Tracy Nelson - vocals, piano; Wayne Talbert - vocals, keyboards; Powell St. John - vocals, harmonica; Ira Main - organ; Jance Garfat - bass; Herbert Tjp,as - guitar; George Rains - drums
Here we have a rare glimpse at the pre-first album lineup of Mother Earth, who performed between The Flamin' Groovies and headliners, Jefferson Airplane on this night. Recorded approximately a year before the release of Mother Earth's first album, this set allows one to hear them in their formative stages. Many of these songs never appeared on their albums, but the elements of blues, rock and gospel are already firmly entrenched in the group's sound. These sets clearly show that Mother Earth was one of the most diverse sounding Bay Area bands in 1967, playing with a tinge of psychedelia, but achieving an earthier, more authentically bluesy sound than many of their contemporaries.
The set opening instrumental is a fine example of just how adventurous the band actually was. Beginning like many improvisational jams of the era, with a catchy riff intended to inspire dancing, this suddenly transforms into a jazzy exploration that showcases excellent piano work from Nelson and concentrated ensemble playing.
Though certainly not the focal point at this early stage of the band, some of the most enjoyable songs are those featuring the young Tracy Nelson on lead vocals - an artist who, despite her age, had a wealth of experience, having already worked with and learned from Charlie Musselwhite, Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf and Otis Span.
The epitome of the little girl with a big voice, Nelson belts out her lead vocal numbers with a raw authenticity. Check out this live version of "Without Love" (a song Mother Earth recorded for the Revolution movie soundtrack) and the set closing "Help Me Jesus" for early Tracy Nelson at her best. The gospel quality that was inherent to Nelson's voice gave Mother Earth a certain uniqueness among the Bay area bands, and overtly shapes the sound on both of these numbers.
The set also features a unique arrangement of the classic "Rockin' Pneumonia (And the Boogie Woogie Flu)," which fades out a bit prematurely, and an early version of "Living With The Animals," (which starts in progress due to the fade out) and which would become the title track on their debut album.