Elvin Bishop - guitar, vocals; Jo Baker - lead vocals; Perry Welsh - lead vocals, harp; Bonnie Pointer - vocals; Anita Pointer - vocals; Stephen Miller - piano, organ, vocals; Kip Maercklein - bass; John Chambers - drums
Following his years with Chicago's legendary Butterfield Blues Band, Elvin Bishop relocated to San Francisco and becomes a mainstay of the Bay Area jam scene before forming his own band. Another early signing to Bill Graham's fledgling record label, the Elvin Bishop group becomes a popular Bay Area attraction. To Bishop's credit, he did not dominate the band's material and they developed a repertoire that included a wide range of musical styles that often showcased the other talent in the band, especially female vocalist Jo Baker and the three Pointer Sisters, who were all in the group at this time. Also of particular note is keyboardist, Stephen Miller (not to be confused with Steve Miller), an incredibly talented musician who was also a ubiquitous presence on the San Francisco jam scene.
This four-night run at San Francisco's intimate Keystone Korner was recorded with intentions of assembling a live album for the Elvin Bishop Group. Unfortunately, due to health issues within the band, this never came to be. Immediately after touring through New England, where the cold March weather wreaked health havoc on lead vocalist, Jo Baker, as well as all three of the Pointer Sister's, they flew back to San Francisco for this run. Baker and The Pointer Sisters all give it their best shot on opening night, but by the second night all four were bedridden with the flu and unable to perform for the rest of the run.
Despite their health, the full frontline of singers are there on opening night and one would be hard-pressed to tell they were on the verge of collapse. The first set begins with a welcome monologue from Bishop before the core group kick into an energetic warm-up exercise on Stephen Miller's original, "Pipeliner." With everything sounding good and the live recording rolling, they continue with a high energy set, featuring a diverse range of their strongest material. Despite their health, the Pointers and Jo Baker deliver. From the gospel leanings of "Higher and Higher" to the propulsive set closer "Crazy 'Bout You Baby," the singers all sound on target and the feel good energy of this band comes through loud and clear. Bishop gets to sink his teeth into the blues on "The Sky Is Crying" and Miller's chugging Hammond B-3 playing is outstanding on every song and particularly on the setcloser. This is a band whose mission is to get people moving and feeling good and nowhere was this more appreciated than in San Francisco, their home base.
Much the same can be said about the second set which begins in similar fashion with an instrumental warm-up on "Never Trust a Woman." Then they raise the energy level several notches with the infectious "Party 'Til the Cows Come Home." Bishop follows this with a questionable monologue about women that goes on far too long, but redeems himself with a powerhouse version of "The Things That I Used To Do," a standout track from their album. The second set ends with tight renditions of "If You Love Me Like You Say" and "Wanderin'.
With so many local friends ready to party, the second break may have lasted longer than expected. By the time they took the stage again, last call was rapidly approaching, so the third jam set is relegated to 20 minutes. However, they pack a punch in the time they have. Bishop's friend, songwriter and talented guitarist, Mike Henderson, sits in and like the previous two sets, they begin with a hot instrumental. Henderson's muscular brand of guitar fits right in and he adds his own bluesy edge to the proceedings. Bishop seems totally content to let Henderson front the band, which he does on a blazing take of "Goin' Down Slow." A quick, enjoyable romp through "Fannie Mae" and Bishop informs everyone that they've run out of time.
Thus ended the first and only night to feature the full band. Fortunately, they kept the tapes rolling on the utterly unique performances that occurred on the remaining three nights.
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