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Live 1969

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Album Review

Fever Tree were literally at the end of their run when they recorded this concert at a high school in Houston, Texas in 1969. The band were disappointed with their album For Sale, they'd grown tired of touring, and lead singer Dennis Keller had already announced his intention to leave the group, so this show was staged for the purposes of recording a live album that would fulfill Fever Tree's contractual obligations to their record company. One might not expect an especially enthusiastic performance given these circumstances, but Fever Tree were in commendable form the night these tapes rolled, sounding tight and delivering plenty of fire. However, this concert makes it clear that on stage Fever Tree were a very different animal than the band that recorded their celebrated albums. In the studio, Fever Tree were guided by songwriters and producers Scott and Vivian Holtzman, who smoothed out the group's rougher edges and gave their recordings an artful, ethereal tough. Live, the group couldn't and didn't reproduce the nuanced string and horn arrangements of their records, and instead they played harder and heavier, emphasizing extended improvisations and lengthy guitar workouts from guitarist Michael Knust and keyboard man Rob Landes. Running 40 minutes, Live 1969 only includes five songs, and the group's sole hit "San Francisco Girls (Return Of The Native)" is the only number that clocks in at less than eight minutes (this version fades out before the song has concluded). Keller's vocals often sounded gruff in the studio, but here he bellows with the industrial-grade grit of John Kay, and there are moments where Keller's singing and Landes's organ workouts come together in a surprising approximation of Steppenwolf. In short, the melodic sensibility and thoughtful approach of Fever Tree's most celebrated work was not what they brought to the stage; the records may have suggested Love as a key influence, but Live 1969 shows that Cream, Mountain and Jimi Henrix blazed the trail Fever Tree followed in concert, and even though this long unreleased document of their live attack is interesting as both music and history, it may be more puzzling than pleasurable for a number of longtime fans.


Formed: 1966 in Houston, TX

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '60s, '70s

A minor, if reasonably interesting, late-'60s psychedelic group, Houston's Fever Tree is most famous for their single "San Francisco Girls," with its dramatic melody, utopian lyrics, and searing fuzz guitar. Most of their best material, ironically, was written by their over-30 husband-wife production team, Scott and Vivian Holtzman, who had previously written material for Tex Ritter and the Mary Poppins soundtrack. These odd bedfellows produced some fairly distinctive material with more classical/Baroque...
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Live 1969, Fever Tree
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