Saturday, December 10, 2016
Kingfish - Live 'N' Kickin' (1977)
Kingfish has been called a Grateful Dead offshoot band but that's not really the case. The group was started in 1973 by two members of New Riders of the Purple Sage, guitarist and harmonica player Matt Kelly and the late bassist Dave Torbert.
It was only after they'd gotten the band together that they were joined by Grateful Dead guitarist Bob Weir. And that's where the story gets interesting.
For their self-titled debut LP, which came out in '76, Weir brought them a song suite that would become a staple of the Dead's live repertoire: "Lazy Lightning/Supplication." These songs were played hundreds of times live. Decades later, when newbie Deadheads went back to figure out where they'd originated, many were befuddled as to why Weir brought them to this obscure band's first album and not a Dead album like Blues For Allah -- which could have used those songs.
In fact, the Dead's studio albums would have been a lot stronger had Weir and Jerry Garcia not consistently put their best songs on side projects and solo records instead of Dead albums. What were they thinking? The tales of internal struggles and solo record deals are too detailed for me to map out here. But if you want to know the full story, I'd recommend buying the book "The Grateful Dead FAQ: All That's Left To Know About the World's Greatest Jam Band."
As most readers of this blog know, I'm big on pushing this book because the author is the reason for all the out-of-print Dead rarities that have been posted here. This album is another one of those. Most hardcore Deadheads don't even know it exists. Unlike that first Kingfish album, this one has never been released on CD, which is odd because it came out on a bigger label, Jet Records. Kingfish's debut (which got to #50) had been released on the Dead's own Round Records imprint, which folded shortly thereafter.
Live 'N' Kickin' was Kingfish's follow-up to the aforementioned debut. Putting out a live LP as a second album was clearly a way to cash in on the involvement of Weir, who would soon return to the Dead full-time. But even with that it's still a decent album if you enjoy this kind of meat-and-potatoes rock'n'roll. It almost made the Top 100, which is actually not bad considering Weir appears on it even less than he does on that first record.
Here, Weir sings the closing track, a cover of Chuck Berry's "Around and Around." That's it. That wasn't even much of a novelty in '77, because the Dead had just released a live version on the 1976 album Steal Your Face. It's even less of a novelty now, since you can go to Archive.org and hear virtually all of the 418 (yes, 418) performances the Dead did of this song.
But that said, this is otherwise a pretty cool document of a '70s rock band getting down at a live club, in this case the Roxy in Hollywood. They don't make 'em like this anymore. People now play this music self-consciously as "roots music" or "jam band music," or they do it with a touch of irony and perform it revival-style. But this is the real thing and what it lacks in subtlety it makes up for in enthusiasm. (This, by the way, is also the reason I enjoy listen to the rare Pat Travers concert I posted earlier this year.)
The versions of "Mule Skinner Blues" and "I Hear You Knocking" show that these guys knew their roots, while "Juke" showcases Kelly's impressive harmonica skills, which were also heard on such Dead songs as "I Need A Miracle." Also, anyone who likes the Dead's "groove songs" like "Franklin's Tower" or "Help On The Way," should really take to Kelly and Torbert's "Hypnotize," a similar song from the first album that they rock the hell out of here.
Other Grateful Dead posts:
The Grateful Dead - Aoxomoxoa (Original Mix, 1969)
The Grateful Dead - Spirit of '76: Live at the Cow Palace Bonus Disc (2007)
The Grateful Dead - Days Between: The Final Album That Never Was (1992-95)
Grateful Dead-related posts:
Mother McCree's Uptown Jug Champions - Live at the Top of the Tangent (1964)
Keith & Donna - Keith & Donna (1975)
Diga Rhythm Band - Diga (1976)
Robert Hunter - Jack O' Roses (1980)
Bobby and the Midnites - Featuring Bob Weir (1981)
Brent Mydland - Unreleased Solo Album (1982)
Tom Constanten - Grateful Dreams (2000)
1. Good-Bye Yer Honor
3. Mule Skinner Blues
4. I Hear You Knocking
6. Jump for Joy
7. Overnight Bag
8. Jump Back
9. Shake and Fingerpop
10. Around and Around