The Great Awakening "Amazing Grace" (1969)

This one goes under the better-late-than-never file. A decade ago, I reviewed the 2-CD set titled Message To Love: The Isle Of Wight Festival 1970, the soundtrack album to the 1996 documentary film about the event, on my website. The CD set contained an instrumental recording of "Amazing Grace" by a band called the Great Awakening, because that recording was played over the PA system at the 1970 festival. But the CD liner notes provided no information about who the Great Awakening were. At the time, I could not find information anywhere about the band, finding only an article in Relix magazine saying that they were "rumored to consist of a well-known but mysterious guitarist". I went so far as to speculate (incorrectly) here on this blog that David Gilmour from Pink Floyd may have been the rumored mysterious guitarist.

Fortunately, the information superhighway has accumulated more information over the last ten years. After I was recently reminded of the subject, I searched again for information about the recording. Bingo. The All Music Guide website now explains it:

This little-known band made a brief impression in 1969 with an outstanding instrumental version of ‘Amazing Grace’, long before Judy Collins popularized the song. The mantra-like fuzz guitar added a spiritual quality that was missing from later versions. So little was known of the group that they were often referred to as Amazing Grace, and the song as ‘The Great Awakening’! For years it was thought that the man responsible was guitarist David Cohen from Country Joe And The Fish; others suggested it was by members of the Band. Later it was discovered that it was a different David Cohen, helped out by Joe Osborn (bass) and Jimmy Gordon (drums). The latter Cohen has worked as session guitarist for Bobby Darin, Tim Hardin and Frank Sinatra.

Sorry I couldn't provide this information earlier. But, like I said, it's better late than never.

The "Amazing Grace" single was the only release from the Great Awakening. The American version (Amos AJB 113) had "Amazing Grace" on both sides. The U.K. version (London HLU 10284) had a B-side called "Silver Waterfall", a serene instrumental composed by Cohen.


Deanna Beeler said…
I hung out with David Cohen in Venice, CA in the late sixties. He gave me a few copies of the 45. I may still have one. As I recall, he was a studio musician and put together a couple of people to do that one record. In fact, I thought it was only he, but I don't recall his playing drums. He was short-ish and chunky and had facial hair. That was a long time ago.

Deanna Beeler