Big Brother & The Holding Company – Live At The Carousel Ballroom 1968


“Fly on the psychedelic wall: The Bear’s sonic journals snag a masterpiece… Somewhere within the sonic depths of this extraordinary concert tape’s opener, ‘Combination of the Two,’ as James Gurley’s distorted guitar angles toward a kind of demented Coltrane-like climax, Janis Joplin gets off a series of whooping, exhortative screams — the kind borne of revelation or epiphany. It’s as if from the get-go she knew that Big Brother and the Holding Company — just two months from splintering into oblivion — was destined for immortality, on this night at least. It’s the tip of the iceberg for Live At The Carousel Ballroom 1968, a tour de force of such fervor and intensity that it places Big Brother in its rightful perch as, perhaps, psychedelic San Francisco’s fiercest lysergic combo. A combustible group whose expansive sound defied the straitjacket of the studio, Big Brother—in the dumbed-down, Time-Life version of history—were simply a backing group, random bystanders who happened to launch Joplin into superstardom. But deep in the mythology of San Francisco’s psychedelic heyday, they were always a contender, an ensemble, capable of pushing all boundaries as rock grew burly in the late ’60s. Fortunately for posterity, acid king Owsley ‘Bear’ Stanley had the gumption to roll tape on June 23, 1968. Not just regular old tape, though. The Grateful Dead roadie and confidante had been running the mixing boards at the Carousel most of 1968, experimenting with the technology of best capturing the music via ‘sonic journals,’ recordings made to document the scene and fine-tune the club’s sound. This tape, in storage and/or legal limbo for decades but finally produced and mixed by Bear himself prior to his untimely death in 2011, is almost pugilistic in presentation. Amplifying every nuance, every kaleidoscopic shade from the roar of the guitars, every electrifying scrap of back-and-forth among the musicians in crystal-clear, full-dimensional fashion, it’s a transcendent, revelatory listen. The recording is so pure, so lively, in fact, that it virtually drops the listener into the Carousel on that summer night. Big Brother’s roots, in truth, ran deep into American music. Bassist Peter Albin cut his teeth on folk and bluegrass; drummer Dave Getz was an in-demand jazz player; songwriter/guitarist Sam Andrew was well-versed in blues and jazz, a frequent jamming partner with Jerry Garcia, and along with James Gurley, developed a formidable double-lead guitar assault. …”
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Big Brother and the Holding Company Featuring Janis Joplin: Live At The Carousel Ballroom 1968
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