David LaFlamme - violin, vocals; Linda LaFlamme - vocals; Rob Espinosa - guitar; Gary Thomas - piano, keyboards; Toby Gray - bass; Val Fuentes - drums; Michael Prichard - percussion
Based in San Francisco, It's A Beautiful Day maintained a strong following in the Bay Area and their debut album has long been one of the staples of the late 1960s San Francisco sound. Being unique in the diverse musical melting pot of San Francisco was not an easy accomplishment, but the group's instrumental virtuosity and the captivating vocal blend of David LaFlamme and Patty Santos made their live performances some of the most memorable of the era. With a more progressive rock sound than their contemporaries that incorporated elements of folk, jazz and classical music, and the ability to play anything from ethereal psychedelic music to straight-ahead heavy rock, the group became a huge draw in the Bay area, which led to national touring well into the 1970s.
Although the group disbanded in 1974, various configurations would occasionally regroup for special occasions, with the consistent ingredients being violinist and front man David LaFlamme and drummer Val Fuentes. LaFlamme's wife Linda would fill the formidable shoes of former co-lead vocalist, Patty Santos (who was tragically killed in a automobile accident in 1989), with various talented Bay Area musicians augmenting the lineup.
Presented here is one of those special occasions when, in conjunction with the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame opening in Cleveland, a launch party was held at San Francisco's legendary Fillmore Auditorium. Featuring the likes of Country Joe McDonald, Big Brother & The Holding Co. and an impressive reunion configuration of It's A Beautiful Day that would continue performing in the years to come, this was an evening celebrating the San Francisco music scene of the 1960s just prior to the 30th Anniversary of the Summer Of Love.
It's A Beautiful Day was always admired for the way they could stretch out familiar songs in live performance, often reinventing them in the process. This brief but memorable set is no exception as they open with the high velocity instrumental "Don & Dewey," putting the spotlight directly on LaFlamme's violin virtuosity. This piece was a tribute to the R&B duo of the same name that featured Don "Sugarcane" Harris on violin, who would redefine the violin in the 1960s by bringing it to a heavy rock and blues context.
Following a humorous self-deprecating monologue from David LaFlamme, It's A Beautiful Day concludes their spot on the bill with their most revered song, the haunting "White Bird." Well over ten minutes, this allows all of the musicians to shine. The group's orchestral approach to arrangements, including using the violin as a primary lead instrument, gained them a large following among people looking for something outside the scope of the blues-based jam bands in the Bay Area. This performance, capturing the revamped 1997 lineup of It's A Beautiful Day in full flight, is a prime example of the group's unique stylistic approach. Despite being recorded nearly three decades after the original studio recording, this performance of "White Bird" makes it crystal clear what initially captivated so many listeners in the late 1960s.
-Written by Alan Bershaw