Album Reviews

Various – Monterey Pop Festival

(Razor & Tie) UK release date: 4 June 2007

Monterey Pop Festival As any pop historian knows, Monterey was rock’s big psychedelic bang. Over one weekend in June 1967, a new sort of festival event dawned, with a stellar bill of name artists playing for free, and a number of reputations built the same time, courtesy of some (literally) explosive performances.

There was the friendly jousting of The Who and Jimi Hendrix, neither wanting to follow the other, with Townshend winning the toss before Shepherds Bush’s finest rocked hard and demolished their guitars, only for the homecoming Jimi to rock harder and set fire to his, belatedly confirming his reputation in his homeland.

There was Otis Redding and his intense, Booker T and the MGs-backed southern soul, laying down a career-defining set. There was errant Byrd David Crosby, sneaking away and into the ranks of West Coast rivals Buffalo Springfield. And Janis Joplin with Big Brother and the Holding Company, who made such a splash on Saturday, they were asked to play again on the Sunday.

Jimi and Otis’ sets, amongst others, have been released before. And in 1994, a four-disc set looked like the last word on Monterey. Missed that? Four discs too much? Here then, is a two-disc digest, mostly familiar fare to rock bores with DA Pennnebaker’s documentary film burned permanently into their retina, but a mind-blowing treat, man, for anyone new to the event.

If 1960s eight-track recording technology is to blame for sunshine popsters The Association sounding a little thin, or if the strange mix highlights the shortcomings of the harmonies on The Byrds’ frantic reading of So You Wanna Be a Rock ‘n’ Roll Star (where’s Crosby when you need him?), it only serves to reinforce how masterful the performances of Hendrix, Janis and South African trumpeter Hugh Masekela were.

Even 40 years on (yep, another anniversary), it’s hard to think of a musical event to compare. Live Aid? Nik Kershaw? Howard Jones? Ultravox? Exactly. Here are Ravi Shankar, Jefferson Airplane, The Mamas and Papas, and the brilliantly odd Country Joe and the Fish.

Also regrettably present is the toe-curling poetry of Eric Burdon and the Animals‘ Warm San Franciscan Nights, but you can’t have everything. You can’t have Canned Heat, Lou Rawls, Moby Grape or The Grateful Dead, for instance, ‘cos they’re not included.

What’s here though, is the lure for some of three previously unreleased tracks: a slightly iffy rendition of Buffalo Springfield’s For What It’s Worth, and two from Simon and Garfunkel – no problems on the harmony front there, although the inclusion of The Sounds of Silence, which clearly has something going awry on the technical front, is a bit of an odd one.

But hey, what can you say? Monterey Pop. There was nothing else like it. You probably had to be there. Or else see the movie. Or get the box set. Failing that, get this one. Proceeds to go a music-related charitable foundation with its roots in the original Monterey event, encouraging good mental and physical health. How can you lose?

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Various – Monterey Pop Festival