Thursday, April 1, 2021

Lonesome & a Long Way From Home, 1978

3/17/78, by James Anderson

 

My last post had the preamble about this song, which I won't repeat.  I will, however, reiterate that these jams are like nothing the JGB played before or after and, in most cases, are comparable to the Dead at their wildest in 1977-79.  More folks need to hear these.

 

2/15/78 Keystone, Berkeley, CA (date uncertain per text file)

There is one decent aud recording of this remarkable jam: at 29:15, it's the longest of all the known versions and also the longest single non-Dead Garcia improvisation, besides a very small handful of Garcia/Saunders jams in 1971-72.  Even though some of the jams in the Dead's Jan 78 tour were unusually long for the time, I think this also outpaces anything else he played that year.

Like in the Dec 77 performances, Kahn is the first to pull away from the I-VII vamp that begins the jam and push more aggressively towards an atonal/arythmic space.  Buchanan follows Kahn's lead, while Godchaux either holds tight to the vamp or sticks close to Garcia.  Other listeners might not hear it this way, but I think these two complementary but still somewhat oppositional approaches make for an unusual tension, often very effective and engaging, and never less than interesting.  I won't map out the landscape of this long jam step by step, but there are many twists and turns.  After 3ish minutes of grooving around the vamp, they drop off into a pretty, more minor-keyed space. A couple moments stand out here: starting around 12 min, Garcia and Kahn play a 5-note theme that's repeated and varied for a while; Godchaux takes a brief trip to the foreground at 15:30, playing an almost classical-sounding thing over the slow, churning groove; things follow their own twisty path until, at about 20 minutes, Buchanan leans in with a more assertive groove. Everyone else stays committed to weirdness, but Buchanan's push gets them them all moving in mostly the same direction and the intensity starts ramping up. This final stretch is tremendous! Garcia starts wrapping up around 25:15 with some cool variations on the "I have never been so lonesome" melody, while Godchaux appears to be the one who really corals everyone back into the song itself.  An amazing ride.


2/17/78 - Keystone, Palo Alto, CA - as per Jerrybase, but no tape in circulation


2/18/78 Marin Veterans Auditorium, San Rafael, CA
Official release on Pure Jerry: Bay Area '78; the circulating tape has a splice in it.

This jam has a more discernible structure to it (spontaneously conceived, I assume), moving back and forth between an established groove and freer playing.  As the jam begins, it feels like they're anticipating something rather than just easing in. Garcia & Godchaux play some lovely stuff right off the bat, and Buchanan plays it loose while Kahn is punchy but a little less forward than prior versions. The bottom falls out for a minute before they find some forward momentum and take off, with Garcia staying closer to the normal tonality of the song. This feels pretty good! Just before 11 minutes, the bottom falls out again. Another groove is established, more minor-keyed and less intense; then again things veer back into free territory again, splashing around like the comedown after a big Dead space jam. At 17 minutes they find **another** groove, this time vaguely funky but sparse.  This one isn't as compelling to my ears, but it's interesting to hear, since since the JGB never did this kind off thing.  It winds down into near silence, then Garcia strums them back into the song.  Structurally, this was quite different from 2/15 and has the most "quiet" spacey playing of any version yet.  23:30 total.


3/9/78 Cleveland Music Hall, Cleveland, OH
The one sbd source runs a little fast, though not too bad. Currently there are no auds, but I would love to hear one. Like a few other sbds from this March tour, Kahn is pretty hot in the mix.

The band returned for their second east coast tour in less than 6 months, playing with a noticeably higher level of energy and more aggressive attack than the fall 77 shows. The jam here starts as usual with everyone slowly pulling away from the vamp.  After a minute and a half, Buchanan drops the bottom out, then snaps back into a steady beat after half a minute, but it's too late: Garcia's going for it.  The jam follows a freer logic, eventually slowing down into a prettier space.  Around 8:45, Buchanan kicks into a brisk groove, pulling everyone else into orbit.  Everything stays pretty loose but with forward momentum, until Garcia whips up a big (and long!) fanning climax at 13:35.  Wow!  This jam is plenty spacey, but with more of a souped-up feel and a linear path than the prior walks in the woods.  True to form, Garcia even goofs once they're back in the song itself and repeats the whole final verse as Buchanan is cueing them up to end it.  Whoops!  Nice little scorcher here, though.  17:41 total (on this tape, but longer with speed correction)


3/11/78 Leroy Concert Theatre, Pawtucket, RI
This show has a few recordings: another bass-heavy sbd, two solid aud tapes (I prefer 14931 taped by Tom Dalti), and a fine matrix that will probably be the winner for most people.

The band sure sounds ethusiastic tonight!  Again, they jump ship from the vamp to a quieter groove very quickly, but this time they wait a few minutes to get fully into free space.  At 5:30, Kahn starts playing a clear bassline, something he hasn't done in any of these jams, and everyone else locks in.  This lasts for a minute until Garcia throws out a big trill and everyone immediately follows his lead and starts building the spacey intensity.  Garcia starts to fan up a big one, then backs off, and they splash around. Buchanan lays down a beat again at 10:20, but Garcia and Kahn seem too far gone. Things start coalescing, but the energy remains pretty hairy. Wild! Garcia tries getting them all back to homebase around 11:50, but it takes a little while to circle the wagons and they finally get there at 12:30.  This one was a comparative shorty at under 15 minutes, but they're not skimping on the energy here!  A very satisfying blast of weirdness.

Both 3/9 and 3/11 are pretty amped up versions -- less patient or "exploratory" and more fiery, although still very spacey (maybe not surprising, given the apparent recreational stimulant of choice for this tour). It seems like Jerry is the one driving the ship here, with Kahn sounding totally zonked (um, in a good way) and Buchanan holding for for dear life. In both jams, Buchanan reestablishes a beat after the spacey midsection, although this doesn't really guide anyone back to the song itself.  Godchaux is present in both, but harder to hear because of the bass-heavy sbd mix.


3/18/78 Warner Theatre, Washington, DC 

Given the wide circulation of the original tape (an FM broadcast) over the years and it's official release in the Pure Jerry series, this may be the most well-known of these jams. Inevitable contrarian that I am, it's also my least favorite.

Again, they drop into space pretty abruptly after starting the vamp, more immediately than in any earlier version.  But the general feeling is more hesitant, as if everyone is waiting to see who will get crazy first. It seems like they're having a harder time settling on what to do with this; Kahn suggests a couple ideas, and Garcia plays that impatient "chording" figure a couple of times (around 7:15 and 7:30) that usually indicates that he's ready to move onto something new. But nothing seems to stick, and no one seems willing to just push the boat out of the harbor. Kahn in particular seems less emboldened than he was in earlier versions, while Garcia doesn't seem particularly interested (or able) to find a direction for this to go in. Finally Buchanan throws down a groove at 12:15, and things fall in line for a couple of minutes. But even as Garcia is clearly heading back to the song, they left-turn into some more free interplay before Garcia finally gets them back to the song for real.  At over 19 minutes, this is much longer than the prior two versions, but I preferred both of those shorter jams.  Still, this is all nearly unprecedented stuff for a JGB jam, and still more exploratory and experimental than most Dead jams from 77-78, so it is well worth hearing.

6/10/78 - Keystone, Berkeley, CA - per Jerrybase, but no tape in circulation


10/26/78 - Paramount Theatre, Portland, OR

A well-mixed sbd (Bettyboard?) fragment exists of the end of the show, which thankfully includes this entire jam.  This is a pleasure to listen to.  A few auds also circulate.

Unlike earlier versions, everyone stays grooving on the vamp for a while.  There's no funny business from Kahn and, unusually, Buchanan is the one who seems to first pull away from the groove. Still, there's no abrupt shifting gears at all, just a very gradual move into more open playing. Before 6 minutes, Garcia finds a vein of weirdness that he works, and everyone else reorients to wherever he's going. A minute later, Garcia has found a little rhythmic groove, Kahn begins a walking bassline, and things start to achieve lift off. Godchaux doesn't want to let go of the 2-chord vamp, but everyone else is in fairly jazzy territory, rhythmically speaking. Garcia is eventually pulled back into Godchaux's tight orbit, but Kahn and Buchanan are throwing down, shifting back and forth between jazz and a more driving rock beat. This is really sweet. They jam this for a while until it falls into freer space around 12 1/2 minutes. No tempo here, and it feels like Garcia is slowly turning up the hear, a la older GD space jams. After 3 minutes of this, they start peaking with Garcia trilling away and everyone else crashing around. At 16 1/2 min, they ease off the intensity and downshift into a quieter, pretty, almost melodic space.  Garcia slickly threads in the "lonesome and a long way from home" melody line and brings them right back into the song itself. Great transition! He slips up and repeats the final verse a second time like 3/9/78, and they wrap up at a hair over 22 minutes.  Holy smokies, that was excellent.



10/28/78 - Paramount Northwest Theatre, Seattle, WA

A well-renowned show (this is the best aud recording) and often praised as one of Keith Godchaux's best 11th hour performances. I think the early show deserves all the praise it's been given. The late show is bit more of a mixed bag, and this final performance of Lonesome by this band doesn't reach the same heights as 10/26. But it ain't bad!

Garcia starts doing his late-78/79 superfast 16th note runs right at the start of the jam, and Kahn starts getting pushy after not too long.  This one jumps around much more at first: there's an abrupt drop in intensity at 4:30, and Garcia seems to stick more to the background as Kahn and Godchaux move more to the fore.  Things veer into space at about 6 minutes, things amp up, things ease back, Garcia seems mainly to zip around without finding much of a direction.  They reach a fanning climax around 10:20, but the overall vibe of this has felt pretty tweaky and bug-eyed to me.  The wave crests, they splash around for a minute, and Garcia strums them back into the song.  This one felt solid enough, but it flew by without getting much traction; the feel is similar to 3/18's jam, but more compact at 13:30 total.

 

And that, unfortunately, was that.  A week later this lineup played its final shows, and no other iteration of the JGB ever delved this deep again.  When Don't Let Go returned to the repertoire in 1988, that band delivered a few versions that broke the mold of its general structure and wandered into spacier areas.  But they never sustained this kind of creative group improvisation at such length, making these few version of Lonesome and a Long Way From Home nearly unique in Garcia's side career.

In the summer of 1981, Garcia brought Lonesome back -- only twice.  On 7/26/81 the jam stays in the vamp: not the C-B (I-VII) vamp of the 70's versions, but the same C-F (I-V) vamp that begins the song, and then eventually shifts into basically just jamming on a C chord.  Garcia solos while everyone else bubbles away beneath him.  On 7/26/81, the more exciting of the two, Garcia never returns to the song itself and transitions out of the jam right innto Dear Prudence.  On 8/20/81 the energ feels a bit more sluggish, but he does return to song to reprise the verse, then segues into Dear Prudence on the final note.  Both of these are about 10 minutes long.  Then on the JGB's Sept 1989 tour, Lonesome reappeared as an even briefer show-closer: a nice (if short-lived) alternative to Midnight Moonlight, but nothing that was sustained for more than a few minutes.

 

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Dec 1977: a long way from home

12/11/77?  credit unknown
 

The 1976-78 JGB had two "jamming" tunes, Don't Let Go and Lonesome and a Long Way From Home, that were both introduced on the road in March 1976.  Despite periods of hibernation, Don't Let Go remains the standard JGB "jam tune" for most folks.  Of course I love the song and have plenty to say about it, but I can't pretend that the jams in many Don't Let Go's don't follow a really simple formula: everyone lays down a steady one-chord groove while Garcia solos for a very long time.  Lonesome had a much more limited shelf-life: the first half of 1976, periodically throughout Buchanan's tenure in fall 1977 and 1978 (notably, they stopped playing Don't Let Go midway through this lineup's lifespan), then two out-of-the-blue performances in 1981 and a handful of shorter set-closers in 1989.  But a few versions of Lonesome featured improvisations that took far more chances and went to a greater variety of places than the usual Don't Let Go.  Beginning with the last three shows of the Nov-Dec 1977 east coast tour, Lonesome became a launchpad for some very interesting and very extended improvisations that dwarf nearly every other extended jam Garcia played in 1977-78, yet seem to remain relatively unheralded.

One earlier extended version of Lonesome, and likely the most well-known of all of them, is the 22 minute performance from 4/3/76 (you know, the one that ends in a magical burst of energy and furious fanning like a hundred birds bursting into the air all at once).  As great as that one is (and trust me, it's great), it still follows the same form as many of the shorter ones: the song ends, the band eases into a I-VII vamp (think Fire On the Mountain), and Garcia slowly cooks it up over a tasty but still fairly repetitive groove held down by Keith Godchaux, John Kahn, and Ron Tutt.  The approach didn't change when Buzz Buchanan took over for Tutt in Nov 1977.  They played it throughout the first week of that tour, then set it aside for a few shows.  Who knows what the catalyst was, but something serious happened when they decided to bring it back.


12/9/77  SUNY Stony Brook
(there are a few aud masters; imho Kathy Sublette's is the best)

Less than a minute into the jam, Kahn seems like he's trying to stir things up, throwing around some big notes that cut against the groove.  Garcia & Godchaux both keep on grooving as usual, and Buzz Buchanan seems to be audibly deciding whether to stick with Garcia & Godchaux or to follow Kahn's lead.  Kahn wins out, the groove begins to fall apar,t and no one seems real invested in keeping it together.  by 6:40ish they've all surrendered to whatever is going to happen.  At 7:07 Kahn and Godchaux play a little bit in the "Spanish" tonality that JGMF detects, another signpost towards someplace new.  Garcia still occasionally circles back to playing figures from his usual Lonesome vamp; but by 8 minutes in, freedom has won out.  Everyone is listening and responding to each other, but this is following a logic that is changing moment by moment with no predetermined direction or groove.  I hear Buchanan trying to reestablish a groove around 10:45, but the winds keep blowing this way and that.  By 16 minutes, things appear to have coalesced into a single train of thought and Garcia soon reasserts a clear tonality and is heading back in the direction of the song.  The second half of this jam is basically a long swim back to the song: they sure do take their time and build up a good head of steam on the way.  Around 22 minutes, Garcia starts playing the "and a long way from home" melody, tying everything together.  The final few minutes take it down low and quiet, and they groove in this zone for a while; at 23:40 Garcia brings it back into the song itself, but enters a couple beats too early.  Everyone covers for the fumble and no harm done.  Folks, that was just a hair under 27 minutes: by far the longest extended improv/jam on a single tune that Garcia played all year, either with the JGB or that other band.  You'd think just for that reason alone, this would be more widely heralded as a big one, but so it goes in the hinterlands of the JGB.  Tell your friends!  The aud tapes reveal that some of the Long Islanders in attendance tonight were audibly unimpressed with the band's laid back approach to time, and there are a few shouts during this jam for them to get it together and get on with things, but thankfully no one onstage was fazed.  I find more and more to appreciate about this jam with every new listen.

12/10/77  Warner Theater, Washington, DC
(imho Gerry Moskal's aud tape is the best - no etree entry??)

A telling moment in this pleasant but imho not very interesting show is Kahn's solo feature in Russian Lullaby.  Say what you will about those bass solos, but the crowds usually cheered and hollered encouragement whenever Kahn went for it.  This particular solo, however, is five and a half minutes long, and Kahn bails on the chord changes after a couple go-rounds and wanders into the woods, with Buchanan right behind him.  It gets pretty spacey for Russian Lullaby!  Garcia's not interested and gets things back on track upon his return, although Kahn gets points for trying to nudge the boss off course a couple of times.  So it's not surprising that whatever mojo blessed last night's Lonesome jam is still plentiful tonight.  This one is a shorter trip at 19 minutes, but is a completely different excursion.  Godchaux was hanging with them every step of the way in last night's jam, exhibiting a side of his playing that rarely came out in his final years.  Tonight, though, he is nowhere to be found.  The jam begins with Garcia gently cruising through the usual 2-chord vamp, but when Kahn gets more assertive and suggests another course, Godchaux disappears and stays silent for almost the entire jam.  And to be honest, it doesn't sound like Kahn, Buchanan, or Garcia are missing him at all: the three of them are as locked in as they were the night before, but now with more space to try something that (onstage at least) they had never done before.  Donna Godchaux adds some wordless vocalization in a few spots.  In general, Kahn seems like the real driving force here; he really cranks it up and lets loose a couple volleys of buzzing, distorted notes, and more often than not it sounds to me like Garcia is following Kahn's lead, rather than vice versa.  The communication here is more like a jazz trio, inventive and intimate.  Like the night before, the latter portion of the jam is an extended swim back to the song itself, but is still just as compelling as the looser stuff that precedes it.  Around 13:50, Garcia starts playing arpeggios (much like in older Playin' or Dark Star jams when he was signaling a change in direction), then just after 15 minutes he starts playing a melodic figure that Kahn picks up and joins.  Around 16 minutes the pair lock into a descending scale that lands them precisely in the outro of the song.  Godchaux reappears immediately as they land back on solid ground.  Unlike last night's crowd, the audience tonight appears to be with them every step of the way; there's a nice touch at 9:12 when someone yells "beautiful!"


12/11/77 Penn State University
(a hissy sbd has been in circulation for a while; I listened to SirMICK's remaster)

This final show of the tour sounds, to my ears, a little punchier and a bit more inspired than the average.  Remarkably, for this third Lonesome jam in a row, they find yet another approach.  Godchaux sticks around for a little bit longer, but again vanishes as things get unusual.  Kahn isn't as assertive tonight, and Garcia seems to be the one who is taking the boat where he wants it to go.  They abandon the vamp for murkier waters, but this time the majority of the jam feels more like a Grateful Dead 'Space' ca. 1977-78 to me (particularly the May 77 varieties), with Garcia leading the charge and everyone following closely in his wake.  Around 10 minutes, Kahn and Buchanan kick into gear and start getting a bit pushier; Garcia returns the Lonesome vamp (prompting a brief cameo from Godchaux) but then playfully veers off again, as they pull in and out the groove.  They find their way back again, and Garcia drops a perfectly timed theme from Close Encounters into the ending as a little bow to tie everything up, then sails them back into the song.  Oh yes.  This is the shortest of the three at around 18:20.


I'd like to do a deep dive into the rest of the 1978 versions as well, but figured I would get the ball rolling with these three back-to-back jams that started it off.  Most of the Lonesome jams in 1978 keep this same freer, more conversational approach.  Stay tuned for more, hopefully.  But for now I encourage everyone to listen to these three in succession and marvel at what got into them at the end of (imho) a solid but not very adventurous tour -- and maybe give a little extra thanks to John Kahn for stepping out of bounds a bit and throwing a few elbows around.

Monday, January 25, 2021

1/26/72 setlist (outer space regions)

Howard Wales in Buffalo, 1/29/72, by Phil Simon (GDAO)

For the anniversary of this show, and in belated memoriam for Howard Wales, it is time to clean up my listening notes and correct some longstanding setlist confusion.  For background, context, and commentary about all things Jerry Garcia & Howard Wales, I direct you to:

http://jgmf.blogspot.com/2010/12/hwjg-quick-question-on-january-72-east.html
http://lostlivedead.blogspot.com/2011/01/hooteroll-when-was-it-recorded.html
http://jgmf.blogspot.com/2011/01/response-to-llds-hooteroll-when-was-it.html
https://archive.org/post/357084/jerrys-jazz-style-howard-wales-tour-pitb-march-72

I am not going to comment much on the quality of the music itself, but I have to emphasize up front that this set is hot.  Hot hot hot.  Garcia is playing out of his skin, in prime 1972 flight for almost all of it.  Wales, of course, is a mad genius, and this is likely the closest we'll ever get to hearing what it might have sounded like if he had actually joined the Dead instead of Keith Godchaux.  Jim Vincent (guitar), Roger Jellyroll Troy (bass/vocals), and Jerry Love (drums) more than hold up their end of the bargain.  They had been together as Wales regular gigging quartet for over a year at this point, and while Garcia and Wales understandably attract the most attention, everyone else does a top-drawer job.

My goal is to propose a more accurate setlist than the one that has been around at least since the Deadbase days, and that still lives on in Jerrybase, jerrygarcia.com, and the latest digital fileset (the earlier one is better, fwiw).  My guess is that either the taper himself or some well-meaning goober somewhere down the line did his best to cobble together an impressionistic semblance of what he was hearing, with nary a thought for any future obsessive nerdherders like me who might be fretting over it almost 50 years (!) later. 

Observation/theory #1: This tour was over a year removed from the recording of Hooteroll? and the general vibe of the music here actually reminds me less of Hooteroll? itself and more of the music from Roger Troy's own Jellyroll album (released in 1971, albeit with none of these musicians).  I'm not sure to what extent the performances on Hooteroll? were arranged in advance, but -- as loose as they are -- the music on that album sounds a little more planned out than most of the music here, a lot of which sounds like jams on a one chord groove.  That's not to say it's not exciting and compelling music!  But I don't think it's a stretch to think that a fair portion of this show is totally improvised.  By all accounts, Wales' MO was jamming without a net, and Jim (James) Vincent recalls in his memoir Space Traveler that the group rehearsed with Garcia exactly once prior to this tour.  

So here goes.  If anyone is hearing anything else or can identify some piece of music, please let me know!

d1t01. South Side Strut - the tape starts off with everyone getting the noodles out, a weather report (doesn't sound too awful for Boston in January), and the MC welcoming the group.  "South Side Strut" was the only single from Hooteroll? and is played here in a more stripped down arrangement (Wales plays the horn melody).  So far, so good.

d1t02. unknown mellow groove (Dm) (mislabeled "Up From The Desert").  This is not "Up From the Desert" from Hooteroll?, which has a distinct chord progression and is in a different key.  What they play here is mostly a D minor vamp with a mellow "Riders on the Storm"-ish kind of jazzy feel.

d1t03. One AM Approach - basically the same as the Hooteroll? performance, a meditative cosmic duet between Wales on Fender Rhodes piano and Garcia.  Sublime.  Of course this is when the DJ takes the opportunity to do his station ID (insert eyeroll emoji).

d1t04. unknown blues-rock (Em) ("Come On Baby > Jam > Outer Space Regions")  Observation/theory #2: I suspect that most of Troy's lyrics are mostly improvised, kind of like what Sarah Fulcher would later do with Garcia/Saunders.  Troy does have a song called "Come On Baby" on his Jellyroll album, but this isn't it.  The "chorus" of what Troy sings in this jam is "come on back child, come on back girl," but that's the chief similarity with the album cut. 

This is where the tape labeling gets a little squiggly.  The track begins with Wales playing simple E blues riff, and Troy starts playing a bassline.  They cruise on an E minor blues-rock groove.  Troy starts singing over this -> Wales solos -> more vocals -> Jerry solos, and things slide into A major and then get spacey -> more Troy vocals.  @6ish min the beat doubles up; Troy sings "get on down to the railroad tracks..." and the guitarists take solo breaks over the drums (still playing the blues in E minor) -- this is pretty uptempo, and pretty shredding.  Towards the end it kiiind of wanders back to Troy's initial groove, but not really.  This segues into...

d1t05. Troy plays a short bass solo.

d1t06. funk instrumental (G) (labeled "Get Funky Brother") - After Troy's brief solo, there's a quick drum break, then Troy announces “We’re gonna do something extraordinary - ha ha! - get funky, drummer, get funky!” which leads into a funky instrumental in G.   It follows the basic James Brown template, i.e. a complex drum pattern, a simple bassline, and the two guitarists playing call & response figures, while Wales solos over all of this.  It's not much of an arrangement, but I don't think it's being totally improvised on the fly.  After 5 minutes it dissolves into spaciness for about a minute; Vincent takes the wheel from Jerry briefly, then everything gets quiet...

d1t07. Wales solo (mislabeled "A Trip to What Next") - ...and this track starts with 30 seconds of full-band space, then drops out into a mostly a Wales unaccompanied solo on Hammond B3.  This is wild, ranging from from Sun Ra to Sunday morning gospel and everything in between.  I'm not sure how this got labeled "A Trip to What Next" (another Hooteroll? tune) but I'm not hearing any connection to this wild solo.

d1t8. My Blues (mislabeled "Would You Leave Me") -> blues in G ("Wales' Boogie")
Two songs here on this track.  The first is actually a Wales original called "My Blues," the b-side to Wales' "Huxley’s Howl" single (see below) and also on his later Rendezvous with the Sun lp.  It's a nice, slow, soulful instrumental.  This segues into a brisk blues instrumental in G with a pretty simple riff and the usual blues changes.  I don't know what this is (if it's anything), so "Wales' Boogie" might as well do for now.  In the last few seconds they move into E minor (?), which sounds like it could be a bridge, but instead the tune just ends somewhat abruptly.

d1t09. Garcia announces, “thank you very much, I’m gonna sit out for a while and let these guys play for you for a while.  This is Howard Wales playing the organ here.  And Jim Vincent playing guitar.  Jerry Love playing drums.  And Jellyroll playing bass.”  The tape cuts--

d2t01.  --and the DJ welcomes us back: "Howard Wales is just beginning a solo set."  The broadcast fades into

d2t02. "Get Down Mama" - a blues-rock shuffle in progress, with most of the song missing.  It fades in on Troy's vocal, then Vincent solos, then more vocals.  I don't know if "Get Down Mama" if really the name of this, but based on Troy's lyrics, it's a good guess.  Anyone recognize it?  When they finish, Troy addresses all the deadheads: “Thank you.  Jerry’ll be back in a few minutes, he wanted to get off and fix his guitar, all right?”

d2t03. Huxley's Howl (mislabeled "DC 502") -- The track begins with a minute and a half of spacey noodling by Wales on Fender Rhodes, before the tune begins.  "Huxley's Howl" is a Wales original released on a pre-Hooteroll 45rpm single.  There's no relation to "DC 502" (a song from Hooteroll?) that I can hear.  Vincent’s solo here is pretty angular, advanced jazzy stuff. 

d2t04. drum solo -> 

d2t05 - Huxley's Howl, cont ("DC 502") - they jam the tune some more, never returning to the head, but it's still basically the same song.  If I were retracking this, I'd just lump these last three tracks together.

d2t06-07 - They tune up, and Troy says, “Since we’re being way up north and east, uh -- do you like the blues?  Them people down south, they don’t know.”  Yeah, I bet.
Blues medley: over a slow blues, Troy sings a verse of "Sweet Little Angel" (BB King), a verse of "Sweet Cocaine" (not sure), and then a third verse that I don't recognize (labeled here "Shine On Love").  Labeling these as three separate songs seems like it's missing the point.  I'm sure Troy is either just singing whatever comes to mind, or it's a blues medley that he sang before.  I'm not sure what variant of "Sweet Cocaine" he's singing, or if he's just riffing on his own thing.  Wales and Vincent both take solos in here.

d2t08 - Garcia returns and Troy introduces everyone.  Then they start a one-chord groove in G, pensive, with a kind of an early electric Miles Davis feel.  It dissolves into spacier arrhythmic playing (i.e. more like a GD "space") ->

d2t09 - starts off in space still (again, I wouldn't track this as anything separate).  Garcia’s off on his own spacey jag when Troy starts a bassline (about 1:20 in) that everyone else locks into and things groove along still in G.  Jerry is wailing over this with some heavy wahwah.  This groove provides the loose backbone for the jam, all while Garcia takes the lead in playing over the top.  The groove pulls up and stops, as Jim Vincent comes to the fore with a big countryish/wahwah trill

Someone labeled some part of this "Fighting for Madge," presumably after the Fleetwood Mac track from Then Play On.  That track was an except from a one-chord blues jam (in B), a pretty fiery duel between Peter Green and Danny Kirwin.  I can see why someone might hear a similarity -- but it's not what they're playing here.

d2t10 - The drums double up the beat, and this leads into a new groove, but it's still basically just a one-note thing in G.  Wales takes the lead.  The beat shifts into a Bo Diddley kind of syncopation (think Not Fade Away), and at 3 minutes Troy starts singing an assortment of Bo Biddley lyrics, but mostly "You Can't Judge a Book" (note that the band follows the changes of the tune).  This jams until the end.  Troy introduces everyone again. 

d2t11.  blues-rock in E ("Gypsy Woman")  The audience calls for an encore.  I hear someone holler for Sugaree.  Troy starts a hard-driving blues rock tune in E with Troy vocals - again, this sounds more like free associated lyrics than an actual composed song.  It lasts under two minutes, then Troy breaks for an audience clap-along, and then the groove breaks apart into something more Walesian and fusion-y.  Everyone gets a solo break, then they land on a big sustained ending chord.  

So, what's the setlist already?

How's this?

1/26/72 Symphony Hall, Boston, MA

South Side Strut >
unknown jazzy (Dm) >
One AM Approach
unknown blues-rock (Em) >
bass solo >
unknown funk (G) >
organ solo >
My Blues >
blues instrumental (G)
- (Garcia out)
"Get Down Mama"
Huxley's Howl
Blues Medley
- (Garcia in)
unknown jazz/space/rock (G) >
You Can't Judge a Book
e: "Gypsy Woman"
 

Not terribly satisfying, perhaps.  But at least you can fix some errors.

1/29/72, by Phil Simon (GDAO)



Sunday, November 1, 2020

The Wall Song: a short history

 

12/21/70, by Michael Parrish

David Crosby's wonderful, eerie tune "The Wall Song" is on my mind because of the forthcoming GarciaLive release of Garcia & Saunders at the Keystone Korner, 5/21/71, which you probably already know does not feature John Kahn or anyone else on bass.  [sorry, but: contrary to Rolling Stone's assessment, this has nothing to do with the freakin' Doors and everything to do with the fact that Saunders was adept at playing jazz basslines with his left hand, an innovation of Jimmy Smith's that was taken up by hundreds of organ players].  The Garcia folks have already shared the Wall Song from this show on Youtube, a surprising and unique performance by Garcia without Crosby.  So here is a stroll through the other known recordings of this song, from the small window of time that Garcia and Crosby were actively collaborating.

In 1989, Crosby recalled to David Gans that, during the 1970 sessions for his solo project If I Could Only Remember My Name (IICORMN), "the only time when we ever really got organized was on 'The Wall Song.' That was pretty organized, 'cause it goes through a lot of changes. And so we learned that and actually played it like an arrangement."  In addition to the changes, the song is structured two parts, the second of which (the "B" section or bridge, I guess) has a more syncopated "stop time" feel where the drums don't keep a steady groove, which probably required a little bit of work to lock into place (see the Matrix rehearsal below).

Like many of the songs on IICORMN, the Wall Song had been in the works for a couple of years already.  Steve Silberman tells of an unreleased solo Crosby session from 1968 that features the Wall Song as well as Tamalpais High, Laughing, and other future Cros classics.  But the IICORMN timeline is a little vague: according to pictures of the master reel boxes shared by Stephen Barncard, much of the material was originally tracked in Aug or Sept 1970, although the official project didn't begin until Nov 1970 (while Barncard was also mixing American Beauty).  It seems to have been wrapped up by December, but Crosby then booked Heider's again in January 1971 for sessions that apparently weren't intended for any album -- I need a citation, but I had the sense this was kind of an extended excuse to stay in the studio and avoid the outside world, since Crosby was still intensely grieving over his girlfriend's death.  These tapes were compiled and circulated in the early 90's, and have have since gone down in history as the PERRO (Planet Earth Rock & Roll Orchestra) tapes, named after a loose aggregation of musicians including the Jefferson Airplane and the Dead (here's one page with history; edit: here's a better one, with Barncard's annotations).  The earliest available Wall Song comes from that circulating PERRO collection.   According to Barncard's annotations, the full-band version on the PERRO tapes is from 12/13/70 -- after, it seems, the IICORMN material was in the can.


Dec 1970 (?) demo, PERRO tapes
The first of two takes on the PERRO set: Crosby alone with a 12-string acoustic and double-tracking his vocal.  Just what it says on the box.
 

12/13/70, PERRO session
The rest of the PERRO material is from Jan 1971, but 12/13/70 is apparently the date on the tape box.  Although the dating doesn't quite jive with the IICORMN material, this track is clearly more than just a studio jam: it sounds like Crosby playing rhythm (right channel), Garcia, Lesh, Kreutzmann, plus what is either another rhythm guitar (or maybe a piano?) in the left channel and a tambourine, and I'll bet some of that is overdubbed.  Garcia doesn't sing harmony vocals, and I don't know if the harmony part here is Nash or Crosby overdubbed [edit: it's Crosby overdubbed].  The song itself ends at 4 minutes and Cros says "okay," and the jam begins.  Garcia gets in some nice licks, but the jam never catches flight and eventually trickles off.  Someone says, "can we do one more?" and another person (Nash?) responds something I can't make out.


12/15/70, The Matrix
If the studio version above is dated correctly, then only a few days later Crosby played the Wall Song live at a gig at the Matrix with Garcia, Lesh, and either Hart or Kreutzmann (I think it's Hart; more on that in a minute).  The tape has been in circulation for ages, but its origins are still murky.  The lineup is often referred to as "David and the Dorks," though it was billed as Jerry Garcia & Friends.  The date has been given variously as 12/15, 12/16, 12/17 (i.e. any of the three nights they were booked at the Matrix) or 12/20 (unlikely).  Lost Live Dead runs down the circumstances that are known.  The first half of the circulating tape is a rehearsal and the second half is live, although it's not clear if the rehearsal is from the same day.   The Wall Song is played twice at the rehearsal and then once at the Matrix performance. 

 
The rehearsal takes are pretty skeletal and it doesn't sound like everyone knows the song yet.  Crosby is heard occasionally giving directions and someone else is counting the time out loud during the stop-time B section.  Garcia now adds some harmony vocals, which he does on every subsequent live version.  He sounds more comfortable in the jam, however, so that indicates that this is later than the PERRO studio version (above) -- but maybe Hart was learning it?  The first version cuts off during the jam at 7:37.  The second rehearsal take has more confident drumming, but someone is still counting the B-section out loud, and Cros is still giving verbal direction.  This jam also peters out when it seems like Garcia isn't sure whether or not to go back to the B-section, then Crosby starts singing wordlessly, and they go over the timing of the B-section again.  Lesh and Hart run through it on their own while Cros & Garcia discuss something else.

The kinks sound like they have been mostly ironed out for the live Matrix performance, and they all attack the jam with a little more feeling at first, and Garcia digs in with a little more bite.  But it seems like they pull back after a bit, sounding unsure about really opening up or not, and the jam only lasts 2 1/2 minutes.  Jerry's last note trails off in a smear of feedback, which is great.  The tempo is still way slow (I don't want to say plodding, but it's laaaid back) -- for what it's worth, I think the circulating tape is actually running too slow here. 

A word about the drummer: I do think it's Mickey Hart, although I think Kreutzmann played on the 12/13/70 recording.  There is photo evidence that Kreutzmann played with Crosby, Garcia, and Lesh on 12/21 at Pepperland (see Michael Parrish's amazing eyewitness account and also JGMF) and this fine Lost Live Dead post has a comment thread surmising that Kreutzmann is the most likely candidate for this Matrix gig.  But occam's razor aside, I still think it's Hart: the drumming is more basic than Kreutzmann's fluid cymbal work and fills, and also more like the drumming on the 8/21/71 jam, which is pretty much certainly also Hart.  Plus, if Kreutzmann had just laid down a serviceable take in the studio, why would they be relearning the song a few days later?  I would speculate that Hart was a last minute fill-in for Kreutzmann for whatever reason (Hart did play on Cowboy Movie on IICORMN, after all)


1/9/71 (?) - Graham Nash & David Crosby album version (uncut)
Crosby, Garcia, Lesh, Kreutzmann, and Graham Nash on piano.  Again, there is some confusion about the dating of this.  This is the full version of the track released on Nash & Crosby's 1972 album; the album cut fades before the jam.  David Gans broadcast this unedited version on the GDH twice (in 1989 and 2001, the latter a fantastic show on the Crosby/Garcia connection co-hosted with Steve Silberman) but gave two different dates, 11/11/71 and 11/9/71.  Other material for Nash/Crosby album (with different musicians) was recorded at a few sessions in Nov 1971, but JGMF thinks the date of this Wall Song is really 1/9/71, which locates it in the middle of the PERRO material.  Which makes sense to me.

From a Garciacentric perspective, I think this is the best performance.  The tempo is noticeably more brisk than the laid back live versions.  I also appreciate that Garcia plays with more interaction with the piano (Nash seems to know one lick, but it works well), whereas on every other version Garcia is pretty much out in the woods by himself.  He's playing his Strat here, so the sound is brighter and twangier.  Crosby's guitar is lower in the mix now.  They find a slightly higher cruising altitude for the jam, with a couple of changes in direction and a Crosby/Garcia driven peak that climaxes the jam before it quickly subsides: really this whole performance feels more like a group "jam" than Garcia soloing over a laid back groove.


5/21/71, Garcia/Saunders at the Keystone Korner 

Back to the slower tempo.  With no Crosby in sight, Garcia sings lead this time!  He's pretty shaky compared with Cros, but soulful nevertheless ("such a great wiiide open door").  Saunders and Vitt sound excellent, as you'd expect, and though I can't imagine they must have rehearsed this much beyond running it down before the gig, both of them nail this.  In his earliest documented appearance with Garcia, Martin Fierro adds almost nothing to the song itself but comes in strong right at the jam and occupies centerstage for much of what follows.  He does get some skronk on, so be warned -- I know there are folks who don't like this side of his playing, and he does go a bit over the top here, but I can dig it.  Free jazz, man.  Garcia takes a short turn, with a nice raw, feedbacky sound.  Vitt and Saunders really give him a nice pocket to work with.  Then Fierro solos again, quoting "A Day in the Life" around 9:18 [thanks, Light Into Ashes]  The groove starts pulling apart and getting freeform around 10 min, then they pull back together and groove on, slowly.  At 11:45 Fierro quotes "A Day in the Life" again.  The jam ends dramatically after around 12 1/2 minutes.


8/21/71, jam at Mickey's barn 

I've already covered some specifics about this tape here.  On The Wall Song, I hear Garcia, Crosby, Lesh, one drummer (Hart, I presume), Ned Lagin on piano, someone else on organ (David Freiberg, I guess, since it seems too basic to be Saunders), and John Cipollina joins halfway through, playing mostly slide (and also wahwah later) but barely takes the spotlight.   This one is over a half hour long and is primarily a jam on the main vamp with occasional drops into the verses, which are mostly instrumental.  Crosby and Garcia sing parts wordlessly (da da da), but do sing bits of the third verse, then eventually circle back around to the first verse much later.  It's all a lazy afternoon jam, man, but unfortunately Garcia never finds much of a thread.  He regularly comes to the forefront with some tasty stuff, but never sustains any ideas into a longer solo.  There's a lot of vamping.  The organ takes a brief solo (about 13:40 on the sbd copy) and Lagin's piano adds some simple but colorful fills throughout.  At the 20 minute mark, the tempo kicks up a bit and they abandon the vamp for a one-chord groove (although nothing too different happens) for about 8 minutes, then return to the tune for the final 5 minutes of the jam.  Crosby cues up the B-section and signals the ending.  As the kids say, this has a vibe.  It seems appropriate that we go out on this lazy, jammy note, with our heroes going down that golden road on a late summer afternoon in the woods up in Marin.  Jerry announces "I gotta go play" (he had a gig that night with the NRPS) and that's that.

I don't know if Crosby played the Wall Song again in this period.  It doesn't seem like Crosby & Nash ever played it in their shows in the mid 70's (it's hard to tell, though, since the network of Crosby setlists is tough to search; I was not super thorough with this, so I hope someone proves me wrong!)

Crosby remained connected to the Dead behind the scenes through 1975.  He participated in Ned Lagin's Seastones project, and joined the Dead at Weir's studio to rehearse Blues for Allah and some of his own tunes for the 3/23/75 SNACK benefit show.  But Crosby missed the show itself for the birth of his daughter (thanks Grateful Seconds).  The last of his informal public collaborations with Garcia was at a Seastones performance on 9/19/75 (per Nedbase).  Then, as far as I know, they didn't cross paths again until Crosby (solo) opened for the Dead on New Years Eve 1986.

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Oct 1974 Winterland revisited


 

Recently, I felt the tug to revisit these famous Dead shows, and the anniversary timing is a pleasant coincidence.  The milestone of being their final pre-hiatus performances after a year of larger-than-life technological, financial, and chemical excess probably casts too large a shadow on the performances themselves -- not to mention that they also produced an awful live album and a fantastic, but crushingly expensive, concert film.   One also doesn't typically talk about these shows without some grumbling about the unusual (at times bizarre) audio mix and sound quality of these tapes.  Given those two big "extra-musical" factors, I figured it wouldn't hurt to roll through all five shows and see what happened.

I am sure you know all about the state of the Grateful Dead world in October 1974.  So since these tapes have a unique provenance, I might as well start there:

They used my equipment, but I didn't do [the recording].  They thought I didn't want to do it because I had just had my kid... they took all my gear and Billy Wolfe [sic], who had been on the Rowan Brothers project with which Jerry was involved, recorded it, and it came out very strange.  The tapes were pretty awful.  He used a lot of audience in t.he mix; I don't know why or how he recorded so much leakage  -Betty Cantor-Jackson, Taping Compendium Vol 2

"[Steal Your Face] was made from totally screwed-up master tapes recorded on a 24-track machine, except that the nitwit who was given the  job to put Donna Godchaux's vocal on an onboard Nagra along with a SMPTE sync track driven so hard [saturated] that the vocal was wiped by the leakage.  At the same time, on the 24-track, there was one channel used for an "audience/ambience" mike!
Believe it or not, this continued for the whole run of shows. Weir's guitar mike fell over and the signal was lost during the first set of the first night, and this, too, continued -- not only through the second set, but through the entire run!"  -Bear, Taping Compendium Vol 1

Weir's guitar is more audible than Bear makes it out to be, but no one will disagree that these tapes sound bad, even by the more limited standards of 1974 sbd tapes.  10/16 and 10/17 aren't too bad, but the final three nights get progressively further out in the weeds.  In poor Billy Wolf's defense, it seems that Garcia had the idea of recording the music with an ear to multiple mixes that would emphasize different sound from different audience perspectives (e.g. how it would sound from the hotdog stand out in the hall vs. up close to the stage).  In a bonus feature on the GD Movie DVD, Jeffrey Norman described his work on the master tapes:  

[Garcia and Dan Healy] had some real concepts, some very technical, on why they did what they did.  There's a lot of kind of 'delay sounds,' with the idea that wherever you were in the theater - because remember this was for a theater presentation; the idea of 'in the home' didn't even exist - so for the theater, they wanted everyone to hear all instruments from wherever you were in the house, in the theater. ... now it's not the same at home... you'll hear your front wall and then there's a lot of kind of delays, things kinda moving around. It's cool.

Also, um, Wolf was also apparently dosed to the gills, as was just about everyone else.  In his book Skeleton Key, Steve Silberman recounts that  

Stephen Barncard, the producer of American Beauty, remembers that to get onstage you were encouraged to "lick a puddle of acid off your wrist," dropped there by a member of the road crew. "I was off an on that stage about fifteen times, which would have been OK, but I was smoking the hash oil too, so I was stupid and in outer space. People couldn't figure out why I wasn't saying anything. I couldn't say anything."

Rough mixes from those 24-track tapes have been in circulation, I think, since the mid-70's.  I recall reading once that most of these copies derived from cassettes given to a prominent trader by a nephew of a famous producer at Atlantic Records, but I have no citation for that.  Charlie Miller's transfers source from Rob Eaton's DAT copies of vault reels (although I assume that means a rough mixdown from the multitrack masters for some unknown purpose?)  More recently, copies of Garcia's own work tapes have come into circulation via the GEMS crew.

Given the historical weight and problematic sound quality, the general reception of the music itself seems to be all over the place.  I don't think anyone would stack these up in terms of musical quality against some of the biggies from June 74, but I'm sure that this run carries a lot of extra-musical association that influences many heads' feelings about the music itself.  Here's my own personal spoiler: 10/16 and 10/17 were better than I remembered when heard in contrast with the whole run, and I think both are underrated.  10/18 remains a deep-space favorite.  10/19 was dinged the most in comparison with the other four and didn't hold up as a whole show, and 10/20 remains mostly a big puddle.

10/16/74
https://archive.org/details/gd1974-10-16.sbd.patched.eaton-miller.90145.sbeok.flac16

The first couple songs are only on the aud tape, but once the mix is settled on the sbd tape, things sound pretty good.  The trademark wet thumpy reverb of these shows isn't as present here.  It feels to me like they're getting their space together during this first set, energetic but a little bug-eyed in general.  They finally let it all hang out for a gargantuan 30+ minute Playing in the Band to end.  It never gets too noisy and may feel a little low energy for some, but I like this trip.  This divides neatly into thirds with interesting shifts at around 10 and 20 minutes; Garcia and Godchaux kind of play through each other without much connection at first, but they find their way.  Notice that Garcia cues the ending a couple of times, but no one else is ready to leave the pool.

Phil & Ned generally opt for a gentler, introspective, probing kind of vibe for all five of these nights.  Garcia joins in tonight around 15 1/2 minutes in, and Lagin seems to ease off and let Garcia and Lesh go at it.  Kreutzmann shows up, then Godchaux, and the Jam that follows is less spacey and more like a loose, ambling digression down a few paths: some fragmented funkiness here, more of a vaguely Playin-ish feel there.  Lagin's electric piano is audible in the mix along with Godchaux's.  Weir seems not as involved in this -- but it was his birthday, after all, so there have been more pressing concerns waiting for him in the wings.  A groove begins to slowly solidify, then Lesh and Kreutzmann duet for a bit, then some looser, sparse Space (and impatient audience clapping) and finally Wharf Rat.  That was just 50 minutes of pure improv, folks, 35 of which was with Garcia.  Wharf Rat is maybe a little too placid, but maybe just a good fit for this lazy vibe.  Garcia wanders off the path again on a mostly solo trip, eventually joined by Lesh and Lagin for a very relaxed set up for Eyes of the World.  To me, this is an ideal relaxed pace, laying out a smooth but focused trip through this one (Lagin on electric, Godchaux on grand piano).  Rather than ride the end jam too long, Garcia drifts back into solo space noodling and glides them all back to earth.  Wowza.  

The final stretch feels more like recalibration than rock concert, but they deliver a nice earthy follow-up jam with a longer Truckin' > GDTRFB > Uncle John's Band, a most satisfying end to things.  And Lesh sings happy birthday to Weir.  I've felt that this show was overlooked in the past, and I still feel that: ideal '74 Dead for those who prefer the scenic route.


10/17/74

https://archive.org/details/gd1974-10-17.sbd.smith.gems.99032.flac24
https://archive.org/details/gd1974-10-17.140588.SBD.Gastwirt.Miller.Noel.t-flac1644

It's a toss up between the GEMS and Miller sources: the GEMS sounds brighter (maybe too bright?) vs. Miller's sounds quieter and hissier in spots, but is more complete.

The night kicks off in a big way when the piano lid falls midway through Promised Land -- without any satisfying audible crash, but with a host of buzzy tech issues.  But this first set is my favorite one of the five shows, with a prime selection for my liking and a warm, natural flow.  I really like both this Half Step and China>Rider, and the cowboy tunes are consistently very well-done (a feature of this run that warrants a little shout out, btw).  The Weather Report Suite is spotless and excellent, and right now it feels like it edges out the one from the 18th.  Phil & Ned's set is a compact 10 minutes (on tape, at least), the shortest of the run but also the edgiest and most "challenging."  I also detect a live mic picking up what appears to be a toddler having a temper tantrum (around 4 minutes in).  

The second set opens with the best of the three Scarlet Begonias, featuring a nice Donna "scat" solo in the jam. He's Gone is divine and mellow until Lesh rather abruptly kicks thing up a notch (which he does on 10/19 as well) for the Other One.  Lesh seems ready to rock, but Garcia pulls in a more introspective direction and the jam coalesces after a few minutes into a themeless but driving jam that I associate more with 72-73 era Dark Stars.  Lesh nudges the Other One again, but they fall instead into full Space which they take to a full screeching meltdown (the only one of the run).  The post-space reverie has some tasty Garcia/Godchaux pillowtalk before finally slamming back to the Other One for real.  After the first verse, they veer into a 90 second Spanish Jam digression, a longer Mind Left Body Jam, and then another interesting harmonic tug-of-war slightly akin to 10/29/73.  Garcia has his sights set on Stella Blue, and Godchaux follows his lead but Lesh keeps pushing for the Other One; Garcia responds with Other One-y licks but refuses to leave E major until Weir sets 'em up for the second verse.  A nice moment of pleasant tension!  The promised Stella Blue is a real beauty and a fine bookend for the jam.  '74 wasn't a big year for long-form Other Ones, but this is a quiet sleeper.


10/18/74
https://archive.org/details/gd1974-10-18.111459.gems.BOSWELL-SMITH.flac24
https://archive.org/details/gd1974-10-18.BEAR.gems.110515.flac16
https://archive.org/details/gd1974-10-18.sbd.miller.110771.flac16

The GEMS Boswell/Smith copy is the best one, imho.  Interestingly, there is also a separate GEMS source with the note "recording and mix by Bear" (no other lineage) with a drier mix: less drum reverb and room ambience but with more hum, and a kind of a toss-up for sound quality - and it's also not the complete show.  Wait, Bear also rolled tape at these shows?  I have questions.

This was the one show from the run that I had on cassette as a teenager, but the lure of nostalgia unfortunately isn't working it's magic on the first set, which feels fairly laconic to me.  The country tunes come off as the most energetic and appealing, especially Cumberland Blues.  The Weather Report Suite closer is prime time, however, even though I think I like 10/17 better.

The main event, anyway, is the jam, which is ultimately the most memorable music from this run.  Like 10/16 and 9/11/74, here is a unique blob of acid-saturated '74 Grateful Dead that doesn't have the cocaine-edged sharpness that characterizes a lot of the year's most exciting music.  It may have more longeurs, but I still have a warm spot in my heart for this deep-spelunking expedition.  The Phil & Ned portion seem to go deeper than the rest, and with more patience, although Lagin gets a big LOL for dispersing some impatient clappers with a big synth wash around @8:30.  Garcia becomes audible around 14 minutes in, and the deep spaceship vibes just go on and on and on.  Kreutzmann appears after nearly a half hour and his steady beat changes the course of things.  Kruetzmann and Lesh play together, then just Kruetzmann, until Godchaux makes his return.  The following jam has a jaunty, less spacey feel thanks to Lesh's stop/start bass idea, and it becomes evident that Garcia is heading towards Dark Star.  The pre-verse jam is sparkling and bright, and Godchaux's electric piano adds a lot of nice color to this.  Garcia sings the verse, but rather than pivot to something new, the jam rolls on in the same general direction and works up to a satisfyingly tasty climax around 12:45 on this GEMS copy.  After some sneaky tuning and a change in direction, the following jam feels more directionless and loose to me, with Garcia vanishing for a few brief stretches, though the general flow never gets too far from the standard Dark Star groove.  The last minute is pretty splashy and given mostly to Kruetzmann, until Garcia slowly and quietly starts Morning Dew.  Slow, beautiful, and a classic performance immortalized in the movie.  A glistening set of uninterrupted, totally in-the-zone spacey Grateful Dead magic.

The third set seems a bit obligatory at first, but they rally for a final ride through a solid Not Fade Away (not a barnstormer, but some nice rollicking Godchaux piano) and then GDTRFB from the movie, another classic -- "going where the cliiimate suits my clothes."  


10/19/74
https://archive.org/details/gd1974-10-19.140626.sbd.gastwirt.miller.sirmick.fixed.flac1644
https://archive.org/details/gd1974-10-19.131704.sbd.boswell-smith.flac16
https://archive.org/details/gd1974-10-19.sbd-pset1.bear.gems.stevesw.112791.flac16/


I like the quality on the newest Charlie Miller source, although there is another partial Bear recording that again features a drier, more palatable mix -- but is just part of the first set.  The mix gets wetter, with an overall more reverbed, ambient sound to the drums, and both Lesh and Godchaux quite prominent in the mix.  The first set is very long at 95 minutes, but they sound kinda scattered.  Eyes of the World is the one big exception: it's a popular favorite and one of the best, with crisp and memorable solos and an overall smooth, gliding feel that I enjoy more than some other "grinding" '74 Eyes jams.  Otherwise, I think they excel on the ballads in this set, and not much else.  Phil & Ned starts off unusually with what sounds like a recording of the ocean and a drum machine, before getting into the usual headspace for the second half.  Garcia doesn't join them tonight.

The second set is fine in many ways, but is ultimately unsatisfying to me since there's kind of a hole in the middle of the set where the big jam should be.  A beautiful Uncle John's Band opens (repeating the rare openers on 8/6/74 and 9/18/74, an inspired idea that they almost never did again), followed by a longer run of country-flavored tunes that all sound great to me: I'll forgive the, ah, overenthusiastic vocals on the otherwise delightful Tomorrow is Forever, and Garcia sounds cracklin' on Mexicali and sublime on the slow Dire Wolf.  They bookend the jam with a split Sugar Magnolia (I believe the first they'd ever done this?) (edit: they had done this on 6/28 and 8/6/74 as well; thanks Pat for pointing out my mistake); He's Gone winds into Truckin' as usual, but the intro just grooves on and on for a minute (nothing seems obviously wrong with Weir) until Kreutzmann starts the tangalang cymbal beat that moves them into Caution territory.  Weird; not bad, but not much beyond the initial surprise that they're playing Caution.  Garcia doesn't sound wholly committed to wherever this train is going: he takes flight for a few minutes then sputters out, leaving Lesh and Kruetzmann to plonk around for a bit.  The heart of the jam is 10 minutes of loose, open Space, a lot of which feels like a Garcia/Kreutzmann duet.  They return to the deferred Truckin', which does sound very fine indeed, and then pull out a surprise Black Peter (one of only three that year) that sounds excellent, then wrap it up with Sunshine Daydream.  Not bad at all!  But the real improvisation never seems to take root in anything and consequently is pretty forgettable, more like a surprise digression than a focused exploration.


10/20/74
https://archive.org/details/gd1974-10-20.sbd.alligator.GEMS.94851.flac16
https://archive.org/details/gd1974-10-20.132113.sbd.boswell-smith.flac16

The best circulating digital sources all come from the GEMS crew; the Alligator source has a drier mix than the filesets sourced from Garcia's copy, but ymmv as to what sounds better.  The tape quality is the worst of the five shows, as is the playing.  I am sure it was one hell of a party, but this is a pretty weak overall for '74.  The first set is actually pretty solid.  They up the novelty factor by opening with two rarities -- the first Cold Rain & Snow in a year and another Mama Tried -- and they hit their stride with Jack Straw through a fine China>Rider.  Like 10/19, the Phil & Ned segment starts off with a drum machine and some rhythmic pinging from Lagin (it reminds me a little of Stereolab!) who grooves along until Lesh makes his audible appearance.  A more typical but pretty sparse jam follows, and Garcia joins in for the final 15 minutes.

As you know, the prodigal Mickey Hart appeared backstage during the break and, despite grumping from Kreutzmann, rejoined the band for much of the rest of the show.  Insert requisite cowbell joke here (and he did indeed bring one along).  The second set doesn't ever really get there, as far as I'm concerned, but the mix is so bad that it's hard for me to say for sure. Garcia is low, Weir is practically MIA, Lesh & Godchaux are front and center, and double drum kits means even more thwumpy reverb.  Playing and Not Fade Away are fine enough but stay in the shallow end, and the Other One has more spacey noodling than primal era thunder.  To be fair, I quite liked this Wharf Rat and the jam back into Playing.  They muddle through a surprise (and I would bet unrehearsed) Good Lovin': no one seems sure what to do (Lesh sounds ready to jam it 70-72 style, but Garcia seems to want to follow the changes at first?), and Garcia plays a lot of low-gear slide guitar.  Promised Land is a total mess, and Eyes of the World is pretty tepid and lumbering, although setlist asteriskers do correctly note that Garcia clearly plays the Slipknot! melody at the very end.  At least Stella Blue ends thing on a bright, beautiful note, before Sugar Magnolia stomps it out (with Mickey again joining in) -- for the record, I only hear Mickey (after the jam) on Good Lovin' and Sugar Mags.  Bill Graham pulls the crew onstage, and the second encore is an odd pick of Half Step (but well played) that ends with a perfectly timed drop into And We Bid You Goodnight, a very nice final touch.

Friday, October 9, 2020

Hartbeats update, again

I did another major-ish update to the Mickey Hart & the Hartbeats mega-post (coincidentally timed for their anniversary), mostly concerning two hidden-in-plain-sight sources -- a Rolling Stone article from 1969 and Dick Latvala's recollection of a mysterious setlist for 10/30 -- plus other little doodads.

Will that post ever be complete?  Not likely.  We're just thrown together by fate, so we're playing Fate Music here, folks.

Stay tuned, though, for a reconsideration of the Oct 74 Winterland shows, which I have been revisiting and reevaluating.  One of these days... #gratefuldeadstandardtime

Saturday, August 22, 2020

8/22/81 JGB and Phil

First, rest in peace to Jim Vita, taper of many fine GD and JGB shows in the early/mid 80's, including this one.  We all owe him and all tapers a great deal.

So what's the deal with this show?  It sticks out because Phil Lesh is playing bass with the JGB (and a Fender Jazz Bass, at that), which had also happened that June for a small run of shows that John Kahn missed in order to travel Europe with his mother.  JGMF has posts on 6/24/81 and 6/25/81, and Lostlivedead has an eyewitness account of 6/26/81 (also officially released in part).  But Lesh popped up again at this show two months later, in a place Garcia had never played before or again, in the middle of a normal weekend run of Keystone shows where Kahn was otherwise present.  

Why would Kahn play Friday, Saturday, and Monday, but miss the Sunday gig?  My uninformed guess is that it had something to do with the show itself, a benefit for "Fairfax schools" (and a pricey one at that: $15 as compared to $7-10 for the average JGB or Dead show that month).  The venue was the Fairfax Pavilion, a community rec center in the heart of tiny downtown Fairfax, right next to the little league field.  Phil Lesh happened to be a Fairfax resident since 1968 and, at this stage in his life, a regular patron of Fairfax's drinking establishments (although he moved to San Rafael around this time, according to his book, so I don't know if he was still getting mail there or what).  It seems like a strange coincidence that he just happened to play a one-time gig with Garcia at his local community center that was a benefit for a local community interest.  Dave from Grateful Seconds saw this show and remembers knowing in advance that Lesh would be playing, so the "subbing for Kahn" idea seems even less likely.  Does anyone know more about that one?

There are a number of well-circulated Bob Minkin photos from this night (some here) of Garcia beaming at Lesh and both of them looking pretty happy (compared with Minkin's pics of two nights earlier at the Keystone, where Garcia and Kahn both look like overcooked seafood).  Unfortunately, though, according to some attendees, it was a weird night with heavy police presence and a phoned-in death threat (see Jerrybase comments).  And I am sorry to say that musically it isn't great, either.  The brief 38 minute first set is the worse of the two.  Garcia totally loses the changes during his first solo in How Sweet It Is and blows the "open my eyes at night" verse after his second one, neither of which seems like a good sign at all.  Mission in the Rain has some tempo issues at first, but is otherwise decent.  Keyboardist Jimmy Warren is not having a particularly good night either, and fizzles through most of his solos.  Sugaree lifts off a bit during Garcia's second solo.  Tangled Up in Blue has more tempo issues, wobbling from 125 to 135bpm from the beginning to the first solo, more lyric flubs, then Garcia sparks a quick two minute jam before punching out quickly.  The second set (about 45 min) is a bit more together.  I'll Take a Melody isn't bad (I hear some scatting from one of the singers in the jam), but the highlight is The Harder They Come, a tune I usually feel more ambivalent about than not.  As was usual for this lineup, Warren and Melvin Seals lay down a bubbling, interlocking two-keyboard groove for the jam, which Lesh complements with a minimal bass accompaniment (compared with Kahn's typically more bustly part), and Garcia rolls out the carpet over it.  Not bad!  Knockin' sounds fine to me, if a little stiff at first, and Midnight Moonlight finds a solid, steady tempo for itself.

Like the June shows, it's hard to say anything specific about Lesh's bass playing.  You would think he would stick out for his trademark unusual style, but he mostly plays it pretty safe here and (probably wisely) sticks to the parameters of the songs.  Occasionally something pops out as an only Phil would play that moment, but those are few and far between.

Also of note, this weekend were the last shows drummer Daoud Shaw played with the band.  Kreutzmann seems to have filled in for the September gigs (there's a picture of him at the next JGB show on 9/7/81), and then Ron Tutt returned for the November '81 east coast tour (and presumably two Keystone warm-up gigs immediately beforehand, which do not yet circulate on tape).  And Phil Lesh never played with the JGB again after this one strange night in downtown Fairfax.

photo by Bob Minkin