Saturday, March 19, 2011

Apricot Jam- Preserved, Live @ the Fox Theatre

Apricot Jam as the name implies was a local jam band, it was made up of Lewi Longmire (lead guitar, vocals) James Whiton (contra bass,vocals) & Sean O'Brien (rhythm guitar, vocals) The album, "Preserved, Live @ the Fox Theatre" was released in 1995, it consists of an entire live set recorded without overdubs in Boulder, Co.  The tracks were mixed by John Quincy Adams in Albuquerque, The cd's artwork gives a nod to Haight-Asbury, The Furry Freak Bros. and San Francisco circa 1967, it's well drawn and pretty darn funny.  The band describes its music as "psycho organic acoustic boogie rock" and that says it all. Slogans like "Mama loves the Chicken Funk" and "Don't forget to Boogie" clue you in on the cd's musical direction, simply put, this is music for happy feet. On this night, Apricot Jam was jammin', as they effortlessly chug from one song to the next. The opening track "Face" clocks in at eight minutes, but it never drags or gets boring, Lewi's vocals and guitar are engaging, at about the 3:30 mark he breaks into a Stevie Ray-Hendrix inspired solo that is a total joy. The musicianship is top notch, Longmire, O'Brien and especially Whiton play at a very high level.  "Chicken" is the band's signature tune "Chicken in the car now baby and the car won't go" The vocals take the spotlight, as the entire band joins in for a kitchen sink chorus that includes, Little Feat's "Dixie Chicken" and Sly Stone's "Thank You" on which they change the lyrics to "I want to thank you for letting me be my self, Chicken" better music through poultry, I always say!  Track two, "Winter" is a showcase for Lewi's vocal and guitar skills, but the entire band really shines on this track. "All the colors run out of the cold winter sky and the branches are magically white, the wind whispers through every sad evening sound as the trees reach their fingers towards night." It's not the band's most complete song that would be "Person You Were Meant to Be" "In the early evening's shadows in the night skies starry shining" All of Apricot Jam's musical elements come together to create a joyous, vibrant and uplifting sound. "Come with me and see the person you were meant to be"  The song flows with ease, totally unhurried, a comfortable soundtrack for a daydream.
The show continues with the same high energy, the band works hard to take it up another notch, but the songs are weaker and it throttles their efforts."Short on Sugar" is a bluesy ramble, "Take me to the Station" sounds way too much like The Dead, "Take to the Sky" is inspired by Townes Van Zandt, but it fails to get off the ground and then ends abruptly. "Break all The Chains" is a fast paced country shuffle, "The Gospel According to James"  has James doing his thang on the contra bass and is easily the highlight of the second half. "Papa Don't Take No Mess" (yes it's the James Brown song) is a mess, all jam bands feel obligated to toss in a soul number. A trend that started long ago with The Grateful Dead playing "Dancing in the Streets." The concert closes with  "Sparrow & the Crow" a somewhat ordinary boogie tune, it brings down the curtain in a rather plain fashion. The album closes with three tracks from "Sticky" the 1993 cassette release, which was produced by John Q. Adams. The group sounds far more dynamic in the studio, we get all the rich tones that were lost or buried in the live mix.  John Quincy does a beautiful and masterful job, "Number on the Wall" sparkles "She reads Shakespeare, has to stop and catch her breath, he drinks root beer and contemplates the meaning of his death." Take notes, Ben Hathorne, when you can rhyme Shakespeare and root beer and it sounds totally believable, you are a poet!  The production on "Forever Tomorrow" is just as strong even if the song seems fragmented and forced. "At Dream's End" is the "road song" it leaves no doubt that Apricot Jam draws its inspiration from The Dead, and that's not really such a bad thing after all.