Big Brother & the Holding Company

Summertime Blues

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The release of the official Big Brother & the Holding Company CD Live at Winterland '68, as well as the ready availability of good-quality 1967 footage of the band in the video Ball and Chain and Monterey Pop, means that the existence of this bootleg of material from two shows in 1968 isn't nearly as exciting as it might have been if much higher fidelity live documents of the band weren't so accessible. That's especially true given that the sound quality of these seven tracks from May 18, 1968 (at the Santa Clara County Fair Grounds in San Jose), and five songs from August 23, 1968 (at the Singer Bowl in Flushing, NY), isn't anywhere near the level of the aforementioned official releases. For a bootleg of late-'60s concerts, however, it's not bad, the voices and instruments coming through fairly well, if rather harshly and tinnily (the San Jose excerpt, according to the back cover, was recorded on "Jorma K.'s reel on-stage," presumably referring to Jorma Kaukonen). And for all its inessential value to all but fervent fans, it's actually fairly enjoyable, and not just a completist souvenir. The performances are quite good, rough'n'ready, and non-identical to the most familiar versions, with a generous 68 minutes of music in total. The songs include most of their best tunes, among them two versions each of "Summertime," "Combination of the Two," and "Piece of My Heart," as well as one version apiece of "Cuckoo" and "Ball & Chain." And to top it off there are two charges through the raunchy blues-rocker "Comin' Home," a song that doesn't seem to have made it onto any Big Brother release.