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critic’s pick: rhiannon giddens, ‘freedom highway’ and ‘factory girl’

On “Birmingham Sunday,” one the many highlights from “Freedom Highway,” the second solo album from Rhiannon Giddens, cultures and generations beautifully collide.
The Richard Farina folk tale, first cut by his sister-in-law Joan Baez in 1964, details the bombing of a Baptist church by the Ku Klux Klan and has become widely recognized as an anthem of the civil rights era. Giddens’ take is equally solemn, grounded in steadfast fervency but illuminated by the spotless tonality of her singing and the swelling yet subtle support of a choir. At first, it hits you like a vintage Dylan song, but one done by Sandy Denny during her late ‘60s tenure with Fairport Convention. The performance doesn’t overstate the song’s potency. Instead, it relishes in control and unwavering confidence.

“Freedom Highway” beams regularly with such brilliance. Unlike Giddens’ remarkable 2015 solo debut, “Tomorrow is My Turn,” which stressed stylistic dexterity by downplaying her own material, “Freedom Highway” is more centralized and sports eight original tunes that blend in so naturally with Mississippi John Hurt’s “The Angels Laid Him Away” and the Pops Staples-penned title tune (a true Civil Rights document) that it is often difficult to tell who wrote what.

That’s mostly because of the astonishingly pure voice Giddens remains in possession of. On “Hey Bebe,” co-written with Americana journeyman Dirk Powell (who also co-produced “Freedom Highway” with Giddens), the singing glides along with the joyous but decidedly rootsy jazz/blues support of trumpeter Alphonso Horne. This is “Freedom Highway” at its merriest. But at the other extreme is the original “At the Purchaser’s Option,” a declaration of identity by a young mother and slave sung not with bluesy remorse but with subdued defiance and a touch of grace.

It’s easy to focus exclusively on the refreshingly unforced cast of Giddens’ voice, so much so that hearing “Following the North Star” revert back to the instrumental string fortitude that fueled her work with the Carolina Chocolate Drops is a bonus. With the singer on minstrel banjo, the tune nicely compliments this sublime sophomore work from one of the country’s most gifted roots conscious ambassadors.

As a footnote. “Freedom Highway” coincides with the first CD issue of “Factory Girl,” a five song EP initially released digitally and on vinyl in late 2015. Culled from the same T Bone Burnett-produced sessions that yielded “Tomorrow is My Turn,” it similarly champions the astonishing vocal diversity that distinguished that album.

An Appalachian/Celtic spirit runs through these songs. “Mouth Music” embraces the celebratory side with Gaelic vocal acrobatics that morph into beat box worthy grooves. But the title tune is simply devastating. It’s a different kind of slavery saga, rich in Irish elegance but still saddled with unmovable oppression. Not surprisingly, Giddens sings it with a beauty as deep and pure as the song is relentlessly dire.

the music of bond… james bond

hilary kole. photo by bill westmoreland.

Hilary Kole is hardly a Bond Girl is any conventional sense. But the toast of Manhattan’s most prestigious concert venues (among them, Carnegie Hall, by way of performances with the New York Philharmonic) and cabaret rooms (the famed Rainbow Room, which she began playing at age 21) unquestionably has a fondness for James Bond films. Her preferences, though, run to the music that has been as vital to the evolution of the long running spy movie series as the villainous plot twists, global locales, and, yes, glamorous women.

“You have all kinds of people from all different periods that have kind of bonded through Bond,” said Kole, who will celebrate New Year’s Eve by performing “Casino Royale: The Music of James Bond” with the Lexington Philharmonic. “I feel like its music for everybody.”

Philharmonic conductor and music director Scott Terrell concurs, citing not just the vocal compositions that have served as theme songs to Bond movies for over 50 years but the instrumental scores, especially those composed for the Sean Connery-era films from the 1960s by John Barry, as key to the continued success of the series and to Bond’s overall charisma.

“Great film music really sells us the character,” Terrell said. “But the music becomes yet another character on the screen, even though it’s not a spoken character. I don’t think the success of James Bond is as good without the music – at all, just as ‘Star Wars’ isn’t as good without John Williams. I’m sorry, it just isn’t going to work.

“But what’s interesting, particularly with ‘Goldfinger’ (the vanguard 1964 Bond movie, much of which is set in Kentucky) is how the music is really evocative of this particular era of the Bond movie. That’s Shirley Bassey (the singer who performed the theme, as well as those from two other Bond movies in the ‘70s) at her best. It draws a very strong image of the picture.”

The “Casino Royale” program is striking because is represents a parade of hits by predominantly female vocalists whose styles and temperaments reflect the many eras in which the Bond movies were made. Aside from Bassey, those singers include Nancy Sinatra, Carly Simon, Sheena Easton, Rita Coolidge, Gladys Knight, Tina Turner and, as recently as 2012’s “Skyfall,” Adele.

“You can’t really compare the originals,” Kole said, “My goodness, there are so many singers that have recorded these songs. So I don’t try to do that. I try to just be true to the song.  It’s always a fun thing for me to see how far I can push things, starting off with one tradition, going into rock ‘n’ roll and then the music of someone like Adele.”

Even though Kole plans on putting her own interpretative spin on the music, Terrell said the stylistic breadth of the songs, from the soft spoken pop of Marvin Hamlisch’s “Nobody Does it Better” (sung by Simon for 1977’s “The Spy Who Loved Me”) to the more brazen rock and soul of the U2 penned title tune to “Goldeneye” (recorded for the film by Turner) calls for a vocalist with an equally dynamic range.

“You need somebody like Hilary to tackle the variety and range of this music,” he said. “It’s a heavy lift, which she does really well. Plus, she is a very engaging personality both on an off the stage.

For Kole, the appeal of the Bond movies stems back to her childhood, although she confessed her father, Broadway actor and singer Robert Kole, was the bigger fan.

“My dad was a James Bond addict. I remember my parents watching the films and then getting to see them on television myself when I was very young. When I started researching for this show, I took another look at a lot of the films and was thinking, ‘Wow, they let me watch this?’”

Terrell also considers himself part of the Bond films’ enduring, cross-generational audience.

“I think Bond still has the same allure,” he said. “That’s ultimately it. It hasn’t lost its interest for any generation.

“Hey, I’m not going to lie. Whenever the next James Bond movie comes out, I will likely be there within the first week.”

Casino Royale: The Music of James Bond featuring the Lexington Philharmonic and Hilary Kole will be performed 7:30 p.m. Dec. 31 at the Lexington Opera House, 401 W. Short. The concert is sold out.

critic’s pick: kacey musgraves, ‘a very kacey christmas’

The inherent sweetness of Kacey Musgraves’ new holiday album “A Very Kacey Christmas” is revealed early on. During “Christmas Don’t Be Late,” the country music stylist transforms a nearly 60 year old pop relic into a spry country waltz with a hint of accordion providing a bordertown kick. The original version, of course, was popularized by Alvin and the Chipmunks and came loaded with kitsch. But Musgraves sings the song straight, embracing its childlike wonder and unavoidable innocence while discarding its campy extremes.

That, in a nutshell, is what “A Very Kacey Christmas” is all about and why it stands as one of the year’s more appealing new holiday recordings. Musgraves avoids carols and focuses strongly on the pop side of the season. But she also avoids the excess sentimentalism that country artists ladle onto Christmas music by the pickup truckload. Credit that to the mix of traditionalism, roots-consciousness and cunning that has made her one of the more refreshing young voices out of Nashville.

Four original tunes are served up on this holiday platter, the most immediately amusing being “A Willie Nice Christmas,” a clever collaboration with – who else? – Willie Nelson. The tune is played against a ukulele rhythm, creating a sense of tropical escape anchored by the promise to, with Willie’s help, “leave some special cookies for Santa.” Use your imagination.

That is about as far as adult innuendo extends on “A Very Kacey Christmas.” “Ribbons and Bows” is all hand-clapping, Ronettes-style girl group pop – a total vacation from anything Nashville oriented. On the flip side is “Christmas Makes Me Cry,” a waltz of lighter, more fanciful but also more purposely bittersweet design. Spliced emotively between the two is “Present Without a Bow,” a romantic encounter that falls between vintage country and soul with Leon Bridges serves as a suave ambassador of the latter.

The standards get an appealing makeover, too. “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” sparkles with colors of prairie-flavored pedal steel, percussive ‘60s orchestration and Musgraves’ wide eyed singing while “Feliz Navidad” surrenders to full Tex Mex treatment, joyous and gorgeously rhythmic.

Color me crazy, but the sentiments of “A Very Kacey Christmas” crystallize best during “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas.” Musgraves’ Nashville-meets-Dr. Seuss treatment of the 1953 novelty hit barrels along like a cartoon parade enriched by a sense of glee as genuine as it is unassuming. In keeping with the record’s mission of capturing and/or recreating a sense of secular childhood joy (Willie’s “special cookies,” notwithstanding), the performance nicely balances sentiments nostalgic and contemporary. And after the kind of year 2016 has turned out to be, who really wouldn’t want “to see my hippo hero standing there” on Christmas morning? I don’t know about you, but that’s the holiday gathering I want to be invited to.

critic’s pick: rolling stones, ‘blue & lonesome’

Sometimes you have to disconnect from your past in order to fully explore it. That’s what the Rolling Stones have done with “Blue & Lonesome,” its first studio album in 11 years. Instead of furthering its own storied history, the vanguard rock band looks back to the DNA of what made the blood flow through their songs in the first place. It’s the source material that co-founding Stones Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Charlie Watts (all in their 70s) and guitarist of 40-plus years Ron Wood (69) reach for on the album. Specifically, it’s the blues – music of simple compositional design steeped in a sense of soul so distinct and pervasive that anyone attempting such a style that is not fully versed in its emotional depth will simply come off as a pretender.

On “Blue & Lonesome,” the Stones are no pretenders.

Recorded in a period of three days with no overdubs and only modest auxiliary help (bassist Daryl Jones and pianist Chuck Leavell are the key contributors), this collection of 11 blues nuggets penned or popularized by Magic Sam, Little Walter, Otis Rush, Howlin’ Wolf, Jimmy Reed and the like possess a spark that only comes from a band playing live. The Stones have almost never sounded like this on record – certainly not for the entirety of an album. There is no studio gloss, although the band never sounds scrappy. There is rawness, but the music still seems robust and complete. Above all, there is an alertness. You hear it in the ensemble gusto of Eddie Taylor’s “Ride ‘Em On Down,” a blast of Chicago blues swagger that blows in, blows up and blows away in under three minutes. But it’s as just as evident in the heavy vocal wail Jagger unleashes at the onset of the 1967 Magic Sam gem “All of Your Love” that slows the tempo, but not the Stones’ heavy blues sway. On the flip side, Willie Dixon’s “Just Like I Treat You” bounces around with pure juke joint glee, with the guitars of Richards and Wood rattling the music’s rhythmic cage. Throughout, though, it is drummer Watts that pilots these roots celebrations with a pulse and deep pocket groove that gives “Blue & Lonesome” much of its drive and emotive authenticity.

More than anything else, though, “Blue & Lonesome” is the sound of a band emancipated. Freed from the sense of commercial and critical expectation that comes with such a vast and chronicled history, the Stones honor immediacy on this almost impromptu blues soiree.

Who knows if we will ever hear another album of new Jagger/Richards songs, especially one that can hold its own with the Stones’ mighty legacy. If one doesn’t surface, take comfort in the fact that “Blue & Lonesome” will serve as one grand wrap party.

in performance: fastball

Fastball, from left: Joey Shuffield, Miles Zuniga and Tony Scalzo.

Fastball, from left: Joey Shuffield, Miles Zuniga and Tony Scalzo.

Yesterday’s storms may have short circuited the live music schedule for the second and final night of the Christ the King Oktoberfest. But with a delay of only 40 minutes, clearing skies and temps that shed the previous evening’s sauna like conditions for a touch of autumn cool, Fastball got to work with an hour long set of efficient, good natured power pop.
With its founding ‘90s lineup still intact – guitarist/keyboardist/vocalist Tony Scalzo, guitarist/vocalist Miles Zuniga and drummer Joey Shuffield along with an auxiliary bassist – the band didn’t re-write the book on pop innovation or even stretch the limits of their material past efficient, single-length tunes (save for the occasional but brief guitar jam).  As a result, the material presented during the hour long performance, as was the case with the previous evening’s headlining Oktoberfest show by fellow ‘90s-bred pop-rockers Gin Blossoms, didn’t vary all that much. Fastball’s favored a little more by way of dynamics – the luxury of having two lead singers, the guitar riffs that percolated during the instrumental “Tanzania” and even the rhumba-esque sway of the band’s signature hit “The Way.” Mostly, though, the repertoire set up chances to play spot-the-influence within its conventional but appealing designs of vintage pop. Cases in point: the Beatle-esque harmonies behind the hit “Fire Escape,” the bright melodic terrain of “Sooner or Later” and the ska-like groove underneath “Loves Comes in Waves.”
Last night was also Zuniga’s 50th birthday. Even though the rains from earlier in the evening whittled the crowd down to roughly a third the size of what turned out for Gin Blossoms, those on hand serenaded the guitarist with the expected “Happy Birthday” and seemed more than up for tagging along with Fastball’s smart and enthusiastically delivered pop parade.

critic’s pick 316: various artists, ‘god don’t ever change – the songs of blind willie johnson

god don't ever changeFew artists lived the blues with a severity that equaled their performance drive as Blind Willie Johnson. Born poor, supposedly blinded by his stepmother after having lye thrown in his face and dead by age 48, Johnson led an existence even Southern sharecroppers that cultivated blues and gospel music over the last century would shutter from. But he sang the music with rigid conviction, underscoring his ragged tenor (and occasional bass) singing with slide guitar that provided wiry counterpoint to his immovable faith.

In the extensive, Grammy-worthy liner notes to the new Johnson tribute album God Don’t Ever Change, producer Jeffrey Gaskill terms the lost blues giant’s music as “imperishable,” a quality brought often eerily to life by an all-star roster that includes Tom Waits, Lucinda Williams, the Blind Boys of Alabama and Tedechi-Trucks, among others.

Unsurprisingly, the Waits tunes – The Soul of a Man and John the Revelator – alone make the album a worthwhile purchase. The lean, earnest might of both songs are carried by the singer’s familiar doomsday chant and the thundering percussion of drummer/son Casey Waits.

Williams, a versed blues stylist long before her sublime original music garnered attention, travels similar and seemingly murky paths during It’s Nobody’s Fault But Mine and God Don’t Ever Change’s title tune, the latter sporting a powerfully stark intro that Williams sings alone before her band’s groove oozes in like a bayou river.

Similarly, the husband-and-wife crew of Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi, give their orchestra-sized band the day off and tackle Keep Your Lamps Trimmed and Burning as a bare bones gospel piece with Trucks’ potent but unforced slide guitar colors leading the charge. The Blind Boys of Alabama’s Mother’s Children Have a Hard Time (a retitled Motherless Children) is a slice of sweet, churchy solace while Luther Dickinson’s version of Bye and Bye I’m Going to See the King with the Rising Star Fife and Drum Band is a cheery requiem full of rustic, percussive Southern soul.

Now for the surprise. Cowboy Junkies awaken from Americana purgatory to pull a rabbit of the hat with Jesus Is Coming Soon. Singer Margo Timmons sounds positively possessed as she chants verses about a land’s desperate quest for faith amid the decimation of Spanish Flu alongside a sample of Johnson singing the chorus. It’s a wild, fuzzed out spiritual nightmare and the last thing you would expect from the usually sleepy sounding Junkies.

Conversely, Maria McKee’s Let Your Light Shine on Me does just that. Amid the darker corners of God Don’t Ever Change, the singer serves up gospel testimony that is effortlessly bright and soulful. It’s more than call to wake the spirits. It’s a summons for Johnson to take his forgotten place in the pantheon of blues righteousness.

critic’s pick 312: lucinda Williams, ‘the ghosts of highway 20’

LW_Ghosts_Cvr_hi-758x758“Baby, you’re one piece of work,” sings Lucinda Williams during one of the arguably lighter moments of The Ghosts of Highway 20. The tune this confession seeps out of, Can’t Close the Door on Love, is aural scar tissue – a rumination sung with such slurred, sagging and exhaustive reflection that you almost miss the hope and trust waiting at its core. Williams is a champion of these battle worn laments. It doesn’t matter what the outcome is – bliss, breakup or death. Williams writes and sings like she has been through the wringer and then some. But the true beauty is how she is always left standing.

The Ghosts of Highway 20 is Williams’ second double-disc opus in only 16 months – a remarkable feat given her previous reputation for leaving long layovers between albums. In many ways, it is a companion piece to its predecessor, Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone. Both are sparsely arranged, swirl around the guitar exchanges of Greg Leisz and jazz/Americana journeyman Bill Frisell and embrace their vivid emotions with little concern for convention. The songs are often lengthy – mostly four to six minutes with each disc ending, respectively, with nine and 12 minute epics. More than that, they are unhurried. There are a few electric outbursts, but The Ghosts of Highway 20 plays out largely as a boozy séance with streams of contemplation and unrest colored by an ambience that is, indeed, rather ghostly.

Death Came, for instance, rolls along like the river that serves as imagery for a life Williams almost seductively laments for while Bitter Memory jangles along with a honky tonk drive that makes the tune sound like an invited hangover. There is also a cover of Bruce Springsteen’s Factory that is slowed from a blue collar anthem into a ragged but still affirmative family dirge.

The mammoth tunes, though, are quite extraordinary. Louisiana Story parallels two childhood remembrances – one of open family warmth, the other ruled by stricter laws of the Bible and, eventually, fear. Both are sung in succession with no variance whatsoever in Williams’ world weary singing.

The longer Faith & Grace is a combustible revival that uses its main chorus (“Faith and grace will help me run this race”) along with the title of a thematically similar 2001 Williams tune, Get Right with God, as mantras over fragments and washes of guitar melodies from Frisell that add their own level of righteousness.

Sometimes they’re ghosts. In other instances, the flesh and blood of the here and now do the talking. Williams channels them all into another beguiling séance of an album that takes the spirit even closer to the bone.

critic’s pick 295: david gilmour, ‘rattle that lock

david gilmourThere are three David Gilmours at work on Rattle That Lock. The first is the Pink Floyd chieftain, now self-relieved of duty, weaving his way through post-psychedelic ambience that regularly recalls his former group’s glories. The second seeks to flip that history on its side by shunning the deeper Floyd-ian abyss in favor of warmer, more hopeful temperaments. Having wife Polly Samson penning lyrics in place of Floyd narcissist emeritus Roger Waters helps with that. The third is a journeyman out for something different entirely – a pop turn here, a jazz twist there. Let them all lose and you have Gilmour’s most realized and, at times, surprising solo venture.

The title track highlights Gilmour No. 3. It surfaces out of a keyboard riff that repeats like a mantra but coalesces into a surge of effervescent pop. The results are almost, dare we say, dance-worthy. Vocals ooze in and out in waves, promoting the song’s self-help chorus (“rattle that lock and lose those chains”) while splashes of still-sterling guitar color the soundscape. It may be the most commercial sounding thing Gilmour has ever put his name to, which may rattle the locks of Floyd fans still marooned on the dark side of the moon.

That’s not half as surprising as the after hours cocktail jazz of The Girl in the Yellow Dress. But Gilmour comes armed with top flight assistance for the mission, with Jools Holland adding suitably nocturnal piano rolls and fellow progressive warhorse Robert Wyatt serenading on cornet.

Gilmour No. 2 likes to rough things up. Dancing Right in Front of Me is like a sprint through late ‘60s British rock, from the opening, Kinks-like phrasing to its Procol Harum-inspired power chords. But the killer is Today, an affirmation at day’s end that bleeds into a funk-fortified riff that bounces about within the music (and, eventually, into your brain) to best define the musical path Gilmour travels today.

But so many roads on Rattle That Lock link with the past and Gilmour No. 1. The keyboard notes that drop like singular raindrops at the start of Faces of Stone, recall the late Floyd keyboardist Richard Wright by almost directly quoting the classic Echoes from 1971. Later, Roger Eno guests on the instrumental Beauty to offer a sunnier, more contemplative backdrop that takes its cue from the otherworldly orchestration Wright constructed for 1975’s Shine on You Crazy Diamond.

Best of all are two instrumentals – 5 A.M. and And Then… – that bookend this gloriously engineered and mixed album to spotlight Gilmour’s elegiac guitar reflections. Pastoral in design but still wild enough in tone to briefly summon the Floyd spirit, the tune cements the very solid ground on which Gilmour currently stands – a terrain that owes greatly to a legendary past but leads without hesitation into the future.

critic’s pick 288: wilco, ‘star wars’

wilco star warsNow that two full decades have elapsed since Wilco surfaced with its alt-country leaning debut disc A.M., Jeff Tweedy and company have earned the kind of pop clout to journey down whatever stylistic path it chooses. But the marvelous thing about Wilco’s enduring appeal, an aspect underscored by its total blast of a new album, Star Wars, is whatever artistic profile it has amassed has been reinforced by pure fearlessness.

On the 11 new songs that make up Star Wars, the pattern would seem to reference every record it has made since A.M. Specifically, the game plan centers around pure pop with the edges corroded and refashioned to the band’s specifications. How else do you explain the New Morning-era Dylan surge of I Was Only Asking that flirts with psychedelia as it heads into the home stretch or the catacylismic finale tune Magnetized that surrenders to it completely. Then there is the fuzzed out bass that bumps and bounces under Tweedy’s skittish singing on Pickled Finger, a tune as deliciously peculiar as its title. Best of all is the way Star Wars heads straight for the ditch right out of the starting gate with 76 seconds of frenzy called EKG that introduces the two chief constructionists of Wilco’s warped pop charge – guitarist Nels Cline and drummer (and University of Kentucky grad, lest we forget) Glenn Kotche – through a woozy calliope of criss-crossed riffs and beats that set the album’s gleefully irregular heartbeat.

Humor and unrest, as always, abound in Tweedy’s songs and especially in his vocalwork. His wily pop spirit has a field day on the merrily wigged out Random Name Generator. You could easily imagine an entire horn section fueling the tune’s roaring groove. Instead, guitars define the rhythm in a way that better befits Tweedy’s cheery mumble (“I kind of like it when I make you cry, a miracle only once in awhile”). This is the Star Wars tune destined to stick to your brain after your first listen to the album.

But the Dylan-esque grin resurfaces on the hapless The Joke Explained, a quixotic meditation masquerading as a bit of defused pop fun. “It’s a staring contest in a hall of mirrors,” Tweedy sings as if the lyrics were pouring out of his mouth as an aside. “I sweat tears but I don’t ever cry.”

The only real problem with the album is its length. It clocks in at a scant 33 minutes. Then again, the secret to any presentation is to state your case, engage your audience and leave it wanting more. On that score, all that can be said for Star Wars is Roger Wilco that.

critic’s pick 287: sly and the family stone, ‘live at fillmore east – october 4th & 5th, 1968’

sly stone“We would like to play a few songs,” says Sly Stone at the onset of the second disc to the monumental new archival release Live at Fillmore East – October 4th & 5th, 1968. With that, the vanguard rock and soul stylist gathers the Family Stone for a party chant that makes you think you’re on hand for a sporting event rather than a pop concert. Then the combustible soul groove of Sly and the Family Stone blows up and the party is underway.

As a concert chronicle and timepiece, Fillmore East is a diamond mine. A four-disc set that collects a quartet of performances captured over a two-night stand at Bill Graham’s famed New York venue, this music was recorded with the intention of an official release over 45 years ago. Stone and company were rising stars at the time with Dance to the Music already a major hit. But then came the avalanche – the chart-topping success of Everyday People, the atomic fourth album Stand! and a career defining 1969 appearance at Woodstock. Subsequently, the live recordings were shelved. Now they emerge as a long belated affirmation of the Family Stone’s ceremonious soul charge.

Fillmore East is rich with performances that reveal just how wildly resourceful the band was. Sly Stone may have been the ringleader with an organ and vocal punch that connected gospel fervency with pure pop immediacy. But there was so much more going on, like the electric bass runs of Larry Graham that sounded positively monstrous on their own (during solo snippets of M’Lady and Dance to the Music) as well as when strapped to the band’s two member horn team on the first disc’s introductory Are You Ready. Sister Rosie Stone also stretches out with versions on each disc of the 1961 Aretha Franklin hit Won’t Be Long. Hearing her voice crack and crackle with R&B vibrancy is one of the many great sleeper moments to Fillmore East.

All of this combines for a soul sound with a remarkable sense of dynamics. The Sly original Color Me True swirls with fearsome funk urgency but also cools down to where the only sounds driving the ensemble are organ and percussion. Later on the first disc, We Love All (Freedom) suggests the psychedelia that exploded within the band’s music in 1969.

You also can’t discount the calls for peace and unity the Family Stone offer as rallying cries – vital stuff considering the performances came just five months after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Don’t hate the black, don’t hate the white,” Sly offers during Are You Ready. “If you get bitten, just hate the bite. Make sure your heart is beating right.”

That party vibe remains as vital today as when it rang out at the Fillmore East in another lifetime.

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