When and where this live session featuring organist and bandleader Barry Goldberg and his pals was recorded was not part of the information supplied by the Buddah label upon the album's original release. Neither were the names of the musicians other than the leader, although subsequent reissues in the '90s took care of that gaffe. Songwriters for all the numbers remain unidentified. There are plenty of questions: It quite often sounds like only one guitarist is playing, meaning perhaps while hotshot ace session guy Michael Bloomfield is soloing, ace session guy number two Harvey Mandel is waiting in the wings. The tracks themselves could easily come from two different concerts. At any rate, the entire production is pitched at a certain audience whose members would buy anything that had the words "and friends" as part of the credits. After all, we get high with our friends, we get by with our friends, and so forth. What sort of music did Goldberg play with his friends? Musicians from his scene were considered some of the superior members of the white blues scene, wearing their love of roots music as a kind of badge that allowed them to jam with more credibility than some of their other rocker brethren -- at least that was the way rock pundits looked at it in the '60s and '70s. Revisiting these recordings years later, a listener may conclude that while some of the jamming certainly holds up well, the blues playing does not.
This is established immediately by the opening two tracks, "On the Road," a mundane slow blues, and a wobbly shuffle identified as "Chicago My Hometown," which is really the standard "Sweet Home Chicago." The guitarist -- who sounds too aggressive to be Bloomfield and too regimented to beMandel, and so could be either one of them on a bad night -- has no sense of swing and gives both songs a lame bar band sound simply by playing too much. He walks all over what seemed like it would have been a good organ solo on the slow song, an act that by itself might cause a change in status from "friend" to "enemy," depending on the bandleader, and is not a sign of sensitive blues playing at any rate. The track "I Got a Woman (Dedication)," on the other hand, is a straight-out jam that takes off from the barest pass at the original song into a terrific organ solo, some really cooking electric guitar interplay, and finally a drum solo from "Fast" Eddie Hoh that is really fantastic. Here is an example of the type of spontaneous invention that these musicians were really good at, requiring timing and chops that many later rockers simply aren't capable of. Other highlights seem to occur on a gauge related to how far the group strays from blues; fans of organ, for example, will enjoy licking up "A Taste of Honey," subtitled "An Organ Serenade." The guitarists have fun with "Suzie Q" as well, and done to death or not, even a listener who is cynical about rock guitar will find at least one good riff here. The playing time on the sides is extremely generous. AMG.