Monday, June 20, 2022

6/4/74 - One Mint Julep?

 

My Europe 72 marathon hit a little snag (or rather, life failed to clear the wide path that listening to Europe 72 deserves), but writeups of all that stuff will be coming very soon.  Sigh.  

But in the meantime, here's one for the Garcia/Saunders setlist completists: I wrote up a lengthy review of 6/4/74 many years ago, but there's been a tiny piece of that show that's been nagging at me ever since: at the end of All Blues, Martin Fierro starts playing a blues lick that I could never quite place, and today it finally clicked: it's "One Mint Julep."  Fierro tries it once at 20:13, then gets it right the second time, and Garcia picks up on it and joins in on third go-round.  They riff on it for a few minutes until the song ends at 23:11 (times are for this transfer).

"One Mint Julep" (wiki), by Rudy Toombs, was an early Atlantic Records R&B hit for the Coasters and then found even greater fame as an instrumental when Ray Charles played it on his Genius + Soul = Jazz album in 1961.  A quick look at discogs shows that a variety of folks recorded it after that: R&B instrumentalists like King Curtis and Booker T the MG's, but also more modern jazz players like Milt Jackson, Jimmy Smith, and Freddie Hubbard (Hubbard's version was the one I was listening to today when it clicked), and also Nashville guitarist Chet Atkins -- among certainly hundreds of others.  It's hard to say which version Fierro et al were most influenced by here, since they're playing it over the same groove as All Blues rather than a more typical R&B rhythm.  They also don't play the entire tune: they don't ever play the bridge, just the main blues lick, which was probably in the DNA of every working R&B or jazz musician of the era.  So I don't know if the setlist keepers want to label this as All Blues > One Mint Julep, or just put the ol' asterisk in there with a little note about it.

Carry on.  Or go listen to this show again!  It's great.

Does anyone hear something different?

Sunday, May 29, 2022

Europe 72: the jams, pt 4

courtesy Mark Princi (GDAO)
 

PART 4: PARIS, BICKERSHAW

5/3/72 Paris, Other One #6

They jam on the Truckin' shuffle for a bit after the final vocal, then ease down into the Other One @9:30, which the official release tracks separately. Jerry seems happy to get down into it, but then everyone detours into a magical oasis (nice touch with the organ sustain from Pigpen).  Clouds roll in: this isn't aggressive, but it's not pretty either. The ominous vibes simmer down and then @4:40 an amazing moment happens: just Bob and Phil alone for a minute, before Jerry trickles back in. It is the first of many such beautiful moments! Phil drops the roll @6:40, but no one else is ready to go there and Jerry seems to ignore it completely.  But Phil keeps trying a few more times and @8 min it finally sticks (still no buy-in from Jerry, though).  Another shining moment is @9:50 when Keith and Jerry both mindmeld and ride down a descending progression, and then Jer really comes pouring in. Wooowwww. But once again it burns off quickly and @11:40 it's just Phil and Bobby again. After a minute, Phil & Bob start building it back up, and one by one everyone rejoins, Jerry dramatically waiting until last.  After all that, this is some pretty raging Other One jamming!  Bob finally sings the first verse @17:20 and then it collapses into Drums.

Phil returns (new track here) and duets with Billy until @1:50 and then rolls 'em back into the Other One and they're back in full flight. @3:15 they shift into a brighter, major jam (Phil hints Feelin Groovy for a sec) but it quickly tilts back into the O1. The Other One/Feelin' Groovy seesaw tips back and forth, shifting modes with a really engaging and interesting flavor. The Other One reestablishes itself fully @6:20 or so, and then Jerry is off into space, with Bob and Phil quietly playing a rhythmic figure underneath. The vibe here is spacious and wide-open. By @9:30ish Jerry is steering Phil and Bob towards the edge of the abyss, but rather than plunging into madness things become starkly beautiful (12ish min now). This is amazing.  In what couldn't be a more ideal selection for this precise moment in time, Bobby strums them into Bobby McGee.  Afterwards, Jerry spirals 'em back into the Other One and at this point my powers of qualitative assessment have gone out the window. Unbelievably wonderful. 2nd verse and out. Wharf Rat. Then the Jack Straw from Europe '72. Oh yes.

This jam maintains its all-timer status for me. But it was interesting to notice that, for a lot of it, Phil and Jerry seem playfully at odds with each other. 4/24 and 4/26 both had a similar MO of both of them consistently tugging in different directions while still maintaining an incredibly high level of connection. This 5/3 jam also stands out to me, in hindsight, for having a number of moments where Jerry is letting the rest of the band establish a mood, holding back, then making a well-timed dramatic re-entry that seems fully intentional (as opposed to a technical glitch).

Good Lovin #7, at 16ish min, this one isn't one of the behemoths. They seem more eager to find some new sidepaths to explore, but are willing to come back to the main trail when called, and are pretty responsive to Pig's lead -- and Pig in turn seems fully comfortable calling all the shots.  I believe this is the first time he starts working out his "I will ride my woman, which requires both a fair amount grease and also the shifting of gears" motif (slightly more artfully, of course, but I'm sure you get the jist) as the band gets loose and spacey for a minute @10 min, then slowly amp it up as Pig eases his lady up into the higher gears.


5/4/72 Paris, Dark Star #6

Dark Star's opening jam is quite lovely, reminding me of a green canopy of trees with Jerry flying around underneath. After 5ish min, they drift lazily into an uptempo, minor-keyed jam driven by Billy's toms. None of this is really opening my third eye, but it's a perfect way to drift downstream on a warm day. The waters get a little bumpy and around 11 min and they hop off the boat and onto land right into Dark Star and the first verse @12:10. Jerry sounds husky. There's an immediate drop-off into a very quiet space afterwards (1970 style), just Phil and Bob at first. Jerry emerges after a few minutes, but this never builds up to anything intense -- I assume there's some equipment problem, since folks are yelling off mic and Billy winds up soloing for 2 1/2 minutes. They reenter into a similar space, very quiet at first, and finally Jerry threatens to get hairy, but doesn't. After maybe 6 min of this, they ease off and collectively opt for something prettier, sailing off into a bright, brisk jam: Jerry is operating within the Dark Star parameters, but Phil and Bob are thinking Feelin' Groovy, and the resulting uncertainty is a joyous thing to behold. Jerry appears to be actively resisting the Feelin' Groovy jam, then finally succumbs at 10:45... but it feels like the magical moment has passed. Nevertheless, they skip through the sun-kissed dewdrops for a bit, before Jerry again begins to assert Dark St (heads up @13:20 when he turns the wahwah back on, I love this bit). @15:25 he succeeds in bringing them back, and then actually sings the second verse! (first time this tour). They do the old-school ending and wind it down into Sugar Magnolia (the one from the E72 album, btw).  40 min total for this Dark Star, including the drum solo, but not one that stands with the greats from the era.

Good Lovin' #8 opens the 2nd set and has a more relaxed feel and slightly slower tempo than others.  At 22 1/2 min, the boys certainly take the scenic route, but actually never really wander too far off the road.  Pigpen never really hands the wheel over, and also seems like he's taking his sweet time with his lady tonight. I was getting lazy with my note-taking, but there's a distinctive descending chord progression at one point that the band jams on for a bit (not Mind Left Body) that I don't recognize from other Good Lovin's from this tour. The long roundabout digression at the end as they circle back to the finale is also pretty sweet. imho this is one of the better ones of the tour so far.



5/7/72 Bickershaw, Dark Star #7 > Other One #7

We probably all know that this festival was a rainy, cold, muddy mess, and I am probably succumbing to the power of suggestion, but this Dark Star does feel a little stormier right up front. I hear Pigpen thickening the stew with some maracas and maybe other percussion (it's low in the mix, but this is the first time I've noticed him doing this on this tour). The band interaction feels a little more kaleidoscopic tonight, rather than the more linear approach of the last two versions. 5 min of Dark Star jamming, then Jerry and Bob drift away while Billy and Phil rumble along below. This begets that jazzier, kind of Playin-ish, minor-keyed jam (not the Phil jazz theme) that rolls along briefly before Jerry comes soaring back into the major Dark Star modality. This is great. They land in another oasis and drop the rhythmic momentum, though it never gets too spacey or atonal -- I really like Bob's chord voicings in here. @12ish Jerry swims back to Dark Star, but then an amusing cat & mouse game begins as they pull back and forth between Dark Star and creepier space: Phil cues DS, Jerry defers for weirdness, Phil drops a big space bomb, Jerry sidesteps right back into DS. Ha!  @14:30 they're back for real and Jerry sings the 1st verse. They build to a big dramatic A chord, then ease down, splashing around, seemingly unsure whether to commit to a spacey meltdown or not. They do not. Billy takes a solo.

Unusally, the Other One comes out of Drums, and also has a more dense feel to it, now in part because Pigpen's organ is very present: louder in the mix and more active than usual.  Check how @3:25 he even prods Billy into a brisk 6/8 swing for a few bars. I hear you, Pig! Jerry brings 'em to a peak. @4:20 they all ease back, Jerry eventually maneuvers into a minor key, Billy lays back, they float, Jerry brings them back up to the O1 by 9 min and Bob sings the 1st verse @10:25. Pig even alternates fills with Jerry between the lyrics. @11:30 they pull the brakes and slow things down (Jer and Bob surreptitiously tune up), and set sail for a long Space. Just Jer, Phil, and Bob at first, Keith back by @16:35, Phil starts to get aggressive, Jerry comes and goes. This is all mostly atonal space, not a lot of drums, everyone doing a very slooow burn, but it never wanders down the Tiger path. By 23 min it's Phil and Jerry apparently revving up for a meltdown/throwdown duel, but it turns into more a playful joust instead.  @24 Bob locks into a repeated one-note groove and pulls everyone with him, and @25 they burst back into a full-band jam and that feels almost like a blissed-out Dark Star peak to me. Wowww. @27 they veer back to the O1, rage it for a bit, get to the second verse @29:40 and the outro folds into Sing Me Back Home.

Hugely satisfying to have these two played back to back like this, even though the boys don't sound like they're in a truly divine space. Both versions are 2nd tier for this tour. But what does that even mean anymore, man.

Good Lovin' #9 is a hair under 20 min. Pigpen is in great shape, directing things right at the top of the jam, easing back into a similar mellow groove as 5/4 around 11 min in (again with the "changing gears" motif). @13:30 Jerry climaxes the jam with a repeated single note that powers right back into the Good Lovin riff. Haven't heard him do that one yet! Nice move. But Pigpen ignores the cue and keeps his rap going. Yeah, Pig! He's going for it tonight (breakin' them rocks from dawn til doom). I also detect Jerry teasing "Tequila" a few times after 16 min (lol).  This Good Lovin' wasn't as powerful as 5/4 for me, but the unique climax to the jam and Pigpen's extra moxie gets the gold star.

And they also play Lovelight tonight. Like the one on 4/26, it's not at the level of the Good Lovin's from this tour -- but unlike 4/26, Pigpen at least takes a crack at delivering another rap, albeit less coherently than his spots in Good Lovin'. Jerry plays a little nasty slide guitar @9:35 and even teases Caution at the end... which would be too good to be true, so they wrap it up with GDTRFB>NFA instead.

Monday, May 2, 2022

Europe 72: the jams, pt 3

Gunther Kieser's deadhead
 

PART 3: GERMANY

4/21 Bremen, Other One #4
 

This was an in-studio performance for TV broadcast (you've probably seen the video with the, um, extreme blue screen effects; see Light Into Ashes for a fine analysis of the video).  Truckin' has a false start and grand collapse before restarting, then a shorter jam (no reprised last verse) and a minute of splashing around before a brief Drums.  Unsurprisingly, given the circumstances, Other One #4 stays pretty close to the surface: they start off playing too fast and Jerry has to step on the brakes about 2 minutes in; first verse comes at 5, then a few minutes of space, and back into the Other One for the second verse, and stop at 15:45.  Still a pretty good time, just nothing much to comment on.  But what's unsual is what happens next: Jerry feedbacks them into another spacey jam that takes shape when Billy lays down a gentle beat at 18:20.  It's a little reminscent of the pretty 3/22/72 post-Caution jam, lovely as a sping breeze.  They cruise for two minutes, Jerry whips up a little ending, and they're done.



4/24 Dusseldorf, Dark Star #4

Actually, starting with Good Lovin #5 makes more sense here, since it's a clear harbinger of the main event. This is by far the most "out" Good Lovin' jam so far, and it sounds like the band's improvisation here is less oriented around accompanying Pigpen's rap, which in turn seems more free-associative than usual (Jesse Jarnow has pointed out that Pig quotes James Carr's "Pouring Water on a Drowning Man" here, which I didn't catch).  The contrast between his vocal and the spacier music is pretty surreal: it hits peak weirdness @7ish minutes as Pig gets ready to see about his woman down the hall, while the band is trilling away at an atonal space jam.  Hey, whetever floats yer boat.  This version is 17 min total, long but not nearly as long as the titanic 4/14 version, but it's a great complement for being much, much stranger.

This Dark Star is (spoiler) one of my all-time favorites and remains a peak intense GD experience.  The feel is immediately quite different from the prior excursions: Phil sounds particularly raw and pushy at the start, and after a minute or so it seems to rub off on everyone else. @3 1/2 min they fall down a little hole and immediately start considering evil.  No looking back at this point: the rest of the pre-verse jams (between 5-11 minutes) feels like a back & forth between Jerry pulling them into the sun and Phil pulling them right back into the darkness -- this multi-mode tug-of-war makes for an extremely engaging pre-verse jam.  One moment that I particularly like is the jam at 8-10 minutes, which surges from a bright, major Dark Star tonality into a faster, driving jam that Phil tries to steer into minor with an early attempt at his King Solomon-ish "jazz theme," which Jerry rejects by pulling everyone back into a peaky Dark Star jam which climaxes and dovetails into him and Bob playing a harmonized DS riff down into the first verse.  Yowza.  And then!  And then afterwards, whooooo shit, after the verse... out come the knives. Everything sounds about 100 feet high, giant waves rising up, big Phil chords underneath Bobby feedback and eagle-high Jerry.  @15ish min Billy swings 'em out of the jurassic period and into a brisk 12/8, but darkness wins out again, and by 18 min it's a Jerry/Phil faceoff as everyone else eggs them on. Jer finally turns on the wahwah and a bloodbath ensures.  The Tiger jam here from 19-21 minutes has to be one of the most brutal meltdowns of their career.  The tsunami finally breaks, they splash around for a couple minutes in the wreckage, and then ta da! Me and My Uncle.  Well.  Afterwards, they blur back into space, bruised but beautiful, and things get even prettier once Keith joins back in after a few minutes. But once again it descends into darkness.  They pull out again into a 12/8 swing and move back towards the Dark Star theme -- this is amazing, people -- morphing into that "country-ish" kinda feel, then Jerry hints at a full return to Dark Star itself, playing the riff a few times but then sidestepping smoothly into Wharf Rat instead.  [sidenote: this Dark Star shares a few things with 12/6/73, including an ending with Jerry teasing the second verse then veering elsewhere] That was almost 44 min of Dark Star, including MAMU.  Sugar Magnolia segues naturally out of Wharf Rat and jams to a close. Bobby says danke shoen and Phil announces they're taking a break and playing some more.

iirc, Rock Scully's book says that Karlheinz Stockhausen was in attendance at this show. Take that with a grain of salt, but if the presence of one of the 20th century's leading avant-garde composers inspired this masterpiece, well, then that's pretty freakin' sweet (and Light Into Ashes has pointed out that Stockhausen had performed in Dusseldorf on 4/16). Other pretty freakin' sweet things are the fact that the band CAN was in the audience for this show (h/t to Jesse Jarnow), and that the venue was a planetarium.

Another small but notable thing that contributes to the weirdness of this particular DS is the mastering of the recording: there's an occasional but very noticeable delay on Jerry's guitar and Keith's piano (which also moves around the stereo field a few times), and also on Jerry's vocal.  It's inconsistent enough that it's really noticeable when it does happen -- check out about 40 secs into the DS track after MAMU where the delay is so extreme that it sounds like there are two Jerrys.  It's not on the older circulating sbd, and so far I haven't noticed this on any of the other E72 recordings.  Why would John Cutler do that?



4/26 Frankfurt, Other One #5

The Truckin' jam is nothing out of the ordinary tonight, but sounds high and wide-open: after the final vocal reprise, they jam a bit more of the Truckin' shuffle, pull apart for some pre-Other One noodling, then stop almost dead before Drums, although Keith tinkles by himself for a bit before Billy takes over. This Other One is a striking contrast with the Dark Star of 4/24: Evil Phil is nowhere to be found tonight.  Indeed, he seems almost chastened after his dance with the devil two nights ago: nearly every time Jerry seems to be pulling off towards darker weirdness, Phil tips them all right back towards something brighter.  The jam before the first verse veers between the Other One and some other mode(s), but mainly Billy is taking it easy, giving this a placid, way high-up, top-of-the-mountain kind of feel: it's not quite 'space' but very gentle and melodic and beautiful.  First verse comes @13:30, then they keep moving forward in this more spacious 'open' Other One feel. At 17 min it starts getting strange, Jerry hits the wahwah, the vibe gets prickly... so Phil pulls the other way and slides them into his 'jazz theme' at 18:20, which everyone picks up even though Jerry clearly has his sights set on some wahwah space fury. This is almost funny! But it sounds fantastic, of course. They ease off at 21 min and then things start getting ominous: slow and intense, no drums at first, but Banshee Jerry and Throwdown Phil start rustling up the feedback curtains. Things slowly build up to the point where Jerry starts revving up for a Tiger jam @26 min, but they no one else really builds up enough of a head of steam to go there with him (btw heads up for a quickie Spanish Jam suggestion from Bob around 27 min). By 30-31 minutes, Jerry is spiraling out arpeggios while everyone else regroups. imho it never quite comes together into anything coherent for this final stretch (Phil suggests Feelin' Groovy @31:25, but nope), though it is plenty cool nevertheless. They get back into the Other One, sing the second verse @35:35, and then they wrap it up and neatly move into Comes a Time.

Phil's 180 shift in attitude here came as a real surprise to me.  Also for your consideration is that the Hundred Year Hall CD (1995) was the first E72 music to be officially released after the original album, and evidently Phil was the one who made the call to release this show.

Good Lovin #6 is a compact 12 min tonight. It's very different from the last one, since Pigpen is leading the charge throughout and the boys seem happy to fall in line. They digress a bit from the usual jam for about 2 minutes at the end, but Pigpen reigns it in.

This show also has the first of three Lovelights of this tour -- but Pigpen doesn't do much with this at all, and the majority of it is instrumental jamming, nothing groundbreaking, just cruising along at a nice speed. Jerry hits a nice climax around 15 min which he threads into GDTRFB, though it takes them a while to recalibrate and finally get into it. Pretty nice, nevertheless.



4/29/72 Hamburg, Dark Star #5

Dark Star has a warm, pleasant feel to the starting jam, with a nice foggy digression around 5 min. @6:40 a Feelin' Groovy jam comes together, but Jerry seems less committed and derails it after a minute by sliding into a minor mode and leaving a small pile-up in his wake. @8:40 they land in spacey jam, which I quite liked this time around: austere, regal vibe to this, and more happening from Keith in particular - weird, but very beautiful. Eventually it gets into a creepier pre-Tiger space and Phil starts uneleasing some bombers at 13 min, but then they surprisingly move it back to Dark Star, a nice moment of group-mind ESP there. First verse @14:50, and then the following jam pulls apart and lava starts rising through the cracks, with things getting progressively heavier (wahwah Jerry, smashing Phil chords, freejazz Billy). But instead of finding a Tiger, they nearly stop dead after 20 min, start building back up, but then @22 min they shift direction again into a jazzier low-key jam, not Phil's "jazz theme" and a little more like a Playin' jam (debatable, but imho). Jerry will not be denied his Tiger jam, though, and pulls out of this after a few minutes, and finally whips things up to a frenzied peak at 28-29 minutes. Yeeowch. It gets there and crashes down, with Phil & Jer still taking jabs at each other, but Bob awkwardly pushes it into Sugar Magnolia. (I didn't hear any Pigpen organ at all in this DS, fwiw).

Caution #4 is a pretty straight-down-the-middle 20 minute stormer, not too dissimilar from the last Caution on 4/17. Pigpen gets on organ right at the beginning and seems to be soloing for a few minutes (hard to tell because of the mix), before spilling the beans about his lady problems.  At 7 min when his prescribed mojo hand begins to take effect, the boys shift gears into a slinky slower jam before kicking it back up a couple gears into Caution proper (nice touch!)  @8:15, Pig sings a bit from Lightnin' Hopkins' "Life I Used to Live" ("gonna change my way of living/join a church again").  Nothing else to report besides @10-13 min they slip into a spacier, pretty jam that could maybe be a doorway back to Dark Star? (dream on, nick) but Phil is intent on staying with Caution. Again, Jerry plays a little slide guitar around 15 1/2 min. @18ish min it hits a big climax, but then keeps going in a mellower vein, seemingly unclear if they're really done, so Phil finally ends it with a big chord at 20:10.

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Europe 72: the jams, pt 2

 

one of the Tivolis

PART 2: DENMARK

4/14/72 Copenhagen, Dark Star #2

The opening Dark Star jam finds everyone staying in their lane and happy to find some magic in a familiar groove. But oh my lord, do they find some magic: absolutely elegant, perfectly balanced, just a divine specimen of what an opening Dark Star jam ought to be. I will say this feels quite different from the acid energy of 4/8: this seems like a more considered approach here, but is no less beautiful for that. Phil takes a stab at the Feelin' Groovy jam around 10 min, but nope. They glide to a total stop around 12 min and open up into another quiet, crystalline space (no drums at all), astonishingly beautiful, birds gliding over the shimmering glassy surface of a mountain lake.  @13 min Jerry suggests a return to Dark Star, but nobody else is ready, and things take a turn for the weirder... it feels to me like Jerry and Keith want to get back to the Dark Star jam while Phil and Bob are staying in the shadows. Jerry builds 'em back into Dark Star and @15:50 the moment when Billy reenters is just incredible... wowowowow.  First verse @17 min, and then there's a flowering of dark clouds, but the sunshine cuts through once again and they pick up the tempo... I am running out of synonyms for beauty, but I am blissing out beyond anything right now.  @22ish min, Phil finally finds his Feelin' Groovy jam and whoa, they just shift into this without a hiccup. I can't handle it. Does it get any better than this?  @25 min things start falling apart, Jer gets on the wahwah, they finally tip over into spookier space and build up to Tiger intensity. As Bob starts up Sugar Magnolia, I love hearing how Jerry slowly weaves his weird thread into the intro. I also appreciate how he's so into the Sugar Mag jam that he's clearly not ready to stop when they cut it off for Sunshine Daydream.

Good Lovin #3 starts immediately afterwards. This one is 29 min total, as long as the Dark Star, and unlike the preceding ones, Pigpen is front and center for almost all of it. There are a few minutes where the boys are cooking away without him, but the majority of this huge version is mostly Pigpen working his "4 day creep" routine into a panorama of depravity. At 18 1/2 min, the boys take it into Caution #2 and jam it for a few minutes, then Pig does his usual Caution thing -- @4:40 he quickly sings the first verse of "Who Do You Love?" -- then brings it way down at the end and lets the boys glide back into Good Lovin -- and Pig's still going! wow.  Titanic version here, one for the books.



4/16/72 Aarhus, Other One #3

Truckin' rocks out on that E7 shuffle for a long while before circling back to the last verse at 10:30, then off into another unique jam.  The box set tracks this separately, right as they slip out of the Truckin' groove: the whole jam that follows basically threads in and out of the Other One, playing cat & mouse without ever really committing to it.  Phil sounds like he's more active and assertive than in some prior jams, soloing more in spots where Jerry makes room for him to lead.  @6 min (in this 'jam' track) they find their way into a moodier kind of groove with an early version of Phil's "jazz theme" (aka the proto-Stronger Than Dirt riff).  A really magical quiet space begins around 8-9 min, no drums, just Phil and Jerry at first, then with Keith -- really sparse and beautiful to begin, slowly building in intensity, never boiling over, but very engaging and cool music.  Jerry eventually threads it back to the Other One and Bob and Billy join back in.  They jam the Other One groove for a few minutes, nothing too heavy (thanks Light Into Ashes for pointing out that Jerry actually vanishes for a few minutes here), then veer into Me & My Uncle, then back for the first verse.  If you're not counting the jam after Truckin, this Other One is actually very short.  As they wind down, Phil briefly takes the lead, but they segue into Not Fade Away instead.

There are some really beautiful moments in here, but the effect of them dancing around the Other One for so long seems like the wind is gone from the sails once they finally get into it for real.  To me this jam felt a little less focused and intense than the preceding ones, but beautiful nevertheless.

bonus track: Good Lovin #4 has another long "4 day creep" rap with many of the same motifs.  @13 min Pig eases off and Garcia steps forward.  The jam that follows seems like it's stretching in new directions -- nothing wild or very long, but now it seems like they have their eye on more expansive horizons, with Phil seeming particularly interested in doing something new; just before 15 min he even gets stuck on a Footprints-ish figure (see 4/11) that he repeats a few times.  Pig returns soon after, but instead of just moving back into the Good Lovin riff they find a different jam under his final rap before moving back into the song proper.  20 min total.  Progress!
 


4/17/72 Copenhagen, Dark Star #3

Maybe it's because this jam starts a 3rd set after two sets that had been filmed (setlist), but this one doesn't take flight like the last two Dark Stars did, although Jerry is is supremely calm melodic form and in no rush whatsoever.  This follows the same "classic" form of a 1970 Dark Star, although perhaps "patient" is the magic word for this one.  Everything before the verse is one relaxed glide down the usual stream of Dark Star waters; Billy pulls the rug out at one point and they spin in a little spacey eddy for a bit, but find their way back for the verse (I do like what Jerry does in the transition).  Afterwards they drift into spacier realms, think about coming back, then get spacey for real, but never get into the thorns: it's like a slow-motion Tiger that never peaks.  This ends and Jerry folksily strums them into a new jam that sounds like to me a lot like a mellow Playin' jam ca 1973, nothing wild, just cruising over the hills.  Nice!  But this Dark Star is nothing life-changing like the last two.  After a dramatic ending, it sounds almost like Jerry's thinking Sing Me Back Home, but Bobby goes for Sugar Mags again.  

Caution #3 is quite the contrast: this is one flying every which way, balls out with no net, frenetic and even messy, but oh so glorious.  Pigpen's rap is pretty strong and consistent, punctuated by periodic shorter instrumental interludes.  Not much to say: they just freakin' go for it (and spoiler: Pigpen's back gets soaking wet).  Garcia plays some messy slide in here.  @18:20 Phil brings them back into Caution itself and they go broke in the final few minutes, then collapse into near silence (no 1969 style Feedback, sadly) as the two keyboards very quietly noodle for a minute (just for the record, that was a 23 1/2 min Caution).  Then Jerry goes for broke and pushes into Johnny B. Goode, the only one of the tour (and not played since 12/5/71), and oh man, they sound done.  But what the hell!  That was fun.

Monday, April 18, 2022

Europe 72: the jams, pt 1

In honor of the 50th anniversary of the Europe '72 tour, I am relistening to every one of the big jams -- if only I were committed enough to do the whole shows -- and I am jotting down impressions and notes as I go.  These aren't exact anniversary celebrations (and yes, I am getting caught up with my posts now), but oh well.  I am posting these grouped by location.  I am also interested in what happens in Good Lovin' over the course of this tour, so those will get some attention as well.  The evolution of Playing in the Band is, however, not under consideration at this time.  I am listening to the recordings from the official box set, so all times an tracking comes from there, but many of these times are approximate.  

Lots and lots and lots has been written about this tour, which produced some the band's (and, therefore, also humanity's) finest music.  The Every Dark Star blog is currently in the middle of this tour as well, and the On the Bus blog also did an extensive overview 10 years ago (!).  Heck, someone wrote a whole book about 5/8/77, so where's the Europe '72 book?  I, however, will for once ignore most of the context in favor of just the music.  Pardon my scribblings.

borrowed from Grateful Seconds
 

PART 1: ENGLAND (THE BEGINNING)

4/7/72 London, Other One #1

The Truckin' jam after the final verse (they were still bringing it back around to the "finally going home" verse, which they soon stopped doing) is really just a short Other One prelude.  After Drums, the Other One begins with what strikes me a fairly textbook jam with the usual 1971-72 motions, and I didn't really engage until @4:30 they drift into the quieter spacey-but-melodic jam that was also a fairly regular move during this period -- but I always find these to be strikingly beautiful improvisations.  After 6 min I hear Bobby thinking about the WRS Prelude, if not exactly teasing it.  They circle back to the Other One groove, Bob sings the first verse, then they keep jamming along the same lines until Jerry hits a nice peak @10ish min.  Yeah!  After 12 min, they tilt towards chaos for real, never quite reaching Tiger levels of intensity, but getting close. Jerry scales the side of the skyscraper while Phil and Keith are the metallic winds whipping at his back. But then they veer into an upbeat "country-ish" jam (Phil teases Caution!), consider the Other One again, splash around for a bit, then make a nice smooth move into El Paso, before slamming back into the Other One groove again (fun fact: only 4 Other Ones from this tour do the "Other One>cowboy song>Other One" thing). After 3ish minutes of this O1 jam, they left-turn into an unusual little bonus jam (this doesn't sound familiar? but I quite likes it), then back to the Other One for the last two minutes, the second verse, and off into a majestic Wharf Rat. Then someone comes onstage and tells everyone to sit in their seats.

This first night is understandably not as well-regarded as most of the rest of the tour, but I was quite pleased by this jam.


4/8/72 London, Dark Star #1

This Dark Star is an all-timer, some of the most unfettered joyous music they ever played.  To be frank, I was feeling the acid that they were surely also all feeling (hey, it's my blog, man): the way this one swells and veers between jump-out-of-your-skin buzzy joy, contemplative quiet spaces, and dark spookiness... but I digress.  I have particularly strong feelings about the jam that builds up out of the quiet around 6 min and soars along until they downshift into the DS groove and 1st verse @10:40ish.  After some gentle space, they seem to find their way back to the same jam (after 17 min), which is pretty amazing.  This wave crests, Pigpen appears and doodles on organ around 20:25ish, and they rev up the engine again, then take the off ramp into something gentle and prettier.  Then their collective trip all takes a turn for the worse and they slide down into a darker Tiger space.  Gaaah.  The sun comes back out at 28 min and they set their sights on Sugar Magnolia, but take another detour for a few minutes on the way, and folks, it doesn't get much more life-affirming than this.  They are just celebrating the fact of it all.  I balk at calling it a Mind Left Body Jam, although there are spots where I suppose that's what it is; it feels like an extended Sugar Magnolia transition to me, but that doesn't get at the beauty of it.

After Sugar Mags, Caution #1 is one big roll down the hill... I love this, but I don't have a lot to say about why.  There's not as much verbal dexterity from Mr. Pen in this one, but everyone else compensates -- Jerry in particular seems like he's still working through the buzzy high of the preceding half hour and is swooping over all this rather playing through it.  Pigpen plays a little harp around 12:20, and then they take a surprise left turn at 14:30 or so into a gentler space that I imagine could have been a doorway back into Dark Star (dream on, buddy).  Phil cues them back into Caution and they end without any further vocals.  But I am satisfied!

bonus track: Good Lovin #1 jams a bit at first, then Pig does his thing for about 2 1/2 min before handing it back to Garcia and then takes it back for a little bit before the reprise.  The band sounds like they're closely following him, not too sure if he's in it in for the long haul or not.  The energy is there, the exploratory spirit is not.  About 10 min total.


4/11/72 Newcastle, Other One #2

Truckin's jam veers a bit towards the Other One, but @9:45 they pull over into a little oasis and ponder what to do. There's kind of a Dark Starry flavor for a bit, then @13:45 they find a new direction and set off into a loose but unique jam. Phil seems antsy to get to the Other One, but no one else is with him; things get messier, then @15:40 Phil drops a bassline that sounds like Wayne Shorter's "Footprints" (though I doubt that's what he's actually playing) and this re-centers everyone. This feels exploratory in the sense of them being genuinely unsure of what's going to happen, and though they're not as "together" as they were in the preceding two nights' jams, this seems to be new turf.  I also believe that this is the first time Truckin' went into a unique jam that wasn't obviously connected to either Truckin' or the Other One (thanks Light Into Ashes for the correction: 3/26/72)

After Drums, they rock the Other One groove for a bit (Pig is on organ for much of this part), digressing for a bit but never going too far off course. First verse is @7:20, then they splash around afterwards and find their way back into the Other One rhythm but Jerry pulls them into a more major-sounding mode. This is great! @11:30 a wonderful Feelin' Groovy jam takes shape and rolls for about 3 1/2 min. Everyone backs off as Jerry leads them into a sparse, gentle space, very peaceful at first, but eventually the knives start coming out and they rile themselves to a Tiger-ish peak; they ease back, then lean back in; @22 min Phil nudges them into a Caution-ish kind of groove (and Pig reappears) but in less than a minute they're back in the Other One for the second verse and a proper ending. Jerry tentatively starts Comes a Time as they're recalibrating themselves and before everyone else is ready. Does he start this in the wrong key? Sounds like they get it all together by the 2nd verse, at any rate. Ha!

bonus track: Good Lovin' #2's jam starts off with Pigpen rapping for a few minutes, establishing the "4 day creep" routine that he expands on considerably in the coming versions. The second half of this is a Jerry-led jam which reaches a nice climax at 11 min.  15 min total, 5 min longer than the last one.

 

Stay tuned for Denmark (and my getting back on schedule)

Monday, March 21, 2022

Legion of Mary: never meant to last? (duh?)

The New York Times reported, on April 4, 1975, on the Legion of Mary's arrival in New York:

[Garcia's and Saunders's] current quintet... is fixed enough to be considered a real unit, Mr. Garcia reported the other day from San Francisco.

Mr. Garcia is very pleased by the quality of the current group. “We're more on the relaxed than the hurried side of the metronome,” he said. “We get a real nice conversational quality in our music.”

The East Coast swing lasts only three weeks, but Mr. Garcia said that Legion of Mary would make a longer tour later on, and that there are “tentative plans” for a record.
 

Almost a year later to the day (April 1, 1976), Garcia gave an interview to The Music Gig magazine:

Garcia's association with Merle Saunders last year [1975] produced many a sloppy concert and severely tested the endurance of the audience. "Yeah, we burned out on it too," he allows. "That was a very weird band it was never meant to go out and tour" [sic].

(note that this 1976 interview is the same one where Garcia praises the JGB's harmonious consonance, as opposed to the Dead's dissonance and divergent viewpoints)

 

No big revelations here, I guess?  The breakup of the Legion of Mary and the larger Garcia/Saunders partnership is still foggy (see JGMF on the precise-ish dating of their split and other thoughts), and it seems likely that the principals wouldn't necessarily agree on the real reason, even if we had firm statements on the record, which we mostly do not.  I don't see any real mystery: it had run its course, and Garcia wasn't interested in moving further with a band that played this particular hodgepodge of music: contemporary soul and funk, extended jazz instrumentals, and Garcia's own bag of favored Americana.  The comment about it being a band that "was never meant to go out and tour" belies his earlier 1975 plug for more touring and a record, but it is still probably true in the grander scheme of things: ultimately, it was the club band that was meant to work late at night in laid back local haunts, not up on big stages to crowds of hollering fans coast to coast.  It seems impossible to overstate the influence that Saunders had on his playing, and Garcia clearly had a great time working out on some unfamiliar material (that eventually became familiar and then, maybe, overfamiliar) in his downtime away from the dissonance of the Grateful Dead.  But that's not the same as making it a thing, as the kids say -- touring around, making records, all the attendant hassles.  Keeping with that old wife/mistress metaphor (used by Garcia himself, somewhere), I wonder if the Legion of Mary wasn't the mistress that started making more serious moves into the master bedroom after the wife left town for a bit.

Obviously Saunders and Fierro wouldn't have seen it that way, and to be honest, one thing I enjoy about all their music from 1974-75 is that Garcia isn't always the most comfortable sounding guy onstage, and that there are times when Fierro and Saunders just smoke him.  But no mystery why Garcia would at some point want to put that down, particularly when it became the Main Event.

But I do have to snicker at the idea that the JGB ca 1976 didn't indulge in a little bit of "severely testing the endurance of the audience" of its own (exhibit A).


Rockwell, John.  "The Pop Life."  The New York Times, April 4, 1975.  Online. 

Weitzman, Steve.  (unknown title).  The Music Gig, Aug 1976.
(clipping saved in Dick Latvala's scrapbook, Book 1, p. 31.  A later revision of this piece -- without this quote -- is at Dead Sources)



Thursday, February 10, 2022

OAITW '76: sure ain't Dead

Grisman, Wakefield, Rowan, 7/4/76, by Les Kippel
 

Nothing hugely significant about this, but worth putting a pin in, at least.  This reemerged at Lossless Legs, an older source (transferred 2006, seeded 2009) of a tape labeled Old & In the Way 7/5/76 at the 6th Annual Green Mountain Country Banjo Festival in Castleton, VT, taped by Jerry Moore.  Moore confirmed that "actually, THIS set was billed as 'Old and in the way.' The festival ran several days, and this was the final set. There were two other sets under the 'Good old boys' name."  It's really three-fifths of OAITW: David Grisman, Peter Rowan, Vassar Clements (all of whom played with Frank Wakefield's Good Old Boys at this fest), plus Bill Keith on banjo and an unidentified bassist (maybe Rick Lindner, who also played with the GOB at the festival).

They run through some OAITW faves, clearly a little rough around the edges -- there's no third singer, for one thing, so some of the harmonies are a little off.  Grisman takes the lead where Garcia used to sing.  In between two such songs (Pig in a Pen and White Dove), there's this little exchange:

Grisman: We'll send this to Jerry, wherever he may be.  
Rowan: We love that boy! We want to bring him home to bluegrass music!  
Grisman: He's out there being Grateful, y'know.  This is one he sang on the album, and we'll try and, uh, get by.  
Rowan: It's called "I'm Grateful But I Sure Ain't Dead."


Haw haw.  The album had been out for a year and a half at this point, and hadn't there been some issue over money?  Paging JGMF.  This comment isn't anything more than a data point, but it does take on a little extra edge if there was a fresh bruise on these men's relationship at this point.

Meanwhile, the Good Ol' Grateful Boys were booked to play Roosevelt Stadium in Jersey City on July 2, but were postponed after local concerns about violence (a possible 7/4/76 JGB gig in San Francisco appears to be spurious).  There can't be a snowball's chance in hell that Garcia was actually planning on performing at this festival -- a bluegrass reunion on the US bicentennial! -- is there?  But I wonder if this was really advertised as an Old & In the Way reunion (as the final set of the festival) and if people were really expecting Garcia to show.

Later during this set, before Wild Horses, Grisman tells a little story about how the tape used on the live album was just being threaded into the tape deck at the song started, cutting off his mandolin intro.  Sure enough, as you may remember, on the OAITW album, Wild Horses does cut in a second before the first line of the song.  And now you know why.  On the complete Boarding House set, the take from 10/1/73 is complete, whereas the take from 10/8 does cut in after the first couple seconds, which were edited to make a clean start with Rowan's vocal.