Jesse Colin Young - vocals, guitar; Jim Rothermel - saxophone, clarinet, harmonica; Scott Lawrence - piano, keyboards, vocals; Marty David- bass, vocals; Jeffrey Myer - drums
With one of the most compelling and soothing voices of the 1960s, Jesse Colin Young began his career as a folksinger on the coffeehouse circuit of Greenwich Village. After releasing two solo albums in 1964 and 1965, he met up with Cambridge guitarist Jerry Corbitt and, along with multi-instrumentalist Lowell "Banana" Levenger and drummer Joe Bauer, formed the Youngbloods in 1966. Soon signed to RCA, the Youngbloods exemplified the peace and love esthetic of the 1960s and created some of the most enduring good-vibe music of the era, fusing elements of folk, jugband, rock, and blues into a sound uniquely their own. By 1969, Jerry Corbitt had dropped out, reducing the group to a trio. They relocated to San Francisco and recorded Elephant Mountain, one of the landmark albums of the 1960s at the peak of their creativity. This album not only featured a wealth of great original material, but also began incorporating jazzier improvisational elements into the mix. Around this time, the popularity of a public-service commercial for the National Council of Christians and Jews, which featured the Youngbloods' recording of "Get Together," encouraged RCA to re-release the song as a single. Now widely considered an anthem of the 1960s, this song raced up the charts becoming a Top Ten hit nearly three years after it was recorded.
At this point, the group launched their own label, Raccoon Records, where they continued releasing Youngbloods albums, as well as solo projects by each of the members. By far, the most successful of these releases was Jesse Colin Young's solo album, Together, released in March of 1972. Following the success of his solo album, Young recorded one last album with the Youngbloods later in the year, and then disbanded the group to pursue a solo career. His first post-Youngbloods album, Song For Juli, was released the following year to great acclaim and remains one of the most popular recordings of Young's career.
This live recording captures Jesse Colin Young performing on a Winterland bill between local blues legend, Alice Stuart, and headliners, the New Riders Of The Purple Sage. Recorded on the tour promoting his 1973 breakthrough album, Song For Juli, this performance focuses heavily on that album's material, but also includes revamped arrangements of several Youngbloods' songs.
Following the introduction by stage manager, Jerry Pompili, the set begins with a nod to Jesse Colin Young's past. He opens with three songs recorded by the Youngbloods, each representing one of their first three albums. He kicks off the set with "Sunlight" from Elephant Mountain, one of Young's most beautiful and enduring originals, which immediately captivates the Winterland audience. This is followed by two covers originally recorded back in 1967 for the first two Youngbloods LPs. Next up is "Euphoria," a classic early-1960s Holy Modal Rounders cover. Taken at a more relaxed tempo than the Youngbloods' version, this swings delightfully. Young next explores Blind Willie McTell's "Statesboro Blues." Unlike the more familiar Allman Brothers version, Young and band revamp this with a shuffling beat.
The rest of the set primarily delves into the great new material featured on the Song For Juli album, which showcases Young and this lineup of musicians in the most positive light. Fans of that album will be delighted by the song selection, which includes the lovely title song, both "Evenin'" and "Mornin' Sun," as well as Clifton Cheneir's Cajun flavored "Lafayette Waltz" and the humorous and bluesy "Miss Hesitation." On all this material, Young's band superbly fleshes out the arrangements, adding color and instrumental flare far beyond the more simplified Youngbloods material. The rhythm section of Marty David and Young's longtime drummer Jeff Myer are tight and tasteful. Keyboard player Scott Lawrence is nothing less than superb on this newer material and the relatively recent addition of multi-instrumentalist Jim Rothermel to the band adds much spice and flavor to the proceedings.
Nowhere is the chemistry of this band better realized than on "Ridgetop," the centerpiece of the set, featuring jazzy interplay between pianist Scott Lawrence and the breezy horn solos of Rothermel. Not one to grandstand by playing guitar solos, even Young himself takes an impressive solo here. This ambitious number shows the group stretching their collective improvisational skills with very compelling results. The set winds up with the song that opened the final Youngbloods album in 1972, Speedo. Essentially an a cappella doo-wop style number, this ends the set on a fun, lighthearted note and sandwiches all the newer material between Youngbloods songs, a most delightful way to conclude the set.