Jesse Colin Young - vocals, guitar; Banana (Lowell Levinger) - vocals, guitar, banjo, keyboards; Michael Kane - bass; Joe Bauer - drums; Richard "Earthquake" Anderson - harmonica
It wasn't a sunny day in the park, but The Youngbloods could conjure up that atmosphere anywhere. Presented here is the first of two nights when they headlined an impressive triple bill at the Fillmore East featuring Blues Image and Tim Hardin as openers. This engaging set features a fine mix of classic material from their 1960s recordings for RCA, a couple of songs unavailable on their albums and an enticing preview of their forthcoming album at the time, Rock Festival, which was released on the band's fledgling Raccoon Records label just four days after this performance.
The band's distinctive brand of feel-good music was still very much intact in 1970, but they were also splintering. Following the departure of lead guitarist Jerry Corbitt in 1969, The Youngbloods had continued as a trio for a year, but with Jesse Colin Young unsatisfied playing bass and Banana taking over as primary soloist on keyboards and guitar, another member was needed. The solution came in the form of bass player, Michael Kane, Banana's old friend from his pre-Youngbloods days in Banana & The Bunch. This not only freed up Young to concentrate on vocals and acoustic guitar on stage, but also helped facilitate new material being added to the live repertoire. While the subsequent Youngbloods albums would not fare well commercially, each contained plenty of great music, much of it performed live here. Their friend Richard "Earthquake" Anderson, who blows a mean blues harp, was also on board during this time. As the performance reveals, Jesse Colin Young was clearly heading toward the singer-songwriter folk-rock mode that would define his 1970s solo career and Banana was returning to his earlier roots in traditional banjo music and more esoteric fare.
The set essentially vacillates between Jesse Colin Young-led material and Banana-led material, all of it highly enjoyable. The forthcoming Rock Festival album is well represented, with Banana contributing the vibrant "Faster All The Time," his lovely banjo instrumental, "Interlude," and the traditional "Fiddler A Dram," in addition to one of his most beautiful electric piano instrumentals, "On Beautiful Lake Spenard." From the same album, Jesse Colin Young performs a gorgeous cover of opener Tim Hardin's "Misty Roses."
The band's greatest album, Elephant Mountain is also well represented here, particularly early on in the set, when the band perform the ominous "Darkness Darkness," the pop confection "Rain Song" and Jesse Colin Young's lovely "Sunlight" all in succession. Toward the tail end of the set, Banana also leads the group through a wild ride on the piano-based instrumental that he contributed to the Elephant Mountain sessions, "On Sir Francis Drake."
Material that would never make a Youngbloods album is also included, in the form of Jesse Colin Young's "Sweet Little Child" and "High On A Ridgetop" which, despite being the title song of their final album, was not issued on the actual album. They also treat the audience to several additional previews of songs that would later surface on subsequent albums. Banana's sense of humor is readily apparent on "Hippie From Olema" where he revamps Merle Haggard's "Okie From Muskogee" from the hippie perspective. This would turn up on The Youngbloods' Good & Dusty album the following year. They also deliver a couple of vintage covers, including Jimmy Reed's classic blues, "Baby, What You Want Me To Do" and Ritchie Valens' romantic "Donna," the latter of which would surface on their final album, High On A Ridgetop in 1972.
Not surprisingly this performance wraps up with their one big hit, the Dino Valenti-penned brotherhood anthem that will forever loom large in The Youngbloods' legacy, "Get Together."
-Written by Alan Bershaw