Erma Franklin - vocals; Mike Bloomfield (?) - guitar; Harvey Brooks - bass; Herbie Rich - organ; Buddy Miles - drums; Marcus Doubleday - trumpet; Peter Strazza - tenor sax; Virgil Gonsalves - baritone sax
During the first half of 1968, Sunday evenings at the Carousel Ballroom were often geared toward encouraging spontaneous jam sessions. A popular band was usually the featured act on the bill, but ticket buyers quickly learned to expect the unexpected. One never knew who might turn up and sit in with the headliner and this loose approach often resulted in wonderfully interesting combinations of musicians performing music that was completely unrehearsed. Contrast that with places like New York and London, where the music scenes were also flourishing, but fierce competition and ego trips often prevented stylistic intermingling and cross-pollination from taking place to such a degree. Only in San Francisco was there a free enough mindset and a strong enough local camaraderie to facilitate this kind of activity on a regular basis. Things continued to buzz, and when the Carousel Ballroom became the Fillmore West in 1968, the spontaneous jam scene moved to the Matrix, where it was sustained through the end of the year.
The second set of this night's show, featured an appearance by Erma Franklin, who turns the proceedings into a Stax/Volt-like revue. Less known than her legendary sister, Aretha Franklin, Erma is primarily remembered as the woman who sang the original version of "Piece Of My Heart." Although her recording career was rather brief, she laid down some of the most impressive blues and soul numbers of 1967 and was an engaging performer throughout the early '70s.
This set features many of Franklin's most memorable songs, and although the band could obviously use a little more rehearsal, they still provide a solid backing. It's interesting to hear the Flag members play with such restraint, free of flashy soloing and content to let the spotlight focus exclusively on Erma. Whether or not that is Mike Bloomfield on the guitar remains a mystery.
After Franklin's introduced, the band breaks into "Big Boss Man" to open the set. A solid little medley follows, beginning with "I Heard It Through The Grapevine." The energy level continues to increase throughout this medley as they fire off "Mercy," Etta James' "Tell Mama" and Aretha's "Chain Of Fools," one right into another. Next up is Erma's definitive song, "Piece Of My Heart," which goes down well with the San Francisco audience. This brief set concludes with the classic "Hold On I'm Coming," a high energy closer.
Erma hadn't been performing much during this time, and she's obviously having a fine time, and even seems honored to be performing before such an appreciative crowd. The set is short but very enjoyable and likely her only early live recording known to exist.