David LaFlamme - violin, vocals; Linda LaFlamme - keyboards; Patti Santos - vocals, percussion; Hal Wagenet - guitar; Mitchell Holman - bass; Val Fuentes - drums
This July 1968 three-night run at the newly christened Fillmore West (formerly the Carousel Ballroom) features one of Bill Graham's typically eclectic lineups and captures the up-and-coming San Francisco band, It's A Beautiful Day, at a most fascinating time in their evolution. Sandwiched between sets by the Crazy World Of Arthur Brown and headliners, the Chambers Brothers, this recording captures It's A Beautiful Day shortly before the release of their highly revered debut album. The band had already developed a distinctively original sound quite unlike other bands of that era. David LaFlamme and Patti Santos' vocal blend and the bands 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.
The group begins with an extended composition primarily comprised of an unreleased song, "Love For You," with a taste of "Bulgaria," a composition destined for their first album, sandwiched within. This material, written by the LaFlamme's, had been performed with their earlier band Orkustra. With lyrics reflecting the "Summer Of Love" vibe that permeated the consciousness of San Francisco musicians the previous year, this extended opener is quite ambitious, with the instrumental flow going through diverse stylistic changes. "White Bird," the song that eventually came to define the group, is heard next in more embryonic form. Those familiar with the album version will notice that they are still developing the classic arrangement here. The primary elements are in place and it is a pleasure to hear this memorable song when it was so fresh and new.
The next two songs are both numbers soon to become psychedelic classics from their debut album. "Wasted Union Blues" and "Time Is" are both fantastic performances featuring slightly different arrangements than those on the first album. Wild and adventurous, both compositions feature exploratory improvisations that display the band's instrumental prowess in a most positive light. Clocking in at over 20 minutes between the two, these are both remarkable performances played with originality and enthusiasm.
The set concludes with another unreleased song. "Countryside" is a delightful down-home country flavored piece, short and concise compared to much of the band's early live repertoire. This is another pre-first LP original that seems to have been dropped from the group's live performances shortly after the first album was released.
Fans of It's A Beautiful Day, and their debut album in particular, will find this performance nothing short of revelatory. This spectacular recording captures a truly magic moment in time and features the original lineup in full flight.