Reviews by - Lindsay Planer

In the immortal words of P-Funk’s George Clinton, “let’s take it to the stage” this week with a look and listen to some recent live CD arrivals.

Jefferson Airplane -- Sweeping Up the Spotlight: Live at the Fillmore East 1969 (RCA/Legacy)

Like many of their Bay Area peers, the Jefferson Airplane’s music remained in a state of perpetual evolution. This sonic snapshot finds the combo supporting their most recent release Volunteers (1969). They waste no time reaching cruising altitude commencing with a raucous, no-frills reading of the title track “Volunteers”. Hot on its’ heels is a loose and languid “Good Shepherd,” courtesy of Jorma Kaukonen’s (lead guitar) sinuous fretwork and a few equally-intense undulations from Jack Casady (bass).

Kaukonen’s arrangements of the traditional “Uncle Sam Blues” and “Come Back Baby” similarly stand out as inspired amidst the comparatively staid Airplane staples “Plastic Fantastic Lover,” “White Rabbit,” and “Crown Of Creation”. Otherwise notable is a funky “You Wear Your Dresses Too Short” -- which the band only played live -- as well as a 10+ minute excursion on “The Ballad Of You & Me & Pooneil”. Not to be outdone, for the set’s climactic conclusion, the Airplane reaffirm their psychedelic side, with a thoroughly stretched out cover of Fred Neil’s “The Other Side Of This Life”.

Kingston Trio -- The Final Concert (Collector's Choice Music)

After a phenomenal decade-long run, the Kingston Trio -- consisting of co-founders Nick Reynolds and Bob Shane as well as John Stewart (who replaced Dave Guard in 1961) -- returned to the familiar stomping grounds of San Francisco’s Hungry i for a two-week finale in mid June, 1967. Now, almost 40 years ago to the day (June 17, 1967) the final live show from The Kingston Trio is being presented for the first time.

Not only was the club the site for one of the threesome’s most memorable long players -- simply titled From The Hungry i  (1958) -- but even before their acclaim on the world’s stage, they had honed their craft as virtual nobodies at the very same venue. The Kingston Trio remained considerably more relevant than many of their peers. This was, in part, thanks to interpretations of songs by modern folkies such as Bob Dylan’s “Tomorrow Is A Long Time” and “One Too Many Mornings” as well as Donovan’s “Colours”.

There are plenty of Trio fan favourites, kicking things off is a rousing take of Woody Guthrie’s “Hard, Ain’t It Hard”. Before their final curtain call, the Trio wind through “Tom Dooley,” “Wimoweh,” “M.T.A,” “Reverend Mr. Black,” Greenback Dollar” and “Where Have All The Flowers Gone”-- each of which the Trio could rightfully deem their own.

KISS -- Alive! 1975-2000 (Mercury/UMe)

You wanted the best? You got the best! This quadruple-volume box set contains every note from KISS ALIVE! (1975), KISS ALIVE II (1977), KISS ALIVE III (1993) and the otherwise unavailable KISS ALIVE: The Millennium Concert (2000). The music has never sounded better either, thanks to recent digital remastering and the occasional bonus track. Nor has it ever looked as impressive, sporting a whopping 72-page liner booklet replete with rarely published photos and interviews.

The first installment of KISS ALIVE! continues to be heralded as one of the greatest live collections of all-time. It’s easy to understand why, based on the sheer power within -- namely definitive renditions of “Deuce,” “Strutter,” “C’mon And Love Me,” “Cold Gin” and the anthemic “Let Me Go, Rock ‘n’ Roll.” KISS ALIVE II followed with another batch of concert fist-pumpers, including “Detroit Rock City,” “Ladies Room,” “Love Gun,” “Christine Sixteen,” “God Of Thunder,” “I Want You!,” “Shout It Out Loud” and as a bonus track the single version of “Rock And Roll All Nite”.

Fast-Forward 16 years to the early 90s incarnation and KISS ALIVE III with Eric Singer (drums/vocals) and Bruce Kulick (lead guitar) having landed in Peter Criss and Ace Frehley’s respective positions. In the interim, the band continued cranking out their own brand of metallic mayhem with newer arrivals “Creatures Of The Night,” “Heaven’s On Fire,” “I Was Made For Lovin’ You,” “Lick It Up,” and “Forever” leading the pack. Seven years later -- and in honor of the impending millennium -- the original quartet reunited for a show on December 31st, 1999/ January 1st, 2000. “Psycho Circus,” “Into The Void,” and “Do You Love Me?,” are distinguished as selections making their live debut, alongside the return of the Peter Criss ballad “Beth”.

Nils Lofgren -- Back It Up!! Live: An Authorized Bootleg (Hip-O Select/A&M)

Leave it to those keepers of the cool at Hip-O Select for finally making this recording available to the masses. Well before joining forces with Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, Nils Lofgren had already made a name for himself, having recorded with the likes of Neil Young and Stephen Stills, as well as leading a combo called Grin. When Lofgren launched his own solo career in the mid ‘70s, his record company issued a promotional album to radio stations and members of the press, so that they could disseminate the good word. That platter -- taken from a live radio broadcast on KSAN -- now sounds better than ever, as it has been remastered and upgraded for its debut CD release.

The entire set -- although somewhat abbreviated -- is bookended with medleys that pair up both “Take You To The Movies Tonight” with “Back It Up,” and “Beggar’s Day” with “Soft Fun”. In between are equally sublime performances of the Rolling Stones tribute “Keith Don’t Go”, and the  Lofgren solo originals “I Don’t Want To Know,” “The Sun Hasn’t Set On This Boy Yet,” as well as Grin’s “Like Rain”. Best of all is the mammoth remake of the Carole King co-penned “Goin’ Back” that is worth the price of admission in and of itself.

Don’t look for Back It Up!! Live…An Authorized Bootleg (1975) in stores, as this limited edition disc can only be found online @ www.hiposelect.com.

Lindsay Planer is a freelance journalist and is the weekday on-air producer at WDYT 1220 AM in Charlotte, NC. He's also a contributor to All Music Guide, CrutchfieldAdvisor.com and the Gaston Gazette.
All comments and questions are encouraged and can be sent to <asthediscspins@earthlink.net>.


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