Jorma Kaukonen - guitar, vocals; Jack Casady - bass; Will Scarlet - harmonica, vocals; Sammy Piazza - drums
This set by Hot Tuna, which they played as openers for the Grateful Dead on New Years Eve, before a hometown crowd, features the band right between the release of first and second albums. The original trio of Kaukonen, Casady and Scarlet is still intact, but the sound's the thing that's changed - in contrast to their first album, this is full-on electric Hot Tuna! Sammy Piazza, arguably the most tasteful drummer to play with the group, was now a full-time member. However, this show took place prior to the addition of Papa John Creach on violin, and therefore provides a fascinating - and extremely rare - glimpse of the band in the midst of a definitive transition.
The electrified treatment given to the first and second albums' acoustic-oriented material works wonderfully, and allows both Kaukonen and Casady room for more creative expression (and volume!) on their instruments. "That'll Never Happen No More," "Candy Man," "Uncle Sam Blues" and especially Kaukonen's "New Song (For The Morning)" are even more infectious than their acoustic counterparts. They also perform Jorma's autobiographic "Third Week In The Chelsea," in which he bared his feelings toward Jefferson Airplane for all to hear. Will Scarlet takes a rare shot at lead vocals on the traditional "I've Been All Around This World" (a song Jerry Garcia also arranged for the Dead's acoustic sets that year). This rarity may be unfamiliar to many, as it remained in their repertoire for only a brief time. Scarlet's tasteful harp playing adds flavor and nuance to everything on this set.
All that aside, it is the straight blues numbers that are most fascinating here. Kaukonen's passion for Reverend Gary Davis and numbers that feature intricate blues fingerpicking are translated beautifully to his Stratocaster; and with Jack's energetic, dynamic bass playing and Will Scarlet's displaying boundless creativity on the harmonica, Jorma has plenty of motivation and really gets cooking. Prime examples are "Keep Your Lamps Trimmed and Burnin'" and "Come Back Baby," both which are suffused with a raw ferocity here that became a bit more subdued once Creach's violin was added to the mix. The most welcome surprise of the set, however, has to be this early version of "Ode To Billy Dean," which wouldn't surface on record until the much-loved Burgers LP was cut, two years later.
Hot Tuna hung around for all the New Years Eve festivities; and following the Grateful Dead's set, a post-show jam session ensued that featured members of both bands.