Truly Fine Citizen

Moby Grape

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Truly Fine Citizen Review

by Mark Deming

1969's Truly Fine Citizen was the last gasp for the original incarnation of Moby Grape. The departures of guitarist Skip Spence and bassist Bob Mosley had reduced the once-mighty band to a trio, and sessionman Bob Moore had to be brought in to fill out the lineup. Columbia Records decided Moby Grape needed a break from producer and studio collaborator David Rubinson, and they were sent to Nashville to record with Bob Johnston, best known for his work with Bob Dylan. Johnston reportedly began the sessions by announcing the album had to be recorded in a mere three days, and if the musicians didn't like it they were free to leave. And Moby Grape were in the midst of an ugly legal dispute with their manager that resulted in most of the songs on the album being credited to Tom Dell'ara, their road manager. Given all this, it's a pleasant surprise that Truly Fine Citizen isn't a disaster -- it's a loose but amiable set of sunny psychedelic pop-rock with a decided country influence. Guitarists Peter Lewis and Jerry Miller had already shown their country leanings on Moby Grape '69, and here it comes to the forefront with some solid Nashville-style picking, and their harmonies with drummer Don Stevenson remain one of the highlights of the group's sound. There are a few good songs on board, including "Looper" (which had been in the Grape's repertoire since their earliest days), the sunny "Changes, Circles Spinning" and the title cut, a tribute to a mystic healer the band had met on the road. But Truly Fine Citizen was basically a rush job recorded to finish out Moby Grape's contract with Columbia, and too much of the time that's just what it sounds like, despite the obvious talent of the musicians, and the jazzy "Love Song, Pt. Two" and "Now I Know High," which at 6:14 meanders twice as long as the album's second longest tune, are clear filler on an album that's barely over a half-hour long. Moby Grape were still capable of making a good album when they cut Truly Fine Citizen, but they scarcely had the opportunity to demonstrate that.

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