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Sunday, December 27, 2009

1970 March 21 - Capitol Theater

Grateful Dead 1970
Saturday, March 21, 1970
Capitol Theater – Port Chester, NY
Audience Recording

"Calm down, you unruly freaks!"

To look at this show on paper, you can't help but raise an eyebrow. No Other One? No Dark Star? Death Don't Have No Mercy as the third song out of the gate? He Was A Friend Of Mine into Viola Lee Blues into The Seven into Cumberland Blues? Midnight Hour into Turn On Your Lovelight? This is just odd. Couple all this together with another outstanding recording from the "usher tapes" legend (Ken and Judy Lee), and you have yourself an intriguing bit of music history.

The night sparkles with energy all over the place, and more than anything this roaring 1970 concert might suggests on paper, the show continually plumbs some of the more majestic, lyrical and picturesque vistas of Grateful Dead jamming. Despite some tape age issues and gremlins that harass the early show, we once again find that the Capitol Theater was a venue fit to produce epic Grateful Dead moments that live on only by the grace of audience tapers.

Walkin' The Dog, Me & My Uncle, Death Don't Have No Mercy, Good Lovin' > Drums > Good Lovin', Dire Wolf, Big Boss Man, He Was A Friend Of Mine > Viola Lee Blues > The Seven > Cumberland Blues

Pigpen 1970The night starts with Walkin’ The Dog as the opener (as far as we know, its debut). It has a wonderful bounce and though they rarely played this tune, it captures the 1970 Grateful Dead vibe nicely with a good, confidant strut. Me and My Uncle follows and afterwards it is clear that the crowd is extremely energized to the point that they just won't shut up. We get the obligatory calls for "St. Stephen!" along with a cacophony of shouts, cheers and claps. Actually, it's been this way since the start of the show. Perhaps as a result the next tune played is Death Don't Have No Mercy. Before it starts, Jerry says "Calm down, you unruly freaks," and it won't be the last time he says so.

Death Don't completely quiet the crowd. Somber and haunting, the band draws all attention into music. Jerry's voice burn with emotion. It lofts into falsetto at the end of lines, and hypnotizes the listener. His guitar solos are strong, almost angry, matching the emotional intensity of his singing.

After applauding the song, the crowd goes completely silent except for a slight murmur. It sounds like respect. But it only lasts about thirty seconds. Someone shouts, then someone (on stage?) breaks the ice by asking for an "E-flat" to help tune up. Laughs follow, then more song requests. In fine form, Bobby fuels the fire by remarking that they don't know the names of their own songs so everything the crowd is shouting is meaningless to the band. Hardy-har-har. Soon the crowd is clapping in time and the band busts out Good Lovin'. It's a solid version, though it doesn't take many chances. The Dire Wolf that follows is very peppy. And Big Boss Man allows Pigpen to stretch his legs nicely.

And then comes the triumph of the early show: He Was A Friend Of Mine > Viola Lee Blues > The Seven > Cumberland Blues. He Was A Friend Of Mine is so lovely. The main lead break finds Jerry exploring something that sounds quite unique to the time period. His lilting, melodic solo isn’t really Dark Star-like; nor is it Morning Dew-like. It's really more like an intense Dancin' In The Streets groove slowed down to a ballad's pace. In this setting it rotates and soars gracefully, as soft as a flower opening in the morning sun. It’s sad to think where this song could have gone if they kept it around. But this was the last one ever. At least they give it a fitting farewell.

Bob Weir 1970The tune comes to its natural end, and is immediately followed by the explosive intro of Viola Lee Blues, the full power of Phil bass exploding with great gouts of magma. 1970 Viola Lee’s tended to go at a tad slower tempo than previous years, and this rendition takes a bit of time to get the jam flying. Eventually, though, they are in high gear. While the jam is intensifying, they actually take an energy detour and mellow a bit. The drumming quiets slightly, and things get a bit ethereal, leaving the slow churn of Viola Lee behind. The music enters a loose bluesy gait for a bit before finding its footing back on the road to meltdown. The diversion adds a nice twist to the song, creating some curious variation to what is normally a non-stop uphill climb in energy.

Soon enough they are building again, and eventually reach that searing, scorching precipice that only Viola Lee could reach. Pure electric meltdown. The rush of mayhem is as blinding as it is infinitely revealing. Wind takes on the form of boulders as they continually explode and race across the stage. Utterly lost in a timeless wormhole, the band stops on a dime that seems to lurch forward, back into the original tempo of Viola Lee. Garcia’s solo out of the song’s re-immergence starts with some guttural, bluesy moans. Then he goes into fluttering triplet pull-offs for a while, and the band is swirling, not headed toward the last verse at all. This is a wonderful "musical satori" moment where the music is wanting for nothing, happy to simply be with nothing but itself being perceived.

But there’s a destination after all—the all too few times played Seven jam. The theme sounds like something of an Eric Clapton riff straight out of a song by Cream, only the jam has its own spin such that if Eric Clapton were in attendance he might have melted into the floor. Phil is rolling. Jerry is absolutely flying. The only trouble is it's far too short. That said, the transition it offers into Cumberland Blues is a piece of priceless 1970 segue jamming. Just as we are completely at the mercy of The Seven jam, thinking about Eric Clapton in a technicolor puddle on the floor, the Dead bring us lusciously into psychedelic bluegrass.

Pairing Viola Lee Blues and Cumberland this close together is about all the evidence we need to support one of my long held beliefs that at a core level the two songs draw from the exact same thematic undercurrent of inspiration. Throughout Cumberland it is easy to imagine Viola Lee bursting back out at any time. The Grateful Dead seem to be evolving before our ears here as the unmistakable nuisances of the past and future come together. The early show ends much sooner than anyone in attendance would prefer. But there’s so much more to come.

Electric I: Casey Jones, Dancin' In the Streets, Easy Wind//
Acoustic: Friend of the Devil, Deep Elem Blues, Don't Ease Me In, Black Peter, Wake Up Little Susie, Uncle John's Band, Katie Mae
Electric II: Cosmic Charlie, Saint Stephen > Not Fade Away > St. Stephen Jam > China Cat Sunflower Jam > Not Fade Away > Midnight Hour > Turn On Your Lovelight

Jerry Garcia 1970Dancin' In The Streets is an immediate highlight of the second show of the night. It clocks in around 17 minutes and wastes no time getting down to business. The audience claps along for the entire song, but you can barely hear them. The band is very, very loud. Lesh’s bass roars with a mouthful of enormous teeth. The entire theater is revved up quite nicely by the time Jerry hits his solo. Bobby leads it off with his "Everybody dance around" line and the groove is infectious. From there it becomes a swirling psychedelic dance party.

It goes on and on, and we are having the quintessential "good time." The band struts and thrusts. Then, amidst this straight ahead rocking, something changes. Phil starts noodling around with a descending chord progression that makes us open our eyes and peer beyond the physical space around us. Garcia finds some footing here too, and before we know what’s happening, a huge beam of sunlight explodes out of Jerry. He erupts into a thematic solo that burns like something we would expect in a Dark Star. It almost stops us in our dancing tracks. The unmistakable impression of the band coalescing into a singularity comes through the music. A wonderful patch of musical satori ensues and the musical muse soars. The band is firmly locked together riding waves.

Jerry and Phil continue to amaze and astound us again and again now. Phil builds large, crushing lines that defy the jam’s time signature and Jerry is right there with him. Large swollen tones begin pouring out of sitar-droning strings and a gentle slow motion garden blooms. The jam simmers down to the place where they might normally turn the corner into thier Feelin’ Groovy jam. Instead, Jerry bounces effortlessly around this warm loving space. He's plucking the stars within his reach and each one slowly explodes a shower of rainbows and flowers over our bodies. We are lost in a primal landscape that defies Dancin’ In The Streets completely. As is so often the case in these moments of timeless and focused attention, the band forces nothing and appears to be as hypnotized by the moment as we are. No one looks to change anything. It’s a priceless passage of Grateful Dead music.

Phil Lesh 1970Eventually things manage to find their way back to Dancin’ proper. Bobby's vocal crescendos at the end of the song are very well done. And afterward, you can't help but detect a sense of amazement as the crowd applauds the song. The audience notes that the Dancin' has ended, but there is something permanently different in the air now. The song is over, but there’s cosmic goo left all over everything.

After Easy Wind suffers a tape cut near its end (could there have been more to this first electric set?) we move into an acoustic set. The crowd is up to its antics again and Jerry tells them "Take it easy out there, you unruly freaks." This only seems to entertain them all the more. Jerry proceeds into Friend Of The Devil and people begin to figure out that they ought to calm down. Over the entire acoustic set we hear the word "Shhhh" more often than on any AUD I can think of. Early on people are begging others to "PLEASE SIT DOWN!" It's a good sonic document of what an East Coast crowd could be like in these early years.

The entire acoustic set is well played. Friend Of The Devil contains the extra verse that Jerry later dropped. Deep Elem is fantastic. It's only the second know time they played the tune since 1966. The first was just the night before. Black Peter is hypnotic. Wake Up Little Susie is downright excellent, and Pigpen's Katie Mae shows us that this guy needs nothing more than his voice and a guitar to work his magic.

Sadly, there's someone sitting next to the taper who feels obliged to add accompaniment to the band by drumming on the balcony rail which comes through on the mics. And, having no true sense of rhythm, this person really shouldn't be allowed to do so. This ruthless "tapping" is a bit bothersome, but not entirely detrimental to enjoying the music.

The last chunk of the show has some seriously uplifting moments of 1970 Electric Grateful Dead magic. Cosmic Charlie is a roaring set opener. The band is very loud again. Then the main chunk of the second electric set is as good if not better than it looks on paper: St. Stephen > Not Fade Away > St. Stephen Jam > China Cat Jam > Not Fade Away. The Stephen offers no real surprises, but you can't deny the sheer potency of this song. It really encapsulates a lot of what the Grateful Dead were in these early years. Moving into Not Fade Away may seem ho hum, but Not Fade Away was still in relative infancy at this point, and this was one of the first handfuls of times it was paired with St. Stephen at all. The "newness" of this combo must have really been exciting for the band because they make the most of it.

Jerry Garcia 1970The jamming in NFA is like a freight train at times. It thunders along with Jerry finding many different lines that inspire his repeating them time and time again. He forms circling whirlpools worming around like cyclones in turbulent water. Here and there he reaches out in warm waves of notes that juxtapose the intense energy of the band. Deep in the jam, they make it solidly back into St. Stephen. It is seamless and perfect, almost as if we never really left. Then it's gone as soon as it came and Garcia is attacking what is always known as Bobby's China Cat Sunflower riff—fantastic. There’s no real chance of the full song happening since they are playing in E. While China Cat started in E a little over two years earlier, they no longer play it in that key. Regardless, what we get is thoroughly enjoyable. Not Fade Way returns at full tilt, and its finale comes like sledge hammers crushing an anvil.

Midnight Hour > Lovelight is unlike anything else I can think of from this period. First, Midnight hour had been almost completely shelved by this time (check out your copy of Deadbase and see what I mean). The song delivery feels very "standard" through the first five minutes. But from the moment Pigpen hands over the reigns by saying "Go on, play a while," the song takes on rainbow misty breeze hues. Jerry is in that "He Was A Friend Of Mine" zone. He soars in slow motion over mountaintops at dawn. Everything he touches turns beautiful before our eyes. This goes on for a nice long time. Pig comes back to start rapping, but he can't quite turn this into a sexy strut. Jerry seems to have brought us somewhere more divine with his gentle waves.

The segue into Lovelight is just exactly perfect. The way these two songs match up is great. It makes you wonder why they only did this pairing one time (that we know of at least). Lovelight's grove is infectious. While it is by no means the complete song (we never even get a "Without a warning…" out of Pigpen), it serves to cap off the show with explosive balls of fire. It builds and builds until the set ends with a power chord crescendo lasting some 50 seconds, slamming into your head over and over. Whew!

On tape we hear the entire passage of cheering that brings the band back on stage for We Bid You Good Night—a very fine version that somehow closes off a very fine show.

03/21/70 Early Show AUD etree source info
03/21/70 Early Show AUD Download

03/21/70 Late Show AUD etree source info
03/21/70 Late Show AUD Download

Friday, December 18, 2009

Grateful Dead

Grateful Dead

Grateful Dead

What's in a name?

I'm sorry but at this point the Grateful Dead are worked so deeply into the fabric of my life that the name has lost all meaning. I can't even look to my kids to get a fresh perspective on what they think the band's name is all about. For them, the Grateful Dead has been around forever, so there was never a moment where they saw it as new and questioned me about the potentially creepy nature of the name, or what it's all about. To one degree or another, the band's persona is also woven too deeply into the soundtrack of their lives to wonder about this.

Just the same, the phrase Grateful Dead is pretty intriguing, whether for a rock band or otherwise. And while I am far from the first to do so, I thought it interesting enough to spend a little time discussing the collective wisdom that surrounds the nature of the band coming to be called the Grateful Dead (changing their name from The Warlocks in late 1965) and the potential meaning behind the name. If you haven't happened across all of this stuff yourself, it's a nice little read concerning the origin of the band's name.

I think all that can be uniformly agreed upon is that Jerry Garcia landed upon the name while perusing some encyclopedic/reference publication. Yet on the details of this point Wikipedia's Grateful Dead entry notes more than one angle to the saga:

Phil Lesh's biography: "...Jer[ry Garcia] picked up an old Britannica World Language Dictionary...[and]...In that silvery elf-voice he said to me, 'Hey, man, how about the Grateful Dead?'"

Alan Trist, director of the Grateful Dead's music publisher company Ice Nine, notes that Garcia found the name in the Funk & Wadnalls Folklore Dictionary, when his finger landed on that phrase while playing a game of "dictionary". In the Garcia biography, "Captain Trips," author Sandy Troy states that the band was smoking the psychedelic DMT at the time.

In the summer of '69, Phil Lesh told another version of the story to Carol Maw, a young Texan visiting with the band in Marin County… In this version, Phil said, "Jerry found the name spontaneously when he picked up a dictionary and the pages fell open. The words 'grateful' and 'dead' appeared straight opposite each other across the crack between the pages in unrelated text."

And in Blair Jackson's book "Playin' In The Band" we find all of these paths fusing in Garcia's own telling: "One day we were over at Phil's house...He had a big dictionary. I opened it and there was 'Grateful Dead', those words juxtaposed. It was one of those moments, you know, like everything else went blank, diffuse, just sort of oozed away, and there was GRATEFUL DEAD in big, black letters edged all around in gold, man, blasting out at me, such a stunning combination. So I said, 'How about Grateful Dead?' And that was it."

This last version is the one that rings most true with how the story made its way to my ears long before there was a wikipedia or multiple books that speak to the subject.

There is also the thinking that they picked the name after finding it in the Egyptian Book of the Dead. But this somehow implies far more thought process being involved. The band is historically documented as being devoid of any desire to inflict their own "trip" on anyone, and the thought that they were thinking the naming through on this level strikes me as a bit preposterous. Perhaps personally they mused over such things, but as for trying to design a particular aura around the name—I doubt it highly.

That said, it is interesting to note the reference:

We now return our souls to the creator,
as we stand on the edge of eternal darkness.
Let our chant fill the void
in order that others may know.
In the land of the night
the ship of the sun
is drawn by the grateful dead.

-- Egyptian Book of the Dead

Very thought provoking. This is a wonderful connection to the term "grateful dead" and lyrically it could just as easily come out of some lost song that didn't make it on to the Aoxomoxoa album.

Finally, the band's musical story-scape itself finds a wonderful tie in when checking out that old Funk & Wagnalls Folklore dictionary entry which reads something like this:

GRATEFUL DEAD: The motif of a cycle of folk tales which begin with the hero coming upon a group of people ill-treating or refusing to bury the corpse of a man who had died without paying his debts. He gives his last penny, either to pay the man's debts or to give him a decent burial. Within a few hours he meets with a traveling companion who aids him in some impossible task, gets him a fortune or saves his life. The story ends with the companion disclosing himself as the man whose corpse the hero had befriended.

Good stuff to ponder over when you somehow find time to spare while not listening to the over abundance of Grateful Dead music out there. As if there wasn't enough music to fill our heads 24 hours a day, when we do manage to take a breather from those 1973 Dark Stars, we have no shortage of things to think about.

Have you ever heard any other stories related to the naming of the Grateful Dead?

Sunday, December 6, 2009

1987 August 12 - Red Rocks

Grateful Dead Red Rocks 1987

Sunday, August 12, 1987
Red Rocks Amphitheatre - Morrison, CO
Audience Recording

The "In The Dark" album was released just the month before this show, and "Touch Of Grey" was lighting a fuse on what would be an explosion of Grateful Dead popularity to eclipse the prior twenty years. Meanwhile the 1987 Dead were operating in their "business as usual" mode, on tour across the country.

There's no denying my personal preference to the Dead's music which came prior to this point in their career. The somewhat pre-1985 lopsidedness to the shows reviewed here on the Guide make that rather clear. But that doesn't mean there oughtn't be some respect paid to often infamously regarded pockets of the Grateful Dead's legacy. For me, the best way to honor and experience these moments comes from stellar audience recordings (by the late 80's many recordings were literally exceeding all expectations of quality). And here we come to the outdoor Red Rocks venue in Morrison, Colorado, providing an ideal setting for some fantastic sounding music.

Jerry Garcia - May 1987In 1987 it can be difficult to take the obvious vocal strain that health and drug issues had exacted on Garcia, and to me the band more often than not sounds like a caricature of itself. They sound a bit like a band pretending to be the Grateful Dead—mimicking what one would expect to hear more than simply creating music together. A bit harsh perhaps, but hard to deny. Yet through it all, the Dead were always able to pierce the membrane separating that for which we would forever forgive them, and that for which we would always turn out to share with them. They still had "it" just under the surface, and though it came into full view less and less often, it was never completely absent.

So here we land in the absolute sweet spot at a gorgeous venue. This recording sounds good enough to make the hair on the back of your neck stand up. If you're going to traverse 1987, it may as well be a summertime outdoor show that sounds this good.

Set 1: Hell In A Bucket > Sugaree, Never Trust A Woman, Cumberland Blues > Mexicali Blues, Friend Of The Devil, My Brother Esau, Bird Song > The Music Never Stopped
Set 2: China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider, Man Smart (Woman Smarter) > Terrapin Station > Drums > Space > The Other One > Dear Mr. Fantasy > Wharf Rat > Turn On Your Lovelight, E: The Mighty Quinn (Quinn The Eskimo)

The first set is tastefully delivered, and while occasionally veering into that "Dead being their own cover band" feeling, this is no doubt a good time had by all. Bird Song is very satisfying as the structured musical experience peels away revealing a more fractaled landscape. Worth noting is the level at which the band is paying attention to each other. As Jerry hits a sour note and does an admirable job of saving himself, the other band members pick this up and highlight the off-played minor note until it becomes part of the musical tapestry. This seems to fuse the band mates and the music starts to soar, catching energy and spiraling aloft. The jam doesn't last long (a 1987 characteristic), but it's thoroughly authentic Grateful Dead. They drop directly into a nice Music Never Stopped which fires on all cylinders to wrap up the set. The end jamming will put a smile on your face for sure.

China>Rider opens the second set with the band in its comfort zone. It's hard to find fault here, and very easy to just let yourself go. When Jerry absolutely roars out his "northbound train" lyrics, its one of those "wow, Jerry's really into it" moments that are always precious to bump into in these latter years.

Jerry Garcia and Phil Lesh 1987Terrapin Station has a nice extended final section where the song's theme repeats and coils into itself again and again. It goes on long enough to become somewhat hypnotic, somehow synching your brainwaves into a passage where time is hard to pin down. This is the effect one typically looks for in the end refrains of Terrapin, yet does not often find.

Drumz is very nice. Overlaid with musical tones and orchestrated thunder, the show goes deeply into Space, holding nothing back as the vortex of psychedelia dissolves the mountain landscape of the venue into liquid winds of light and crystal rivers.

Other One whispers its way into view, and Healy has Bobby's voice tweaked, taking an unfair advantage of the lysergic energy floating all around. While it's hard not to wish Other One was played out a good deal longer, the show is certainly delivering the goods as the band rolls nicely into Dear Mr. Fantasy and then Wharf Rat.

The set ends with Lovelight, and no matter how much I try to let these Bobby versions stir up the embers of Pigpen Lovelights gone by, it ain't happening. This one smacks of the Dead dusting off a version of themselves much better left to the history books. If I'm jaded, so be it. Quinn The Eskimo redeems things in the encore spot, clearly capping the evening off with a joyful energy.

A very satisfying audience recording capturing the band in good form standing on the verge of titanic popularity and a truly inspirational creative comeback in the years to come (1989-90), this show provides a nice window into what 1987 was all about.

08/12/87 AUD etree source info
08/12/87 AUD Download

Friday, November 20, 2009

Under Eternity Blue - Instrumental Hip Hop

The sixth installment of the Under Eternity Blue radio program hits the Internet airwaves this weekend on Spirit Plants Radio with two show times: Saturday, November 21st at 10pm PST, and Sunday, November 22nd at 1pm PST.

This episode will explore something perhaps best described as a guilty pleasure - Instrumental Hip Hop. It may sound counter intuitive, but this musical genre has never ceased to surprise me with its ability to strike a chord of musical enjoyment which I often reach while listening to the Grateful Dead. Blasphemy? If it sounds that way, I hope you may open you ears and give it a try just the same. Once in a while you get shown the light...

After this weekend's airings, this episode will be added to the Under Eternity Blue podcast series and if you are subscribed, you will find this broadcast appearing as a new podcast download then. Information for subscribing can be found at the Under Eternity Blue Music site itself.

Spirit Plants Radio
Under Eternity Blue with DJ Arkstar
Saturday, November 21st: 10pm PST
Sunday, November 22nd: 1pm PST

The full weekend line up (11am PST Saturday - 11pm PST Sunday) is listed on the Spirit Plants Radio page above.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

1982 August 10 - Iowa City, IA

Jerry Garcia 1982

Tuesday, August 10, 1982
University of Iowa Fieldhouse - Iowa City, IA
Audience Recording

1982 sits smack in the midst of probably the darkest stretch of the Grateful Dead's musical career, fame-wise. By '82 the 70's Classic Rock thing had significantly worn off its claim on popular music, and the band was still a number of years away from its full re-immergence into popularity to come later in the decade. Nestled into the quiet earlier 80's, 1982 often holds surprisingly archetypical musical representations of the Grateful Dead. While it doesn't top many (if any) favorite year lists, it's one of those years where you can be rewarded by doing nothing more than randomly selecting a date and giving it a spin on the stereo. 1982 is well worth exploring.

Jerry Garcia January 1982August 10, 1982 was actually the very first tape I pulled out when I decided to begin the Dead Listening project. It made no sense--I'm a 1973 fan through and through--but for some reason, after many years away from the Dead's music, this date was the first to call to me as I stared at my wall of CDs. In my time away, my mind had gotten very fuzzy regarding the Dead's musical history. The ability to look at a tape or CD and instantly recall the musical memory of its highlights was nearly extinguished. Yet when I saw this date, I remembered a wonderful Eyes of the World, and a delicious sound quality to the recording. So 8/10/82 was the first show I loaded onto my iPod. I had a mixed listening experience, not because the actual show was disappointing, but probably because returning to the Dead's music after so long kicked up a significant amount of dust. In an odd way it felt like I was listening to the music through a thick clouded glass window.

I'm not sure why I didn't get to reviewing this date earlier. Lord knows I've let my ears dabble back into this tape many times. Now it seems to fit in nicely.

Set 1: Feel Like A Stranger, Friend Of The Devil, New Minglewood Blues, Tennessee Jed, Cassidy, It Must Have Been The Roses, On The Road Again > Beat It On Down The Line, Stagger Lee, I Need A Miracle > Bertha
Set 2: China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider, Lost Sailor > Saint Of Circumstance > Eyes Of The World > Drums > Space > Aiko Aiko > Truckin' > Stella Blue > Sugar Magnolia E: It's All Over Now Baby Blue > Johnny B. Goode

Pretty much my first take away from this show is how interesting the first set list looks on paper. Friend of the Devil in the number two spot, an always welcome It Must Have Been The Roses, and the first of only two times we saw the pairing of On The Road Again into Beat It On Down The Line (the last came two months later).

Grateful Dead May 22-23 1982A tune that could be worn as a badge of 1982 in many ways, Feel Like A Stranger is completely satisfying as the show opener. It bobs and weaves, brimming over with the very essence of the band's sound. More and more as I listen to this audience recording I am struck by how pristinely this sounds exactly like the Grateful Dead. I know that's sort of a goofy thing to say, but maybe you'll get my point as you listen. The taper, Kenny Mance, is FOB (in Front Of the sound Board), and from that position in the 4th row Garcia's guitar in particular outdoes itself in conveying precisely those characteristics which epitomized his sound completely. That deep richness coupled with his signature twang and sizzle-pop high-end just oozes from this tape. At first I thought this impression about Jerry's sound was just due to my absence from the band's music, but the quality is as clear now as it was nearly two years ago when I first returned to the tape. It makes the entire listening experience more enjoyable and intimate at the same time.

With Friend of the Devil following the opening Stranger, I'm sold. Immediately I'm transported directly into my Grateful Dead "happy place." And the set rolls along ever so nicely. Cassidy threatens to drop the train off the rails into a storm filled psychedelic sea below the tracks. And even as it becomes clear that something has gone critically wrong with the entire PA system in Roses, it almost doesn't matter--so potent is the familiarity of the band and its audience here in '82. We're all completely comfortable and at ease. Technical difficulties simply don't matter. Well, they matter to the band and crew, thankfully.

While things are getting duct taped back together to make it through the set, Kenny continues to let the recording roll. There's some guy calling out for the band to let Phil sing and shortly after they unleashes an impromptu detour fully into Space--perhaps at a loss to come up with something else with which to test the PA, or maybe sparked by some vocal feedback. It comes out of nowhere and adds a twisted accent to an otherwise lull in the action, and proves that the sound system is back on its feet. There's even a wonderful little Tico Tico tuning just before they make it into On The Road Again. All in all this is one of the most satisfying "technical difficulties" you could ask for caught on tape.

The second set leaps out of the gate with a nice China > Rider. It's a musical selection that did not lose a step moving from one decade to the next. The transition jam is full of spinning kaleidoscope colors which slowly manage to congeal into the structure of I Know You Rider, with wonderful sparkling solos trailing out of Garcia all the while.

Bill Kreutzmann 09-21-82After a respectable Sailor > Saint--another staple of the early 80's--we transition into Eyes Of The World. It's played at a rapid tempo, and Jerry rushes into the first verse, but not before laying down some extremely enticing licks to start things off. The song just blossoms from there. Bobby is a master of syncopation while Garcia splashes and flourishes in rainbow brushstrokes. Again, I'm thoroughly consumed by how Jerry's tone bursts at the seams. As he flies over hills and up into the clouds, his guitar stands as tall as trees. It all ends too soon, as far as I'm concerned. The Drums and Space which follow feel a tad underplayed. The Space only seems to briefly reach the roaring chasm that was hinted in the first set. Still enjoyable, it isn't quite as monumental as many from 1982 could be.

The end of the set seems standard on paper, but it's definitely worth the listen. From the infectious Aiko Aiko to the way Stella Blue manages to gently throb like a massive tide of stars washing slowly in and out of your mind's eye through the final solo section, there is plenty to enjoy. Not to mention, who can avoid applauding the band from barely avoiding a train wreck (maybe not so barely) as Garcia slams out of Stella into Around & Around, only to have the rest of the band head into Sugar Mag. Ah... we love you guys, warts and all.

An "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue" to lead off a two song encore is just icing on the cake here. Again, a lovely AUD recording ushers us in to another great show.

08/10/82 AUD etree source info
08/10/82 AUD Download

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Roll Away

Jerry Garcia 11/17/78Speaking from experience, it's healthy to step away from a solid diet of Grateful Dead music once in a while. I did it for a multi-year period before starting up this blog, and it was a very good thing. Not only was it refreshing to dive into "other" music with all the daily listening time I had been devoting to the Dead, but in coming back years later, their music opened up like a flower revealing subtle hues I missed in the past. The music spoke with more fine detail and more wide reaching scope than before. I didn’t plan to come back to the Dead when I did, much as I hadn’t planned to step away years earlier. All in all I recommend taking a break from time to time.

In recent weeks I’ve stepped away again. The August 24, 1972 review marked only the first time I had returned to listening to the Dead since early September. And excluding that one show, October 2009 has been a whirlwind adventure into other music; the Grateful Dead receiving nary a thought along the way.

It’s okay. I’m not here to tell you I’m hanging up a closed sign on the blog or anything like that. Not even “gone fishing,” though it may seem a bit like that recently. I’m comfortable that the archives here can keep readers interest (Gosh, I wonder how many folks have read this site cover to cover?) even while I slip away to dabble in other waters.

Regardless, I’m actually well into the research portion (listening) for the guide’s next show review. I won’t let things completely die on the vine. And I did feel like checking in for a moment even if just to pass along a few tidbits.

Somehow,through no doing of my own, the GDLG twitter account password became corrupted last week. If you follow, you might have noticed that @deadlistening has gone completely dark of late. Amazingly frustrating. One can imagine how difficult it is to get any direct support help from such a large “free” service. I really don’t want to have to bail on the account (with its more than 1000 followers) and start over. Hopefully I’ll get lucky soon and find help working through the issues that are somehow preventing my even managing to receive the password reset e-mail via twitter. If you know anyone over at Twitter, I’d appreciate being put in contact. I want my account back.

On a lighter note: While enjoying the next show on the GDLG reviewing bench yesterday while driving home with my 11-year-old, he chimed in from the back seat as the band segued into Truckin’. “This has got to be the Grateful Dead.” It wasn’t because he recognized the familiar tune. He said he knew it because they have a really distinctive sound that let’s you know it’s them every time. I myself had just been marveling at how absolutely archetypical Jerry’s guitar tone was sounding, and we spoke a bit about that distinctive rich, round twang that embodied Garcia’s tone for so many years.

Then, as the band continued singing the tune my son said, “Chicken? Chicken?” I burst out laughing. “Chicken, like the doodah man…”

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

1972 August 24 - Berkeley Community Theatre

Grateful Dead 1972

Thursday, August 24, 1972
Berkeley Community Theatre, Berkeley, CA
Soundboard Recording

“Good time music by good time people”
Bill Graham introduction, 8/24/72

Once again I find myself overwhelmed by the way the Grateful Dead sounded so completely at the top of their game in 1972. In a year that saw a more subtle evolution than its predecessor, there is no doubt that 1972 demonstrated an amazing metamorphosis bridging 1971 to 1973. When one considers ’71 against ’73 they stand nearly as distinct as day to night. And while it is clear that there were many miles between these two years, 1972 showcases an amazing consistency throughout. End to end it’s a constant roller coaster ride through both the Americana Rock and wild psychedelic adventurism that were both completely the Grateful Dead.

Grateful Dead Newsletter 1972Tucked into the summer of ’72 are the August shows. Historically speaking, August contains one of the most famously heralded shows of all time (08/27/72 Veneta, OR) and what was long one of the most completely missing dates in all collections (08/25/72 Berkeley, CA). Woven into that soap opera are a bunch of other shows that can sometimes bleed into each other. And while the 08/27 show is a classic (someday I’ll review it, I’m sure), when I consider you coming over to my house to explore August 1972, my hand is going to grab the show from 08/24/72 every time.

You don’t need to hang around Grateful Dead tapes very long before you realize very little convincing is needed when it comes to listening to a 1972 show. So, allow me to highlight just a few obviously key elements and then step over to the stereo to turn the volume up too loud for us to talk to each other and hit the play button.

Set 1: Promised Land, Sugaree, Jack Straw, China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider, Me & My Uncle, Bird Song, Beat It On Down The Line, Tennessee Jed, Playin’ In The Band, Casey Jones
Set 2: Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo, Mexicali Blues, Brown Eyed Women, Truckin, Dark Star > Morning Dew, Sugar Magnolia, Ramble On Rose, Greatest Story Ever Told, Sing Me Back Home, One More Saturday Night E: Uncle John’s Band

mandelbrot set fractalIn the ever flip-flopping of shows from Dark Star to Other One in these early-mid ‘70’s years, this August 24, 1972 show flops to Dark Star, and also manages to capture a Bird Song, China>Rider, Uncle John’s Band, and the obligatory flip-flop defying Playin’ In The Band. It makes for ideal pastures as far as I’m concerned. And in listening to the more exploratory expanses of this fine show I am continually brought to the state of mind where my eyes can no longer perceive the physical space around me. The vivid imagery which floods my vision while my eyes are closed tight suffuses everything continually. And in that vision where light burns around shadows and perspective swims in a sea of joy, I am repeatedly exposed to a musical journey which seems to travel through a landscape constructed of a Mandelbrot set fractal.

Whether it’s within the Playin’ jam, or the amazing Dark Star, or even the insanely tight weave of the final Uncle John’s Band segment, I am forever feeling things move through either the vast open empty spaces of the fractal pattern, or cascading wildly through the forever repeating and coiling tendrils hidden deep in the details. These extremes are synched to the beautiful dynamics that the band is utilizing – something not always ascribed to 1972. Here on 8/24 the Dead are all at once fully at ease and wickedly electrified at the same time – something that manages to describe their essence through this period very well. And yet this show provides ample breathing room which only heightens the entire musical experience.

Phil Lesh 1972So let this show play for you and enjoy every moment. In particular be mindful of the way this Playin’ works the extremes. Relish the amazing Dark Star as it catches the quintessential 1972 groove, then flies into complete oblivion, only to return to the groove before drifting into a near complete stillness where it’s Phil who ushers in the luscious Morning Dew which follows. And then stick around for the Uncle John’s Band. It’s a stand out fabulous version which is elevated beyond description as Phil rapid-fires notes through the final crescendo section – a jaw dropping finale to another fabulous show from 1972.

Now let’s hit the volume knob and get this started.

08/24/72 SBD etree source info
08/24/72 SBD Stream

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Under Eternity Blue - Late 60's Jazz

The fifth installment of the Under Eternity Blue radio program hits the Internet airwaves this weekend with three show times: Saturday, September 26th at 7pm PST, and Sunday, September 27th at 7am PST and 1pm PST.

This episode will explore a somewhat forgotten period of Jazz from the last half of the 1960's. Not the "electric Jazz" of Miles Davis, nor the sometimes intense and atonal "free Jazz" that was taking place; this is more a compelling expansion of traditional jazz as it became infused with the psychedelic energy of the day. Overall, it comes off as a more open and freely lyrical form of Jazz.

After this weekend's airings, this episode will be added to the Under Eternity Blue podcast series and if you are subscribed, you will find this broadcast appearing as a new podcast download then. Information for subscribing can be found at the Under Eternity Blue Music site.

Spirit Plants Radio
Under Eternity Blue with DJ Arkstar
Saturday, September 26th: 7pm PST
Sunday, September 27th: 7am PST & 1pm PST

The full weekend line up (11am PST Saturday - 11pm PST Sunday) is listed on the Spirit Plants Radio page above.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

GDLG-007 - Jerry Band

Listening Session 007: Focusing on Jerry Garcia's solo work outside of the Grateful Dead across the years, along with the occasional story and insight adding color along the way.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

1968 May 18 - Santa Clara County Fairgrounds

Grateful Dead - May 5, 1968
Saturday, May 18, 1968
Santa Clara County Fairgrounds – San Jose, CA
Northern California Folk-Rock Festival
Audience Recording

As far as the Grateful Dead go, 1968 contains a collection of music that is in many ways unparalleled across the vast 30 year span of their career. Like no other year, 1968 never spares a single minute toying around with the idea of taking you on a psychedelic music journey. It doesn’t gently take your hand and lead you down a path which exposes you to some magic land. No, 1968 is more like being run over by a freight train fueled on electric Kool-Aid steam . Drop the needle down at any instance of 1968 Grateful Dead and you’re catapulted directly into the heart of a musical expression so lysergic, so steeped in cosmic adventurism, it defies any true comparison to what we might generally bring to mind as the “psychedelic scene” of the late 60’s. The Dead in ’68 go beyond.

At this time the band was fully possessed by it musical muse. This muse stood so close to the veil which normally shrouds its presence in mystery that we have no problem recognizing this higher power working the band like fingers on a hand. The muse found a foothold in this musical ensemble which not two years earlier epitomized the “San Francisco Sound.” Here, that band has broken free of any pigeonholing or time stamping. They are a hurricane force spiraling windstorm of transformative and bone melting music. You are not safe in their presence. You can not emerge innocent with flowers in your hair from this music. I would have hated to have been in a band sharing the bill with the Grateful Dead in 1968, especially if they took the stage before me. What they were doing went beyond music somehow. And they needed no warming up or cooling down. From bell to bell, you got life-altering soul-fire which bleached your flesh and bones into the color of stars.

Grateful Dead 1968Sadly, we are missing far more of the Dead’s output from 1968 than we are lucky to have on tape. Vast portions of the year are nowhere to be found. We have spotted shows, partial runs, fragments of music – and that’s from within the patches where we actually have music at all. Between March and August of 1968, for example, we have documents from only four concerts total, while the band was playing nearly night in and night out, early and late shows, free concerts and headlining. It makes what we do have all that much more precious and at the same time painful due to the thought of what has been lost to time, lingering on the air, and left boiling in the blood of the audiences that were there to experience it.

One of these precious treasures from the vast wasteland of lost music came at the hands of The Jefferson Airplane’s Jorma Kaukonen, who recorded his own audience tape of the Dead’s performance on May 18th, 1968. He recorded from the lip of the stage, and while he clearly was on the move occasionally (the mic obviously gets repositioned two or three times during the set to different parts of the stage it seems), the recording is breathtaking all the same. There aren’t a lot of up front vocals, but in 1968 this doesn’t matter in the slightest. The raw inferno of the Grateful Dead’s power explodes like a super nova off of this tape. The mic’s journeying around the stage seems only to intensify much of the psychedelic power. 95% of the time, the recording will bring you to your knees – outdoors at an all day concert with the full force of the Grateful Dead rocketing you to worlds beyond the physical universe. There's a woman asked to say a few words to the folks at home in the opening seconds of this recording. She sums everything up just perfectly.

Alligator > Drums > Alligator > Caution (Do Not Stop On Tracks) > Feedback

Sharing the bill with The Doors, Eric Burdon & The Animal, Big Brother & The Holding Co., The Youngbloods, Electric Flag, Jefferson Airplane, Kaleidoscope, Country Joe & The Fish, and Taj Maha, the Dead used their early slot at the Northern California Folk-Rock Festival to deliver side two of the Anthem Of The Sun album – a record not due to hit the shelves until July of that year. The music explodes, filling the entire Santa Clara County Fairgrounds like a shower of lava. The Dead become a black hole sucking all matter and being into their core. The music is fierce with fists like mountains crushing everything for miles.

To hear this sliver of May 1968 (April is completely absent from tape collections, and May and June only barely qualify as being any better) is to be given a window into the Dead’s evolution through these primal years. As if the January and February tapes display a band any less powerful, this snapshot of May displays something more colossal. This is similar to the way November and December 1972 stand somewhat more brutally powerful than the months just before. The band and its ferocious musical energy is completely unleashed here in May ‘68.

There’s little hope in mapping out this musical journey. Though, I will say that the transition into Caution manages to somehow push things over an edge. Just after you’ve spent about twelve minutes under a gale force of Alligator jamming, Caution takes things up another notch, swirling in that Bluegrass element which, even here in the deepest reaches of psychedelic mayhem, is able to jettison the musical experience further out into swirling space-time.

The first pass into Feedback, somewhere just after Pigpen’s first round of “Just a touch,” comes one like a welcome breather which seems poised to allow our heart to stop racing for a few moments. Of course, this undulating wash of cymbals and turning volume knobs pins us down all the more, only giving us the smallest hints of the insanity to come some eleven-and-a-half minutes later.

The final Feedback is inescapable. Flesh, nerves, hair, bones, and fingernails are shredded so completely as to remove the individual human experience entirely from the event. Where has the fairground gone? Where has anything I held onto as reality gone? Breathing and heart beating are unknown here. The rippling sound beams find names in the valley of my sundrenched treetops and my gurgling brooks.

When it’s over, things have surely been driven so deeply into your body as to never have hope of ending completely.

05/18/68 AUD etree source info
05/18/68 AUD Download

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

1977 February 26 - Swing Auditorium

Grateful Dead 07/27/1977

Saturday, February 26, 1977
Swing Auditorium – San Bernardino, CA
Soundboard Recording

There was a wonderfully harmless war started in the online Grateful Dead community throughout the late 1990s and early 2000s. It came down to people having to choose allegiance to the year 1976 or 1977. ‘77 fans found it abundantly easy to laugh at and ridicule the Dead’s output from 1976 as tired, slow, limp, and utterly outshone by the following year, while ‘76 fans (or perhaps more accurately phrased, people who didn’t find 1977 to be the year above all other years) stood fast on the merits of 1976’s often overlooked psychedelic wonderland of creativity and inspiration which could make 1977 seem somewhat too organized and contrived. Just in writing that last sentence I can feel the ire of both camps rising to defend the motherland. And if I haven’t already made it abundantly clear in my writings, I was a banner waving member of the 1976 crowd.

And while I spent my heavy trading years obsessively collecting everything I could ever find from the Dead’s entire output of the 70’s, 1977 was never part of that blind obsession. While I can call to mind the merits of nearly every stop on the calendar in 1973, 74, 75, 76, and 78, such is not the case with 1977. Oh, I know my way around that year. I know that I gravitate to the feel of the spring and summer shows more than those from the fall and winter. But I don’t bleed the details of 1977 like I do the other years.

Jerry Garcia 10/11/1977Flash forward to today, and I can freely admit that 1977 is like a new flower opening up before me. It represents new discoveries for me tucked within an era to which I’m already intimately in tune; and what a glorious hidden jewel to be able to discover after all this time.

I went in to revisit this 02/26/77 Swing Auditorium show remembering that it was good, and little else. What followed was a heart opening ride into a sensational Grateful Dead show which towers with perfected Grateful Dead energy and groove throughout. Beyond the clear set list highlights, the show is filled with songs I’d normally pass over, yet everything from this show shines and delivers a full cup of the Dead’s most potent elixir.

Set 1: Terrapin Station, New Minglewood Blues, They Love Each Other, Estimated Prophet, Sugaree, Mama Tried, Deal, Playin' In The Band > The Wheel > Playin' In The Band

Set 2: Samson And Delilah, Tennessee Jed, The Music Never Stopped, Help On The Way > Slipknot! > Franklin's Tower, Promised land, Eyes Of The World > Dancin' In The Streets > Around & Around, E: US Blues

The opening Terrapin (its debut) ushers in the fact that 1977 was going to bring with it an entirely new level of Grateful Dead musical exploration. It’s a mind-blowing thought to consider what it must have been like to attend this show and have this be the opening event. An instant classic to be sure, the Dead waste no effort on trying to figure this tune out from the stage. It fires at near full strength immediately, and by the end we’ve been thrust into the wild pulsing heart of the band right in the show’s opening number. The band rides this wave into a sublime first set of song delivery. 1977 is getting off to a magical start. Minglewood, They Love Each Other, Sugaree, the Estimated Prophet debut – really everything in the first set is terrific. It just feels utterly wonderful.

The set closes with a Playin’ > Wheel > Playin’ that funnels the entire set’s wildly energetic magic into a concentrated psychedelic ride. Playin’ In The Band creates a slow churning boil like a lava lamp under high heat. The ground shifts and buckles and bows in all directions until there comes an eruption into a galaxy imploding wormhole which transports the entire auditorium out of the physical plane. Out beyond the stars images flicker and glow. Sound passes in ceaseless ripples of energy riding the drummers’ beat, while great mountains and rivers of energy swell and recede on Garcia’s phase shifting distortion and Phil’s slow popping bubbles of starlight.

Jerry decides to move into The Wheel, and it happens without the drummers first locking onto the standard Wheel rhythm pattern. The transition is fabulous (great transitions being something of a hallmark for 1977), and The Wheel come on riding all the psychedelic energy of the Playin’ before it. A lovely and twisted exit jam follows and the outer space landscape of the Playin’ jam slowly fades back into view spreading our depth perception out beyond planets and stars which gently bob and turn around us.

Donna Jean Godchaux 05/21/1977Set two rockets out of the gate with a fine Samson And Delilah and a Tennessee Jed containing a Garcia solo that leaves you wide-eyed and smiling from ear to ear. The Music Never Stopped follows and it spirals ever-upward to a high-stepping crescendo.

We then reach Help > Slip > Franklin’s, and the Slipknot opens us back up to the misty magic we enjoyed in Playin’ In The Band. The music is a swirling blanket of distant clouds, corkscrewed hallways and shimmering fractal glass. At times overpowering enough to sweep your breath away yet mysterious enough to leave you unaware of your need for breath at all, the jam rolls in on itself as it reflects the glowing patters in every cell of your body. The tides rise and fall in random patters eventually bringing us back to the jam’s theme and on into Franklin’s Tower.

Franklin’s kicks off with its infectious uplifting energy. We are immediately locked into a dance around the most precious hearth of Grateful Dead music – the place where everything is simply infused with joy and pleasure. The solos stretch out and return to verse as our attention to time dissipates. To a degree this Franklin’s Tower is made more enjoyable by the absence of any triumphant explosion or peak. It rides a buoyant stream ever onward with the occasional parting of mountain tops revealing a blazing sun above pulsing and dancing along with our hearts and feet.

After a curiously placed mid-set two Promised Land, we reenter this joyous bond with the band in Eyes Of The World. Again we are treated to a flowing output of music that doesn’t attempt to dazzle us with acrobatic feats, yet locks in just the same keeping the gaze of our heart transfixed on the music’s soul-reaching expression. We are treated to a nice Phil solo that sounds grafted right out of 1973, and then we roll right into Dancin’ In The Streets.

Dancin’ turns up the disco funk dial to ten and Jerry springboards his solos into the sky. He’s fully cranking on his auto-filter wha-wha pedal and the music cooks along. From here the show powers through its finale with Around & Around and the US Blues encore.

1977 exudes a certain glorious level of Grateful Dead energy and psychedelic adventurism. It’s nearly impossible to go wrong anywhere you step. And it started out of the gate on the right foot with the very first show of the year.

This is a fabulous quality soundboard recording with titanic Phil throughout.

02/26/77 SBD etree source info
02/26/77 SBD Stream

Friday, August 14, 2009

Listening Trail – The Dark Star Garden

Another installment in the GDLG Listening Trails Series

There is no denying it. Nothing quite describes the Grateful Dead’s deepest level of musical magic better than Dark Star. It’s at once some of the most “cosmic” music the band made, and at the same time the most personal. It’s hardly the first taste of the Dead you’d typically want to give someone, but it’s the one thing that can cement the band’s music into the soul forever onward.

Please note that this is not a list of the Grateful Dead’s best Dark Stars of all time. Far from it. The song defies being stacked up in such a way. Yes, one can have their favorite versions, but I never even set about reviewing shows for the Guide based upon which Dark Stars I find to be “best.” Those on this trail serve to provide a direct path to some of the noteworthy version that have already turned up in reviews here. Nothing more than that. I get the sense that if I was new to exploring the Grateful Dead and found my way to these pages, I might want to easily be pointed to some good Dark Stars. Thus, the Dark Star garden has been created.

Here is a listening trail not for the faint of heart. The entrance isn’t brightly lit near the front of the park, and you might have to make friends with the park ranger before he will trust you to traverse this path alone. But the seclusion and secretive nature of this trail only enhances its enchantments.

So, in swirling mist and a perception of perspective and direction that undulates like heat off a road at its entrance, let’s take a stroll past a few of the GDLG’s current Dark Stars. There is no hope of stacking these up in order of importance, so we’ll just take them chronologically.

Please follow the links below to fully enjoy this Listening Trail.

06/14/69 – I was surprised after posting this review to learn how few people knew about this show. I guess 1969 can be that way in that the entire year tends to blur into one long peak along the Dead’s long strange trip. Here, we come face to face with the cauldron of molten fire which forged the very soul of the Dead’s musical exploration. The review knows better than to attempt a true charting of the musical journey. The music speaks a thousand whispering voices forever.

06/24/70 – You may have bumped into this show already, but if not, you are a sure goner now. This Dark Star weaves in and out of view while also providing the driving force behind some of the greatest musical expression the band ever produced. Dark Star > Attics > Dark Star > Sugar Magnolia > Dark Star > St. Stephen and beyond. There’s a reason this show ranks as one of the best of the best, and it is well captured as this Dark Star ebbs, flows, and explodes.

07/26/72 – By 1972 Dark Star was not only everything it ever had been, but also a great deal more. This colossal version tipping the scale at over thirty minutes delivers everything you could ever expect, and then rushes into a musical adventure which typified the Dead’s most blissful destination of the day. It’s as if it took until 1972 for Dark Star to fully open the doors to an improvisational land where the Dead could romp and dance freely, and their hearts fill to bursting with this Dark Star.

08/01/73 – A liquidly lovely, jazzy jam filled, outdoor summer Dark Star that exudes that certain special flavor that only 1973 could bring. This Dark Star not only demonstrates the best of these elements, but also paints haunted and mournful stories out of twisted night filled landscapes like none other. This is some of the most satisfying music 1973 has to offer, during a time when Dark Star was still king.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Under Eternity Blue - 70's Afro-Highlife

The fourth installment of the Under Eternity Blue radio program hits the Internet airwaves this weekend with two show times: Saturday, August 15th at 7pm PST, and Sunday, August 16th at 7am PST.

This episode is going to spend its time enjoying the subtle hypnotic undertones of the Highlife music that came out of Africa in the 1970's. Somehow more soul-catching than other forms of Afro-Pop, Beat, and Funk, this Highlife fuses African folk music roots into modern instrumentation, and together they produce a wildly intoxicating listening experience. This sliver of the Afro-music movement elevates the mood and warms the spirit, all while remaining very understated and fluid. It's a splendid addition to the rotation of any musical connoisseur's library.

With the launch of this fourth installment also comes the unveiling of the Under Eternity Blue podcast series itself. Now you can subscribe directly to a feed featuring this non-Dead side project of the GDLG. UEB episodes will get added to the feed after the weekend debut of each new broadcast. All three of the previous episodes are already queued up and ready for download and podcast subscription. Information can be found at the Under Eternity Blue Music site.

Spirit Plants Radio
Under Eternity Blue with DJ Arkstar
Saturday, August 15th: 7pm PST
Sunday, August 16th: 7am PST

The full weekend line up (11am PST Saturday - 11pm PST Sunday) is listed on the Spirit Plants Radio page above. If you can’t tune in live, all shows become listenable via archive streaming after the show ends Sunday night, with the newest Under Eternity Blue episode turning up in its podcast feed as well.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

GDLG Podcast How-To

This post is here to help you enjoy the Grateful Dead Listening Guide’s Podcast Series. It will occasionally be updated, need be, and currently contains new feed address info for any of you currently subscribed to the podcast.

All podcast can be found via the linked menu on the left side of the site, and also under the label "podcasts."

There are a few different ways to listen to the podcasts. Hopefully one of these suggested methods will make it easy for you to enjoy the listening sessions:

1. Click on the link which leads to the MP3 file of an episode (generally, “Listening Session 001, 002, etc…" in each podcast post) and the file should begin streaming.

2. Right click (in Internet Explorer) on the link to the MP3 file and select “Save Target As…” This will allow you to download the podcast episode directly to your computer. From there you can load it into your player of choice. Other browsers should also provide ways to save the podcast MP3 files to your computer.

3. Subscribing in iTunes (note: new feed address info below):

While the show still remains frustratingly out of the iTunes Podcast Directory, you can still subscribe to the podcast feed in iTunes:

On your iTunes menu bar click on Advanced, then "Subscribe To Podcast."

In the URL field, paste this blog feed address:

This will trigger the subscription and download of the entire series and keep you updated as new episodes appear.

Please note that this feed address has changed and is specific to the podcast series alone. It is not another blog to follow. While the podcasts will continue to be posted here on the guide, the GDLG feed itself is so large that older podcast episodes are slowly falling off the back end, making new subscribers to the podcast miss out on the earliest episodes.

If you have successfully used the GDLG blog feed to pull all the episodes into iTunes already (with the GDLG logo and full file descriptions), my guess is that it will continue to work just fine. If you do decide to switch to the new podcast feed, it will come into iTunes as a new show, triggering the download of all past episodes. A minor annoyance to consider deleting your historical episodes to make room for the same ones under a slightly different name, but it might make sense as one day we may formally divide the two feeds and post podcasts in the podcast feed only.

Again, this post will likely be edited in the future as things may change regarding the GDLG podcast and the iTunes Podcast Directory. Despite numerous failed attempts to work through iTunes Support, a resolution has not been found. Any iTunes Podcast wizards out there? I’d love some help. Drop me a line.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

1973 June 30 - Universal Amphitheatre

Jerry Garcia Sept 26, 1973

Saturday, June 30, 1973
Universal Amphitheatre – Universal City, CA
Audience Recording

Deadheads can stay up late into the night debating several eternal questions. One of these is often goes like this: If you had a time machine, what Grateful Dead show, or run of shows, would you go back to attend? For me, I can pretty confidently say that I’d be setting the dial for the three day run from Universal City, California at the end of June, 1973 to attend the 6/29, 6/30, and 7/1 shows.

I’d be lucky in that it wouldn’t be too crowded – nothing like the time travel pile up going on over around 05/08/77. The ’73 Universal City run is not popular. In all my years of tape trading I’ve never bumped into anyone who shares quite my enthusiasm for the whole Summer of 1973 thing, and the Universal City run is arguably the low point of the summer, given all the fireworks surrounding it. Even after years of getting up on soapboxes in online Dead forums, and clearly taking every opportunity to talk about it here on the GDLG, I doubt very highly that I could fill a room with like-minded folks. Oh, several people are glad that I’ve hipped them to the golden yummies to be found in this period, but enough for these folks to make this selection in the Way Back Machine? I doubt it. And no offense taken, I’ve learned to accept that there is clearly something firing a little differently in my brain when it comes to this stuff. So… I’d have plenty of legroom traveling in time back to these shows.

Of course, the fact that there apparently wasn’t a swarm of future dwellers packing the rafters on 05/08/77 raising their hand held mobile devices in the air, glowing with a somewhat more annoying light than say, a bic lighter (though there would also be some iPhone holders running the zippo lighter app, I’m sure), means that we either never figure out time travel, or that when we do (did), we luck out and find all the Dead shows splintered into an endless refraction of themselves related to our own personal time-space continuums allowing each of us our own “copy” to attend. Each show is actually happening all the time, and our linear experience of them is merely called into our perception at the moment we hop across the continuum and step into the parking lot an hour or two before show time. Oops… digression.

June 30th, 1973 was one of those low circulating and forever “AUD only” shows (all before the passing of Dick Latvala and the ensuing circulation of so many soundboards), and my copy was crusty. While I did luck out in 2001 to bump into a 7” reel copy from the assumed master AUD reel itself, and put it into circulation via my Audience Devotional Tree, for the longest time I had this tape copy that bordered on being of slightly too poor quality to trade. This was a real issue for me because of how deeply the music on this tape was tapping into my heart. That I was able to circulate a better copy which peeled off the layer of off-pitch hissy crust, was an absolute dream come true. After 2001, it was much easier for 06/30/73 to get its point across. And shortly after, when the soundboard started making it around, it almost didn’t matter. The SBD sounds great, yet has absolutely no life to it at all – and this propagated the bad reputation this date lives with.

This show has that familiar brand of 1973 jazzy psychedelia that I’ve been pointing out for a while. Yet where a show like 06/22/73 reaches peaks that nearly bring one to tears as the band finds its way deeply into improvisational transcendence, 06/30/73 is sort of the opposite. This show feels more like on great pulse in the heartbeat of the Grateful Dead rather than something full of peaks and valleys. The show’s highlights swell more that explode, and I think it is because of this that this tape offers another sensational full show experience. This is only enhanced by the fact that the recording quality of this audience tape is nearly unparallel throughout the rest of 1973.

Grateful Dead March 24, 1973 by John PotenzaPutting into circulation another upgraded version of this recording (linked below, as usual) allowed me to converse about and “study” the archeology of this recording a bit more thoroughly. It turns out that the band’s sound crew was making audience tapes directly at the sound board at this time, and supplying them to the band. This newest version confirms that the reel was dubbed in 1979 directly off of Garcia’s own tape stash. As heavenly a lineage as one could wish for. The recording fits in as one of the very best recordings of 1973. It succeeds in not only capturing the ’73 version of the Wall Of Sound perfectly, but also presents an enormous helping of that hard to capture audience energy and spirit. It’s a multi-dimensional experience, and all of this in unavoidable as one listens to this tape.

Set 1: Promised, The Love Each Other, Mexicali Blues, Tennessee Jed, Looks Like Rain, Bird Song, Cumberland Blues, Row Jimmy, Jack Straw, Deal, Beat It On Down The Line, Black Peter, Playin’ In The Band

Set 2: Greatest Story Ever Told, Ramble On Rose, El Paso, Dark Star > Eyes Of The World > Stella Blue, Sugar Magnolia E: Saturday Night

1973 is known for a degree of repetitiveness in its first sets. It’s not that the band wasn’t playing a large repertoire of songs. There was plenty of variety there. I think it’s more a widely held opinion among traders born out of having listened to a lot of 1973 shows. I think the first sets are better described as “predictable.” However, perhaps it comes down to distance making the heart grow fonder, but when I listen back to 06/30/73’s first set now, it thoroughly satisfies. There is a powerful sense of ease and enjoyment flowing out of the music. The extremely predictable 1973 Promised Land opener feels full of smiles. They Love Each Other swings, and I have found myself unable to shake rolling the car windows down and playing this tune at full blast on recent summer days. It sets the air alight with dancing energy, and only grows as it goes. Jerry’s solo tumbles out, bobbing and weaving as if it were shaking its hair and stomping its feet. Just as we’re sure it’s over, he takes it around the track again lifting the energy all the more. The sound quality of this recording combined with the close proximity of the audience around the taper serve to create an intoxicating representation of the Dead in 1973 here, and it’s only just getting started.

Mexicali shimmers and is followed by a strong Tennessee Jed containing another solo in which Jerry stirs the energy pot to boiling, aided by Phil’s low end standing as large as the entire amphitheatre. The song crashes out of the solo, and the crowd goes nuts. A thick and warm Looks Like Rain follows, and then we arrive at Bird Song.

It’s early in the show, yet Bird Song casts out an energy much more aligned with precious time spent deep in the heart of a Grateful Dead concert. The music twinkles, as if rising off of a crystalline waterfall bathed in sunlight. In short order, we float out over its edge and begin a weightless journey into Jerry’s solo. It’s a moment that expands in every direction around you, shedding the personal borders of skin and bone, and fusing you to the music’s core. Bird Songs in 1973 were very consistent, and without fail, this one latches on to Dark Star elements wrapped in a slightly more lyrical presentation. Eventually, just before returning for the last verse, Garcia is playing harmonics with Keith echoing and playing off of them on the Fender Rhodes. The twinkling crystal is everywhere unraveling the mysteries of the universe and veiling the answers as quickly as they appear. Out of the last verse, we are set aloft again. This is heart opening music which spreads its own arms wide enough to embrace the entire horizon as a sunset’s light gently swirls like smoke off of a candle’s flame.

After Bird Song we are fully in the zone of a Grateful Dead show. The crowd idly hoots and hollers, while the band lazily puts together the building blocks of the next song. Cumberland Blues is coming as clear as day. This minute or so between songs finds me transfixed every time I listen. Something comes off of the tape which defies my own explanation. I don’t expect you to find it with me – it seems impossible to say, “listen to this amazing space between Bird Song and Cumberland,” so I won’t go out on that limb. In trying to give it a more tangible perspective, I think it’s simply more evidence of how this particular recording breathes with the strongest representation of a Dead Show’s energy, both within and in between the music. Again, the entire tape is like one enormous heartbeat in the pulse of 1973 Dead.

When Phil kicks it in to Cumberland Blues, we are off to the races. One thing that I have no trouble mentioning is my opinion that I find this to be my absolute favorite, and possibly the best Cumberland Blues I’ve ever heard the band play. It is this very recording that sparked and cemented my theory of thematic undercurrents running through the decades of this band. In this Cumberland, Viola Lee Blues is alive and well. Jerry is clearly allowing all the exploration of that earliest of Grateful Dead “jams” to infuse and distil into his Cumberland solo work. Psychedelic Bluegrass to the highest degree. When his solo begins to cycle into a whirlpooled syncopation leading down a twisting rabbit hole, the already clear Viola Lee tendencies come bursting forth causing us to laugh out loud and shake or heads in stark amazement. It’s molten primal Grateful Dead, splashing in every direction. If you play the game with me about which five Grateful Dead songs would you take to a desert island, this Cumberland Blues would be coming with me. The fire within this version provides an anchor to this show, and it spreads out in every direction.

Row Jimmy exudes its 1973 aura beautifully, followed by thoroughly enjoyable versions of Jack Straw, Deal, and Beat It On Down The Line. Black Peter is so perfectly placed in this first set, it can’t be imagined anywhere else. After BIODTL (that’s the old cassette label abbreviation of Beat It On Down The Line, kids. Did you need me to spell that out?) has drawn everyone to their feet for a free for all dance, Black Peter sends us all into the most serene and contemplative spaces of Grateful Dead music. It’s another quite campfire story moment as Jerry weaves his tale. His solo on this song surpasses expectation, bringing a lamenting sorrow onto the wings of eagles. The solo soars and floats, sears and settles directly into your heart. This beautiful version comes to an end and we are back in the zone with the audience in no hurry for whatever comes next. A guy screams out, “Hello, Jerry!” and we laugh lightly with the rest of the people around the mics. It’s another wonderful human layer coming off of this recording – a Dead show being captured in every way.

Playin’ In The Band demonstrates every characteristic which describes the Summer 1973 sound of the Grateful Dead. As the jam opens up, Billy’s drumming spirals out into jazzy riffs and downbeat defying patterns. He is at once fully charged, yet thoroughly laid back in the pocket, forcing nothing. The band on top of him wastes no time dropping completely into a controlled psychedelic wind storm and the tendrils give way, knot, compress, and zig zag back out with a never ending fluidity. The music balances between a looseness and being a daredevil contortionist in ways not fully explored earlier in the year, nor after. Garcia is rearing back and firing off phrases which coil into the air, extending beyond vision. They round corners trailing themselves in liquid never-ending reflections until it appears that all of the notes are made of one pure yet ever-changing voice. Everything is at once fragmented yet showing us precisely how it all fits together. The jam is remarkably too short. Not that it is substantially shorter than most normal Playin’s of the day, but it is clear that this particular version had things growing which could go on for eons. And on the next night, we’d find that Playin’ would not be contained, setting the pace for the song locking into a tradition of going on longer, and exploring much further, as the summer continued.

Set two arrives with Greatest Story Ever Told, and it absolutely nails the psychedelic strut boogie counterpoint that the song was hitting so well in 1973. It’s a fantastic second set opener, and mounts an ever expanding energy climax through the solo until the sound is pressing us back like a gale force wind. The crowd takes a while to simmer down afterwards, and just as it does, Ramble On Rose begins. In every way the epitome of that Europe ’72, American Dead sound, Ramble On Rose blurs the lines between rock and country leaving us with something wholly Grateful Dead. It’s a lot like Mississippi Half Step in that way. And this version shines a polish on everything distinctive about the song. If the tune could ever come off as a bit of a throw away, it isn’t happening here at all. Maybe having a bit to do with that dominant wall of sound that is pressing upon us, and the way Phil’s bass is occupying air to such an extent that we struggle for breath, this song satisfies entirely.

El Paso delivers a cascading cowboy kaleidoscope, spinning so quickly we can’t help but be swept up into a tumbleweed rolling frenzy. The song feels like it’s riding lightning and we can only grab on as tightly as possible not to be lost to the wind. And then a different wind blows in as Dark Star descends.

Like a magician blowing a handful of glittering dust particles out over the expectant crowd, Dark Star gently scatters into the air around us, each dust speck with its own comet trail streaming out behind. They all slowly begin to take alternate paths of flight as the music slowly builds in intention and direction. We veer into that quintessentially mid ’73 jazzy jamming and the music slowly topples in on itself only to spin and return with new colors and patterns extending off of each instrument. We eventually find ourselves in a fairytale garden of chimes and breezes, as breathtakingly gentle coming out of this monstrous sound system as the roaring press had been all consuming just a few songs prior. Now, we are lost in a quiet sea of mists as the first verse forms like a prophet out of thin air. Words are just sound fragments creeping out of the blanket of music around us. They give way, and the sounds settle down to the ground like impossible leaves of electric ivy. But the ground isn’t there and we appear lost in a vast and endless expanse of towering ribbons of music. They begin to twist and coil, talking in a language we can’t hope to absorb. This musical space increases in velocity, and the band is conjuring magic of untold secrets. There comes a massive low note out of Phil which shears off all but our most intimate layer of being. Moments later these sounds whisk out of existence and Jerry is shuffling into Eyes Of The World.

This Eyes is large. But there is never the sense of aimless noodling. Quite the contrary, as the song drives into its most extreme moments there is time and time again the sense that the music is being pushed out of its own skin – beat, harmony, and structure often lose purchase and venture briefly into pockets of chaos. This all happens without the song itself losing step anywhere. It’s more that the band is forcing itself to dare the entire world to implode, unafraid of the consequences, sure that the greater whole of the band will keep things together. The rapids boil and erupt everywhere, and the path of the river is lost, but the water rolls on and on. They slam in and out of the intricate 7/8 theme sections and race over shifting terrain. Eventually the music quiets featuring a trio of mostly Billy, Phil and Keith. Things idle for just a moment and then they rocket one last time back to the 7/8 theme which then launches another deep dive to the outer edges of the song structure. The music flies free and oozes between form and chaos beautifully. Garcia and Lesh are tipping to and fro, often following nearly incomprehensible paths. Finally, we work our way to Stella Blue.

A perfect landing for a big jam, Stella Blue and China Doll seemed to share this role throughout 1973. The crowd settles in, and the quiet reflective story unfolds. Again, the recording brings the musical panorama directly to the tip of our nose, and we sink in as Jerry croons, and plays soft lullaby colors.

Rocketing in the opposite direction, Sugar Magnolia and One More Saturday Night close out the show in a rocking and rolling frenzy. We are left exhausted, but equally ready to set the dial back to the parking lot and experience the show all over again – or perhaps just hang out with new friends until the show tomorrow night.

06/30/73 AUD etree source info
06/30/73 AUD Download

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