After 45 years, Billy Gibbons and the Moving Sidewalks reunited to play a set in New York City on March 30, 2013. You can find several audience videos on YouTube, including this one of their best-known tune, “99th Floor”:
ZZ Top guitarist Billy Gibbons and his pre-ZZ Top bandmates from the Moving Sidewalks will reunite for a show on March 30th – the first time the original quartet has played live in 45 years! Performing as part of the Cavestomp garage rock festacular, the Moving Sidewalks will play B.B. King’s Blues Club & Grill in New York City. Advanced tickets are already on sale. Also check out the recently released complete anthology of the Moving Sidewalks’ recordings.
Reissued two-disc anthology of San Francisco legends
Legacy’s two-disc Essential collection is actually a re-branded reissue of the 1998 Hits release, reiterating the same 35-track lineup and including Ben Fong-Torres original liner notes. If you pop these discs in your computer’s CD drive, you’re even likely to have the cover image of Hits pulled up by your media player. The set remains a good overview of “the band that transformed with the times,” from Jefferson Airplane’s scene-leading San Francisco Sound recordings of the mid-to-late ‘60s, through Jefferson Starship’s inheritance and evolution, and the Kantner-less Starship’s full-face turn to radio-friendly pop. The musical, social and commercial distance traveled from the Airplane’s earthy psychedelic jams to the Starship’s synth-laden ballads is itself a monument to adaptability.
The seventeen Airplane selections cover all seven of the band’s first run albums (nothing from their 1989 self-titled reunion is included), along with the single-only “Have You Seen the Saucers.” A few of their lower charting singles are absent, but other than “Somebody to Love” and “White Rabbit,” the Airplane was never a Top 40 success, and so the additional album tracks are more telling. Missing are tracks with early Airplane vocalist Signe Anderson singing lead, and even more noticeable is the lack of live material. Performance was an essential element of the San Francisco scene, and no telling of the Airplane’s story is truly complete without the stage interplay of vocalists and instrumentalists. Follow-on purchases of 30 Seconds Over Winterland, Bless Its Pointed Little Head or the more recent 6-CD anthology of vintage tapes can fill that gap.
Though the Jefferson Starship name was employed for Kantner’s 1970 sci-fi concept album, Blows Against the Empire, a steady band wasn’t formed until four years later for 1974’s Dragon Fly. This set skips the former album and picks up with two songs (“Caroline” and “Ride the Tiger”) from the latter. Though Dragon Fly went gold (and hit #11 on the album chart), it was the group’s next release, Red Octopus, that marked their real commercial breakthrough. Topping the album chart, the album spun off the Top 5 single “Miracles” and introduced a band who would have a ten year run in the Top 40. Most of Jefferson Starship’s biggest hits are included here, missing only their Top 20 “Winds of Change.” All eight of the group’s first run studio albums are sampled here; their two reunion releases (1998’s Windows of Heaven and 2008’s Jefferson’s Tree of Liberty) are skipped.
Deluxe reissue of infamous 1960s Texas psych-blues
The Moving Sidewalks first came to wide attention outside of Texas with the inclusion of their incendiary 1967 single “99th Floor” on the second volume of the garage rock anthology, Pebbles. Tantalized by a liner note reference to “Bill” Gibbons and ZZ Top, fans tracked down the group’s album, Flash, and found – no doubt disappointingly to some – that the bulk of the band’s oeuvre favored heavy psychedelic blues-rock, rather than the organ, guitar and harmonica punk of “99th Floor.” Though part of the Texas scene, the Sidewalks leaned more to the electric blues of Jimi Hendrix (to which “Pluto – Sept 31st” clearly tips its cap) and Savoy Brown, than to the punk rock or Mouse and the Traps or the psychedelia of the 13th Floor Elevators.
The album’s been reissued before , including a few of the bonus tracks heard on this set’s second disc. What sets this reissue apart, aside from the crisp audio (mono on 1, 3 and 5 of Flash) and the involvement of Billy Gibbons, are non-LP singles, demos and alternate takes that provide the bridge from “99th Floor” to Flash. The three singles include “99th Floor” (also heard twice more in earlier form by the Moving Sidewalks’ predecessor, The Coachmen) and its B-side “What Are You Going To Do.” The band continued to flirt with garage even as it turned more heavily to the blues with the guitar-and-organ instrumental “Headin’ Out,” and their single for Wand (the bluesy “Need Me”) features the punkier “Every Night a New Surprise” on the flip. Their last single, a cover of the Beatles’ “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” is either magnificent or Spinal Tapian, depending on your perspective.
Mono mixes of the Electric Prunes’ singles 1966-69
For those who weren’t there in ’66 and ’67, the oldies radio shorthand for the Electric Prunes has been their one big hit, “I Had to Much to Dream (Last Night),” as anthologized (as the lead off track, no less) on Lenny Kaye’s legendary Nuggets compilation. The few strokes of shading inclues their chart follow-up, “Get Me to the World on Time,” and an oft-anthologized ad for Vox Wah-Wah pedals. It’s an abbreviation that shortchanges the band’s recorded legacy. Reissues of their albums along with single- and double-disc compilations (including Birdman’s Lost Dreams and Rhino’s Too Much to Dream) expanded the group’s posthumous reputation, and are now joined by this collection of twenty-four mono single mixes. As a group whose tenure spanned across AM Top 40 and the birth of underground FM radio, their singles are just as interesting as the stereo album tracks.
Like several other groups of their era, including the Chocolate Watchband and Grass Roots, the Electric Prunes name was applied to several wholly different aggregations of musicians. The original lineup shifted subtly through the group’s first two albums (I Had Too Much to Dream (Last Night) and Underground), but with their third, the David Axelrod-produced orchestral Mass in F Major, the original band essentially broke up. The album was completed with studio musicians, and its follow-up, Release of an Oath, was produced similarly by Axelrod. The final album released under the Electric Prunes name, Just Good Old Rock and Roll, was recorded by a newly recruited group of musicians, wholly unrelated to the original lineup.
The singles gathered here span all three eras of the Electric Prunes – variations of the original lineup on the first two albums (1-12, 15 and 24), the Axelrod years (13-17), and the “new and improved” lineup (18-23). Original members James Lowe and Mark Tulin appeared on two of Axelrod’s productions (“Sanctus” and “Credo”), but the compositions and productions are so far divorced from the group’s earlier garage psych as to be nearly unidentifiable as the same band. The new lineup held on to only hints of the original group’s roots, bringing hard rock, boogie, funk and soul sounds to the Electric Prunes name.
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