Sandy Bull

Still Valentine's Day 1969: Live at the Matrix, San Francisco

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Sandy Bull was a pioneering and sometimes brilliant musician whose personal problems derailed a promising career. There are just a handful of albums to his credit, but no live material has been available until now. Still Valentine's Day documents two sets from two nights in 1969 at San Francisco's Matrix club, just before the release of E Pluribus Unum. Given the multi-tracking and other accompaniment that appears on his albums, perhaps the most fascinating thing about this set is how he pulls it off live. On some tracks, he actually uses a tape with the album track minus the lead part to play along with. For others, he uses a guitar setup that splits the signal to both a bass amp and a regular guitar amp, much like Charlie Hunter does today. Then he adds a heavy tremolo to the guitar amp to provide a pulse to play against, resulting in a weird kind of psychedelic blues drone. The recording itself is quite good, although there are some spots of distortion and Bull at times seems frustrated with his setup. His performance, while not perfect, is quite good, especially on the oud improvisations. The tremolo-driven pieces are captivating and hypnotic. Still Valentine's Day isn't the place to start with Sandy Bull, but it's an important addition to his catalog that fans will want to hear.

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