Electric Flag

Carousel Ballroom (San Francisco, CA)

May 18, 1968 - Early

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  1. 1 Soul Searchin' 08:16
  2. 2 Tuning 03:12
  3. 3 Milk Cow Blues 05:01
  4. 4 Tuning 00:49
  5. 5 I'd Rather Drink Muddy Water 08:06
  6. 6 Groovin' Is Easy 04:34
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Mike Bloomfield - guitars
Nick Gravenites - vocals
Buddy Miles - drums, vocals
Barry Goldberg - keyboards
Harvey Brooks - bass guitar
Kerbie Rich - baritone sax
Marcus Doubleday - trumpet, flugelhorn
Peter Strazza - tenor sax

This three day run at the Carousel Ballroom was a veritable feast for horn section fans, featuring Pacific Gas and Electric, Electric Flag and Don Ellis and His Orchestra. Due to popular demand, a matinee show was added. Although Electric Flag was the headliner for these shows, they opted to go on second and allow Don Ellis and His Orchestra to close the shows each night.

These sets feature the band's original lineup, toward the end of founder Michael Bloomfield's involvement. Bloomfield would depart shortly thereafter, leaving the band to struggle onward for several months before disbanding. At this point, however, the band was full of fire and highly influential. Their unique blend of soul, rock and blues, punctuated by horns, certainly didn't go unnoticed by the contemporary music scene. Later that year, Al Kooper would create a similar band, Blood Sweat and Tears, and Chicago Transit Authority would also use this formula, each to far greater commercial success. It was Electric Flag, however, that created the template and who remained the most diverse group musically. The incendiary guitar playing developed by Bloomfield during this unique period set the bar at a level that few (if any) other white guitar players could reach.

The afternoon show was a relatively short affair, with Electric Flag relegated to a half hour set. Apparently, Mike Bloomfield and Nick Gravenites were late to arrive and ,surprisingly, the rest of the group begins without them. The band uses the first, "Soul Searchin'," number to warm up their chops while waiting for the frontmen to arrive. As a result of Bloomfield's absence, this is a unique version of the song, featuring extended sax solos and other improvisational flourishes. This is a mix in progress until close to the third minute, and there are also some pitch problems as are evident in the tape speed, which varies throughout the song. Bloomfield arrives onstage during the last two minutes, but sits out until the next number.

After several minutes of downtime while Bloomfield tuned up and situated, the bans tears into the old traditional, "Milk Cow Blues." Nick Gravenites takes lead vocals and, with no warm-up necessary, Bloomfield immediately tears it up on this funky blues tune.

Giving Bloomfield another chance to display his extraordinary technique, they next ease into a slow, smoldering rendition of B.B. King's "I'd Rather Drink Muddy Water," a song they never released themselves. Following a two minute guitar solo intro section, Buddy Miles takes over on vocals. Following the verses, the group eases the dynamics way down, letting Bloomfield solo in an unusually delicate and tasteful manner, before building it back up.

They close the set with their first single "Groovin' Is Easy," with Gravenites again taking over on lead vocals. The monumental horn section, swirling organ and fatback drumming from Miles kick things into high gear. The separation is very audible in this mix, and one can clearly hear the nuances Bloomfield's adding as a support player. As a bonus, Bloomfield lets it rip by adding a demented psychedelic guitar solo near the end.

A hot warm-up for the later show, and an energetic, enjoyable set in its own right.