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Picks and Pans Main: Song

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Of all the bands that emerged from San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury scene in the psychedelic ’60s, none embodied the explosive energy of that period as ably as Moby Grape, the ill-fated near supergroup whose often brilliant work has been reissued (after 15 years out of print at Columbia) on an eye-popping double CD.

The Grape were the musical equivalent of a hippie commune: All five members wrote and sang, and their collective sound was a dazzling amalgam of styles ranging from jazz, country and blues to rockabilly and Indian raga. Their first LR released in 1967’s Summer of Love (and included here in its entirety), was not just one of the greatest debut albums ever, but one of rock’s all-time treasures. Propelled by instant classics such as the triple-guitar gallop of “Omaha” and the harmony-filled acoustic ballad “8:05,” Moby Grape seemed bound for greatness.

Sadly, the group never reached its destination. Bad management made the players famous but poor. Bad label decisions kept them hitless. (Unsure which songs to promote from ’67’s Moby Grape, Columbia released five singles simultaneously; confused deejays ignored them all.) And self-inflicted bad vibes—guitarist Skip Spence spent time in a mental ward; bassist Bob Mosley went directly from the Grape to a stint in the Marines—ultimately snuffed their spark.

By Woodstock, in 1969, the band lad broken up, leaving behind quivering memories of their awesome power. As evidenced by this first-rate reissue, such tracks as “Fall on You” and “Hey, Grandma” are still smokin’. Time has passed, but no harpoon can sink the legendary Moby Grape. (Columbia/Legacy)