The Monterey International Pop Festival
Razor & Tie/Starbucks Entertainment, 2007
REVIEW BY: David Bowling
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 06/30/2007
The Monterey International Pop Festival on June 16-18, 1967 drew 200,000 people and predated Woodstock by two years. This two-disc set commemorates the 40th anniversary of the festival.
The good news is that it is an excellent look at not only the festival itself, but at a time when rock music was changing and spreading out in many directions. The combination of artists shows this splintering of rock music in 1967. Jimi Hendrix, Simon & Garfunkel, The Byrds, The Mamas & The Papas, Jefferson Airplane, The Who, The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, The Electric Flag and more all combine to show a tremendous versatility that had not been present to a great degree in rock music since.
The bad news is that Rhino Records released a massive box set 15 years ago to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the festival that clocked in at more than hours of music and contained a wonderful illustrated 100-page booklet.
Let me say, with apologies to my wife, that bigger is not always better. This shortened edition may be enough for most people and the price is a lot easier to take. While the songs are out of context in that they are taken from complete sets, the choices are fairly well made and they do provide an excellent sampling of the era and artists involved.
Disc Two is superior to the first. Grace Slick of Jefferson Airplane can just plain sing. Her voice dominates “Somebody To Love” and “White Rabbit” and proves that live she can extend her vocal range and bring a uniqueness to the group’s songs. Otis Redding is represented by “Shake” and “I’ve Been Loving You (Too Long).” I have heard these songs a hundred times and am always amazed at the passion behind them. Six months later Otis Redding would die in a plane crash; this festival remains one of the shining documents in his legacy.
Pre-Tommy Who are represented by “Summertime Blues” and “My Generation,” which are presented in typical 60’s frenetic Who style. The two Hendrix tracks are interesting. I have heard the full set and two of the mellow tracks are included here, “The Wind Cries Mary” and “Like A Rolling Stone.” They do not show Hendrix at his showy best but are quiet reminders of his greatness. Downsides to this disc include a hoarse Stephen Stills on the Buffalo Springfield hit "For What It's Worth" and everything by Ravi Shankar, who is either terrible or beyond my comprehension. Also, while the Mamas and The Papas presented a terrific set on the Rhino box, they suffer the most here by only being represented by a couple of songs.
Disc One is pleasant but does not have the highs of the second. I have always preferred the Big Brother Joplin represented here by “Ball and Chain” and “Down On Me” to the solo Joplin. Simon & Garfunkel present “Homeward Bound” and “Sounds Of Silence,” which were not on the Rhino set. While it is nice to hear Simon & Garfunkel live in 1967, I have heard these songs many times and they still sound the same. Such groups as The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Country Joe and The Fish, The Electric Flag, The Association and even the Byrds do not hold up well with the passage of time, making this disc sound more dated than the second.
The Monterey International Pop Festival is satisfying as far as it goes. Music has come a long way since 1967 and the music on this CD is frozen in time. Still, it is an excellent glimpse of an era and a nice historical musical document showcasing some of rock's all-time greatest artists.
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