Various Artists

San Francisco Live

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While the strange San Francisco Live CD has some interesting rare live material associated with the late-'60s/early-'70s San Francisco rock scene, it's let down by an inexcusable absence of any information whatsoever to put it in context. Such as: when and where was this stuff recorded? No dates and locations are given for these concert recordings, including tracks by San Francisco heavyweights the Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane, as well as other local acts of stature like Boz Scaggs and It's a Beautiful Day. Since several of the artists were not Bay Area-based, like Gordon Lightfoot, Taj Mahal, and the Chambers Brothers, one has to assume that they got onto this compilation because their cuts were recorded in San Francisco. Ignoring these flaws, this is a fairly good grab bag of a compilation, with decent though not stunning sound. Standouts are It's a Beautiful Day's staple "White Bird"; Lightfoot's "Early Morning Rain"; Jefferson Airplane's "White Rabbit" and "Plastic Fantastic Lover"; a ten-minute "Time Has Come Today" by the Chambers Brothers; and long workouts by the Dead on "Morning Dew" and "Turn On Your Lovelight," the latter of which has guest vocals by Janis Joplin. In this august company, some of the performances by more second-division acts such as Commander Cody, Elvin Bishop, and Jesse Winchester come off as bland and inferior. Ending the disc is a real curiosity: "Hell Bound Train," a 1964-sounding earnest folk tune by the Town Criers (mistakenly spelled Town Cryers on the sleeve) that, according to the track listing, includes a pre-Airplane Marty Balin in the lineup.

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