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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.


  1. Downloaded it right away when read the word 'jazzy'. Thanks

    The Italian Head

  2. I went to this show. Don't remember anything of it. I also saw the prior night's show in Hampton and remember little of that show other than that the Hampton Coliseum was half empty. Both shows sound pretty nice on tape though. Now the next show on this tour was fantastic. I remember it well. It burned from beginning to end with an extra special boost from Cipollina in the post-drums segment.

  3. jeez. I recognized the name Joani Walker from a couple shows, but I had no idea... there's a goldmine at with her name on it! thanks for the pointer, Noah.

  4. I hit the link thinking I'd be reading about Binghamton. What a pleasant surprise! Nice to see someone else appreciates this show's myriad charms. Thanks, Noah!

  5. This was the first show I ever saw, and it blew me away from Tennessee Jed right down to the end. And the Scarlet/Fire struck me as amazing at time...and proved to be enduring when I came across a tape about 15 years later. The transition between Scarlet Begonias and Fire on the Mountain is truly exquisite...and just about seamless...the main clue is when everybody but the drums drop out for a few bars...then Fire starts to build...really sweet and piercing Garcia solo to finish before plunking neatly back into the Scarlet riff to finish...When people complain to me about the Dead, y'know, pointless meandering solos etc I play that for them, and melt all but the coldest hearts.


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