Purple Pyramid 2013
Caught in the state of turmoil on their home turf, Californian heroes excel in making rock history.
Ever true to their name, this band rarely stayed in one place for long – musically speaking, of course, for when the group played Mill Valley, when they were based, there was an Antaeus-like quality to their delivery – and the March, 1970 concert sees the sextet shed another skin. Unlike the Purple Pyramid’s previous release, where collective spirit reigns, here’s a singular axis that the concert spins around: Dino Valenti, out of prison and in the fold again to tilt the balance. Full of ideas and with Gary Duncan back on axe and voice as well, there’s a little glance over the shoulder in terms of repertoire, only Bo Diddley’s “Mona” taking its usual pride of voodoo place in the set; albeit relegates its expanse to a couple of jams with James Cotton on harp which swing blues into rock ‘n’ roll as a demonstration of the genre’s evolution, and much looking forward.
Forward in the future, in the case of “The Truth” whose lazy soulfulness, given tension by John Cipollina’s guitar and Greg Elmore’s percussion, would inspire Mick ‘n’ Keef’s “Miss You” in half a decade, or a bit closer to home for QMS to record it more than a year after it was unveiled before the “Old Mill Tavern” crowd. Local audience seems receptive enough here to ignore the slightly out-of-tune slide of opener “Subway” – yet to be cut in the studio, too – and savor its country chug, funkified with Nicky Hopkins’ electric piano, as well as “Baby Baby” which the six-piece take on-stage for the first time, if already in that folky flow that ended up on record two months later. Not so with a tremulous “Rain” floating on vocal harmonies into the hippiedom’s eco-heart, unlike the acid-kissed groover “Mojo” conjuring wild magic exactly as its title suggests – with a lot of lyrical borrowing from Willie Dixon. A classic in motion: one of the best performances from the band to be reconfigured soon, yet transfixed in the moment.