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Saturday, January 31, 2009

1983 October 11 - Madison Square Garden

Grateful Dead 03/29/83
Tuesday, October 11, 1983
Madison Square Garden – New York, NY
Audience Recording

Here’s one for the record books – the second return of Saint Stephen. I actually like this show for a number of reasons, the least among them being the Saint Stephen itself.

After the song’s first return on 06/09/76, it remained in the rotation throughout 1977, then showed up bookending 1978 (twice in January and twice at the end of December), and once in early January 1979. Gone for over four years thereafter, its second return on 10/11/83 was something of a shot heard ‘round the world. After a 352 show drought, cries for Saint Stephen from the audience had become something of a badge worn by Deadheads. By this point, it was just something that people screamed for, not necessarily believing the tune stood any chance of being played. In fact, you can hear a good handful of these requests coming from the crowd on the evening of its return on October 11th, 1983 too. There’s little doubt that the requesters were any less surprised than the rest of the crowd when it showed up out of Space in the second set.

The song’s return was a huge event. And in my trading circle years ago, what had to be heard from this show was the explosion of recognition and joy on the part of the crowd as the song’s familiar opening lines ring out. Madison Square Garden was electrified, to say the least. This tape got shared a lot because everyone wanted to get a little taste of that moment, and it comes through very nicely indeed. Whether the evening’s rendition of the song managed to even marginally live up to the event of its return is debatable. Regardless, there’s even more happening on this night which is unique, and well worth exploring.

Jerry Garcia 03/29/83The entire show is blessed by having been preserved a few times over by stellar audience recordings. It’s a fun exercise to taste test each of the recordings yourself to see which pleases your ear more. I’m partial to Steve Silberman’s tape – the one that was in circulation when I got my cassettes, and one of the earliest to get transferred into digital circulation. It feels to me that it possesses the most clarity of vocals and musical balance of all masters, and while others might display a bit more low end, I’ve picked Silberman’s as the one to feature here.

Wang Dang Doodle opens. It is about as loose and twisted as any version I’ve heard. Garcia’s backing vocals are extremely wacky, as if he’s hit the stage a few hours into a really good party. His voice loops and swoons around, adding a thoroughly inebriated energy to the song. It’s a spaced out cobra snake dance of sultry, off kilter weirdness, like trying to do some sort of seductive dance while navigating through the shifting elements of a funhouse. This, I mean in an entirely good way. Somehow, it provides a wonderful intro to the night’s music, trailing off into Jack Straw which steps up and delivers something of a more standard early 80’s show opener. The band pulls everything together and hammers out the goods.

The set continues along with fine music eventually reaching Bird Song. This isn’t the titanic version we’d hear six days later, but it is no less enjoyable. Painted with huge, broad stroke swells in energy, the songs is a wonderful ride. It provides a lovely infusion of psychedelic energy into the first set, gently reaching toward the gold ring deep inside.

The set ends with a Hell In A Bucket > Day Job. The Bucket is tight and energetic, brimming with that certain something that was growing to drive this band into the massive popularity to come over the next many years. Day Job is Day Job. What can you say? From here we head into the second set where most of the action is anyway.

China Cat pours out in that carnival kaleidoscope of sound that we’ve heard before on 05/13/83. Interestingly it isn’t a quality that pervades every China>Rider from 1983, but does seem to appear here and there. I can’t put my finger on just why one version seems to express this, while another just four or five days in either direction doesn’t, but the 10/11 version has it. With a dance of cartoonish colors splattering into each other as the landscape can’t help but dance to the music, Garcia’s solos coil and spin like a laughing serpent in the sun, climbing like hungry ivy over tree trunks. The music is bound like a puzzle of interlocking gears, each rippling waves of heat from their core out into the meshing teeth of each neighbor.

After this wonderful China>Rider, the band must pause due to a blown speaker in Jerry’s rig. And it is highly possible that it is this unexpected pause in the flow of set two which sets the stage for the unique musical path that follows. Over the minute or two where Garcia’s speaker is replaced, Bobby settles directly into playing I Need A Miracle, a tune that otherwise would not necessarily logically show up after a second set opening China>Rider. What follows proves one of the laws related to the Grateful Dead:

Thou shall not judge a set by its set list.

I can promise you that on my journey into the 80’s I naturally shied away from this set list in particular. In fact, looking at it, I can recall the mere appearance on paper seemed to support my then desperately wrong assumptions about the 80’s. It looked like a total snoozer. A Miracle>Bertha>China Doll before Drums? Are you kidding me? Yeah.. you weren’t kidding me.

Not being a big Miracle fan myself, I must admit that this version is infectious. Perhaps it’s the entire combination of the recording quality, odd set placement, and the energy from the crowd that no doubt casts an intoxicating vapor over the band , but this tune is a pleasure to behold. As it eases out, we hear the glimmers of a really nice jam appearing – something like the way unique improv could always follow on the heels of He’s Gone. As this interesting space is beginning to open up, Jerry decides to fly into Bertha (whoa!), and we turn somersaulting into a lightning hot version of the tune, completely out of its element in the second set. Those friends out West won’t believe it when they hear about this second set after the show. What a hysterical understatement that makes at this point in the set.

Jerry Garcia - September 11, 1983And now we get that jam. Descending upon us like a slow rolling blanket of Northern Lights, a gorgeous improv ensues. I remember clear as day the first time I listened to this tape. I was sitting in my backyard, late at night under a star filled sky. It was early on in my journey toward appreciating the 80’s, and I was already fairly impressed with how much I had enjoyed the second set up to this moment. As this jam played out, I began to lose myself into the grass below me. I can close my eyes and return to that night – see my garage across the lawn, feel the slightly cool night air around me, even recall that soft giggle as I delighted in stumbling across this transcendent magical moment lurking in 1983. This might have been one of the first times I stood completely dumbfounded by Dead music not made before 1980. As the music expanded, sounding something similar to a liquid Playin’ In The Band jam made even more hypnotic in the way it appeared out of absolutely nowhere, the only thing that ground me back to this universe was the burning desire in my heart to start collecting more and more and more of this stuff. For me, the 80’s would be an acquired taste, like anchovies. From this moment on, I would happily consider adding anchovies to every pizza I ordered. My brain now had a fully formed lobe set aside for music from the early 80’s. And of course, I still hadn’t heard the part of the show that drew me to getting it in trade – that drew just about anyone to want to get this show in trade.

The jam settles into an undisturbed lake at sunset, and China Doll shimmers into view like the first stars waking in the early night’s sky. This draws the entire crowd deep into the Grateful Dead’s most comforting embrace. The feeling of sitting cozily around the embers of a campfire with Jerry spinning a ghost story is pervasive. This is another of those wonderfully intimate moments with the Grateful Dead, probably lost on a person who hasn’t “gotten it” as we like to say. Perhaps it is thereby made more soulfully resonate for those of us who consider ourselves more in tune to the frequency. Perhaps, since none of its energy is spent on ears not listening for it, ours are treated to an even larger dose. Deliciously, the song plays out at the end for a long while, gently rocking to and fro, nestled beneath a canopy of blurring starlight, settling us gently at the feet of Drums and Space.

Space doesn’t take too many chances. But it’s building up to something rather grand, so I won’t knock it. As the band rings out Saint Stephen’s opening notes, you can hear a slow swell of shocked cheers from the crowd. They mount like a tidal wave which crashes as the entire band hit’s the song’s head and the singing begins. You can’t miss the charge of energy which ignites the entire affair. The song does not go off without its share of slight glitches, and even a near train wreck toward the end where everything very nearly pitches right off the deck. They save things, but it’s not perfect. This is something of a microcosm of everything Grateful Dead. Historically famous for their inability to rise to big occasions, they prove that they are a band with that most precious ability to mine the golden magic of musical inspiration, and demonstrate that it is something nearly impossible to summon up on demand. Their stumbling through this great Saint Stephen return just confirms that these guys are who they are. Personally, I’m happy to have them as is, willing to forgive them most everything.

Again, there are a lot of different recording options for this date. I’ll point you to the Silberman master below, but encourage you to do some exploring on your own just for fun. This show was persevered by a couple other famous Dead tapers, Jim Wise and Rob Eaton. So, there’s a good deal of good tapes to enjoy from this date.

10/11/83 AUD etree source info
10/11/83 AUD Download

Sunday, January 25, 2009

1972 April 14 - Tivoli Theater

Grateful Dead Europe '72 LP cover
Friday, April 14, 1972
Tivoli Theater – Copenhagen, Denmark
Audience & Soundboard Recordings

I’ll admit it. The fact that I’ve allowed this blog to go on for nearly one year without having made a stop in the Europe ’72 tour is darn near reprehensible. It’s a fundamentally critical juncture in the band’s performance history, and a pivotal component required in anyone’s tape collection – criteria that the GDLG uses to guide the selection of most every post anyway. I suppose our coming to it now is some reflection into how my own personal hop scotching around my tape collection has played itself out over the last twelve months. One thing’s for sure: it’s good to be here now.

There’s so much fantastic music during this two month run, I have long sat staring at it not knowing where to go first for a review here. There is no denying that this tour marked a certain zenith in creative output by the Grateful Dead. You can hardly go wrong dipping your hand into this cookie jar. Dates from this tour are etched in my mind – shows burned in my brain for their incredible highlights, beautiful sound quality, incredible rarity (back when trading and building a tape collection over years meant something. Gosh, does anyone remember when 05/25/72 finally appeared?). Despite these memories, the entire tour comes to blend together into one enormous adventure. In certain circles there is the persistent rationale that the folks in control of the Dead’s musical archive should simply release an enormous box set containing every note of this tour from front to back. In much the same spirit that the entire Fillmore East run from 1969 was release as one box, here we have another case of sensational music supporting the logic in doing it again. Of course, th Europe ’72 box would be quite a few times larger than anything previously released. Maybe a subscription series would make more sense? Regardless, the Vault holds a vast amount of music from this tour, all deserving of official release notoriety.

Jerry Garcia May 1972I have always tended to gravitate to the April shows over the May dates for some reason. So, finally, I have decided to crack open this door and let the light pour in, starting with 04/14/72 at the Tivoli Theater in Copenhagen, Denmark.

The Tivoli Theater show is sort of unique in that there is a Soundboard, FM-broadcast, *and* a respectable Audience recording in circulation. The show seemed to always circulate partially in so-so FM. Eventually the soundboard started circulating in okay quality sometime in the late 90’s, and around 2004 the AUD was put into wide circulation by Matt Vernon via a connection overseas. Matt included a note from the guy who sent him the tape in his info file:

“Here's another audience tape from the back of the closet. I believe I got it over 20 years ago from a guy in France I was traveling with. Sorry, no other info - anyway, hope you can use it.”

And just like that, we saw a gem of an AUD come into circulation from Europe ’72 – a tour from which AUD tapes are painfully few and far between. I remember getting this show in the mail from Matt, quite completely out of the blue in 2004, a while after I had dropped out of the trading scene. Fantastic. All things considered, and taken with a hefty dose of caveats, this is a darn good recording. Note that it is by no means “high quality” in the way we have come to think of great recordings out of the early 70’s. There’s a ton of room ambience, boomy (yet wonderfully low) bass, and echoing vocals. It might be hard to appreciate if you haven’t previously raked all the horrendous 1970 AUD recordings over your ears, but this tape really shines, and if there happened not to be one note of this show circulating from the master SBD reels themselves, we could very easily view this tape as a treasured glimpse into a fabulous night with the Grateful Dead. All that said, today we can pick and choose how we want to get our ears around this show, including the inclusion of the gigantic set two jam as bonus material on the Golden Road box set release of the Europe ’72 album.

Consistently, the shows from Europe ’72 were hot from start to finish. The band seemed thrilled to be on the other side of the pond, and most shows were charged right out of the gate with strong energy and excitement. 04/14/72 was no exception. Everything from this tour has a charmed quality to it, and even the first sets are beautiful case studies in this wonderful vibe and energy.

Jerry Garcia 197204/14/72 is a show well worth enjoying from the beginning. The Bertha finds Jerry in fine form. Vocally, he drives the energy of the band sky high, and everything has an extra added punch. And something worth paying extra attention to here is the Playin’ In The Band. This song saw its own special growth spurt on this tour in particular. It left the states typically topping out at around ten minutes, and ended the tour out at about seventeen, never to shrink back again. The versions in Europe seem to have an exceptionally concentrated flavor to them, and you can hear the full grown monster coming into being the whole way through. 04/14’s version is a glowing example of this. It hurtles itself out into a spiraling, cascading storm of star light and electricity. Within the first minutes of the jam, the entire band trembles near the point of explosion, a wall of pulverizing energy. It then tears across terrain like a lava flow, forever leaving its mark on the evening – this will be no simple rock and roll show. In retrospect, we know the band is stretching its legs here, delivering a wickedly potent spoonful of extreme psychedelia. It permeates the blood, and continues to alter body chemistry, headed for a full flowering in set two.

Kicking off the second set, we are treated to another song that was maturing while in Europe: Truckin’. Here, we find the Truckin’ jam picking up where Playin’ left off. Jerry’s soloing is a wonderful ride atop the song’s up tempo march. Everything blends together with that wonderful growing psychedelic energy which the band would continue to expand upon, eventually using Truckin’ as a launch pad into huge second set jams time and time again in following years. Here, the tune remains a stand alone, wrapping back into a final chorus to finish off the song nicely.

It’s impossible not to bring up Looks Like Rain when discussing this show, as Jerry actually played his Pedal Steel for this evening’s rendition. Haunting, yearning, soulful. It’s hard not to wish Garcia had managed to use his Steel more often with the Dead. But, having played in a band myself, I can fully sympathize with how much of a pain it would have been to keep an instrument like the Pedal Steel in tow, set up, tuned, and ready on a nightly basis when it clearly wouldn’t be getting an extremely consistent work out. Regardless, it is wonderful to hear it here, and it sets the stage nicely for the next song.

Dark Star begins coiled a little more tightly than one would generally expect. While the phrasing is melodic and singing with a certain gentle lilt, the music is charged with energy – moving quickly from one idea to the next. Just after four minutes, riding along Garcia’s cantering phrases, the entire musical experience gels down at a deeper level, and begins to soar upward. Hypnotic sorcery pervades everything as the music begins to slip and turn liquidly into whirlpools of prism-hued misty clouds which sink, unabated, deeply into the listener’s lungs. Within mere breaths, the music has shed its reliance on time and individuality. Pure musical satori takes over, and there is an unmistakable sense that the music is creating itself. Gentle pockets of angel-like grace appear and recede over and over again, like the soft singing of dew drops on sleeping flower petals. This mystic symphony begins to spread out into fathomless reaches of space, as Jerry gently eases his volume knob up and down. A gorgeous section of give and take between Garcia, Weir and Lesh plays out wonderfully at our feet, followed by the drums re-entering the picture (we hardly knew that had left), and the Dark Star theme returns. Verse one appears seventeen minutes into the song.

As we begin to follow a dark wooded path that leads away from the verse, our tether to the ground is loosened slightly. It opens us up to the infusion of a quick paced jam that whisks us across miles of twisted terrain, bobbing and weaving between mountains and trees, under pebbles and leaves, across vast crystal clear lakes with moonlit beds seen fathoms below the surface. The jam turns into the “Feelin’ Groovy-ish” descending four chord jam that would turn up between China Cat Sunflower and I Know You Rider in the following years. It explodes from the heart with a pure white hot joy, singing a rapturous song of love before fragmenting beautifully into a million mirrored crystal droplets of light, all turning slowly in a twisted dance of orbits that grow ever-darker, tinged with red flame reflecting against wet rock. Piercing and groaning, the music defies form, until somehow, as if from a universe we left ages ago, Sugar Magnolia appears.

Garcia rides through the song with the same wha wha effect that he was using to dismantle time only seconds ago, and this lends fantastic connective tissue back into the Dark Star we left behind. After his first solo, he turns off the wha, and we are treated to the full blown ecstasy of Sugar Mag, a year or so before it completely formed into a heavy weight show closing rocker. Here, it still flies on its somehow sunshiny, country rockin’ smile that seemed to fade as the mid-70’s took form. Paired with Dark Star like this, we get two wonderful extremes of the Dead at their best. But, it ain’t even over, as Sugar Magnolia slips itself right into Good Lovin’ with Pigpen stepping up to the microphone.

Pigpen 04-26-72In a display that reminds us of one of the most painfully lost elements of the Grateful Dead after the passing of Pigpen, we get treated to the amazingly infectious psychedelic sweaty bluesy romp that always typified Good Lovin’ back in the day. Layer onto this another awesome Pigpen rap, and we have a hallmark Dead moment on hand, made even more precious by the fact that, come the band’s return to the states, this jewel in their repertoire crown would have to be removed with Pig’s declining health and exit from the group. It also must be noted that Bobby’s playing is absolutely incredible on this Good Lovin’. He gets into some phrases and tonal explosions that are not to be missed. The heat continues to rise as the band reaches into a burning energy of music typically associated with their play of 1970. And then we enter Caution.

Garcia’s guitar growls its way into the jam, and eventually begins firing off lines like a voodoo witch doctor casting spells. This is another elemental thematic undercurrent of the band at play. This late-era Caution makes it easy to tie together the bluegrass/psychedelic underpinnings that exist within Viola Lee Blues, Cumberland Blues, and Caution itself. As the song drives on, everything dissolves and reforms before our eyes. Pigpen improvises a brief Who Do You Love verse into the fray, and we are then assaulted by hurricane force winds as the music delivers crippling blows to the time signature, while Billy never lets go of the driving beat. And then there’s Pigpen again, rapping along while the band turns the corner effortlessly back into Good Lovin’, making for an excellent finish.

And there’s still more to come. To close things out there is a fantastic Not Fade Away > Goin’ Down The Road Feelin’ Bad > Not Fade Away with a tight little China Cat Sunflower jam tuck in there for good measure. Not Fade Away stomps along in its standard rocking fashion, eventually spreading its arms wide into the light shuffle that ushers in Goin’ Down The Road. Bobby offers up his China Cat lick, and Garcia chimes in on guitar with a lovely take on his own vocal line. It gloriously slides into Goin’ Down The Road, and nothing could feel better. Here we are steeped in the very essence of that Grateful Dead Americana Folkloric Psychedelic music that so epitomizes the band across the years. As the solo sections mount, Garcia absolutely beams with light and showering energy. Not Fade Away returns and the rafters shake as the set comes to a close. Bobby, steps to the mic and tries to introduce the encore, but can only manage a mumble. The band laughs and rocks out One More Saturday Night to end the night.

Whether you choose SBD or AUD (or both), you’re sure to enjoy this visit to Europe ’72.

04/14/72 AUD etree source info
04/14-72 AUD Download

04/14/72 SBD etree source info
04/14/72 SBD Stream

Friday, January 16, 2009

1977 March 19 - Winterland

Grateful Dead May 7, 1977

Saturday, March 19, 1977
Winterland Arena – San Francisco, CA
Soundboard Recording

In the long musical history of the Grateful Dead, 1977 is clearly the most famous year. It’s an odd thing, and I can’t really pin down the reason why – but in my case, that year never filled me with the desire to collect every single note of it. Where I did make it a mission to get absolutely every drop of years like 1973, 74, 76, and 78 in the 70's, there must have been something about 1977 that didn’t set off this same spark. It probably had to do, in part, with the ’77 shows I collected early on not scratching some sort of itch like other shows. And it might have been a little bit of my rooting for the underdogs of 1976 and 1978 – two years that have always suffered in popularity due to being in such close orbit to the behemoth of 1977. I kept finding great music (to my ear) in ’76 and ’78 hiding in shadows, and it focused my collecting skills to get more and more. For whatever reason(s), for me 1977 was never the bees knees that it was for so many other folks. Hey, one man certainly gathers what another man spills.

It’s interesting to me then, that there is a certain show from 1977 that I’ve always held up as being one of my all time favorites. After finding March 18th and 20th early on in my trading years, and not being completely knocked out (which is not to discount the wonderful stuff happening on both dates), the experience was altogether different when I eventually managed to find an AUD of March 19th, 1977. It was only in circulation as a multi-gen AUD at the time, and quite difficult to come by in my circles. I think I managed to get a copy of the master (taped by Rob Bertrando? I’d have to dig the tape out of a box somewhere to be sure). The AUD wasn’t perfect sounding despite good seating location (Winterland was sometimes that way), but it was enough to fully convey the power of this show. And it was only shortly after stumbling upon this AUD that the SBD made it into circulation. Ah, perfection…

Jerry Garcia Englishtown September 3, 1977The show quickly became a personal favorite, going against my general feelings about 1977. The performance brims with that certain energetic enthusiasm so easily associated with ‘77. The band is hot, smooth, focused, and bubbling right out of the gate. A slew of fun first set tunes is elevated by a sensational 40 plus minute set closing Terrapin > Playin’ > Samson > Playin’. Terrapin Station was about as new as new could be here, in the midst of the band auditioning it in different points of the show to see where it might find a final home. It’s a lovely early version. Then things catapult to the stars with Playin’ In The Band.

The Playin’ jam begins with Jerry buoyed atop soft undulating waves of sound slowly seeping out of the other instruments. Keith, in particular, is working some lovely magic out of his keys, drifting in and out of view. The entire passage pulls the listener’s ear down to the subtle layers of music below the fray. In fact, the fray is utterly missing here. It’s as if we’ve wandered into an undisturbed patch of forest glen, a knoll where dust, dew, and sunlight have slept for centuries. Slowly, our steps into this scene melt into the ground itself. We disturb nothing, dissolving into the musical landscape, bodies as much moss and mist as flesh and bone.

Energy grows like sun speckled breezes after dawn. Slowly there come more distinct shapes and patterns. Deep in the jam, Garcia explores his effects rack and begins digging into his distortions, compressions, and flanges, dipping into some of the tones that would later work their way into other songs. And then there come the great slow motion geysers of leads catching fire as if Jerry had been working dry tinder to the point where it ignites under his careful attention. These leads soar out of his hands and bloom into the air as fountains unencumbered by gravity. Laughing colors mushroom overhead. Jerry changes tone and sends another fountain out into the air. Soon it feels like we are sitting in a grove of these towering, slow moving sprays of music. These passages are riveting on the AUD tape, and luckily, the SBD tape manages to bring across the same sense of exploding light out of darkness, making for a wonderful listening adventure.

Jerry garcia December 4, 1977Under the cover of dark, the band builds the foundation of Sampson And Delilah, and with that they are off to the races. The version rocks mightily along, and even on the soundboard you can hear the frenzy of the crowd. The song transitions back to Playin’ in a nearly perfect transition. It’s hard to say if Jerry entered one measure too soon, or if Bobby and Donna blew it by tearing that old building down just one time too many. Regardless, the transition still scores close to an A+ on the pleasure factor, quickly sweeping everything back into the fairyland forest where sunlight caresses tree bark and dust specs alike into hundreds of colors. There are more passages where energy soars and the music spins. The Playin’ theme returns, but takes a sweet long time to fully mature back into the final stanzas of the song, bringing the set to a close.

Eyes Of The World opens set two and feels like a 9 out of 10 on the energy scale. It’s as if the band hasn’t skipped a beat coming out of set one. They spend the first few minutes delightfully exploring the song’s theme before Jerry steps to the mic. This is the late 70’s style Eyes. The tempo is much faster than it was back in ’73-’74, and here Garcia is fully loaded with the joyous energy that this tune would come to exude throughout the band’s career. It’s just one power packed, smile inducing ride after another. Garcia’s play embodies everything we think of when we say he was “soaring.” He is wingspan full, high in the sky, flying here. Eventually, the song rolls out into a gurgling pool of ripples and waves that churn in colored oils mixed with the spray of crystal waters. Pure Space elements begin to flood vision, dislodging our sense of stability. Phil’s bass throbs and groans. Jerry flips on the auto filter and we can hear Dancin’ In The Streets brewing.

Garcia’s soloing on Dancin’ is electrifying, as much the pure essence of this song that we generally associate with the ever-famous 05/08/77. He finds his way into wonderful riffs and melodic lines, each of which build over the other. It’s early in 1977, but already he has complete mastery of his “'77 Dancin’ sound,” and he uses it to push on and on into gorgeous pockets of themes and syncopated lines. His tone burns through the air, and ripples through the music. This is hallmark 1977 goodness. Eventually, things simmer down and Jerry turns a corner into Wharf Rat. It’s a good version which ends with Garcia sending spiraling lines out in a triumphant musical march landing at a total rest from which he twists directly into Franklin’s Tower.

Grateful Dead 1977While it would come to happen more often as the years went on, at this point, this was only the third time that Franklin’s showed up in a set list *not* coming out of Help>Slip. And it’s one fantastic version. The song is filled with one star exploding solo section after another, rocketing the energy into the heavens over and over again. Perhaps it is all fueled early on when Garcia blows the lyrics of a verse and comes back with an over delivered “If you get confused, listen to the music play!” that launches him into the first of many truly blistering solos. One after the other, he blasts over the top, only to outdo himself on the next one.

From Frankin’s we make it to Sugar Magnolia, and if you’re thirsting for a little bit of hard rockin’ Grateful Dead, look no further. It starts off feeling a little slow, but eventually delivers with devastating force to end the set. The show wraps up with a double encore of One More Saturday Night and Uncle John’s Band, a perfect end to one darn near perfect evening of Grateful Dead music.

Curiously, the AUD of this show is not currently in online digital circulation. But, I do recall being far more drawn to the SBD after it came around whenever I thought to return to this show for another listen. I think it will do nicely. Worth noting (and perhaps hunting down), there happens to be a Matrix (SBD/AUD blend) out there too.

03/19/77 SBD etree source info
03/19/77 SBD Stream

03/19/77 Matrix etree source info
03/19/77 Matrix Stream

Saturday, January 10, 2009

1974 July 21 - Hollywood Bowl

Gratful Dead 07-21-74 Hollywood Bowl
Sunday, July 21, 1974
Hollywood Bowl, Los Angeles, CA

There is no denying it. The Grateful Dead’s sound system in 1974 was a sonic masterpiece. As the stories go, experiencing the Wall Of Sound wasn’t something of being completely flattened by some tidal wave of music. Rather, folks who were there describe how the music wasn’t overwhelmingly loud - you could converse with the people around you. But the music was extremely powerful, and breathtakingly clear, invoking not the slightest amount of ear fatigue even when the band would roar. And on the subject of roaring power, there was no shortage of it fueling the speakers themselves. The 75-ton Wall ran with 26,400 watts of power, and could maintain its optimal sound quality at a distance of two football fields length from the stage, and “acceptable” sound quality at a distance of a ¼ mile, with wind being the only enemy over great distances. More tasty spec info can be found in the Wikipedia entry for the Wall.

It’s from Wall Of Sound tapes that I first began to cement my firm belief that there is no better way to enjoy a good AUD tape than when it’s an outdoor recording. When you combine a good audience tape, with the great outdoors, and the Wall Of Sound, you find yourself primed to experience some of the finest examples of live music field recordings out there.

Wall Of Sound 1974The Wall Of Sound came and went quickly, only used throughout most of 1974 (though 1973 was also spent with a prototype sound system based on a similar premise). Until we master time travel, the best way to relive the Wall’s existence is through the AUD tapes that have been preserved since that year. I’m sure I’ve said it before, but, don’t be fooled. Soundboard tapes from 1974 are not the Wall Of Sound. In order to get as close as we can to its pure electricity and the luscious warm glow of tone, let alone the quadraphonic amplification of Phil’s bass, we simply must slip in an AUD tape, and let it roll. And let it roll loud.

1974 delivered a few more handy gifts beyond the Wall itself. It also saw the band absolutely peaking in their ability to stoke the fires of their musical muse, molding it like clay into whatever direction and shape they wished. The sound system was privileged to back a library of music that knows nearly no equal. That, and 1974 saw a very convenient upsurge in actual audience tapers who had really mastered their craft over the last few years. All across the country, there were people armed and ready with the equipment and skills to step up to the Wall and bring a slice of the listening experience back home with them. Lucky us.

Hollywood Bowl - Los Angeles, CANow, let’s visit the Hollywood Bowl for the show on July 21st, 1974. For this show we currently have no soundboard in circulation whatsoever.

[Hey, quick side note: This is not the first time that the GDLG has featured a review of a show for which no soundboard circulates. And in two of these other instances (07/31/71 and 08/06/71), the soundboards have actually made it into circulation (commercially, even) since the penning of their reviews. I don’t mean to start a trend here, but I’m just sayin’…]

Actually, the lack of a SBD tape is of little matter for this date, because we had Rob Bertrando in attendance with his Sony ECM-22P mics and TC-152SD deck on hand (let alone all the blank tape, batteries, and cables) sitting up close - certainly well within two football field’s length ;-), ready to preserve the event.

It’s Summer 1974, and there’s little not to like from the Grateful Dead at this time. The entire show is a wonderful aural experience, culminating with a massive Playin’ In The Band sandwich in the second set featuring some unique song pairings and packed with typical 1974 jamming that demonstrates the full range of talents the band had mastered by this juncture. Set one contains a sweetly delivered Mississippi Half Step > It Must Have Been The Roses, always a well matched pair. The transition into Roses is lovely. And probably one of the coolest additions to the Dead’s playlist in 1974 was Scarlet Begonias. This evening’s rendition is no slouch, providing a great example of the way the band could twist their personal brand of psychedelic rock into mid-70’s funk. The trade off for having this entire fantastic tape is the inevitable tape flip six and a half minutes into the song. We end up losing what was likely another four or five minutes of jamming at least. The set wraps up with Around & Around, and then comes Seastones.

Phil Lesh 1974Like it or not, you’re going to have to ingest some Seastones if you’re going to call yourself a Dead tape collector. Phil Lesh, and Ned Lagin (pronounced “Lay-Gen” as in “generation”) would fill what amounted to a set 1.5 with their improvisational electronic soundscapes throughout 1974. About as foreign sounding as one can imagine, Seastones pushed the Wall Of Sound into the outer space of experimental music completely. This AUD tape provides a wonderful document of the piece, complete with ample crowd chatter trying to come to terms with what the heck was coming off the stage for 13 minutes.

Set two opens with China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider, the Wall giving off its sensational spectrum of frequencies as the crowd welcomes the old favorite. 1974 was a year of wonderful China>Riders, most all of them seeing a large amount of transitional jamming from one song to the other. This version is well performed and features the lovely four chord step down theme just before they make it into I Know You Rider, always a highlight in the China>Riders from ’74.

As if the AUD doesn’t sound good enough all the way through, as the Playin’ jam begins, the sound spectrum seems to open up in all directions as Bobby flips on his phasing/flanging effect. It’s as if some veil we couldn’t perceive at all has been whisked away. Weir’s tone and chord voicing here is absolute perfection. The rest of the band paints a picture under his delivery, and eventually Garcia rises over the top, soon allowing his wha-wha pedal to work at full force. Dynamite 1974 yummies raining down from everywhere, the music-scape tunnels, spirals, and dances.

Grateful Dead - July 21 1974The jam goes a long way in demonstrating the development of the band to its point of mastery in 1974. Not only do they flow from passage to passage lending a sense of slow turning panes of thick stained glass which reshape and redefine the entire landscape before us, but again and again there rises and recedes the trembling chaotic space so often found in 1974, as if the music is teetering over the edge into complete deconstruction. Throughout the jam, this space never fully washes everything else away. Rather, it ebbs and flows in and out of consciousness, like a mystery occasionally revealing its truth to us, then vanishing again. The way this threads itself in and out of the otherwise musical improvisational explorations of the band shows just how on top of their game the Dead were here. And the sound quality of the tape throughout is stunning, pure full-range power surging through the air. Twenty one minutes pass and we’ve travelled to many a land.

Playin’ edges into Spanish Jam at Bobby’s lead, but never fully forms, quickly redirected into Wharf Rat. From here there’s the unique pairing segue into Truckin’. About one minute into Truckin’ there’s a tape flip which, if you listen real close in the right channel, you can hear coming as Bertrando and a buddy discuss pulling it off. Truckin’ lifts the crowd energy and thunders along into a nice bopping exit segment which then turns into a sultry Nobody’s Jam, and then back to Playin’ In The Band. Nice.

This tape makes easy work of coming to appreciate the Wall Of Sound and outdoor audience recordings of the historic sound system. The recording has been in circulation forever, but the transfer from December 2007, done at the hands of the MOTB team, elevates the sound quality more than ever before. Enjoy!

07/21/74 AUD etree source info

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

GDLG-001 - Audience Appreciation

Listening Session 001: A guided tour through spectacular audience recordings and memorable musical moments of the Grateful Dead, complete with the occasional story and insight aimed to help gain an appreciation for the audience tape medium.

Welcome to the kick off of the Grateful Dead Listening Guide's Podcast Series.

If you like, you can directly download the Listening Session 001 podcast MP3 file. Or, you can subscribe to the Podcast via iTunes, or your favorite pod catcher. It's all the same feed for the blog and podcast:

If you are already subscribed to the blog via a reader (GoogleReader, etc..), then you will probably see this post come through as a podcast (magic). I *think* I got everything set up "just exactly perfect." Please enjoy!

Monday, January 5, 2009

Happy New Year

Grateful Dead - Winterland - December 31, 1972

A very happy new year to all readers of the GDLG! I thought it wise to get a post in here now to alert you to an upcoming enhancement to the Listening Guide, as it is this enhancement that has caused a bit of a delay in my getting anything posted since just before Christmas.

I’ve decided to have a go at adding podcasts to the mix here. I think they will lend a very handy and personal level of musical sharing to the show review format we’ve followed throughout 2008. This is what I’ve been busying myself with over the holiday season. The last two weeks have seen the most activity on this end, and it has taken away a fair amount of the time I’d otherwise be devoting to writing reviews. I think I’m very very close to being able to post my first podcast to the blog, as I’m trying to push my learning curve as quickly as possible while attempting to do this podcast thing (and the associated feed settings thing) right the first time.

I’ve already completed production of the first episode, a two hour listening session where I’m essentially treating things as if I’m having you over to my house for an afternoon of Dead tape enjoyment. I’ll continue working with this format as I produce more episodes. In these installments, we will jump from show to show listening to a highlight or two from different dates, all working around some sort of theme, or as I’ve found, multiple themes. I’ll talk between the musical bits trying to add color with history, stories, and otherwise anecdotal information. My hope is that these will make for at least mildly entertaining listening, opening folks up directly to special musical moments and memories covered on these pages. Whether you’ve heard every show I’ve reviewed on the blog, or are new and looking for some fun direction, I warmly invite you all to pull up a comfortable chair and join me as I put together some musical adventures.

I don’t know that I’ll do much more than one episode a month (production is rather involved and time consuming), as I don’t want to slack off too far on show reviews. So, thanks for your patience. More to come soon…

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