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Saturday, May 31, 2008

The Audience Devotional Tree

“The Audience Devotional Tree is a trading tree that will aim to spread the pleasure of the audience recording medium to those who know it now, and those who seek to know it better.”
(from the gdADT Yahoo Group header)

The gdADT (Grateful Dead Audience Devotional Tree). What was it, and why does it keep coming up as a tag in this blog?

There is no doubt in my mind that part of the motivation to write, and the pleasure I get from doing this blog, were much the same in doing the Audience Devotional Tree many years ago. I loved AUDs, and wanted to kindle that love in others and foster that love in those who might not already have had it.

Before the age of high speed collections and 500 Gig hard drives, tape trading was a little different. Back in the late 1990’s we all marveled at how the pace of trading was catapulted into hyper drive speed because of the ease in which folks could meet each other, exchange lists, pick shows, and send them off to each other. The average trade time could generally be from days to a week, where before the internet it might border on a month or more, and this after you were crafty enough to find other tapers in the first place.

By 1998 I had gotten pretty deep into my steadfast preference to audience recordings and the avenues they opened up to appreciating the experience of Grateful Dead shoe recordings in general. Along with this, I was starting to find that I was having an easy time of reaching out to, and winning the trust of old tapers who were willing to send me their old master tapes, or boxes of old reel to reels.

At this time tape trees were starting to appear more and more online. Essentially, a tape tree is built upon the premise that someone with the “seed” (copy of a show that not too many other folks had ) would would offer it up to four or five people in trade with the contingency that these people would commit to trading it out to another four or five themselves, and so on. The seeder, would gather the names, e-mails and physical addresses of all who wanted to join the tree, generally capping things at a certain number. Thus, like a musical pyramid scheme, hundreds of people could quickly come to possess a copy of something new on the scene in a matter of short weeks or months. Not all tape trees had hundreds of branches and leaves. And, not all trees would do more than one single seed round. Eventually the tape would be traded though a few levels of branches, each spreading the show again, ending with leaves. Leaves were typically people who didn’t have the ability to make copies of the show for others, and would generally do a B&P (blanks & postage) trade with their branch. Some trees became long running versions of “fruit of the month” subscriptions. The ADT was one of them.

I started the ADT because I knew I had a couple of Dead audience tapes that were not in circulation at all – 05/20/73 (review forthcoming) and 08/06/74. The ’74 show was really what cemented my resolve to do the tree. I got the AUD/1 reel from Bill Degen, patched it with Ihor Slabicky’s own master tape, and knew it had to go far and wide.

Back then (2000-2001) the way many multi-round trees were managed was within a Yahoo Group. I took sign ups, gathered about 145 people, split them into those who could burn CDs, and those who could not. I think I might have even had a cassette layer to the tree. Shorten (SHN) lossless compression was just new on the scene, and I took a poll as to who would want to run the tree as a SHN tree instead of audio. We opted to go SHN. With the kind help of some more technically adept tree members, we even got to the point where we were hosting the seeds on a private server where hi-speed capable branches could grab the shows.

The truism of “what you think about comes about” thoroughly applies to the world of Grateful Dead tape trading. My own flurry of activity in getting the tree started seemed to bring more rare and un-circulating AUDs into my world. Old tapers would somehow *find* me (exactly how I came to upgrade my own 25th Anniversary tape tree of the ’73 Watkins Glen shows), and there never seemed to be a short supply of shows to digitally master and get out on the tree.

It was also during this time that through a trading relationship I came to be connected with Jerry Moore, whom we all thought had pretty much fallen off the face of the earth. The era of digitizing Moore’s closet of master tapes began during these years. Priceless, wonderful times.

I released one show every two months or so. This gave the tree enough time to run through its three or four levels of depth. The tree’s heyday was from 2001 to 2003 wherein 24 of the 27 official rounds were released. The ADT focused on AUDs from 1970-1974 only, thus, on top of that, 15 “Extra Shows” ran through the tree as well – these from the collection of tapes I was transferring from post 1974 years, plus things that would come my way already digitized. These would go out to people on the tree who volunteered to turn around and offer them back to the tree in B&P or trade. It all worked very well.

Because I think the only actual list of shows treed on the gdADT is tucked inside the Yahoo Group, I’ve pasted each round here for reference. Please know that in posting this list I am not trying to tell you to grab all these shows immediately. As you've probably noticed, I have recommended a few shows from this list over the last few months, and I will continue to do so as I feel them best fit into the fabric of this blog.

Round 01 - 05-20-73
Round 02 - 08-06-74
Round 03 - 07-18-72
Round 04 - 05-07-70
Round 05 - 07-31-71
Round 06 - 06-30-73
Round 07 - 07-31-74
Round 08 - 08-01-73
Round 09 - 08-04-74
Round 10 - 05-21-74
Round 11 - 07-27&28-73
Round 12 - 07-31-73
Round 13 - 06-22&23-74
Round 14 - 06-26-73
Round 15 - 05-16-70
Round 16 - 06-30-74
Round 17 - 06-26-74
Round 18 - 06-28-74
Round 19 - 06-22-73
Round 20 - 07-29-74
Round 21 - 09-07-73
Round 22 - 12-30-78
Round 23 - 03-05-72
Round 24 - 08-05-74
Round 25 - 06-09-73
Round 26 - 07-27-73 [stereo aud]
Round 27 - 11-08-70

Also from the Yahoo Group header for the ADT:

“Communicating that certain something found in audience recordings of the Grateful Dead.”

As true for me today as it was then.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Getting Seriously Dead

My Taping Den circa 1998-99

One of the nicest things about visiting old Grateful Dead concerts that don’t necessarily top everyone’s top 5 list is that you can sometimes be overwhelmingly surprised by what you find. Part of the fun of tape trading was combing through people’s lists looking for things that you didn’t see everywhere else. Then, you might pull out your ragged print copy of Deadbase and flip to one of these shows to see what was played on such a date that had not made it into more heavy circulation. I remember following just this course of action when I first stumbled across 06/26/73 Seattle. I’d never really thought about the show before running into it on a list somewhere, appearing to be in above average sound quality.

He’s Gone>Truckin’>Other One>Bobby McGee>Other One>Sugar Magnolia.

Grateful Dead RFK Stadium June 9-10 1973Hmmm. That looks interesting. This was before I’d come to figure out that my greatest pleasure of all would come from the 1973 Summer shows in particular. I went for this trade based solely on the set list, it being 1973, and it being something I had never heard of before. I have little doubt that it was after hearing this Other One that I set about scooping up every show I didn’t already have in both directions from this date, realizing that there was something I was hearing in June 1973 that I didn’t hear in other parts of the year. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I knew I was losing myself entirely in these set two jams. Time was dropping away. Mental chatter was silenced. My heartstrings were strummed. I needed more! I had to find everything the Dead did that could do this to me. As it turned out, this window of Grateful Dead music opens on the 06/09/73 show and closes on 09/11/73. Everything in between seems to be drawing itself to the same musical bliss point. For me.

What seems unique about these Summer shows is that they exhibit a unique cadence to the jams that is built around the jazzier improvisation style of the year. In part due to Billy’s particular drumming style, a less aggressive push to Phil’s playing, Jerry’s soaring bird-like dance of notes that would arch, dip, and change directions so nimbly, Keith actually taking more of a front seat on the Fender Rhodes, something gelled by the Summer of ’73 that had been forming in the months prior.

Jerry Garcia 1973Also, while the band would definitely slip completely into Space, full of exploding stars, time swallowing black holes, and brain bending vortexes, they did it without coming across as if it were a necessary part of the set. These explorations into Space felt more organic and un-pushed. While chaotic, they are somewhat less dissonant, as if the band's interest in pure noise/tone art (Phil & Ned’s Seastones of 1974) had not quite taken hold. This is a purely personal preference, but I found the mid 1973 Spaces more enjoyable than the late 1973 versions for these reasons.

For me, it’s 06/26/73 that pops to my mind when I contemplate the rational answer to the obvious question from non-collectors: “Why on earth do you need to hear every version of these songs?” It might have been just after hearing this tape that I set about hand building my own hardwood tape shelves (pictured above), knowing I needed to make more space for tapes, and pronto. I needed to get every Other One (let alone, Dark Star) from 1973 because there might be more that do this same magical thing to me, in a slightly different way. Don’t you get it, person outside of the Dead tape collecting world?! Well, we know they don’t get it.

Jerry GarciaI'm not really trying to justify the logic of having to collect hundreds (let alone thousands) of shows. I know that obsession is saved for a pretty slim sliver of society. I've simply come to find that my musical quest held something more to its yearnings than just hearing more Dead music. For whatever reason, the Dead's music was a vehicle into a more spiritual level of satisfaction. You can't deny the parallels between the way the band's music could induce rapt attention into the present moment/experience, and the nature of a spiritual goal. As my mind has become more in tune with the path of awakening on many levels, it is clear that this band's music was a powerful step to my getting in touch with my own gold ring, deep inside. It is that power within the music that expressed itself in my unquenchable need for more of it. Each show, it seems, as another chapter in the book of the Dead, could be just that, and more. One man gathers what another man spills.

As for my affection towards the Summer of 1973 over other parts of the year, it should be understood that I am in a serious minority. Oh, most Deadheads will chime in that all of 1973 is fantastic. But when you get some really geeky collectors in a room (virtual or otherwise) to dissect 1973 tour by tour, and show by show, you’ll find people polarizing to the front and back of the year more often than not. That’s okay. If you haven’t noticed that I’ve been on a mission to turn you on to the wonders of audience recordings thus far, you’ll never figure out that I’m aiming to turn you on to my particular passion of Summer ‘73 too. I’m stacking the deck for myself, I know. If your following this blog you might well trust my judgment by now, and with that I can get you to sit down and give these kinds of shows a try, knowing that the beauty within will carry through.

1973 June 26 - Seattle Center Arena

Bob Weir September 26, 1973

Tuesday, June 26, 1973
Seattle Center Arena – Seattle, WA
Audience Recording

Along with 06/22/73, the other Don Amick recording I had the pleasure of bringing into digital circulation some years ago was 06/26/73 Seattle. After going years with a cassette copy of the show that was in the “B” range of quality due to generational hiss and tape speed issues, coming into contact with a true reel-2 copy of Don’s recording was a dream come true. The tape was not without its share of challenging tape cuts that needed editing, but the overall sound experience is near that of Don’s 6/22, and certainly outdoes the SBD for overall enjoyment. The soundboard of this show falls short for a number of reasons: hiss, bad mix, technical woes, etc.. The way to really connect here is through the AUD.

I will say that enjoying this AUD will be aided by some ear acclimation time. Similar to an AUD from 1970, you would do better to take the show in as a whole as much as you can. Dropping in on a particular highlight will come without your ear having had time to get used to things. I experienced this myself when getting ready to review the tape after not hearing it for years. I dropped in right on the Playin’ and I was struck by some of the harder aspects of the recording. Afterward, I went back and started from the top of the show, and after a song or two I was able to appreciate the distinct highpoints of the AUD – nice separation, clear high hat and vocals, sweet bass. It then allowed me to be completely in a place to fully enjoy the bigger jams of the show without distraction. I’d say you need a good 15 minutes with any AUD to fully acclimate. If you’re dying to check out the Other One, start with the Truckin’ and let the AUD grow on you from there.

06/26/73 has an ideal set list for me. A show opening Casey Jones (a rare treat to open a 1973 show) is delivered in a rather subdued fashion. But it has such an inviting characteristic to it in the way it bounces around. Its carefree and understated delivery make for a special level of enjoyment – different than the hard driving versions that more typically close a set. It makes me wonder what a Sugar Magnolia might have sounded like placed somewhere other than the end of set two (always). Casey Jones segues into Greatest Story Ever Told, and with that the energy skyrockets. It’s one lovely song after another here, Brown Eyed Women, Jack Straw, Box Of Rain. Yes yes yes. All of them give off a really relaxed pleasure. While it is often a tendency to look at 1973 first sets as less than interesting and lacking energy, this show is a fantastic listen – not because the songs have more amazing energy than you would expect, not even because Jerry is doing things with his leads that are beyond the norm. This show just has a perfect balance of mellow 1973-ness and focused song delivery. The band is engaged in a way they would sometimes not be in other shows from the year.

Jerry and Bob - October 19, 1973The first set goes on forever, tucking a great Cumberland Blues (only 7 of them in all of 1973) and China>Rider still two songs ahead of the eventual set closing Playin’ In The Band. After all of this fantastically Dead-flavored first set music, Playin’ In The Band brings with it a nice jam that allows the band to flex its psychedelic muscle a bit. Early on it finds Jerry opening up to lots of empty passages. He lets non-playing fill between his leads, where the band grooves along. It’s a nice punctuation. Slowly the energy mounts. Jerry rolls all around his pallet of sound colors. You can hear him going from pick up to pick up, changing volume and tone, turning on and off the wha-wha pedal, searching for the right voice. This provides a lot of wonderful intricacy to his solo. However, it is more likely that he is somewhat frustrated with his sound, searching for a place he can settle in and just play. After a bit more of this he seems to strike a good combination and flows back into more lead lines that fire off, then go silent, allowing the emptiness to punctuate the phrases he leaves in the air. He’s like a painter stabbing brush to canvas, then stepping back, then stabbing again. The song wraps up and ends shorter than most Playin’s of the year. It’s just a hint of what the second set will bring.

The second set opens with a Bertha>Promised Land that feels great. The show settles right back into the pre-Playin’ groove of set one – great songs delivered within a focused mellow energy. Then there’s the tape flip shortened Drums that explodes into one of the best Other Ones of the year. Words seem ill equipped to define just what made the Summer of 1973 so unique from the other parts of the year. This Other One does not suffer from that same challenge. It is the pure embodiment of what makes this period so wonderful. The band is a cauldron of power through this opening section of the song. Yet it all feels very lyrical and warm at the same time, another characteristic of the Summer shows.

The audience recording quality here is hypnotic. Phil’s bass is exuding its tone in ways no soundboard tape could ever hope to portray. Bobby is very upfront in the entire recording, while not overbearing, and it allows us to completely appreciate his full spectrum of tone as well, let alone his deft playing style. Billy’s cymbals and snare glimmer. Keith’s keyboard work is right in your face. And Jerry glows over everything happening around him. You are able to sit back and let 1973 wash all over you. After more than six minutes the band’s every circling flower petals of multi-colors seem to close up for the approach of night, and they slip into Me & Bobby McGee.

You know, I’m a big fan of the “Jam>Cowboy Tune>Jam” song structure that the Dead exploited. And, here we find a lovely Bobby McGee tucked inside this Other One. But, maybe it’s because this Other One is so completely what I love about the June ’73 shows, I feel somewhat wrenched away from the Other One with this transition. I just never want that Other One to end. Interestingly, Phil drops out almost entirely, and when he does play, he has stopped playing anything below about the 5th fret. This lends the proceedings to be even more distinct from the Other One that came before. Somehow the entire sound spectrum has been sucked down to two or three colors, where moments ago it was topping three hundred. All in all it ends up being an expert move, because when the band exist back into the Other One, it’s like we’ve just passed through the eye of a hurricane. We’re whisked back into the frenzy, and it leaves a deliciously psychedelic aftertaste to the Bobby McGee (did that just happen?).

For the next seven to eight minutes things are even better than they were before the Bobby McGee. The multi-colored flower is opened wide again and there are as many colors as there are petals on a chrysanthemum. It’s one more fantastic twist and turn after another. Phil is back to reaching low on the fret board. Keith pulls off a solo section that shows that there really was an extremely talented keyboard player in the band. The band displays an impeccable ability to listen to each other and build off of the phrases that each is playing. Jerry’s playing again is fuelled by the expression of licks and phrases that are punctuated by pauses. He ties them together so artfully, holding off on a note that you can anticipate after a phrase until a perfectly syncopated moment a few beats later. As his lead runs move higher up the neck of the guitar, it gives off a feeling of running up a flight of stairs, leaping at times over two or three steps as he goes. The cauldron of power is starting to boil over the sides, and gone are the relaxed jazzy leanings. This is something pure Grateful Dead now. The first verse forms. It comes and goes. From here we drop off into a simply sensational feedback driven space that could be one of the most overlooked of the year.

Amick’s tape has a bunch of trouble over this passage, and it took some daunting effort at the sonic workbench to clean it up. I don’t generally mention my own digitizing efforts, but I recall this one as particularly draining. Plus because of the numerous cuts, I spent the hours getting through it anticipating my own finally being able to hear this Space in as un-mutilated a fashion as possible. Before this editing, the cuts came at you like a hammer to the head, over and over. Seven incidents of apparent pause button tapping later (09:58, 10:12, 11:43, 11:46, 11:50, 11:55, 12:38), and the Space was allowed to flow in almost complete non-distraction. I used to be able to count these edits as the final product passed my ear. Now, years later, that ability is blissfully gone, and I just melt into the multidimensional sound explosion that refuses to allow one to find footing at any angle. It’s a brain crippling ride, itself several minutes long. The band is relentless, while not utterly cacophonous, layering tone, noise, and feedback that strip away you ability to experience anything else. And when it finally ebbs away and places you at the start of Sugar Magnolia, you can’t help but shake your head to reset your balance. The set closer grounds us nicely, necessary after such a deep and twisted exploration, and we can feel our physical bodies again, bopping around and clapping to the music.

Summer 1973. Worth every moment.

06/26/73 AUD etree source info
06/26/73 AUD download

Audience Devotional Tree Round 14 – January, 2003

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

1981 August 28 - Long Beach Arena

Grateful Dead Greek Theatre 1981

Friday, August 28, 1981
Long Beach Arena, Long Beach, CA
Audience Recording

I had been trading for a long while before I was really able to appreciate stuff from the 80’s. There’s no doubt that my musical muse is kindled most by what the Dead was doing in 1973 and 1974. Early on I just wasn't clicking with the Dead that I heard from past the 1978 mark, and to a degree I had to force shows from the 80’s on myself knowing that I needed a well rounded list for trading. Generally I leaned on the friends I had made in trading to help point me to the gems that were lurking in the often hard to navigate world of 80’s Dead. The fact is, there are a lot of shows in the 80’s, most of them are around on tape, and, many of them sound darn good. This was even the case before the golden age of downloadable Dead shows was upon us. Coupled with the fact that the 80’s feature a number of less than glorious performances, it made (and makes) it rather difficult to know which way to turn.

Jerry Garcia - June 11, 1981One of the shows I first came in contact with after deciding that there must be something special that I just had not heard yet, came to me from a long time trading partner, Paul Landgraf. We would do large tape and/or CD trades, and we had gotten so comfortable with each other’s tastes that easily half of each trade would be free form – we would just tell the other to fill out the trade with stuff we thought the other would enjoy. For a time, I asked Paul to help me gain an appreciation for the early 80’s. He did a very good job of it. One of the shows in the first batch he sent me was Long Beach, 08/28/81. It was a door (ear) opening experience for me. I couldn’t believe that so much pleasure could be lurking in a date I’d never even heard of, from a year that I thought paled to everything in the mid 70’s. How foolish I was…

When I started this blog in February, the audience recording of this show was not circulating digitally at all. Paul had sent me a CD copy of his cassettes (1st or 2nd gen as I recall) some 7 or 8 years ago. Given my desire to hook readers up with the ability to hear (if not also download) the shows I recommend, this posed quite a problem, and I resigned myself to not being able to review the show on these pages. Recently, the efforts of the Mouth Of The Beast team released this master tape in all its glory, and thus I have been blessed with the ability to write about and share the wonderful recording.

Grateful Dead 1981The first set feels somewhat standard as it gets its legs. The band starts gelling more in the Me & My Uncle>Big River, and Jerry's leads begin to sparkle. The set one closing Let It Grow>China Cat Sunflower>I Know You Rider is a classic 1981 showcase of the band’s tightly wound, intricate, blistering, swirling, imploding exploding juicy jamming. You’ll get a workout trying to keep up with things here. The China>Rider sizzles. Jerry’s solos bubble in a frenzied cauldron of roiling boiling pinwheels. While he is obviously taking solos, the band reaches a terrific sense of communal playing, more often appearing as a complete mosaic of music rather than a backing band behind Garcia. It is this musical cohesion that often typifies what was great about the early 80's shows.

Set two follows and delivers one glorious pleasure after another. The opening Shakedown Street has a fabulous jam that finds its way into a pocket of repeating phrases that set the band down a side path for a brief period. It’s just enough to allow them to go far enough astray from the standard Shakedown theme that you can’t help but relish how outside of the box they have gotten. Jerry begins firing triplets out into the air like a magician working his wand over a delighted audience of onlookers. The crowd loves it. You can feel the smiles in the crowd and on the stage.

The Lost Sailor>Saint Of Circumstance appears like an eagle descending into the arena. There is a certain rapt attention that comes over the proceedings as the band works their power deeper into the crowd, as if everyone is forced to breath just a bit more deeply. This Bobby song duo had its heyday in the early 80’s, and there’s really little else like it. Its tight arrangements left small openings for any real exploratory jamming. However, the small pockets it did allow are sensationally delivered on this night. You can feel the energy ratchet up in the Lost Sailor as Jerry and the band go through what qualifies as the solo section getting louder and more intense all the while. The Saint Of Circumstance is clean and full of fire as well.

Grateful Dead 1981From here the band goes into a pre-drums Wheel which is the focal point of the set. Soundman Dan Healy makes the already psychedelic tune even more so by applying all sorts of delayed echo effects to the opening section. This is not by any means distracting. In fact, it shows him to be a perfectly balanced finger on the hand that is the entire band. The jam out of the song blossoms into a quick paced romp featuring more of the tightly wound, multi-instrument interplay that has already graced the show. This jam evades labeling very nicely. It really encapsulates the voice of the band from 1981 - the band is playing in their current "pocket." It’s a long jam, and satisfies on all levels. From it, the band debuts Brent’s Never Trust A Women, which then melts back into a second jam. This one is more a Jerry solo over drums followed by a Brent solo over drums.

Out of a mildly intense Space that hints a few times at returning to The Wheel, the band finds itself in a Spanish Jam which is always a neat treat, as it didn’t come around all that often. Truckin’ is next. It’s nicely done, with Bobby flubbed lyrics and all (Give him a break. He’d only had a few hundred times to practice the song before this night). The playing out of Truckin’ relaxes into a sweetly slippery jam that darts around like a kite on the wind before settling into Wharf Rat, and the show rounds out with a standard Sugar Magnolia followed by US Blues which had become a fixture in the encore slot.

This tape is a great slice of 1981, delivering on many levels, worthy of a listen. Highly under circulating, it’s one of those needles you almost didn’t know was in the haystack at all.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

1978 July 5 - Omaha Civic Auditorium

Grateful Dead - April 11, 1978

Wednesday, July 5, 1978
Omaha Civic Auditorium – Omaha, NE
Audience Recording

There are certain quiet corners of Grateful Dead recordings that won me over to the band’s music far more than the famous shows. I recall being completely turned off to 1978 by the first tape I got, 10/21/78. Everything I read about it indicated that it was pure gold. Well, not for me. I avoided the year for a good while after that, afraid that the entire year might strike me the same way. Even the July Red Rocks shows somehow missed the mark for me. Then I bumped into the shows from just before Red Rocks, July 1st, 3rd, and 5th. Maybe it was the audience recording flavor, or in part having to do with how hard it was to find them in trade, but these dates opened my eyes and ears to 1978.

Jerry Garcia - March 11, 1978All three dates are worth hearing. But July 5th, 1978 is a clear highlight. It’s a perfect package from front to back. You can feel it right from the opening Sugaree. Jerry’s solos are wonderful. The Beat It On Down The Line burns. The first set has that special feel to it, and you can tell that everything is touched with a little something extra . Mind you, I am walking you into Bob’s “learn slide guitar on the job” phase, and I apologize in advance for this. Haven’t heard about how bad Bob was on slide? Well, my friends… there is little to say, and painfully plenty to hear.

This show has a great Lazy Lightning>Supplication to close set one. Not only does Jerry tear it up in the Supplication jam, but the final choruses go on and on, drawing more and more energy into the music. Bobby seems unwilling to finish the song, letting it go and go. Eventually they stop on a dime and the set ends.

The real highlight for me is the Estimated Prophet jam leading to Eyes Of The World. This Estimated flows into some lovely Garcia solo work. His playing is fully inspired, rounding over and over itself with beautiful lines until the band flows into a brilliant passage near the end where the drummers lock into a rhythmic pattern not unlike an Other One groove that completely does away with the downbeat, leaving it impossible to count the measures. Jerry’s playing does cartwheels over head and the band is completely at one with the moment. This small section is blissful. You can feel yourself being absorbed into the music. It draws your attention, silencing thought and elevating the senses. It is fleeting, to be sure. But these are the moments that carry the band above a mere musical experience. I can come back to this passage again and again.

Grateful Dead - November 15, 1978The jam enters a sweet enjoyable Eyes of the World with Jerry working the melody of the verses into unique phrases, changing notes and giving emphasis to words in ways not typical of the standard song structure. This, laced with strong solo sections, makes for a very nice listen. Out of Eyes we get a Phil jam with the drummers before the actual drums and space section. It’s a lot of fun, reflecting back on his monster solos in 1973. The post Space section of the set is most notable for Jerry’s solo in Wharf Rat which just explodes. It wastes no time building from anywhere. It starts on a peak and pushes itself into the sky, possessed with emotion.

Bob Wagner, who took it upon himself to travel from his east coast home and do the summer tour across the Midwest thinking that if he didn’t do it, he might never hear the shows on tape, recorded this show from in front of the soundboard with his mics spread out roughly eight feet apart. It makes for a very nice recording. His master tapes of this night were stolen from his car only months after the show. But, at the show he allowed another taper to patch into his rig, and thus we have Tim Knight’s master tape preserved here. Amazing how things work out that way.

This is a great show, relatively unknown, tucked away in the quiet backwaters of the 1978 summer tour. Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

1979 May 5 - Baltimore Civic Center

Grateful Dead 1979

Saturday, May 5, 1979
Baltimore Civic Center, Baltimore, MD
Audience Recording

You know, she might have to get her name up on the plaque with the big boys. Joani Walker could tape some Grateful Dead! She consistently “got it” on tape in "A" quality form, and we are very lucky to have easy access to her treasure trove of master tapes. Here again, she gives us something very special from a corner of the Dead’s musical archive that you might not generally turn to on a first, or second pass. Spring 1979.

Brent Mydland had just joined the band on keyboards a scant few weeks earlier, and he energized the band on all levels. The Spring ’79 tour is packed with excitement. It’s a great run of shows that offer many highlights. One of the dates that might somehow live in its own shadow is the May 5th performance. Perhaps it’s from revisiting this one through the tape that Joani made, but I really find this to be a super slice of 1979 Dead.

Jerry Garcia May 18, 1979The first set Sugaree is as excellent as it is long, clocking in at about 14 minutes. Jerry’s voice just sits right on the bridge of your nose, and his guitar fills your head while the band dances all around him. Each solo builds until the last one finds him pulling off the rapid paced picking scales that typify his evolving playing style of the time. The set closes with a Dancin’ In The Streets that feels fantastic. Jerry dives into tight spirals that fly by as the band delivers a fast paced dancing climax to the first set.

The Scarlet>Fire that opens set two is extremely satisfying in the slow and graceful transition into Fire On The Mountain. It seems to take forever, and in doing so, you can’t help but smile while being lost in between songs. The pristine recording quality makes for great enjoyment of the Drums section, and while the Space isn’t colossal, the jam out of it that feeds into the Other One takes the band into a completely timeless zone. You can’t really place the band into a particular year during this prelude jam. It lopes along with a mellow jazz 1973 vibe, like a gently flowing river, while having the bubbly effect of a 1976 or ’77 jam. Almost the last thing it sounds like is 1979. It ambles along for about four minutes or so, and while understated, it serves to bring this entire show up another level. The Other One itself is also full of nice twists and turns that are reminiscent of some more aggressive 1973 Other Ones.

Not a show that ends up in the record books, but absolutely a quintessential Grateful Dead ride from start to finish given the caliber of Walker’s recording talents. It strikes me as a very nice page out of the Grateful Dead book with phrases not often read, but fully worth the reading.

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