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Not Sure Where To Begin?

The intro posts are always a good start, followed logically by
my thoughts on Music & Being, which guide my writing.
You could also try my current favorite show on the blog,
plus there's good reading under the trading community label.
Or, take a walk on a
Listening Trail.

Friday, November 26, 2010

The Music Never Stopped

We as Deadhead's are typically a musically sophisticated bunch. Most of us are hard wired to enjoy music deeply, and often our tastes expand far and wide.

As I've mentioned here from time to time, the Dead only fill about 10% of my musical universe on a daily or weekly basis; often far less than even that. In many years of pushing my musical horizons, I have always looked for resources in the sphere of "all music" that can do for me what I try to do here in the Grateful Dead sphere - take my hand, make suggestions, and turn me on to music I would otherwise never find. One of the best I've found is

Beyond its depth of music and the community, I get fixated on the simple slider tool which allows me to see "similar artists" while listening to any song. It's an instant wormhole to connected music I've never heard. I get lost in that slider like most folks get lost playing video games.

MOG is offering free trial memberships right now. If you haven't played around with this site, I encourage you to do so. Check it out.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

1973 March 24 - The Spectrum


Saturday, March 24, 1973
The Spectrum - Philadelphia, PA
Soundboard Recording

So we established early on that I set up the Grateful Dead Listening Guide playing the character of an old hippie guy living across the street from you. One day a couple of years ago you and he struck up a conversation, and soon you found yourself invited over to the old guy's basement where you were seated in the sweet spot between artfully spaced stereo speakers as he began pulling tapes off the wall, filling your ears with stories, enchantments and mysteries deep and vast.

Judging from your repeated return visits, everything has gone very well. You continually enjoy an endless parade of music-magic, and the old hippie finds tremendous pleasure in learning more about his own spiritual connection to the music through this sharing and the reflected joy it clearly produces in your welcoming eyes and ears.

By this point we've share a great deal of music and it sometimes becomes a slight struggle for the old hippie to pick the next tape. This time, rather than trying to outdo myself by producing a completely hidden gem, I've decided to go back to one of the very first shows I ever received from the year 1973.

March 24th 1973 is well circulated, and I wore my own tape thin way back when my grand total of 1973 shows was about 2. Perhaps because of this, the show never really struck me as something to recommend to you here. Perhaps I felt somehow that the show's magic wasn't unique enough. Maybe I thought that it was too commonplace a tape. No matter the reason, it didn't help that I hadn't listened to the show in a very, very long time. That all changed on a whim when I pulled the show back out.

Revisiting it now, I'm struck with the realization that this show I so easily let myself forget over the years possesses a heaping helping of that which I treasure most about 1973 Grateful Dead jamming – a certain nimble jazzy Ferris wheel sound that I often only find deep in the summer of this fine year. It's no wonder that this, as one of my very first tapes, cemented my lifelong connection to the Dead, and to 1973 in particular.

Set 1: Bertha, Beat It On Down The Line, Don't Ease Me In, The Race Is On, Cumberland Blues, Box Of Rain, Row Jimmy, Jack Straw, They Love Each Other, Mexicali Blues, Tennessee Jed, Looks Like Rain, Wave That Flag, El Paso, Here Comes Sunshine, Me & Bobby McGee, Loser, Playin' In The Band
Set 2: Promised Land, China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider, Big River, Stella Blue, Me & My Uncle, He's Gone > Truckin' > Spanish Jam > Space > Dark Star > Sing Me Back Home > Sugar Magnolia E: Johnny B. Goode

The pleasures of this show are not only waiting deep in the second set. We are treated to a lovely first set and quite an extended Playin' In The Band to wrap it up. Psychedelics explode on the scene as if they've been held back to the bursting point. The music swirls. Colors bleed. Jerry casts out leads that tip toe deftly over rolling river rapids, often taking a path up over tree tops and then incredibly threading between blades of grass. Late in the jam we find Garcia taking a break while the rest of the band continues to churn with a kaleidoscoping display of yellow-orange embers dancing through burning logs. Jerry returns and adds searing white and fuchsia flames to the mix as the song returns to close the first set.

China>Riders in March 1973 are noteworthy for often delivering an unprecedented amount of energy and momentum, and the one here on March 24th wastes little time living up to the reputation. The transition jam flies. The band locks into a shuffle with Garcia streaming sunbeams, and the familiar four-chord jam, while not being as heavily pronounced as in other versions, does not disappoint as we transition into I Know You Rider. With solo sections that burst with that joyful effervescence that defines the Dead in so many ways, we can't help but smile throughout the entire song.

Of course it's the shows extended jam in the second set that places this show on a pedestal, and for good reason. Out of Truckin' the band lets the music settle into a meadow of grass where wind barely whispers. Jerry delicately lofts out the opening lines of Dark Star, yet no one takes the reins with him. Instead, the entire band slips effortlessly into a rolling jazzy 1973 jam that typifies the year completely. This jam is as reminiscent of the big '73 Watkins Jam as nearly anything else on record in this year or otherwise. The tempo flies as Garcia unleashes long staccato runs that reflect and echo upon themselves leaving trails in the air, cutting a dewy mist with ripples of energy. The purity of the Grateful Dead's musical soul is stretched into the sky, pulling us into a rapturous dance erasing all physical barriers. In this music we feel the Grateful Dead resonate far more deeply within us than words may express.

A small guitar break finds Billy and Phil bebopping out a Drum and Bass solo. The rest of the band returns and picks up right where it left off. We are lost, fuse and reflected within the invisible fabric that beats in the empty space of atoms. Soon a Spanish Jam appears and is quickly vaporized into caverns, light years deep. Great drops of sound randomly take shape and gather together with invisible gravities. Orbits shimmer. Waves rise and fall. Slowly a subtle symphony takes shape. Singing stars and slowly bowed strings rise into harmonies, and the sky fills with a thousand sunsets. An ocean-sized crescendo, as delicate as an evening breeze through trees fills the infinity all around. Dark Star appears.

While it can easily be touted as the shortest Dark Star on record (at only about four and a half minutes), all fairness points to Garcia tipping the Dark Star hand some twenty-two minutes prior as the jam first took form. But we aren't here to quibble over the length of the song. The music flutters like slow rolling redwood tree-sized velvet drapes stretched for a hundred miles around us. And we are eventually left in awe as the band transitions liquidly into Sing Me Back Home. Here the gospel overtones conjure up that familiar feeling of sitting around a campfire, as a story is told. When Garcia hits his solo, notes blossom streaming flower pedals all around. He somehow conjures every ounce of the sound system's power into delicate footsteps that leave no trace in the sand. Grace, as simply delivered as ever.

A classic Dead tape to be sure. Worth the listen even if its been sitting on a shelf for a quarter century or more.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

30 Days of Dead: Free Downloads

The Grateful Dead are digging into the vault to offer up daily gems for free listening and downloads, and chances to win stuff.  In their own words:

"The 30 DAYS OF DEAD celebration honors the spirit of camaraderie exemplified by the tapers who diligently documented the Dead’s concerts and trade them freely with other Dead Heads. Encouraged by the band, this practice of sharing helped foster not only a legion of devoted fans, but also created a unique sense of community that has transcended generations.

Since the majority of the 30 live tracks offered during 30 DAYS OF DEAD are previously unreleased soundboard recordings, both life-long Deadheads and those previously uninitiated to the joys of the band will be sure to enjoy the free tunes."

A nice little bit of the Grateful Dead spirit and community continuing to keep its flame alive. Check it out.

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