Wow/Grape Jam

Wow/Grape Jam

Wow/Grape Jam is the rock band Moby Grape's second album. It was unusual and significantly different from most double-album releases. It was released in 1968 as two completely different albums in separate covers but packaged together and sold for the price of a single LP. Grape Jam was originally intended to be a free bonus album to be given away with Wow. Each album was later released as an individual CD with bonus tracks. Wow originally had a color gatefold sleeve, while Grape Jam had a color non-gatefold cover. Though the albums received bad reviews from some critics this was Moby Grape's highest charting release in the U.S., peaking at #20 on the Billboard album chart.

The Albums

Wow has a much more heavily produced sound than the first Moby Grape album. String and horn arrangements were added to many of the songs by producer David Rubinson. Recording started in Los Angeles in late 1967, but most of the album was recorded in New York City in late 1967 and early 1968. Murder In My Heart For The Judge is a thumping blues rock tune written by drummer Don Stevenson that was later recorded by Lee Michaels and Three Dog Night. Bitter Wind is a folk song with lead vocals by bass player Bob Mosley. The acoustic version heard here contains an ending that includes harsh wind noises and backward vocal. Other standout tracks include Jerry Miller's rocking shuffle Can't Be So Bad, Skip Spence's darkly comedic Motorcycle Irene and Peter Lewis's lush ballad He. Naked, If I Want To is an electrified re-recording of the acoustic track from the first album. Just Like Gene Autry: A Foxtrot is a very unusual track, a 1930's style tune written and sung by Spence. It was given a spoken introduction from Arthur Godfrey and cut onto the LP record at 78 RPM with added scratchy sound effects to give it an authentic period effect. (As a note to collectors, some copies of Wow omit the band's name from the record label, for unknown reasons.)

Grape Jam was criticized for its rather loose and mostly improvised performances which contrast sharply with the heavily produced material on "Wow". This studio album was recorded in New York City in January and February 1968. The album does not generate as much excitement as the group's live performances, but it does have one great song, Never, which was later reworked by Jimmy Page and Robert Plant into Since I've Been Loving You for Led Zeppelin's album Led Zeppelin III in 1970. Skip Spence is mostly absent and Peter Lewis does not appear on the album. "The Lake" is a strange combination of poetry submitted by a fan and avant-garde psychedelic Musique concrète sound effects somewhat like Freak Out! and Revolution 9. Grape Jam is also notable in that it features a guest appearances on piano by Al Kooper and Mike Bloomfield. The album was the inspiration for a number of other studio "jam" albums during the late 1960s and early 1970s. Later examples of this trend included Al Kooper's Super Session and the 3rd LP of George Harrison's All Things Must Pass.

CD editions

The first CD of Wow/Grape Jam was a single disc edition on the San Francisco Sound label, owned by Moby Grape's former manager. It has unnecessarily edited versions of "Bitter Wind" and "Marmalade." It also completely omits "Just Like Gene Autry: A Foxtrot" and "The Lake". This version should be avoided because if its mediocre sound quality and poor packaging. The group has never been properly compensated for this CD release.

Many of the songs from Wow also appear on the 2 CD collection Vintage: The Very Best of Moby Grape released in 1993. This collection includes "Foxtrot" and the complete original acoustic version of "Bitter Wind". It also includes a few Wow out-takes.

The complete version of Wow was first released on CD in Japan in 1995. A newly remastered version was released by Sundazed Records on October 9, 2007 featuring a number of bonus tracks, most of which are previously unreleased. At the same time Sundazed also released the CD debut of Grape Jam in its entirely with 3 previously unreleased bonus tracks.

Both Wow and Grape Jam were taken out of print on November 3, 2007, along with Moby Grape for reasons that were not officially specified. It has been widely circulated on the Moby Grape mailing list that former manager Matthew Katz, whom the band has been in legal battles with since the late 1960s, threatened to file a lawsuit against Sundazed claiming ownership of the albums' artwork.

Track listing "Wow"

Side one

  1. "The Place And The Time"
  2. "Murder In My Heart For The Judge"
  3. "Bitter Wind"
  4. "Can't Be So Bad" (Complete LP and CD versions of the album conclude with a brief, spoken reminder from Skip Spence to change the turntable speed for the next track.)

(On a separate band of the LP, cut at 78 rpm)

  1. "Just Like Gene Autry: A Foxtrot" (with a spoken introduction from Arthur Godfrey)

Side two

  1. "He"
  2. "Motorcycle Irene"
  3. "Three-Four"
  4. "Funky-Tunk"
  5. "Rose Colored Eyes"
  6. "Miller's Blues"
  7. "Naked, If I Want To"

Bonus tracks on 2007 CD edition

  1. The Place and the Time (alternate)
  2. Stop (demo) (previously unissued)
  3. Loosely Remembered (previously unissued)
  4. Miller's Blues (alternate) (previously unissued)
  5. What's To Choose (previously unissued)
  6. Seeing (previously unissued)

(total CD time for Wow 59:04)

Track listing "Grape Jam"

Side one

  1. "Never"
  2. "Boysenberry Jam"
  3. "Black Currant Jam"

Side two

  1. "Marmalade"
  2. "The Lake"

Bonus tracks on 2007 CD edition

  1. Grape Jam #2 (previously unissued)
  2. Grape Jam #9 (previously unissued)
  3. Bags' Groove (previously unissued)

(total CD time for Grape Jam 69:30)

Personnel

Charts

Album - Billboard
Year Chart Position
1968 Pop Albums 20

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