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Friday, April 12, 2013

Nick Gravenites - My Labors (1969 us, awesome blues rock, 2010 Retro edition)

Singer and songwriter, bandleader and producer, raconteur and poet of the blues; Nick Gravenites is one of those seminal sixties figures whose contributions to American music cannot be measured solely by his discography. Although often overshadowed by such famous friends as Janis Joplin and Michael Bloomfield, Gravenites' 40 year career links the folk revival of the fifties with the Chicago blues scene of the early sixties and the post- 1965 West Coast psychedelic rock explosion.

He has worked with the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Janis Joplin and Big Brother and The Holding Company, Mike Bloomfield and the Electric Flag, and John Cipolina and Quicksilver Messenger Service. He has written songs and produced records for a host of Chicago blues legends including Otis Rush, Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, James Cotton and Buddy Guy. But My Labors is the only Nick Gravenites solo album ever issued by a major label (in 1969, as US Columbia 9899).

To quote one of his best-known songs, Nick Gravenites was "Born In Chicago" in 1938. The son of Greek-American immigrants, he grew up in the city's Brighton Park section, where his father George was a candy maker. Nick described his childhood in this ethnic "white ghetto" in a fascinating memoir of his early years, first published in Blues Revue (1995-96). In addition to the pop tunes on the radio, he heard records of Greek string bands and - after the death of George Gravenites in 1949 - listened to his mother "sing and cry her pain in the sad, melismatic style we Greeks call metaloyia... music I will never forget."  

By early 1967, Gravenites had relocated to the Bay Area and become a vital participant in the burgeoning San Francisco scene. With Mike Bloomfield and Barry Goldberg, he co-founded a new horn-powered band called the Electric Flag. Which made its stage debut in June '67 at the Monterey Pop Festival. With Buddy Miles on drums and Harvey Brooks on bass, this group - although never effectively captured on record - was for a too brief time one of the most exciting and accomplished stage bands in American rock. As the Flag's front man, Gravenites conveyed a tough, bluecollar charisma.

A mostly-live a l b u m . My Labors had its genesis in the studio, and three songs from those sessions were included on the original LP. But in January and February 1969, Nick Gravenites participated in a series of live recordings at the Fillmore West in San Francisco, portions of which were issued the following October as Live At Bill Graham's Fillmore West.
by Andy Schwartz, April 2001

1. Killing My Love - 5:19
2. Gypsy Good Time - 4:30
3. Holy Moly - 3:55
4. Moon Tune - 8:55
5. My Labors - 2:55
6. Throw Your Dog A Bone - 2:57
7. As Good As You've Been To This World - 2:41
8. Wintry Countryside - 13:12
9. It Takes Time (Otis Rush) - 4:14
10.Blues On A Westside - 15:32
11.It's About Time - 7:02
All Songs written by Nick Gravenites except Track 9.

*Michael Bloomfield - Lead Guitar
*Mark Naftalin - Piano
*Ira Kamin - Organ
*John Kahn - Bass
*Bob Jones - Drums
*Dino Andino Conga
*Noel Jewkis - Tenor Sax
*Gerald Oshita - Baritone Sax
*Snooky Flowers Baritone sax
*John Wilmeth – Trumpet
*Nick Gravenites – Vocals, Guitar

1967  Electric Flag - The Trip
196?-7? The Electric Flag - Live
1968-69  An American Music Band / A Long Time Comin'
1969  Michael Bloomfield with Nick Gravenites & Friends - Live At Bill Graham's Fillmore West
1970-71  Big Brother And The Holding Company - Be A Brother / How Hard It Is 

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