Moby Grape

Moby Grape

Columbia, 1967

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Not being a child of the ’60s, my understanding of who Moby Grape were came from numerous books that gave basic reviews and overviews of hundreds of groups. From what I could surmise in my teens and twenties, this quintet essentially killed themselves with over-marketing, especially of their sophomore release Wow.

Their self-titled debut release from 1967 suggests that the band was a cross between the Byrds and the Grateful Dead in terms of their style, but the final product, while pleasant enough on the ears, comes off as a poor man’s amalgam of the two bands.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

You can hear both the psychedelic influence and the pseudo-country rock direction that the Byrds were beginning to explore within these 13 songs; tracks like “Omaha,” “Changes” and “Come In The Morning” do show that Moby Grape—guitarist/vocalist Peter Lewis, lead guitarist/vocalist Jerry Miller, bassist/vocalist Bob Mosley, guitarist/vocalist Skip Spence and drummer/vocalist Don Stevenson—had a good ear for writing catchy songs.

The overall issue with Moby Grape is that it doesn’t do terribly much to make itself stand out from what was already a crowded field in the late ’60s. Tracks like “Hey Grandma” and “Naked, If I Want To” might have piqued people’s interest by the titles alone, but after the initial sonic blast, there wasn’t a whole lot of substance behind the music. Granted, this came out at a period of time when record labels weren’t afraid to take chances with artists and bands who might have been lacking in superstar sales numbers, but had artistic potential. In that regard, the potential is there, but it’s underdeveloped.

One problem, perhaps, is the brevity of many of the songs; five clock in at under two minutes, with “Naked, If I Want To” lasting a whole 55 seconds. Perhaps, had Moby Grape done a little more experimenting with where the music could have gone, these quick flashes could have developed into something with more substance. (That’s not to say short songs were a bad idea; at 1:53, “Fall On You” ends up being one of the stronger efforts on the disc.)

Moby Grape has been re-released with bonus tracks, but (as of this writing) appears to be out of print on physical media. It’s still not a terrible way to spend 30 minutes of your day, but if you’re looking for clues as to why some saw them as the next big thing, you might be left scratching your head in confusion.

Rating: C+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



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