Hot Tuna – America’s Choice (1975)

FrontCover1Hot Tuna is an American blues rock band formed in 1969 by former Jefferson Airplane members Jorma Kaukonen (guitarist/vocals) and Jack Casady (bassist). Although it has always been a fluid aggregation, with musicians coming and going over the years, the band’s center has always been Kaukonen and Casady’s ongoing collaboration.

As the band prepared for its 1974 tour in support of The Phosphorescent Rat, Kaukonen laid off Piazza after deciding to have the band return to its semi-acoustic repertoire. Kaukonen and Casady then proceeded to record Kaukonen’s first solo album, Quah. However, July 1974 marked a departure from their primarily bluesy, acoustic style when Hot Tuna dropped their acoustic sets completely and morphed into a heavy rock band. In October 1974, the group performed on The Midnight Special.


The albums America’s Choice (1975), Yellow Fever (1975), and Hoppkorv (1976) showcase a power trio with the addition of new drummer Bob Steeler. Jeff Tamarkin’s liner notes on the RCA “Platinum Gold Hot Tuna Collection” characterize this trilogy as being emblematic of the band’s “rampage years.” Kaukonen is quoted as saying the change of focus was due to the fact that “it was just fun to be loud.” During this period, Kaukonen’s electric guitar playing was multi-layered, prominently showcasing such effects as the Roland Jet phaser. His “rampage” style is typified by the solos on “Funky #7” and “Serpent of Dreams” on America’s Choice and “Song for the Fire Maiden,” “Sunrise Dance with the Devil,” and “Surphase Tension” on Yellow Fever. Live performances throughout the epoch were distinguished by free-flow improvisational jams and very long sets (up to six hours uninterrupted) with extended versions of their studio material.

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A November 1976 concert at the Palladium in New York City featured a 16-minute version of “Invitation.” However, producer Harry Maslin did not appreciate the group’s style and held them to a more traditional rock format (including several cover songs) for Hoppkorv. In 1977, Kaukonen began to perform solo sets before the band would perform. The trio stopped touring at the end of 1977 and performed its final concert at the Palladium on November 26, with keyboardist Nick Buck and saxophonist “Buffalo” Bob Roberts.

Although live performances from all iterations of the group enjoyed a notable cult following for much of the 1970s, Hot Tuna failed to rival or eclipse Jefferson Airplane and Jefferson Starship from a commercial standpoint. All but two Hot Tuna albums from the era reached the Billboard Top 100, America’s Choice was their only post-1972 album to chart for more than ten weeks, peaking at No. 75.

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America’s Choice is the fifth album by the American blues rock band Hot Tuna, recorded in 1974, and released in 1975 as Grunt BFL1-0820. The album was also released in Quadraphonic as Grunt BFD1-0820. The first of the “Rampage” trilogy albums (the others being Yellow Fever and Hoppkorv) recorded by the now power trio, it marked a major shift in musical direction by the group. With new drummer Bob Steeler, Tuna now performed in a predominantly hard rock style, leaving the earlier band’s mixture of electric and acoustic material.

The album rose to No. 75 on the Billboard charts. One of the tracks is named “Hit Single #1”. Despite its title, it was not released as a single.

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The album cover art depicts a box of laundry detergent, complete with dripping suds, labeled “America’s Choice: Hot Tuna”. The lettering and color scheme are loosely based on the style of Tide. On one side of the detergent box, a contents label lists the musicians as the “active ingredients”, and also says, “Pure, unadulterated sounds with amplified additives and the necessary polytonal ingredients to handle heavy loads.” On another side of the box is a “warning” stating, “This album to be played at full volume for maximum effect.” Unedited extended live versions of “Invitation” recorded at the New York York Palladium November 26, 1976, and Santa Clara University May 28, 1977, are available. In 1996, RCA released the CD box set Hot Tuna in a Can which included a remastered version of this album, along with remasters of the albums Hot Tuna, First Pull Up, Then Pull Down, Burgers, and Hoppkorv. (wikipedia)

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Hot Tuna returned to a heavier sound on their fifth album, which, although it again was dominated by Jorma Kaukonen’s compositions, leaned more heavily on extended electric-guitar solos and even included a Robert Johnson classic, “Walkin’ Blues.” Drummer Bob Steeler replaced Sammy Piazza as of this release. The result was a modest recovery from the disappointing sales of The Phosphorescent Rat, although not a complete return to form. (by William Ruhlmann)


What it suffers from most is Jorma’s cringy mixed-down/double-tracked/reverbed studio vocals, something that old Tuna fans would find strange and unappealing because they and in direct contrast to how he sang in live setting. These are bad production elements that marred this record in a few spots (Funky #7 and Great Divide, notably)
But each fault (and there are more) is offset by a plethora of musical brilliance that make me chuckle and say, “damn”. When this is on all cylinders, it’s really on, and that is most of the time.
A favorite Tuna record. (Sancho Wobbivitz)


Jack Casady (bass)
Jorma Kaukonen (guitar, vocals)
Bob Steeler (drums, percussion)


01. Sleep Song (Kaukonen) 4.25
Funky #7 (Casady/Kaukonen) 5.49
03. Walkin’ Blues (Johnson) 5.22
04. Invitation (Kaukonen) 6.55
05. Hit Single #1 (Kaukonen) 5.16
06. Serpent Of Dreams (Kaukonen) 6.53
07. I Don’t Wanna Go (Kaukonen) 4.57
08. Great Divide: Revisited (Kaukonen) 5.17



More from Hot Tuna:

The official website:



Hot Tuna – Historic Live (1985)

FrontCover1Hot Tuna is an American blues band formed in 1969 by former Jefferson Airplane members Jorma Kaukonen (guitarist/vocals) and Jack Casady (bassist). Although it has always been a fluid aggregation, with musicians coming and going over the years, the band’s name has essentially become a metonym for Kaukonen and Casady’s ongoing collaboration.

Historic Live Tuna is an album by the band Hot Tuna. It was released in 1985. Side A contains previously unreleased tracks from a live acoustic performance played on KSAN radio in 1971. Side B contains previously unreleased material from a live electric performance in 1971 recorded at the Fillmore West auditorium in San Francisco. The album was Hot Tuna’s second release on Relix Records, and would be their last release until after the 1989 Jefferson Airplane reunion tour and reunion album, when they were signed to Epic Records for a short time before returning to Relix.

In 1996 the A-side of Historic Live Tuna was expanded and released as the CD Classic Hot Tuna Acoustic, and the B-side was expanded and released as the CD Classic Hot Tuna Electric.

Another song from the Fillmore West concert, “Keep Your Lamps Trimmed and Burning”, was included in the album Fillmore: The Last Days. (wikipedia)


Relix’s second Hot Tuna release was another archival work, its two sides containing two KSAN-FM radio broadcasts from the spring and summer of 1971; one side was taped at the station, the other chronicles the band’s appearance at the closing of the Fillmore West. In his liner notes, Jorma Kaukonen acknowledges that the band has encountered criticism for releasing such “so-called antique material,” but counters that “If you like it, you like it … if you don’t you don’t.” Hardcore Tuna fans will be pleased with the existence on record of these performances by a Hot Tuna that featured Kaukonen (acoustic guitar on side one, electric on side two), Jack Casady, Papa John Creach, and Sammy Piazza. Others may find that the rudimentary sound quality and the generally restrained performing level render this inessential. (by William Ruhlmann)

And I m pleased, because I´m a real Hot Tuna fan …


Jack Casady (bass)
Papa John Creach (violin)
Jorma Kaukonen (guitar, vocals)
Sammy Piazza (drums)

01. New Song (for the Morning) (Kaukonen) 5.06
02. Been So Long (Kaukonen) 4.16
03. Oh Lord, Search My Heart (Davis) 4.31
04. True Religion (Traditional) 7.01
05. Space Jam (Casady/Kaukonen) 0.09
06. Intro by Bill Graham / Rock Me Baby (King/Josea) 9.24
“Want You to Know” (Bo Carter) – 4:58
“Come Back Baby” (Lightning Hopkins) – 9:14




More from Hot Tuna:


Hot Tuna – Splashdown (1984)

FrontCover1.JPGSplashdown is a Hot Tuna album released in 1984 containing the tracks from a previously unreleased live acoustic performance that had been played on the short-lived radio station WQIV in the mid-1970s. During the recording, news of the Apollo-Soyuz mission returning to Earth after the first USA-USSR rendezvous in space reached the station, and the astronauts’ radio transmissions were played at the same time as Jorma and Jack continued with “Police Dog Blues.” The transmissions mixed with the song were preserved for this release as the last track of side 1. The album was Hot Tuna’s first release on Relix Records, and one of the first Relix releases. Jorma Kaukonen was signed on as a solo artist to the label as well. In 1997 an expanded version of the album was released as Splashdown Two. (by wikipedia)


This archival release is taken from a broadcast on New York radio station WQIV-FM on July 25, 1975, and features the duo of guitarist Jorma Kaukonen playing acoustic and bassist Jack Casady performing at the station. At the time, Hot Tuna recently had released its America’s Choice album, but this set harks back to the group’s 1970 debut album, Hot Tuna, both in its acoustic format and in the selection of mostly folk-blues standards. The performance also has an informality and intimacy that rivals the debut. Casual fans are likely to find the album redundant, but more fervent followers rejoiced when this album appeared nine years after the broadcast occurred and five years after the group’s apparent demise. The album’s title is derived from the re-entry of an Apollo spacecraft during the broadcast, which is mixed in with the performance of “Police Dog Blues.” (by William Ruhlmann)


Jack Casady (bass)
Jorma Kaukonen (guitar, vocals)

01. Death Don’t Have No Mercy (Davis) 6.49
02. I Am the Light Of This World (Davis) 4.17
03. Embryonic Journey (Kaukonen) 2.07
04. Police Dog Blues (Blake) / Splashdown” (U. S. Astronauts) 4.23
05. Keep Your Lamps Trimmed And Burning (Davis) 3.03
06. I Know You Rider (Traditional) 5.19
07. Keep On Truckin’ (Carleton) 4.16
08. Candy Man (Davis) 6.01





Hot Tuna – Live In Japan, 1997 (2004)

EagleFrontCover1.jpgLive in Japan is a live album by Hot Tuna recorded in 1997 in Yokohama, Japan. Originally the band planned to play an electric set as part of their Japanese tour, but the venue in Yokohama was quite small (only holding fifty people) and there wasn’t any room for an electric setup. The band played acoustic, and afterwards Jack Casady suggested to Jorma Kaukonen that the recording was good enough for a new live album. Michael Falzarano and Kaukonen listened to the tape and decided that Casady was right, and a new album was released. The album was Hot Tuna’s last release on Relix Records. In 2004 Eagle Records remastered the album and re-released it with previously unreleased performances of “Parchman Farm”, “Follow the Drinking Gourd”, “Keep Your Lamps Trimmed & Burning” and “Folsom Prison.” Three of the tracks from the initial release were dropped from the remaster: “Hesitation Blues”, “Candy Man” and “Keep on Truckin'”.(by wikipedia)


Live In Japan is the eighth live Hot Tuna performance released by Relix Records. It was recorded in a cramped club in Yokohama in 1997. The show was an impromptu acoustic set because the club was too small to hold the all the band’s electric equipment. However don’t expect the delicate, interwoven acoustic blues of 1969’s Hot Tuna (Recorded Live). Even though Hot Tuna draws on much of the same material here, the treatments are up-tempo and at times a little muddy. Like many of the Relix offerings, Live In Japan has a bootleg feel that is both immediate and rough. This version of Hot Tuna features Pete Sears, formerly of Jefferson Starship, on keyboards and accordion. He gives Hot Tuna a different dimension that is not always a smooth fit. As usual, though, the finger- picking of Jorma Kaukonen and the rumbling bass of Jack Casady dominate the stage. Their talents remain undiminished. This is an exuberant performance that must have been great to see. But home listeners may find themselves saying, “I guess you had to be there.” (by S. Colby Miller)


Relix front + back cover

Jack Casady (bass)
Michael Falzarano (guitar)
Jorma Kaukonen (guitar, vocals)
Pete Sears (keyboards)
Harvey Sorgen (drums, percussion)


01. Walkin’ Blues (Johnson) 5.16
02. Parchman Farm (Allison) 5.37
03. True Religion (Traditional) 5.20
04. Been So Long (Kaukonen) 3.52
05. Uncle Sam Blues (Traditional) 5.11
06. Vampire Woman (Smith) 2.59
07. Follow The Drinking Gourd (Traditional) 5.05
08. Keep Your Lamps Trimmed & Burning” (Rev. Gary Davis) – 4:19
09. Let Us Get Together Right Down Here (Davis) 3.00
10. Third Week In The Chelsea (Kaukonen) 5.05
11. 99 Year Blues (Daniels) 6.23
12. Ice Age (Kaukonen) 6.38
13. San Francisco Bay Blues (Fuller) 4.25
14. Folsom Prison Blues (Cash) 4.04
15. Mann’s Fate (Kaukonen) 6.09




More Hot Tuna:



Hot Tuna – Burgers (1972)

LPFrontCover1Burgers is the third album by Hot Tuna, the Folk rock off-shoot of Jefferson Airplane members Jorma Kaukonen, Jack Casady, and Papa John Creach. It was the band’s first studio album, the previous two being live recordings. “Water Song” and “Sunny Day Strut” are instrumentals composed for this album. (by wikipedia)

Burgers, Hot Tuna’s third album, marked a crucial transition for the group. Until now, Hot Tuna had been viewed as a busman’s holiday for Jefferson Airplane lead guitarist Jorma Kaukonen and bassist Jack Casady. Their first album was an acoustic set of folk-blues standards recorded in a coffeehouse, their second an electric version of the same that added violinist Papa John Creach (who also joined the Airplane) and drummer Sammy Piazza. Then the Airplane launched Grunt, its own vanity label, which encouraged all bandmembers to increase their participation in side projects. Burgers, originally released as the fourth Grunt album, sounded more like a full-fledged work than a satellite effort. It was Hot Tuna’s first studio album, and Kaukonen wrote the bulk of the material, not all of it in the folk-blues style that had been the group’s métier. “Sea Child,” for example, employed his familiar acid rock sound and would have fit seamlessly onto an Airplane album.


And “Water Song,” one of his most accomplished instrumentals, had a crystalline acoustic guitar part that really suggested the sound of rippling water. On the material that did recall the earlier albums, Hot Tuna split the difference between its acoustic and electric selves, sometimes, as on “True Religion,” beginning in folky fingerpicking style only to add a rock band sound after the introduction. The result was more restrained than the second album, but not as free as the first, with the drums imposing steady rhythms that often kept Casady from soloing as much, though Creach’s violin made for plenty of improvisation within the basic blues structures. All of which is to say that, not surprisingly, on its third album in as many years, Hot Tuna had evolved its own sound and music, and seemed less a diversion than its members’ new top priority. (by William Ruhlmann)


Jack Casady (bass, vocals)
Papa John Creach (violin, vocals)
Jorma Kaukonen (vocals, guitar)
Sammy Piazza (drums, percussion, vocals)
Nick Buck – organ, piano on “True Religion” and “Keep On Truckin'”
David Crosby (vocals on 02.)
Richmond Talbott (vocals, slide guitar on 03.)


01. True Religion (Traditional) 4.47
02. Highway Song (Kaukonen) 3.18
03. 99 Year Blues (Daniels) 4.00
04. Sea Child (Kaukonen) 5.03
05. Keep On Truckin’ (Carleton) 3.43
06. Water Song (Kaukonen) 5.19
07. Ode For Billy Dean Kaukonen 4.53
08. Let Us Get Together Right Down Here (Davis) 3-29
09. Sunny Day Strut (Kaukonen) 3.16





Hot Tuna – First Pull Up, Then Pull Down (1971)

FrontCover1First Pull Up, Then Pull Down is the second album by Hot Tuna, released in 1971 as RCA Victor LSP-4550. The album was recorded live with electric instruments, instead of the acoustic instruments used on the previous album, Hot Tuna. The album rose to #43 on the Billboard charts. In 1996, RCA released the CD box set Hot Tuna in a Can, which included a remastered version of this album, along with remasters of the albums Hot Tuna, Burgers, America’s Choice and Hoppkorv.Helmut Qualtinger (Remigius)First Pull Up, Then Pull Down is the second album by Hot Tuna, released in 1971 as RCA Victor LSP-4550. The album was recorded live with electric instruments, instead of the acoustic instruments used on the previous album, Hot Tuna. The album rose to #43 on the Billboard charts.  (by wikipedia)

While the first Hot Tuna album had comprised an acoustic trio featuring Jorma Kaukonen, Jack Casady, and Will Scarlet, the second album added violinist Papa John Creach and drummer Sammy Piazza, and most significantly, it added electricity. Now the sound was closer to Kaukonen’s features in Jefferson Airplane. The highlight was the eight-minute “Keep Your Lamps Trimmed and Burning,” although “Candy Man” also became a concert favorite. (by William Ruhlmann)

The name First Pull Up, Then Pull Down reminds me of uh, an aerobics class! I can totally see the instructor giving the students athletic lessons that require several up and down movements. I’m sure the album title means something else entirely though. This is a pretty good live album. Not as good as their self-titled live album where the songwriting was a little sharper, but still very very impressive. An authentic blues/country album. At least it’s more energetic compared to their debut with a greater variety of instruments. Sometimes these songs drag due to jamming a bit longer than necessary, but otherwise a pretty good album.

“John’s Other” is a great instrumental. At first it seems like the kind of instrumental that might drag or seem too obvious. By that I mean for example the violin playing in the beginning. The notes aren’t very impressive and it feels safe. You’ve heard violins like this a lot. However as the song moves forward the violin gradually gets more intense, a guitar solo comes in that’s even better and the harmonica part is probably my favorite aspect of the song. Still, I wish for more violin perhaps because it’s not a very popular instrument in the world of rock compared to guitars and harmonicas so I secretly desire more of it. An impressive song either way.


“Come Back Baby” is plodding sloppy blues with more splendid guitar playing, but at 9 minutes it’s a bit much to take. It should’ve probably been shortened a few minutes. Not one of my favorite songs. The vocal melody is typical blues and nothing extraordinary. Even the violin and harmonica plays it safe and that’s just wrong! The guitar solo in the middle and again later on is really good however. “Candy Man” opens with a gentle series of country guitar notes before the steady rhythm comes in. The vocal melody is pretty good though nothing brilliant or anything, clearly influenced by the country genre. Enjoyable harmonica too. Of course the violin is the best part. Too bad that part doesn’t jam longer! Oh wow, the bass part at the end is pretty awesome too. The violin comes back in a subtle way which is unique.

“Keep Your Lamps Trimmed and Burning” is a familiar song. I probably heard it a bunch of times several years ago somewhere. I love the guitar intro that always reminded me of somewhere down south in the deep woods. The steady foot-tapping pace of the rhythm is really good as well. The vocals are kind of tucked in the back behind the guitar work and drumming so it’s hard to make out the lyrics, but otherwise a terrific song. The violin solo makes a wonderful appearance a few minutes in, and it’s my favorite part (especially when the pace picks up). Then again how cool is the violin/guitar jam occurring at the same time? VERY cool indeed! The song remains jamming the entire way through.


“Want You to Know” opens with a nice guitar part. Really solid vocal melody too. This song blends country with blues in a really magnificent, stunning and authentic kind of way. One of the most underrated songs on the album. The violin even tears a hole wide open and explodes in all kinds of beauty when it makes an appearance. “Been So Long” is vocally sentimental but perhaps not quite as hard-hitting on an emotional level as the band is going for. Then again silly me! I’m still expecting Jefferson Airplane-level quality songwriting with psychedelic leanings. “Never Happen No More” is lazy day blues. Not bad but nothing that blows me away either. The song moves along at a pretty good pace at least. It does improve in a big way once the vocals come in however.

Overall First Pull Up, Then Pull Down is a mighty good Hot Tuna album. It’s not their best effort but even a weaker Hot Tuna album is enjoyable to some extent anyway right? (by Bryanam)


Hot Tuna in 1972. Casady and Kaukonen are in front; Creach and Piazza are in back.

Jack Casady (bass)
Papa John Creach (violin)
Jorma Kaukonen – vocals, guitar)
Sammy Piazza (drums)
Will Scarlett (harmonica)

01. John’s Other (Creach)  8.22
02. Candy Man (Davis) 5.53
03. Been So Long (Kaukonen) 3.45
04. Want You To Know (Carter) 4.36
05. Keep Your Lamps Trimmed And Burning (Davis) 8.19
06. Never Happen No More (Blake) 3.54
07. Come Back Baby (Traditional) 9.39



Hot Tuna – Double Dose (1978)


Double Dose was the eighth album by the American blues rock band Hot Tuna, and their third live album. The album was originally released as a double-LP as Grunt CYL2-2545. After their 1977 tour, Jorma Kaukonen moved on to a solo career and Jack Casady joined the new wave band SVT. Hot Tuna would not perform together again until 1983. The album had its highest peak at #92 on the Billboard charts. (by wikipedia)

Hot Tuna, then a quartet with the official addition of keyboardist Nick Buck, released this two-LP live album, its first concert material in seven years, and having thus summed things up, broke up as the album hit record stores. Double Dose gave a good sense of mature Hot Tuna as a vehicle for the musical interests of Jorma Kaukonen, who used the entire first side as an acoustic solo set, then included the excellent “Genesis” from his solo album Quah on side B. Elsewhere, the electrified group alternated between Kaukonen’s best Hot Tuna compositions and blues and rock standards. It was produced by Felix Pappalardi (Cream, Mountain), who gave Hot Tuna its best recorded sound; even though it’s a “live” record, there seems to have been a lot of studio overdubbing. (by William Ruhlmann)

This is a damn hot blues-rock power album !

Recorded live by Wally Heider Recording at Theatre 1839, San Francisco
Additional recording at Wally Heider Studios, San Francisco


Jack Casady (bass)
Jorma Kaukonen (vocals, guitar)
Bob Steeler (drums)
Nick Buck (keyboards, background vocals on 08.)

01. Winin’ Boy Blues (Morton) 5.57
02. Keep Your Lamps Trimmed And Burning (Davis) 3.08
03. Embryonic Journey (Kaukonen) 1.56
04. Killing Time In The Crystal City (Kaukonen) 6.35
05. I Wish You Would (Arnold) 4.20
06. Genesis (Kaukonen) 4.16
07. Extrication Love Song (Kaukonen) 4.26
08. Talking ‘Bout You (Berry) 5.34
09. Funky #7 (Kaukonen/Casady) 8.49
10. Serpent Of Dreams (Kaukonen) 6.43
11. Bowlegged Woman, Knock Kneed Man (Rush/Carter) 4.51
12. I See The Light (Kaukonen) 5.49
13. Watch The North Wind Rise (Kaukonen) 4.58
14. Sunrise Dance With The Devil (Kaukonen) 5.38
15. I Can’t Be Satisfied (Morganfield) 4.58

LabelD1* (coming soon)


Various Artists – The Relix Sampler (1985)

FrontCover1Les Kippel went to his first Grateful Dead concert in 1971 and was hooked. He obsessed over a way to bring the music home with him, and The First Free Underground Grateful Dead Tape Exchange was born after he took a tape machine to his very next show. Relix Magazine evolved from an effort to unite tapers of Grateful Dead shows on a broader scale.
Toni Brown went to see the Grateful Dead in June, 1969. By 1980, she took on the task of editing Relix Magazine, Kippel’s publication that focused on the Dead Head scene and “intelligent music alternatives.” As owner, Publisher and Editorial Director, Brown effectively helped the improvisational jamband scene flourish. Phish, Blues Traveler, String Cheese Incident, moe., Widespread Panic, Dark Star Orchestra, Joan Osborne, and dozens of other successful artists were initially exposed to an international audience through Relix.

Relix Records was started by Kippel and Brown in 1980, at the urging of Grateful Dead lyricist, Robert Hunter. One of the earliest Independent labels, it was a natural offshoot of the magazine-a way to get non-commercial music to a wider listening audience. Relix Records became the home of such artists as Hot Tuna, New Riders of the Purple Sage, Flying Burrito Brothers, Robert Hunter, Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen, Johnny Winter, Grateful Dead offshoot projects, Max Creek, Merl Saunders and many others.

LesKippel1974Les Kippel in 1974

This rare sampler compilation album includes one Robert Hunter track, one Kingfish track and one track from Matt Helly’s Wing And A Prayer that features both Weir and Garcia and two Savoy Brown songs. Initially released as a limited edition of 5000 copies.

What should I say ? LISTEN !

01. Matt Kelly: Dangerous Relations (Kelly/Cutler) 3.30
02. Flying Burrito Brothers: Wheels (Hillman/Parsons) 3.11
03. Savoy Brown: Train To Nowhere (*) (Youlden/Jones) 5.22
04. Kingfish: Mess Around (Ertegan) 2.57
05. Hot Tuna: Been So Long (Kaukonen) 4.13
06. Robert Hunter: Gypsy Parlor Light (Hunter) 7.42
07. Savoy Brown: Tell Mama (Simmonds/Raymond) 6.28
08. Jorma Kaukonen: Radical Sleep (Meje/Kaukonen) 4.04
09. Jorma Kaukonen & Robert Zantey: (Long) Walk In The Desert (*) (Zantey) 9.31

(*) previously unreleased


ToniBrownToni Brown

Hot Tuna – Steady As She Goes (2011)

FrontCover1Steady as She Goes is the first Hot Tuna studio album since 1990. After Jorma Kaukonen recorded his solo album in 2009 at Levon Helm’s studio in NY, he asked his new record company Red House if they would be interested in a Tuna album. The band started recording new tracks in November 2010 with the same producer and studio that Kaukonen used for River of Time and features the latest lineup of the band that formed in 2009 when Skoota Warner joined on drums. On March 11, 2011 Red House released Angel of Darkness as a free single. The album was released on CD and on iTunes April 5, 2011 and was released on vinyl in May. The album first charted on the Tastemaker and Independent album lists compiled by Billboard for the week of April 23.

After years of releasing live albums, Kaukonen felt it was time to record a new electric studio album with the band when his current label for his solo work, Red House Records, was interested. Kaukonen started by writing one song, but with deadlines set and being locked in to studio time with the band, he collaborated and ended up writing six songs for the album. The band used Levon Helm’s studio which Kaukonen had recorded his previous solo album at, River of Time. For the new album, Kaukonen decided to take the approach he used with Jefferson Airplane, letting others work out the charts for the rhythm section and concentrating on the lead guitar lines. Also to reflect back to Jefferson Airplane’s style, Teresa Williams recorded harmony vocals similar to Grace Slick’s on several tracks.

Only the second Hot Tuna studio set in 30 years, and the band’s first in two decades, the outfit circa 2011 is a decidedly older, wiser, and more laid-back unit than the amped-up boogie-ers responsible for a series of successful albums in the ’70s. That’s a mixed blessing, though, because the Tuna seem to have lost some of their fire during their long layoff from the studio. Where once Jack Casady’s thunderous bass played tag with Jorma Kaukonen’s blustery, psychedelic blues guitar lines, the duo — now fleshed out with mandolin player Barry Mitterhoff and drummer Skoota Warner — is now content to be a pretty decent but far less distinctive folk, blues, and singer/songwriter act. Casady’s forcefully idiosyncratic, almost lead basslines of old are barely audible here, and even though there are flashes where the old intensity is evident, particularly on Kaukonen’s “Mourning Interrupted,” this is a well-intentioned, totally professional album that lacks bite. A pair of Rev. Gary Davis covers are also reminiscent of days gone by, especially “Mama Let Me Lay It on You” with guest fiddle from producer Larry Campbell (filling in for the deceased Papa John Creach) that rolls through the “Keep on Truckin'” riff and melody. There are some quality songs, such as the melancholy musings of “Second Chances,” but this is more like a Kaukonen solo album than a long-awaited return from a once powerful band that mixed acoustic and electric blues into a blistering, often explosive concoction. Recording in Levon Helm’s Woodstock studio provides an open, rootsy sound and Campbell keeps the proceedings clean and classy, if somewhat antiseptic compared to the shambling attack Hot Tuna fans remember. Kaukonen’s patented electric solos evident on the opening “Angel of Darkness” are dramatic and typically blistering, but there aren’t enough of those moments. Making matters more frustrating is the choice of material, in particular the humorous yet repetitious by-the-numbers rocking of “If This Is Love.” The closing instrumental, “Vicksburg Stomp,” returns to the sharp pickin’ approach of Hot Tuna’s 1970 acoustic debut, perhaps a fitting reminder of the group’s early times trying to make their name as something other than a Jefferson Airplane offshoot. There is plenty to enjoy about this unexpected return, and it’s encouraging that the Casady/Kaukonen relationship — both musical and personal — has persevered for over 50 years. (by Hal Horowitz)

Jack Casady (bass)
Jorma Kaukonen (vocals, guitar)
Barry Mitterhoff (mandolin)
Skoota Warner (drums)
Larry Campbell (pedal steel.guitar, guitar, violin, organ, vocals)
Teresa Williams (vocals)

01. Angel Of Darkness (Campbell/Kaukonen) 4.43
02. Children Of Zion (Davis) 4.50
03. Second Chances (Kaukonen) 4.21
04. Goodbye To The Blues (Wilborn) 4,32
05. A Little Faster (Hurlbut) 4.55
06. Mourning Interrupted (Kaukonen) 5.06
07. Easy Now Revisited (Kaukonen/Campbell) 3.41
08. Smokerise Journey (Kaukonen/Casady/Campbell) 4.28
09. Things That Might Have Been (Kaukonen) 4.15
10. Mama Let Me Lay It On You (Davis) 4.46
11. If This Is Love (Markham) 5.01
12. Vicksburg Stomp (Instrumental) (McCoy) 3.44