Brian Marnell - guitar, vocals; Mario Cippolina - bass, vocals; John Farey - keyboards, trombone, vocals; Brian Hogan - tenor sax, percussion, vocals; John Colla - alto sax, percussion, vocals; Bill Gibson - drums, vocals
In 1974, there was no young California band more promising than Marin County's Soundhole. Not only did the group contain six talented musicians, but they all could sing and several were songwriters to boot. Raised on the sounds of San Francisco, but with a comprehensive musical awareness collectively, Soundhole covered a lot of territory. The band's local influences are strong, and comparisons to the Sons Of Champlin and early Boz Scaggs are the most obvious, but one can also tell the band was aware of Steely Dan and contemporary jazz and blues. Earlier in the year, the band had an exciting adventure with Van Morrison, who was living in the Bay Area during that time. Morrison had recently recorded one of the most introspective and ambitious albums of his career, Veedon Fleece, but was experiencing a phase of serious stage fright. Still compelled to perform, he recruited Soundhole and began gigging in local clubs, regaining his ability to connect with an audience. Soundhole rose to this challenge and these club shows remain some of the most treasured fan memories of Morrison's entire career. (Two 1974 Van/Soundhole performances at yhe Orphanage are also available here in the Concert Vault and are highly recommended.)
This Soundhole recording from later that same year captures the group on a local talent night at Winterland, on a bill with Grayson Street and EarthQuake. Performing their own material, almost all of it impressive, it's a wonder they never managed to get the word out beyond California. Following Jerry Pompili's introduction, Soundhole immediately kicks into a funky groove to introduce the band members before sailing into "You're More Than Alright." With drummer Bill Gibson on lead vocals, this high-energy opener continues the groove James Brown style and features tasteful sax and guitar solos within. Keyboardist John Farey, the most naturally soulful voice in the band takes over next for "Everyday (For The Rest Of My Life)," a song that recalls the smooth R&B feel of Boz Scaggs. This also features impressive vocal arrangements, with contributions from all the band members toward the end.
The next song, "Work To Do" also features collective vocal arrangements, but this time it is horn player John Colla taking lead vocal duties. Featuring engaging electric piano and guitar solos from Brian Marnell and John Farey respectively, this song draws many comparisons to local legends Sons Of Champlin, which obviously had an overt influence on Soundhole. Following a brief delay to fix a blown fuse on stage, the group continues with the Steely Dan-esgue, "I Love You," again with drummer Bill Gibson taking lead vocals. This forceful slow grooving rocker also features sweet solos from Marnell and Farey, but it's the tight rhythm section of Gibson and Mario Cippolina (brother of Quicksilver Messenger Service guitarist, John) that propel this along with such style. This launches directly into "Back To The Summer Of Love," a punchy horn infused number written and sung by guitarist Brian Marnell. This leads up to a brief showcase of Gibson and Cippolina, who lead the way into "Bump 'n' Grind," another horn-fueled dance number that must have had the audience up on its feet. This features some of the most complex interplay of the evening, not only including smoking sax and guitar solos, but keyboard player Farey also cuts loose on trombone!
Farey's soulful lead vocals and bluesy electric piano return for the set-closing "Everywhere All The Time." A very catchy number, this may have been intended as a single and features a respectfully economical guitar solo before Colla takes a more lengthy alto solo over Farey's compelling keyboard work. The audience demands an encore and Soundhole gratefully obliges. They close it out with guitarist Brian Marnell's "The Love," another funk flavored dance number that allows this talented collective one last chance to shine.