Bob Lefsetz: Welcome To My World - "Fillmore - The Last Days Primer"
The film came out a year after the Fillmores closed, had almost no impact, and neither did this boxed set of highlights, but oh how high those highlights are!
Actually, "Fillmore-The Last Days" was one of the few movies I walked in in the middle of, I'm like Alvy in "Annie Hall," I've got to see it from the beginning, otherwise I'm fearful I've missed something, but a concert movie?
Yup, I was worried about this in a concert movie too, but we had tickets for Newport Jazz back when it was in New York and this was the only way the timing worked, my friend Ronnie, who is no longer with us, convinced me.
And the flick shows Bill Graham in action, as well as...
IN A SILENT WAY
This is the definitive version. I know that's heretical, considering most people consider Miles Davis's iteration of the Joe Zawinul composition the one and only statement, but most of them have never heard this Santana take.
Yes, I heard Mr. Davis, opening for Laura Nyro at the Fillmore East, during the "Bitches Brew" tour, but I didn't get it.
This I get.
Hang in there. It's instrumental music. It changes tempos. It's best listening alone, as opposed to in a group, which is anathema to the millennials, but back then we were in it together, but at the gig mostly we mind-melded with the act. Check this out, you'll get hooked.
INCIDENT AT NESHABUR
What the hell, might as well feature this cut which originally appeared on the second Santana LP, "Abraxas." And that iteration is great, but there's even more energy in this live take.
POPPA CAN PLAY
Eventually Bill Champlin went to work with Chicago, and he's barely a footnote, and his original act, the Sons of Champlin, barely broke out of the Bay Area, but this is infectious. It's loose, at first it seems disconnected, but then you get it, the organ links it together.
You don't need to take some apple juice in the lobby to enjoy this, you'll find almost no one else knows it, but I keep singing it in my head decades later. Really.
Lamb. Remember them? You remember, Barbara Mauritz? The albums on Warner Brothers? No?
Anyway, "Hello Friends" is middling, it's all about "Isn't It Just A Beautiful Day," which did not make the album cut, and is usually known as "River Boulevard," that's how it's credited on the initial Pointer Sisters album. Huh?
Now even the Pointer Sisters have been forgotten, other than a couple of hits, and the first LP had "Yes We Can Can," and they were overnight sensations and we rushed out to buy the record and discovered "River Boulevard." Which I knew in its previous incarnation from Lamb's 1971 LP "Bring Out The Sun," which has been rescued from the sands of time on iTunes, but has not yet migrated to Spotify.
Still, you can hear the live "Fillmore" version by going to YouTube. It comes after Lydia Pense and Cold Blood at 6:50. Hear it here.
The truth is I heard the original Lamb studio take on the radio once and never forgot it, kept singing it in my head. And I was stunned to find it on the Pointer Sisters' album, but my jaw dropped when I was sitting in the theatre and Lamb sang it live in its original arrangement.
You won't get it, especially in an era where almost everything is at your fingertips. But to have it exhumed years later...
Do kids know this? A stone cold smash from It's A Beautiful Day's first album that was ubiquitous back then. The band played my college way back when and my bud John found guitarist Hal Wagenet walking the streets of Middlebury and brought him back to his dorm room with his bottle of apricot brandy and we shot the breeze. And John kept the bottle...
From the Dino Valenti Quicksilver, this was their best cut, but really it's about the first three albums, without him.
This is a hit in any rendition, but I did not own "Just For Love," due to its unevenness, and therefore it was great to own this in the Fillmore boxed set.
BACK ON THE STREETS AGAIN
Tower of Power. Their performances were oftentimes better than their material, and this is not one of their best songs, but it's a killer live take.
BABY'S CALLIN' ME HOME
Could be the best track in the collection.
To the degree anybody remembers Boz Scaggs these days it's for his sleek Top Forty hits. This came before that, and this and "Loan Me A Dime" are the apotheosis of his canon.
Check it out, you'll be amazed.
No one does this anymore. Subtlety is taboo. But this is like a Sunday morning in bed with your loved one, very intimate.
Talk about being forgotten...
If you owned a Grateful Dead album, you owned the initial New Riders of the Purple Sage LP, after all New Riders opened so many of the Dead's shows.
This is not as good as the studio take, and it's not my favorite song on their initial LP, but this tale of dope running is a classic, from back when everybody was hip and no one was coming up with a tech solution in their basement, back when computers were still the enemy.
And speaking of the Dead...
They were always rough live, and they're rough here, but it's most definitely them, their sound chugging along like the train in this song.
And there's a Hot Tuna number and some Elvin Bishop work and if you weren't there, you'll find yourself scratching your head. This was back when there were no hard drives, never mind tapes, and live was a unique experience and we didn't go to hear the radio hits, there usually were none, but to revel in the group's oeuvre.
Chances are if you were alive back then, you've never heard this stuff, the collection was overpriced with bad buzz. But picking through you'll find some stuff that'll make you smile.
It was a glorious era. With Fillmores on each coast, tickets three, four and five dollars, with triple-headers and the ability to get in if you paid attention.
The shows I saw at the Fillmore East were some of the best I've ever attended.
Does this boxed set capture the venue and the era?
Far from perfectly, but you can hear the essence.
And that's what we were all concerned with, the essence.