Rick Danko - bass, vocals; Paul Butterfield - harmonica, vocals; Blondie Chaplin - guitar, vocals; Rick Belke - guitar, vocals; Tom Stevenson - piano, vocals; Ron McRory - drums; Guest: John Sebastian - harmonica, vocals
There have been quite a few high profile events to commemorate the legendary 1969 Woodstock Festival, but one of the most interesting occurred when many of the original musicians converged in Long Island's Parr Meadows in Brookhaven, NY to celebrate the 10th anniversary. Unlike later events, this was a true 10-year reunion for many of the musicians who played the 1969 festival. Among others, the audience heard performances by the likes of Richie Havens, John Sebastian, Stephen Stills, Leslie West, Jorma Kaukonen, Johnny Winter, Canned Heat, and the Rick Danko/Paul Butterfield Band. Although much had changed in the previous decade and this was a considerably smaller event, the audience was treated to a wealth of memorable music. The King Biscuit Flower Hour crew was on hand to record it all and several KBFH programs were devoted to highlights from this memorable event.
One of the most consistently engaging sets of the entire event occurred right off the bat with the show-opening set by the Rick Danko/Paul Butterfield Band, a group that existed for less than a year and never recorded an album. Although a handful of audience recordings do exist from their one and only tour, this professionally recorded set, taped before the largest audience they ever performed for, serves as the definitive statement on the group and is heard here for the first time ever in its entirety. Featuring a superb choice of musicians that included the extremely talented South African musician and vocalist, Blondie Chaplin, the Danko/Butterfield Band perform a wealth of great material that includes selections from Rick Danko's self titled 1977 album (the first and possibly most accessible solo album by any member of the Band), classic blues from Paul Butterfield's vast repertoire, a superb Blondie Chaplin original, a few choice selections from the Band's repertoire, and a compelling choice of covers. Not unlike the Band, these musicians had a thoroughly organic sound that emphasized a group sound rather than any individual. Therein lies the magic, as this group created music that was far greater than the sum of its individual parts and more than any other performers that memorable day, their set rewards repeated listening.
Following the opening announcements, Danko/Butterfield and friends are introduced to the audience to great fanfare. They waste no time cranking up the energy, kicking their set off with the driving rock of "I Love You Too Much." A rare unreleased Bob Dylan number written exclusively for this group, this features Butterfield on lead vocal and the band immediately firing on all cylinders. Danko next leads the group on a delightful reading of the Band's "Stage Fright." The musicianship on this is superb, with Danko's utterly unique bass playing, the guitarists tastefully meshing and Butterfield as a one-man horn section blowing harp alone. They continue by easing into a nice lazy groove with a cover of J.J. Cale's "Crazy Mama." One of the unquestionable highlights of the set is next when Blondie Chaplin steps up for his original, "Semolina." This has a serious kick to it, with a most infectious and chunky rhythm guitar propelling the action. This particular performance of this song may even be the definitive version as it is hard to imagine the band jelling any better than they do right here. Chaplin's lead vocal is thoroughly engaging and he provides a fantastic wah-wah infused guitar solo.
Rather than try to top the excitement level of the previous number, the group next goes in the opposite direction with Danko and pianist Tom Stevenson delivering "Unfaithful Servant" primarily as a duet. Featuring an emotive vocal from Danko and lovely piano accompaniment by Stevenson, the rest of the group chill out for most of the song, with Butterfield joining in with tasteful harp embellishments toward the end. Next up is a tasty blues-based excursion on an instrumental take of Chuck Berry's "Good Feeling." Although the trademark Berry riffs are in there, this is primarily a showcase for Butterfield, who solos continuously throughout. The group brings out the deep-rooted blues that are at the core of so many of Chuck Berry's rock 'n' roll songs. A number from Danko's solo album follows with an excellent reading of "Brainwash" before Blondie Chaplin provides another true highlight of this performance with a glorious take on Brian Wilson's "Sail On Sailor." While devoid of the beautiful soaring vocal harmonies of the Beach Boys, this is no less engaging, thanks to the thick chunky guitar riffs and Chaplin's catchy pop sensibilities. The entire group sounds as if they are savoring every second of this delightful performance.
The last 10 minutes of the set are devoted to high energy blues romps. Butterfield leads the way with a take on "Born In Chicago," a staple of his repertoire since the mid 1960s. With Butterfield handling lead vocals and blowing harp throughout, this is a prime example of the tasteful interplay between all the musicians. These musicians can blaze away without ever stepping on each other's toes and that ability is what makes this such an inspired performance. At times Butterfield's harp blends so perfectly with the lead guitar that it is almost impossible to tell where one instrument ends and another begins. These musicians really listen to each other and are triggering off each other in a very organic way. They close with another great number from Danko's solo album, Java Blues. For this, they invite John Sebastian up on stage who provides a second harmonica and vocal support. This driving blues again features plenty of fantastic interplay. Early on Sebastian takes a harp solo followed by Butterfield taking one of his own, but it is right after the bridge that things really take off. Here this develops into an exciting jam with the entire group jelling perfectly. Nice slide guitar work, more great harp blowing, and everyone is adding to the mix with thoroughly engaging results.
The audience demands more and the group, with Sebastian still in tow, return to the stage for one last blowout on the Junior Walker/Sam Phillips classic, "Mystery Train." A number that was often included in both Butterfield and the Band's live repertoires, this is another delightful romp with everyone, including Sebastian belting out vocals and the entire group blazing away. This opening performance set the bar for all that was still to come and the group exit to monumental applause, preparing the audience for Texas guitar slinger Johnny Winter who would next take the stage.