Lester Chambers - vocals, percussion, relentless cowbell; Willie Chambers - guitar, vocals; Joe Chambers - guitar, vocals; George Chambers - bass, vocals; Brian Keenan - drums
This show captures The Chambers Brothers at the tail end of their first major North American tour, happy to be back home in California and playing between Richie Havens and Buffalo Springfield. They were experiencing their greatest success at the time, so this is a particularly enjoyable show to listen in on. The band was going through a lot of changes in 1968 when they hit it big with "Time Has Come Today." The single, created by editing an 11-minute psychedelic studio opus down to several minutes, was all over AM radio, and the exploratory album version was a staple of the newly popular underground FM radio formats.
Their talented drummer, Brian Keenan kicks things off with a take on the traditional spiritual "Wade in the Water," immediately establishing a groove. The group's gospel roots are easily apparent here, as is Lester's love of the cowbell, which would resurface later. Immediately following, they take things up a notch with Otis Redding's "I Can't Turn You Loose." While no one could match the intensity of Otis Redding's original vocal, the Brothers give it a good go (the audience response is there for proof). They would soon release their cover version to moderate success, as a follow-up single to "Time Has Come Today."
A preview of a track destined for their next album follows, as they slow things down for a soulful rendition of "I Wish It Would Rain." They then move into a funky romp through "Uptown," with Lester's cowbell keeping pace. As the James Brown-esque groove comes to an end, the cowbell takes up the familiar tick-tock of "Time Has Come Today." The tune draws considerable applause from the audience, most of whom were only familiar with the single. Little did they know what was in store; this monumental version would eventually clock in at over 22 minutes, literally twice the length of the already lengthy album version.
As the metronomic cowbell pulses on, things get a little more interesting. The exploratory tune begins with the signature "coo-coo," followed by a monologue promoting individuality. The musings give way to the song itself, and the more than appropriate line "My soul has been psychedelicized!" The band eventually launches into the raga-like psychedelic jam sequence, which gets weirder with each progressing minute. Screams, primitive delay effects and the fuzztone guitars all begin to blur to create a staggering sound. Vocal quotes of "You Are My Sunshine," instrumental allusions to "The Little Drummer Boy," screams and laughter all blend together and go in and out of focus.
As the piece approaches the 18-minute mark, the Brothers launch back into the second half of the song itself. As they gradually disassemble the instrumentation down to just the tick-tock of the cowbell and shouts of "Time!" they encourage the audience to echo the word along with the band. After the final "Time!" where everyone holds it as long as possible, they hit the final crescendo, which builds into another wall of screams, fuzz guitars and feedback for several minutes, up through the end of the song. As the applause dies down and the recording comes to an end, we're left with one of the brothers saying, "It's nice being home, I'll tell ya that!" Indeed it is.
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