It isn't hard to hear what got Grootna, a sextet from Berkeley, CA, a management deal with entrepreneur Bill Graham and a contract with Columbia Records negotiated by company president Clive Davis. Columbia took a major hit in the fall of 1970 when Janis Joplin died, even though her posthumously released LP, Pearl, became a major success. Joplin, of course, had emerged from the Bay Area band Big Brother & the Holding Company, and Grootna has obvious similarities to it. The group has a loose, eclectic style typical of San Francisco-associated psychedelic acts, with tastes of rock, blues, and country melded in a sense of improvisation heard in lengthy solos from lead guitarist Vic Smith and pianist Richard Sussman. And, in Anna Rizzo, who sings lead on every track except "Road Fever," Grootna has its own Joplin clone. She even tackles a Bessie Smith number, "Young Woman Blues," and a song written by Bob Neuwirth, who provided Joplin with "Mercedes Benz" on Pearl. But, at least on the evidence of this debut album, Rizzo is not the next Joplin, even though she has a strong, effective voice. The songs largely serve as vehicles for the instrumental work, and they usually sound like they could have been much longer. Grootna is also, in an odd way, overshadowed by someone who isn't actually heard on the album itself. The producer is Marty Balin (his actual credit reads, "seduced by"), and this marks his first work on a record since his official departure from Jefferson Airplane, the band he founded. Balin's influence is not strongly felt on Grootna, at least in the sense that the album never sounds much like Jefferson Airplane, but some people will purchase it on the strength of his name and may be disappointed.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann