Thursday, November 16, 2023

Ornette meets Healy

jazz tangent: one thing that has pulled me away from more consistent GD/JG listening (besides the ebb and flow of life) is my new hobby (calling it a "practice" makes me wince) of listening slowly to entire discographies of jazz greats who I want a more comprehensive overview of (so far, since you asked: Bobby Hutcherson, Yusef Lateef, and Sun Ra). I am working on Ornette Coleman right now.

In August 1968, Ornette was in the Bay Area with his band that included, controversially, his 12-year-old son Denardo on drums. His brief spell with Impulse! Records produced two live albums, the first of which, Ornette at 12, was recorded at the Greek Theater in Berkeley on Aug 11, 1968. Working that show was the GD's soundman Dan Healy -- the LP notes credit him as engineer (misspelled Healey), so I don't know if he was also mixing the live sound or just recording it (I suspect both, since I think Ornette produced this himself and just licensed the tapes to Impulse!).  There is more from this concert that remains unheard: it was billed as Ornette Coleman & Orchestra, since part of the SF Symphony joined for his composition "Sun Suite" (unrecorded, afaik, though that's the score on the Fillmore West poster below!), as did his former bandmate, trumpeter Bobby Bradford.  But the album only features performances by the quartet, so maybe the rest didn't go as well? I would sure love to hear it anyway.

The week before the Greek concert, Ornette's quartet played at the Fillmore West on Aug 5, apparently one of Bill Graham's only single-night/single-act bookings (the poster advertises the band as a quintet with Bradford, but he has confirmed that he was not there). A month earlier, Graham had taken over the venue formerly known as the Carousel Ballroom and renamed it.  Given that his capitalist ways marked the end of the hippie dream of a communal venue, the story goes that local musicians were briefly boycotting his new venture, and Rhoney Stanley recalled in her book that Jerry Garcia broke with principle only to go see Ornette play (thank you again, Light Into Ashes, for sharing that quote), although I can't help but notice that the Dead were booked at the Fillmore West on Aug 20-22 and again on Aug 30-Sept 1.


Healy had been working with the Dead from mid-1966 until mid-1968.  The exact reasons for his departure are unclear, but Corry Arnold speculates that, with Owsley returning to the GD organization, Healy may have sought fresh opportunities elsewhere. He worked with Quicksilver Messenger Service (as soundman, producer, and sometimes bassist!), played with his own band (the nearly forgotten Hoffman's Bycycle; Corry ibid.), and worked as a freelance engineer with some connection to Mercury Records (Corry again, also Light Into Ashes). And he didn't really fully cut ties with the Dead: he recorded them in Los Angeles on Aug 23-24 (interestingly, Quicksilver was booked those nights at the Fillmore West), using Warner Bros' fancy 8-track equipment, which was eventually released as Two From the Vault (some info), and evidently was in and out of the studio with them until his full-time return in 1972. But could Healy have also worked the Ornette show at the Fillmore West? It's certainly possible, but we'll never know unless someone asks him.

So what? So I think that's all pretty cool. Healy gave plenty of interviews, and I have only looked at a few of them. But I am guessing no one has asked him about this Ornette concert at the Greek. As far as I know, this is his one jazz recording credit, and, of course, it sounds good.  And Healy did, of course, mix for Ornette at least twice again: when he opened for the Dead and then sat in on 2/23/93, and again on 12/9/93.

Tuesday, November 7, 2023

11/7/93 until he organizes his best potential

wrong show, wrong band, great pic: 9/29/93 by Robbi Cohn

I have alluded to loving this overlooked show before, so for its 30th anniversary (at the eleventh hour, of course), I figured I would kick myself to write about Jerry Garcia again and say a few things about it.

In his great book Every Song Ever (2016), Ben Ratliff observed that being a deadhead -- collecting and listening to all these shows -- meant "to practice long stretches of suspended judgment until the group organizes its best potential."

It is listening in the long view, with a basic understanding that the band’s music only significantly changes when the body gives out; otherwise, that music represents one long discourse, all of it intrinsically valuable.

If you enjoy Garcia's music from his final years, then surely this must be true for you, whether you think of it this way or not. It is certainly true for me, but not for reasons of nostalgia or relativism ("Jerry sounds pretty good... for a guy who could barely keep his head up and was near the end"). There are things I hear Jerry play in 1993 that hold up as being as powerful as anything he did, although very different from his work as a younger man. In 1993, Garcia's best potential, as Ratliff would put it, wasn't the same potential as 1973 or 1983. Assessing the work of artists who rely on technical ability (ie musicians) as they age can be challenging, given that our terms of engagement with their work often focuses on innovation or "development" rather than consolidation and refinement. Jazz critic Stanley Crouch argues this about Louis Armstrong:

As maturity increases the speed of perception and experience becomes denser, fewer details are needed to recognize essential meanings. While the younger person is still contemplating, the old master has moved on to the next point, digesting through the shorthand made possible by the passage of many moons. In art, that law allows the individual gesture to take on greater resonance. The best of Louis Armstrong's work after fifty proves that his expressive ideas didn't reach their peak until he was nearly sixty. (Crouch, Considering Genius)

I realize I am on the edge of romanticizing "old Jerry," and let's be real: his physical health was in real deterioration by 1993, and his mental/emotional well-being was not being helped by, to use a lazy shorthand, the Burden of Being Jerry. And yet, shortcomings aside, the old master Jerry does make some gestures here that do take on a greater resonance for me, and hopefully for you too.   

So: Nov 7, 1993 at the newly rechristened USAir Arena (formerly the Capitol Centre) of Landover, MD.  The JGB's final east coast tour, very close to the surprising end of the great David Kemper era, but traveling in fine style nevertheless. From what I understand, this particular venue was known then for its particularly tough security, and the two circulating audience tapes both suffer from that.  I personally prefer the earlier unknown Schoeps source which to my ears is slightly more palatable than this tape made by the usually reliable Clay Brennecke (no fault of his own; he gets busted early on, sounds like he bribes his way out of a pickle, and gets the rest of the show, albeit with a bit more discretion, I'm sure)

  • Not much to say about the start of the first set, but ol' Jerry was saved more than once by the adage, "when the going gets tough, the tough slow down." And the first important thing that happens is the late-set SeƱor: my single favorite performance of this amazing song, thanks to its guitar solo. Find me a better one (official released included). Four choruses of perfection -- okay, then two more choruses of unnecessary but by no means bad extra stuff. Vocals have their rust spots and occasional brainfarts, but that's rarely on my rubric when he is playing so well. I suspend my judgment until the group organizes its best potential.  
  • Everybody Needs Somebody to Love.  I have more to say in general about Garcia's stripped-down arrangement of this already simple song (all good things), but by fall 93 it had turned into a behemoth, a slow-rolling tribal stomp, and a thing of glory. This is not quiet the best that it got -- I would nominate 11/3/93 for that (another post) -- but this is pretty damn near the top.  14 1/2 minutes of a giant ball of energy just rolling around and around and around the stadium.
  • The second set opens with another all-timer: show me a better The Way You Do the Things You Do. Another tune that warrants a more in-depth look sometime, it was performed in a straightforward Motown-goes-barband style for eight years, left the repertoire for six, then reappeared in 1990 with a reggae-ish sway, courtesy of Jahn Kahn's most memorable bassline and a gently spacey groove.  The end jam would swell and occasionally became ground for some inspiration to blossom, and this version is the epitome of that (although see also 11/18/93 for a sprawling 20+ version that is also a treasure).  Jerry grooves along, slides into some jazzy comping for a minute and a half, but never fully cedes to Melvin Seals. Instead, he builds tension by playing not much but teasingly just enough, finally eases back into more proper lead guitar, but the focus seems more rhythmic than melodic, and then finally lets all the tension boil over (@12:35ish) with some climactic fanning for about 40 seconds. This will be a very nice surprise if you primarily associate this tune with a few jammy minutes of light, bubbly grooviness.
  • Money Honey. Not quite a rarity, but not a setlist staple either, and my hunch is that it was generally a good sign when Jerry felt like belting this one out.  Again, not perfect lyrically, but he delivers a few choruses of divebomb blues with his claws out.
  • Knockin' On Heaven's Door. A semi-rarity; the only one of the tour, and only played three more times onstage in his life (once with the JGB, twice with the GD). You know how you feel about this song, and this version is lovely.
  • Don't Let Go.  All-timer? No. But damn good, I say. Appreciate how Jerry playfully sings way down looow in the final round of "hold me tight and don't let go"s, while Melvin mimics his vocal. Then he tears the heck out of the jam, brings it up to a nice climax, then collapses into lonesome space for a few minutes, the Hammond B3 framing Jerry's moaning in the moonlight, before he brings it back home. Not too many Don't Let Go's were ending in free space anymore (list forthcoming, hopefully?), so that's a nice touch. Overall: a mighty fine Don't Let Go.
  • Mississippi Moon.  A real rarity for the 90's, and the only one of the tour again. Again, some rust spots on the vocals and the turnarounds, but Jerry digs in for the solo, and then digs in again for a unusual(?) second solo after Melvin's featured spot (which was usually the piece's climax).
  • After all that, I wish that Tangled Up in Blue came crashing into the end of this set like a missile, but it does not. A little slow and maybe too carefully paced at first, but he gets the truck out on the highway and invites you to ride it out with him. He might be coasting a bit during the solos, but as the jam begins, he seems to pause for a breath, braces himself, and channels some that Leo energy into a regal final jam. There's nice energy bump just before the 11 min mark that gets us across the finish line, but it all sounds pretty good to me.

Best potential organized? I would say so, yes. One long discourse, all of it intrinsically valuable. So I will end, as I ought to, with a salute to the tapers.  Midway through Tangled, there's a moment when the high frequencies drop out, when (I assume) the mics are lowered and hidden. Then @6:45, the quality increases and, with a "whoo!" of relief, one taper hollers to the other, "the things we have to go through!"  Thank goodness you did!  Thank you tapers!

scan courtesy Fate Music/JGMF

Saturday, October 29, 2022

10/28/72 hello Cleveland


satellite view of the Dead lighting up downtown Cleveland

It is peak fall in my neck of the woods, and fall '72 feels very right right now.  So here are some scattered observations about this show, not one for the "best of 72" list but a very enjoyable one, marred by a poor quality recording, and one that caught my eye for a couple of setlist oddities.  Not to mention another big ol' Dark Star.

So, the Dead in Cleveland.  Someone help me here: there's a Cleveland Convention Center with two venues, the smaller Music Hall and the larger Public Hall.  The Dead played the Public Hall in 1972, 73, 79, and 80, but played the Music Hall in 1970, 78, and 81 -- is that right?  There are pics of 12/6/73 in a larger art deco auditorium with a huge stage, which is said to be the Public Hall.

The Rowan Brothers opened this show, according to this review.

Like a lot of later fall 72 tapes, the mix stinks.  I've seen many of these fall 72 sbds referred to as "monitor mixes" and I have repeated that myself, but I don't think that's accurate: from what I understand now, the band didn't have a separate monitor feed in 1972, let alone individual monitor mixes for different bandmembers.  So my guess is that this tape (made by Bear) is a straight sbd feed.  Vocals and drums are the loudest, Lesh's bass is the lowest, and the guitars and piano move around.  It's what we've got.

Weir picks the opener for the show, but Garcia's first two choices this evening are Friend of the Devil and China>Rider.  I have opined elsewhere that 9/21/72 has perhaps Garcia's most inspired opening gambit (Bird Song and China>Rider), but this sure ain't a bad way to get the ball rolling.  As far as I can tell, this was the earliest placement in a show that FOTD ever had (with the Dead at any rate; dunno about JGB).  

Another first set highlight is a spirited Box of Rain.  I like how Weir screams loudly as Lesh counts it off.  Weir screams a lot during this show.

Weir's mic craps out during Bobby McGee, prompting a pause for a replacement.  Garcia noodles Teddy Bear's Picnic.  Evidently someone from the crowd is throwing marshmellows onstage, which nobody in the band seems particular fazed about.

They play Candyman for the first time in just over a year.

Playing in the Band is, no surprise, another late '72 monster, nothing too unusual for the period, but whoa.  Hard to fully assess what's happening here since the bass is so low, but Garcia and Kreutzmann are locked in like Coltrane and Elvin Jones, and the peak they hit @15:45 is wonderful (hear Weir holler in delight, yet again).  There's a long, luscious swim back to the reprise that's marred by a small cut, but this one is still a keeper.

Opening the second set with He's Gone seems like the move of a supremely confident band.  It wasn't actually that unusual a move in fall 72, but it happened rarely after that.

Greatest Story Ever Told is a freakin' rager!  I mean they all are, but this one is extra hot.  Jerrrry.

Attics of My Life!  This was the second of only two played that year, and the last one in front of an audience until 1989!  Oh woe.  It sounds so good.

This Big River is not a particularly noteworthy one, but it does inaugurate a brief and unexpected tradition of Big River preceding a really heavy duty Dark Star (see also 2/15/73, 10/19/73, 10/30/73, 11/11/73, 12/6/73, 9/10/74 - weird, right?)

Roadmap to this monster Dark Star: This initial jam feels like I'm lost in a dark forest, groping towards bright lights in the distance.  Lesh's bass is audible, but still lower than everything else.  After 5 minutes, they smoothly pick up the tempo, Garcia sizzling away as Godchaux skips stones behind him; they're mostly cruising along in good ol' A mixolydian, and Garcia builds to a beautiful peak at 9:30ish, then settles thing down as he glides into the first verse a couple minutes later.  Things proceed as usual as they ease back and Lesh takes center stage... he doodles around, Garcia and Kreutzmann join in, but just when things seem like they're about to tip over into darkness, Lesh begins strumming the chords of the theme that's now known for posterity as the "Philo Stomp" jam.  Not a fan of that name, but oh well.  It's an incongruously perky little thing, but everyone joins in and Garcia pulls back into the Dark star mode, and this just sounds triumphant.  Check out him trilling @19:30!  Oh man.  By 22 min, Garcia has twisted off in a weirder direction and they start building to a Tiger, albeit via the scenic route.  It boils over at 24:45, rages hard for a minute, then abruptly stops.  They splash around for the final two minutes; I hear no piano here at all; and then Bob boots 'em into Sugar Magnolia.  I wouldn't call this a Dark Star for the ages, nor even one in the top tier of 1972, but we're still talking about a full 3-course meal here; just stunning that something like this is second-level for the year.

This Dark Star, for me, will forever be associated with Dick Latvala's epic introduction from the Grateful Dead Hour, which was once upon a time the only source for this jam.  Treat yourself to a listen.  Dick sounds like he just snorked down a bongwater martini and would have been in no shape whatsoever to deliver a lengthy seaside chat.  "My armpit left the universe."  God bless ya, Dick.

Nice touch in Sugar Magnolia: during the pause before Sunshine Daydream, you can hear Bob jokingly tell Donna as she walks out, "take your time, take your time."

Casey Jones shuts things down with a classic drawn-out, hellraising ending.  It sounds like Weir is telling someone down front to be careful and take it easy.  He also keeps screaming his head off.  Shoot the moon, Bobby, shoot the moon.

Sunday, August 28, 2022

not to wax nostalgic, but...

...ah what the hell, it's my blog.  I was digging around in the one box of cassette tapes that has survived the decades (snicker if you want, but when you've been carting around a thousands LP's and CD's for half of your life, a box of tapes is easy to throw on the pile and forget about), and this is all that is left of my Dead tape collection:

There were more.  But for reasons both known and unknown, these are what have survived a quarter century, give or take.  At the time (the mid/late 1990's), I was more interested in getting as many Phish tapes as I could, so I never had a particularly enviable Dead collection.  There were, of course, a lot of crummy aud tapes and super hissy incomplete sbds that were given away or taped over, but I did try to save the cream of the crop... and I know that Veneta, Cornell, Freedom Hall, NYE 78 were all complete at one point, but c'est la vie.  10/14/94 was my last Dead show (and a really great Scarlet>Fire, thank you very much).  I have no clue how Garcia/Saunders 6/4/74 found its way to me, since I can't imagine it was a common tape in the pre-shn age.  Note the misdated 10/8/68 Hartbeats tape!  11/8/69 has the irritating clicking noise that Jim Wise painstakingly repaired, manually, click by click, on a home digital workstation (the story), which was the first time I had heard of such a thing being done -- oh brave new world!

Also, let's have a moment of silence for the lost art of tape filler.  The tape formerly known as 5/5/82 had the huge Mystery Train jam from 12/31/75 on the b-side, which made for an incongruous yet inexplicably satisfying juxtaposition.  Ditto 10/16/89 which had just exactly the perfect amount of space to fit the Garcia solo track from Zabriskie Point as filler.  Good filler was always the perfect comedown.  

I wrote a while ago about the GD Hour broadcast of 1/22/78 that basically changed my life, and I am most pleased to find that that one has held on.  But of course all of these were very, very special in their own way.

That's it.  B&P welcome, or your list gets mine.

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

the Wildebeest connection

Joe and Corry tossed this around for a second back in 2016, so this is no great discovery, but the discographical nerd in me needs to mark this very marginal release with a post.  I had stumbled upon this record a a few months ago while looking around Discogs for recordings that John Kahn played on.  What really caught my attention was the presence of Jimmy Warren, who played electric piano alongside organist Melvin Seals in the JGB for 15 months in 1981-1982.  $2.11 later (plus shipping), and I present: Reckless Dreams by Wildebeest.

I am curious about John Kahn spent his downtime when the Dead were on the road, since it doesn't seem like he played regularly with anyone else (did he?), so it makes sense that he would get involved with producing a local Bay Area band.  The eyebrow-raiser is that the Dead organization was involved.  Kahn brought Palo Alto's own Wildebeest into Club Front from April 1-5, 1981 to record a 5-song EP using the studio's 24-track Studer @30ips and Neve 24-track console.  I know this because it says so prominently on the back cover, even before the names of the bandmembers are given.  Kahn was credited with co-writing one song, and also played synthesizer on every track (Kahn owned an Oberheim synthesizer, not a common household item, and encouraged keyboardist Ozzie Ahlers to play the same model in the 1980 edition of the JGB).  Jimmy Warren was involved enough in the project to get a co-producer credit, and also adds a few synth parts of his own.  Betty Cantor-Jackson and John Cutler were working the boards -- and, notably, Betty is also credited along with Kahn on the record label itself.  That's a really unusual thing for any engineer, so I am inferring from this that her name had significant cachet with Deadheads even back then (remember, this was still years before anyone had heard of a Bettyboard).  Even Sue Stevens of GDP is credited on the sleeve with "logistics and planning."  So I am assuming that Kahn was calling in a favor here.  He had certainly logged plenty of hours at Club Front with Garcia, but given that this project had no direct connection to the JGB or Dead, one might assume that this happened only because Garcia must have given it the okay.

engineered by Betty Cantor-Jackson, in case you were wondering.

pardon the unintentional selfie

This may be unrelated, but I can't help noticing that Kahn also performed onstage with the Dead twice in this same time period, the only time such a thing happened: two acoustic sets at benefit shows (4/25/81 and 5/22/81), although neither was actually billed as the Grateful Dead.  The story goes that Lesh claims nobody told him about it.  That may have absolutely nothing to do with Kahn bringing a small local band into Club Front for a week, but I wonder.

This also prompts some speculation (on my part, anyway) about Club Front's function as a recording studio outside of the Dead's immediate orbit.  I don't have any sense that it was used that way.  But it certainly could have been -- and it certainly could have brought in some additional income, but the Dead's/Garcia's cashflow problems is not my area of expertise.  Placeholder for that one for now.

Oh, right: and how's the music?  It's okay for what it is.  The cover could suggest either metal or loopy psychedelia, but it's more middle-of-the-road than either: some tunes have a Heart/Pat Benetar kind of vibe, others have a more rootsy blues-rock boogie with slide guitar.  The beat goes on.  But to be fair, I am sure they sounded much better in a bar like the Keystone than at home on the record player (this less-than-rave review in the Sanford Daily appears to agree).

Ah well.  One more piece of the puzzle.  For two bucks, it was a worthy purchase.

postscript: a few words about Jimmy Warren

pic from Jake Feinberg's page, presumably a screenshot from the JGB 6/24/82 video

Until Jake Feinberg aired an interview with Jimmy Warren in 2018, practically nothing was known about him in the deadhead world besides the strong implication that he was a drug buddy of Kahn's and Garcia's.  In his fine interview, Feinberg understandably goes easy on the question of drugs.  Warren explains, in short, that he moved to Mill Valley in the late 70's with his then-girlfriend Liz Stires, met and became friends with Kahn, and would hang out at his home 8-track studio and help record demos (Warren recalls playing on the demo of the Kahn/Hunter tune "Leave the Little Girl Alone," later recorded for Run for the Roses; Liz Stires also apparently recorded several demos with Kahn and Warren).  Eventually, he was finally invited to audition for the JGB -- and Stires, as you probably know, also became one of the backup singers.  Others have implied that he was there more for the procurement of the drugs that most interested Kahn, Garcia, and Rock Scully.  No one seems to have spoken explicitly about it on the record one way or the other, and I am sure that the situation involves several stories that are both contradictory and true.  But regardless, Kahn and Warren seem to have been close for a time.  Warren also tells a nice story about how, after leaving the JGB and moving to Annapolis, John Kahn sat in at Warren's gig after a JGB show (which must have been in the wee hours of 11/6/82).  I have a hunch that Warren's role in this Wildebeest record was a mitzvah from Kahn.  But, as always, this is conjecture, and I would love to know more.

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Europe 72: the jams, pt 6

lighting by Candace! nice touch.



Monday, August 15, 2022

Europe 72: the jams, pt 5

5/13: Pig incognito, with tie-dyed carpet, photo by Michel Wannenmacher

Sigh.  Motivation slid away, then I was out of town for a bit, and I am now wrapping this project up without any grand sense of occasion and with my tail between my legs.  Sorry, folks!


5/10/72 Amsterdam, Other One #8

Truckin' is, I believe, the shortest one of the tour so far, with less than 90 seconds of jamming after the final verse.  This is a little surprising, given the odyssey that is to come, but so it goes.

As the Other One rolls off, it feels to me like they are using a gentler touch than many of the preceding versions. Pig's organ is swirling around in there. I am digging the little call & response thing Jerry plays with himself @2:15. @3:40 they rather abruptly fall off the cliff and free-float for a minute. Billy starts a slow 12/8 swing under this and it gets bluesy. Very nice, though it doesn't last long, and by 6 min they're back in free-float space. Keith starts getting assertive, Billy seems to be looking for a groove to hook into, and by 7:45ish Jerry finds an Other One variant and pulls everyone into that orbit; this is kinda skewed, kinda jazzy, kinda messy, three different things happening at once, but all super cool. @9:30ish they transition back into the Other One proper, perhaps a bit awkwardly, but all are fully back in it by 10 min. Bob sings the first verse @11:30, and then almost immediately Jerry nudges them into atonal weirdness.

By the mid 14's they're getting into dinosaur territory: Jerry yawping away, Bob peeling off feedback, Phil scuttering around below. They're doing the full insect crawl by 15:30, but this doesn't feel overwhelming or all that evil: curious prehistoric cockroaches, not chaotic agents of destruction.  @17 min Keith reappears, then @17:35 Pigpen's organ makes a brief cameo (he's usually not too interested in these heavy space jams) @18:25 Jerry is now scaling to a Tiger peak with some monster Phil power chords and feedback below.  Very intense! but it never reaches the climax, and when Billy reenters @20ish min, they take off flying.  Whoa...okay?  but then Jerry & Bob both suddenly disappear for nearly a minute and let Keith take the lead. Unexpected left turn there, fellas. When Jerry returns, nothing catches fire right away and it sounds like they're all wondering about the Other One.  Billy eases back in, Bob and Jerry do-se-do in the open air for a bit. Then back into the Other One @24 but don't really settle into it, and a few digressions happen (I really like the bit @27 min when Billy swings into a 6/8 feel still with the Other One happening above). On paper this sounds unfocused, but jeez, it sounds really sweet to me.  Back into the Other One yet again.  Heads up @29:05, cuz I love that figure Jerry plays a few times here.  @30 min everyone drops out yet again as Jerry keeps going with Bob in support, then Phil -- they're still clearly playing the Other One, not "space," even as it all drifts apart. This whole segment from 30-34 min is amazing. @32ish, Bob takes things in a really pretty direction, not quite a "theme" jam, but he and Phil are on the same page and Jer is cruising over it in a minor key. Even compared to the other E72 moments like this, this feels uniquely beautiful.

@34:20 they transition as perfectly as can be into Bobby McGee.  I am aware that not everyone agrees whether or not Bob's cowboy songs are too intrusive in the middle of a huge jam like this, but I can't think of a sweeter thing that could have happened right at this moment.  They wrap it, and back into two more minutes of Other One, then the second verse, and on into Wharf Rat.

The 20 minutes (!) between the first verse and Bobby McGee is all-timer stuff for this tour. I can see how someone might not appreciate how they never all coalesce into one sustained thematic jam, but I think that their powers of ultragroupmind chaotic spontaneity are occurring at their highest levels here. It's a very different manifestation of this than on 5/3, which of course is also another high point, and I can't say that I like one more than the other -- but it's amazing that within a week they played two versions that are so powerful yet so different.

5/11 Rotterdam, Dark Star #8

An unusually long 1 hour 22 minute jam, at the end of an unusual show (Playing opened the 1st set, and the first Morning Dew of the Godchaux era opened the 2nd)... but I have felt ambiguous about this one ever since the cassette era.  Dark Star's pre-verse jams are beautiful, but it has always felt to me (and still does) like they're all moving in the same direction but not entirely locked in. @4:15ish things tighten up a bit; I hear Pigpen on maracas and a more forward-driving jam takes shape.  But by 5:25 Jerry seems distracted enough to start tuning up, the temperature drops a bit, they drift a bit, then @7:30 they find it again and change direction into a breezy, minor-keyed jam (a bit like Phil's 'jazz jam' in feel, although the bassline isn't explicit).  It breezes along, flying close to the ground, quiets down and it seems like they're ready for a triumphant return to Dark Star (@13:38 Phil even cues it up), but... Billy takes a drum solo.  for almost four minutes!  whut?

@0:00 (next track) Phil returns and duets with Bill for two more minutes, until Jerry emerges. Ok, this is pretty. It's just the three of them for a while, then @4:40 Jerry plays a repeated note like a fanfare to get everyone in line (Bob appears @5) and then back into Dark Star for real. @5:30 he sings the first verse. They head for the dark side, then @8:15 Jerry lets out the butterflies and tries to draw everyone back into the light (Pigpen also joins in on organ). But no one is much committing to anything here, which seems to the tone of this Dark Star in general... eventually they slide down into a sparse spacey place; verrry slowly it gets weird enough for Jerry to get Tigerish by 15 min, Phil finally starts dropping some bombs, and @17:30 Billy makes a grand reentrance like a thunder cloud - very nice effect indeed. Build and build, but no real climax. @19:20 they telepathically shift gears into a brisk country-ish jam (Pig back on organ), which is short lived. Phil lets off a crystal clear Bird Song tease (!?) at 20:30, they turn off into an uptempo, minor, mellow Playin-ish jam, and @22 Jerry disappears and leaves Phil to solo.  Um, okay.  Jer returns, they keep going in this direction, it builds to a head around 25:35. The final minutes of this are a lot of indecision... Jerry strums Caution, Phil teases Truckin', then Bird Song again a few times, Jerry doodles over it all, and finally @30:30 Bob nudges them into Sugar Magnolia.

Jerry gets his Caution (#5) after Sugar Mags ends -- the last Caution ever! -- a very nice 16 1/2 min of rumble. Not a lot stood out to me, but it's got a pleasing bustle to the whole jam and, like Good Lovin (see below) this features some extra verbal dexterity from Pigpen.  There's a nice moment @9:20 they all drop out for Billy and egg him on as Pigpen returns to the mic.  Pig is also jamming away on organ when not singing, and in the last minute he also throws in the first verse of Who Do You Love (see also 4/14).  They simmer down for a minute, then move into Truckin', which feels less energetic coming at the tail end of a long jam. There's a minute of jamming after the final vocal and then down to a stop.

Some beautiful moments, but nothing really transcendent and with way too much casting around for something to happen. It's still a mighty fine Dark Star in contrast with, well, nearly everything else -- but by E72 standards, it ain't hitting the mark for me.  And why the heck was Phil teasing Bird Song multiple times?  I can't think of any other occasion of Phil playing the guitar riff to a song, let alone one they weren't playing at the time (Bird Song, as you may recall, had been put in storage from Aug 71 to July 72).  But really, this is maybe the only jam of the whole tour that I would call overrated.

Anyway, Good Lovin' #10 is only 12 minutes tonight, and the band never turns up the heat too much, but this is worth a listen since Pigpen is in extra witty form tonight. The rap is an expansion of the "take your time, drive slow, use extra grease" sermon he's been working at over the past couple versions (the guy really missed his calling as a life coach), and there are some great one-liners in here: the standard bit about his lady calling from down the hall with her leg up against the wall is spiced up a bit when Pig fixes himself a drink in the kitchen and offers this astute assessment: "I helped investigate the situation -- planned my strategem -- and proceeded to go into action.  I ain't going to go into no details.  But there was a long, sweet, sweet lovin' confrontation."  Oh yeah. Also, this appears to be the first time that Jerry took it upon himself to play Pigpen's organ during the song itself!?  Well, hey now.  Do we know what that was about?

5/13/72 Lille, Other One #9

This was a free outdoor show to make up for a sabotaged theater gig (lots of info here, or read the whole story in comic book form!).  Given that, you (or at least I) might assume that this Other One wouldn't be particularly heavy duty, but you (I) would be incorrect.  Like Rotterdam, this Truckin' has no real jam (90 seconds) before it collapses into Drums. The Other One surges along, strongly but nothing unusual at first. @4:30 they fall off the cliff and float in a bright, hazy space for a few minutes -- I hear Keith playing some unusually pretty harmonies behind Jerry here. @7:50ish Billy returns and establishes an uptempo groove and things take off. Jerry is spiraling away into the skies with everyone buzzing away in his wake. He ignores a blatant push from Phil to get 'em back to the Other One, then leads the transition himself a minute later @10:15. Bob sings the first verse, then they keep jamming the O1 groove -- Jerry vanishes and Keith and Phil both take the lead for a minute.  When Jerry trickles back in @12:30, it seems to be the catalyst for the rhythm to drop out.  Spaciness ensues. I didn't make a note exactly when, but Pigpen has been repeatedly playing a 2-note figure that sounds like a police siren and a bit irritating.  @13:45-14:45 there is a weird shift in the stereo mix [thanks to Light Into Ashes for pointing out that this must be a patch from an alt source, since the prior circulating source has a reel flip here -- weird that Jeffrey Norman wouldn't fix the stereo image, though].  Anyway, rather than fully spacing out, they instead find a driving jazzy groove that is nevertheless pulling towards atonality, with all of them straining hard at the leash. This is pretty sweet!

@15:20, Jerry cuts the lines and they're pulled into atonal weirdness -- I do like these stretches of slow-burn transition to total chaos. @16 Phil drops in something like his jazz theme bassline, but it's too late: Jerry's on wahwah and you know what that means. All of a sudden we're on the side of the mountain in the middle of a storm. By 17:40, Phil's dropping bombs and Jerry's in Tiger mode (@18 min an echo effect is added which is pretty cool). Full meltdown Tiger shred by 18:40. Oh yeah. They're all in! Bob feedback, Phil bombs, Billy free jazz. And they keep at it (Pig's doing that damn police siren thing again at 20ish min). There's not a single climax, but @20:40 they ease off and splash around as Jer delivers a regal oration over the smoldering ruins, then starts arpeggiating as the troops begin fall back in line. @22 min they have found another direction, with Billy driving the groove with his toms and everyone tentatively finding their place. Phil is clearly thinking about the Other One again, but nope, not yet.  This is a cool jam!  Jerry takes off and they're all pushing hard behind him during 23-25 min.  Great!  @25:40 Jer abruptly pulls back to the Other One (I approve of those those Phil chords!), @26 he hits the wahwah for an extra dose of amazing sound. @27:50 Bob sings the 2nd verse, and the ending crashes nicely into He's Gone.  Okay!  First time for that segue, I believe.

Whoa.  I had heard this ages ago, but had no memory of how hot this was.  Maybe it's surprising that an outdoor gig in a lovely town park (some pics) inspired such a sustained shredding Tiger jam. But wowzers, they've got some fire under them in the second half of this one. I look forward to taking that ride again.

5/16 Luxembourg, Other One #10

This was a late night show (12-3am) in a tiny theater for an international radio broadcast (hence the doofy Top of the Pops guy). Truckin has 3:25 of jamming after the final vocal: they drift off into a spacious vista that gets airier and airier and drifts away into just Drums.

The Other One begins as usual.  Jerry peaks around 2 1/2 min and they press onwards, slowly easing back.  Following the established pattern of the last few, things eventually get pretty spacious, but tonight Jerry stays in full-blown Other One mode and presses forward, rarely letting himself be swept off course. Everyone else seems happy to float contentedly off track, but Jer stays the course, and by 7 min they're fully back in the O1 groove and Bob sings the 1st verse. They carry on, Jerry still refusing to be nudged elsewhere, but the groove slowly dissolves and @9:13 Jerry relents with with a sudden loud feedbacky yowl that lets everyone fully space out.  @10 I hear Pigpen doing that irritating 2-note siren thing again.  Some Big Phil chords, however, make this feel pretty nice!  After another Other One hint @10:40ish, Jerry gives in to the pre-Tiger skronk.  He builds to a fast Tiger that peaks at 11:40 then simmers down, but Phil's not letting him off that easy and starts slamming big chords at 12:40.  Well played, Phil.  And yet @13:50 Jerry is sneakily trying to bring them back into the Other One again! They don't all take the bait right away, and there's some nice tug of war for a couple minutes, but at 17:45 they all cleanly jump back into the Other One for real.  Second verse, outro, and then they stop to tune up. A paltry 19 minutes!

Well, that was probably the most "inside" Other One of the tour, even with a (quick) Tiger meltdown.  Jerry just won't let go of the Other One groove!  Not surprising given the circumstances, I suppose, but this sounded relatively constrained even compared with the 4/16 TV broadcast.  Ah well.  That's what they get for breaking the sequence and skipping Dark Star


5/18 Munich, Dark Star #9

This has an unusually long prelude/intro tonight (including some guitar tuning) and on the box set, Dark Star proper begins @1:47. Pigpen is adding maracas again. The pre-verse jam stays very close to the DS theme: very beautiful and peaceful, but not very exploratory.  @4 min Jerry sends a wonderful searing note trailing feedback out into the cosmos.  @5:30 there are some big reverb tank bangs from Garcia's amp.  Keith is present but a pretty minimal presence in all of this, not doing much.  The only really notable thing happens @9 min when Bob initiates a brisk uptempo jam, very happy and very pretty - not a 'thematic' jam, but some really lovely stuff nevertheless.  @12:45 it tumbles right back down into the DS theme.  They make a fairly dramatic/triumphant statement here before getting to the first verse @14:40.  @16 min some intense Phil chords begin the space jam.  Phil sounds really fired up here, actually; Jerry is content to chip away at some fragmented & feedbacked notes, but Phil is really throwing down some serious chord action. Everyone else watches them from the sidelines.  Go Phil!  He backs off around 20:15 and Jerry keeps picking atonally ahead, with Bob tracing around the edges.  Really sparse stuff.  @21:30 Jerry clicks on the wahwah mid-line (I am always a sucker for when he does this) and @22 min starts messing with his volume knob; @22:25 Keith appears also doing some volume swells on piano... come to think of it, I'm not sure how he's doing this, since I thought he didn't have a pickup on his grand piano until that summer (when Bear rejoined the crew).  Anyway, this sounds awesome, very trippy.  @24ish it finally starts boiling over and into Tiger territory.  It gets nasty, peaks, eases off by 27:20ish, and they all come together for the transition into Morning Dew at 28:20.  Dew!!  This is the first ever Dark Star > Dew (out of of nine total in 1972-74).  It ends, then Billy quietly takes a drum solo for a minute and a half (!?) with Phil noodling along at the end, and then into Sugar Magnolia.

This Dark Star isn't a special one in the big picture, but again, it's incredible that a jam this tasty can be considered "lower level."  The brisk jam before the first verse and Phil's flamboyant chording at the start of the space jam were memorable moments.  Plus, y'know, Morning Dew was back.

Good Lovin' #11, sadly, marks the beginning of a hard falling off for Pigpen on this song.  He is MIA for the first 3:45 of the jam, which begins unusually with Bob taking a 1970-71 style "solo" before Jerry tentatively takes the lead.  It seems like he's staying out of the spotlight, waiting to see what Pigpen's going to do... and when Pig finally appears, he does a little jog through his "4 day creep" bit for a couple minutes, then they bring the Good Lovin' riff up underneath him and usher him out.  Jerry plays the organ on the final reprise of the song itself.  12 min total: a similar length as 5/11, but a far cry from that version's wit and creativity.

One more to go, folks!