (but not yet a Starship.) It’s difficult to believe, when comparing these November shows with Grace’s live debut on 10/16/66,  that only six weeks have elapsed. Not only has the band (particularly guitarist Jorma Kaukonen) progressed as musicians, but the infusion of Surrealistic Pillow material some four months before the album hit the stores shifts the focus of this folk-rock band to rock. Included are “Plastic Fantastic Lover,” “High Flyin’ Bird,” “Bringing Me Down,” “ D.C.B.A-25,” “My Best Friend,” “Go to Her,” “She Has Funny Cars,” “3/5ths of a Mile in 10 Seconds,” “Skip Spence’s “J.P.P. McStep B Blues,” “White Rabbit,” “Today” and more.  Two rarities are a mind blowing, 9:45-minute version of “The Other Side of Life” (performed for a photo session) that neither its author, the folk singer-songwriter Fred Neil, nor the band could ever have anticipated, and the only known recording of an instrumental known in some quarters as “My Grandfather’s Clock.” This is the Airplane at its early apex.

• Return to the Matrix 2/1/68: The Airplane returned to the first club they ever played, the Matrix, in 1968 for a 103-minute show at the height of their commercial prowess. They band premiered two songs from the Crown of Creation album (which was months away from being released): “Share a Little Joke” and an instrumental version of “Ice Cream Phoenix.” They also performed “Blues From an Airplane,” a song from its first (pre-Slick) album. Also here: “Somebody to Love,” “Young Girl Sunday Blues,” “She Has Funny Cars,” “Two Heads,” “Martha,” “Kansas City,” “Other Side of this Life,” “Today,” “Won’t You Try/Saturday Afternoon,” “It’s No Secret,” “Watch Her Ride,” “Plastic Fantastic Lover,” “Ballad of You and Me and Pooneil,” “White Rabbit,” “Fat Angel” and  “3/5ths of a Mile in 10 Seconds.”