Sunday, October 30, 2011

Fever Tree "Live 1969"

(Sundazed) (Guest Review by John Battles) Fever Tree is so closely associated with their one hit (which only reached #91 on the charts) "San Francisco Girls (Return of The Native)", that many people think the Houston-based group was actually from Frisco. Even musical encyclopedia Peter Zaremba, from The Fleshtones, once introduced a live version of the song as "San Francisco Girls .....By the Fever Tree, from San Francisco...." But, The Fever Tree never even PLAYED in San Francisco (Bill Graham, perhaps, thought them too "Teenybopper" or something?) though they did make quite a name for themselves on the Sunset Strip. While their dalliances with Classical music in a commercial Psychedelic vein might seem dated today, this, the last performance with original singer, Dennis Keller, is largely a rock album. It was 1969, Psychedelia was going the way of hard rock. The band manages to straddle the line between the two on their only known live recording (which gets a pretty solid 8 out of 10, soundwise). Keller's vocals, considerably more macho and shredded than on their best known recordings, are complemented by the fuzz, wah - wah, sustain and overall crunch of the late Michael Kunst on lead and rhythm guitar. It's not too far removed from the emerging sounds of fellow Texans The Bubble Puppy, or even Iron Butterfly or Steppenwolf. Even the longer songs are tastefully rendered, but, if you're not already a fan, this album may not change your opinion. Like the recent Human Beinz "Live in Japan " set, or the Sundazed live Moby Grape collection, this is a rarity that's become an accessibility. The show was recorded at Mt. Carmel High School in Houston. Can you imagine that?!! But, a lot of established bands played gigs like this for gas, grass or ass money in those days. In Arlington, Texas, where I went to high school, the only bands that played at my alma mater (Looking forward to missing my 30th Reunion) did Journey or Kenny Rogers covers. Their foot-in-ass rendering of Wilson Pickett's "Ninety-Nine and One Half (Won't Do)” (Already an asskicker on it's own, but, it's not too P.C. to like aggressive, hard-hittin' Soul, these days) and a tuff sendup of Donovan's "Hey, Gyp," are standouts in a set that's free of any bum tracks, with "San Francisco Girls" being the real show-stopper, and, for Dennis Keller, it was the song that stopped the show....until a few years ago, anyway, when he put together a new version of the group (the less said about the Fern Bar Jazz Rock late 70s Fever Tree, the better. If you see their live CD, take a pass, and get this, instead) calling it Fever Tree Rising. He's backed by younger, less seasoned musicians, but they seem to know their way around the songs, as does he. I'm not sure if they're still playing, but You Tube springs eternal.    

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