This 2-CD set comprises a series of surprisingly (given the age) good-sounding tapes that constitute a veritable authentication of the spirit, even more than being simple “archival material”, of the People Band. This union without a leader (though Terry Day and Mel Davis were unanimously considered orientation points to which everybody else looked at) began to exist in 1966 as Continuous Music Ensemble, finishing its course in 1972 after having developed into a real force of life, a variable assortment of instrumentalists – dilettantes to professionals, it didn’t matter – and personal experiences gathered under that sort of idealism which today is seen as laughable by many heartless cynics but in the 60s and the 70s brought probably the century’s best results as far as unembroidered creativity was concerned. As any elderly would concur, they don’t produce this kind of stuff anymore.
The endlessly changing line-ups, the fact that the musicians had to engage themselves with a multitude of instruments through a constant switching of the respective duties and the extremely diverse settings in which the events occurred (the players were either amassed in apartments and small studios or improvising in open spaces) all attribute a sense of immediacy to the playing, whose colours, impulses and indomitability remains thoroughly vivid across the entire program. The cooperative’s general philosophy is perfectly synthesized with what’s printed in the booklet: “Everything is music. Sound dominates our existence. Every sound/noise is music or can be used to make music”. Not a truer word indeed. Accordingly, the spectators were habitually invited to join the performers during the sets, although it is reported that members of the group – deemed “too musically anarchic” – were almost lynched by the rebellious attendants of a particular edition of the Anarchists Annual Ball. As ever, stubborn rigidness and hopeless stupidity lie behind those who proclaim independence from anything and anyone. The same happens nowadays, “radical” artists selling a presumed intellectual virginity for the quickest dollar.
69/70 includes handfuls of interesting incidents, running the whole gamut of aural reactions while encompassing doers and receivers in a single, virtually unconscious act. The improvisations collected in “Soho Studio”, which take the bulk of the first disc, are the most amusingly vociferous ones, intermittently recalling the Mothers Of Invention circa “The Return Of The Son Of Monster Magnet” yet informed by a lesser level of drama, the instrumental designs always incredibly intelligible and rather lucid despite the massive cluttering of timbres and dynamics, percussion and screaming voices emerging from the mix to define what the liners call “a beautiful orgasmic collective – quite tribal”. The self-explanatory “In The Woods” is obviously a prevalently peaceful chapter in terms of space distribution, the participants drifting in and out the microphones’ range to explore different areas of fortuitous artistry and subsidiary presences (such as passing airplanes). The slight diversion here is represented by “Paradiso”, named after the notorious Amsterdam venue which often hosted PB’s concerts. The quintet of Albert Kovitz, Davey Payne, Paul Jolly, Charlie Hart and Terry Day tends to a type of half-introspective free jazz tinged with altruism – especially towards the audience, treated to intensely expressive moments where the interplay is logical, unpredictable, nimble-footed, totally in tune with the addressee’s needs.
What’s to stress is how current these materials appear, 40 years gone. The importance of 69/70 – besides the excellence of the sheer musical content – must be individuated in its historical meaning at large. Significant expressions indicating a way of thinking and behaving that’s unfortunately destined to be watched as a relic, as these beings owned something that a sizeable portion of humanity has been throwing in the trash bin for decades – unselfishness and coherence. Qualities that everyone in the People Band was unquestionably willing to share.