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Love Hz: Don’t Bogart That Jellyfish

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Somewhere at the end of the rock and roll rainbow is a great band that never really got its due back in the day, seemingly caught in the crossfire of personal and label expectations as well as other like-minded bands: Jellyfish. They only put out two albums – and of their many singles, only one hit the Billboard Hot 100 — but in subsequent years there has been a multi-disc CD boxed set and more recently LP reissues.

The band has grown in stature over the years , but that doesn’t discount the fact that they really deserved better than they received back in the day.

On record, the band was a bit densely produced, like the pampered love child of Queen and Todd Rundgren. Live, they were a more rootsy affair, yet no less powerful — so if you like bands and artists like Crowded House, Squeeze, Badfinger, The dBs, The Posies, Cheap Trick, Big Star, Polyphonic Spree, Harry Nilsson, The Raspberries, The Zombies, and the Paul McCartney side of The Beatles, you’ll probably like Jellyfish.

Heck, chances are you are already a fan and I’m here banging my head on the wall, preaching to the choir!

All the more reason for me to just tell you to get this great live album, parts of which were issued on fan club and EP releases back in the day (and the aforementioned CD boxed set). This is the first time these recordings — Live at Bogart’s in Long Beach on February 21, 1991, recorded by Westwood One — appear on vinyl and CD as a complete show.  I pre-ordered this and got one of the 1500 blue vinyl copies with spiffy laser etching on the fourth side.

And a  really fun show it is, underscoring what a tight band these guys were live. Why they weren’t a ginormous success is anyone’s guess. My… um… theory is that — in 20/20 hindsight — they sounded a bit too much like a bunch of other bands that were already perhaps more established and getting the big push from their respective labels. Particularly Crowded House, which was peaking at at that point in time; also, Squeeze was still signed to A&M Records and getting a lot of push. I read somewhere that on their first tour, Jellyfish opened for The Black Crowes — which seems like one of the great mismatches, if ever there was one.

Or perhaps it was just a case — like Big Star, The Velvet Underground, and so many others before them — of making the right music simply at the wrong time. Maybe the band knew its destiny right from the get go. Consider the show opening track from the Live at Bogart’s album called “Hello,” in which they ask the power pop question of all questions and provide the answer as if they are talking to themselves in a mirror:

“Hello! Hello! Do you like the show so far?

Well, it’s alright but you sound too much like a band I saw last night!”

Hmmmm…

That their live sound was not as thick and lush as their records may have been an issue for some — their studio creations lived on the more fabulous side of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.”  On stage, they were a simpler four-piece group rocking out modern rock hits like “That is Why” and “The King is Half Undressedand non album gems — which most of us never got to even hear the original bands play live — such as Badfinger’s “No Matter What” and Argent’s “Hold Your Head Up.”

You should pick up this live album, as it is a great document of  a band on its first tour. Pressing quality on the vinyl is good, and the source for the disc sounds like it was from a Westwood One master tape source (not some fan’s cassette of the radio broadcast). It is very clean and doesn’t sound overly boxy (which may have been the case for the actual broadcast). In fact, it sounds quite a bit better than the versions partially released on the box set.

So what are you waiting for? Go to this link here to Omnivore Records’ site and order a copy now.  Or you can find it on CD or vinyl at Amazon.

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