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Various Artists – California Jam 2 (The Polar Bear PB-111/112)

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 California Jam 2 (The Polar Bear PB-111/112)

Ontario Motor Speedway, Ontario, CA – March 18th, 1978

Disc 1 (78:09):  Intro.  Aerosmith:  Big Ten Inch Record, Walk This Way, Same Old Song And Dance, Draw The Line, Chip Away The Stone, Sweet Emotion, Toys In The Attic.  Santana:  Jugando, Black Magic Woman, Dance Sister Dance, Evil Ways, Soul Sacrifice.  Rubicon:  Never Gonna Leave, Too Hot To Handle, That’s The Way Things Are, Outro

Disc 2 (53:48):  Ted Nugent:  Free For All, Snake Skin Cowboy, Cat Scratch Fever, Just What The Doctor Ordered, Gonzo.  Bob Welch:  Hot Love, Hypnotized, Ebony Eyes.  Mahogany Rush:  Johnny B Goode, Purple Haze

Despite boomer propaganda and forty year hindsight, all of the rock festivals, from Monterrey to Woodstock to the Isle Of Wight, were organized to make lots of money for the promoters.  It was the nascent economic exploitation of the counter culture which is oftentimes lost

This really shouldn’t be an issue (after all, it’s not a crime to want to make money).  But the California Jam in 1974, and the California Jam II have been targeted for criticism as being simply a slick money making enterprise devoid of artistic or cultural merit. 

Robert Santelli, writing in Aquarius Rising: The Concert Festival Years (New York: Delta Books, 1980) says:  “There were mixed reactions to Cal Jam. Most marveled at the precision and organization. The event was the epitome of efficiency. The media dubbed it a computerized rock festival. Others, however, looked upon it with disappointment.  There was no room for creativity or a do-your-own-thing attitude. The musicians were forced to perform in a machinelike fashion. No excitement; too predictable.  Boring.

“The festival spirit was only superficially present at Cal Jam II. Some members of the crowd clutched to remaining threads of the past, while a few of the performers tried to simulate an emotion vaguely remembered by the older members of the crowd. Rock had become big business, and festivals like Cal Jam were, to many, just big-business ventures.”

The fact is that the first California Jam shows that rock festivals could be well run and profitable.  And it contains some legendary performances by Deep Purple, Black Sabbath and Emerson Lake & Palmer.   Authors like Santelli choose to forget the reality of the big hippy festivals, which were also organized for money and were not as creative as he remembers.  The “festival spirit” is only something that occurred in hindsight in the fuzzy haze of childhood nostalgia.  

California Jam II was held at the Ontario Speedway, on March 18th with 250,000 in attendance.  Excerpts were broadcast on ABC-TV several months later and 2LP title was released.  It also was recorded and broadcast on the KBFH in six shows later that summer.  The first was 90 minutes, and the other were sixty minutes long. 

California Jam 2 on The Polar Bear presents the first two KBFH broadcasts in excellent sound quality.  It has the expected KBFH high end crispness and clarity.  The label transcribed the actual syndication discs sent out to radio stations complete with Bill Mirkin’s introductions and leads into commercial breaks.  That means the performances themselves are edited to fit into the broadcast.  

The first disc has excerpts from the headliners Aerosmith, Santana and Rubicon.

Aerosmith played a long set that night, but KBFH contains only seven songs, which makes up about half of their set.  The entire show can be found on California Jam 1978 (Fire Power FP0052).  Aerosmith’s sound has a raw quality which makes them stand out from the rest of the acts.  This has some of the best songs performed that night.  Same Old Song & Dance,” “Draw the Line” and “Chip Away at the Stone” were released on the Cal Jam II album and “Chip Away at the Stone” was even released as a single.

Santana’s set is even less, totaling only five songs representing about a third of their set that night.  It does, however, present a scintillating performance by Carlos Santana.  “Dance Sister Dance,” “Evil Ways” and a guitar dominated version of “Soul Sacrifice” are definite highlights of the set.

The final three songs on disc one are from a little known band called Rubicon.  All festivals have their share of obscure acts (does anyone remember Sweetwater at Woodstock?)  They actually were the final band to play that night after Aerosmith and Mahogany Rush.  Rubicon were formed by Jerry Martini, who was an original member of Sly & The Family Stone. 

Rubicon were a funk band including Brad Gillis and Jack Blades, both of whom would later form Night Ranger and enjoy modest success in the early eighties.  Only three songs are present and, ironically, their biggest hit “I’m Gonna Take Care Of Everything” is omitted.

The first two songs, “Never Gonna Leave” and “Too Hot To Handle” are included on the official LP.  The third and final Rubicon number is listed as “unknown song” on the artwork.  It is “That’s The Way Things Are” and is a long jam which includes a great drum solo by Greg Eckler and bass solo by Blades.  

Disc two is the second KBFH broadcast containing excerpts from the Ted Nugent, Bob Welch and Mahogany Rush sets.

This was a monumental show for Ted Nugent since this was the last show with longtime vocalist Derek St. Homes.  He played nine songs in the set with five being broadcast (out of order) and only two, “Free For All” and “Snakeskin Cowboy” making the album.  The set features great renditions of the classics including the new song “Gonzo” from the recently released Double Live Gonzo!

Bob Welch was actually the first act that day and played eight songs.  Only three songs were included in the radio broadcast and none on the LP. 

Only several months prior he released French Kiss, his first solo album and reached modest success.  The first song is “Hot Love, Cold World” from the album.  Welch speaks to the audience about the helicopter ride in before playing “Hypnotized” from the 1973 Fleetwood Mac album Mystery To Me.  The final song is “Ebony Eyes.”  He’s joined on vocals by Stevie Nicks of the current incarnation of Fleetwood Mac, offering a good mixture of old and new.

Mahogany Rush close out the second broadcast.  They were the penultimate band that night, playing between Aerosmith and Rubicon.  They played a seven song set and two covers, “Johnny B. Goode” and “Purple Haze.”  Both are very long and contain some of Frank Marino’s more interesting psychedelic jamming including a quick reference to the Micky Mouse Club theme at the end of the latter.  A review in Sounds called their set “competent but uninspired” which really doesn’t apply to these two, perhaps the best two songs of their set.

California Jam 2 is a good effort by The Polar Bear.  Using the KBFH tapes ensures the best sound quality with the best performances.  It’s not for the hard core collector who must have everything associated with the festival, however.  There are soundboard recordings of the entire event in circulation, but have never been pressed and issued together.  

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If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)

Various Artists - California Jam 2 (The Polar Bear PB-111/112), 3.3 out of 5 based on 2 ratings

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