Bonnie Raitt and Lowell George with John Hammond: Ultrasonic Studios 1972
The old Ultrasonic Studios sessions curated by the old influential Long Island rock station WLIR-FM continue to provide some of the coolest archival live material in record shops today. And the latest gem mined from the depths of the station’s archives is a “super session” to rival Bloomfield, Stills and Cooper, boasting John Hammond, Bonnie Raitt and Lowell George. Recorded on Oct. 17, 1972, the first half of this largely acoustic 77-minute set spotlights a young Raitt, emanating all sorts of stoned, soulful sexiness as she rolls through easy, mellow versions of tunes by the likes of Chris Smither (“Love Me Like a Man”), Jackson Browne (“Under the Fallling Sky”) and Blind Faith (a heart-stopping take on “Can’t Find My Way Home”). Lowell’s portion of the set is equally sublime, although it would’ve been nice if that annoying tape hiss permeating the performance was mixed down for retail. Nevertheless, once you hear the Little Feat guitar great deliver rolling versions of the old Elmore James favorite “The Sky Is Crying” and Jimmy Reed’s “Honest I Do,” any unwelcome audio imperfections simply fade into the background. But the real treat on Ultrasonic Studios 1972 is when Raitt, George and the perennially underrated Hammond on harp are all locked in together on the Sailin’ Shoes highlight “A Apolitical Blues,” performed in defiance after the show’s host Ken Cole requested they play “Willin’” from the first Little Feat album. There is nothing a little EQ-ing couldn’t fix to get to the pure heart of this long, lost Hempstead hootenanny.