Monday, August 29, 2016

my sweet Clementine

Phil, Central Park 5/4/68
I’ve been beating myself up by listening extra-hard to the newly surfaced 9/12/68 rehearsal tape of Phil trying to teach the rest of the band how to play Clementine, or at least his latest arrangement of it.  Yowzers.  LIA has a comprehensive post on the brief history of this short-lived but very cool song and I’ve commented some down below.  There have been times when my inner air guitarist has fantasized about how cool it would be to play in the Grateful Dead, but this tape isn’t one of those times.  One thing worth saying, though, is how good Tom Constanten sounds on this.  And I appreciate how the band gamely chips away at it for a half hour before blowing off steam with a loud, noisy feedback jam complete with moans, groans, and howls.

I was fortunate to hear the 9/21/68 recording of them jamming on the Clementine vamp, with guitarist Vic Briggs (of the Animals) sharing lead with Garcia while David Crosby comps the rhythm (an interesting story: see here).  It’s very cool indeed, although too short to really make a deep impression -- and it's also telling that, almost a week after that 9/12 rehearsal session, they were grooving away just on the basic vamp without Lesh's challenging arrangement.  For my money, the version to get lost in is the 8/13/68 studio jam that was released only on the Aoxomoxoa expanded cd (ergo not at, but it's on youtube for now).  It’s still just that vamp, nearly 11 minutes of prime float time, and not as fiery or driven as the Dead’s usual ’68 fare, making it more akin (imho of course) to the jazz-rock driftings of Al Kooper & Mike Bloomfield and very much in thrall to My Favorite Things-era Coltrane — delicious stuff for this late summer afternoon while I think pensively about the coming fall.

Friday, August 26, 2016

4/29/77 Help>Slip>Frank

I was playing with Audacity to patch a sbd of one of my favorite ‘unknown’ jams, a forgotten moment from spring 77: the Help>Slip>Franklins from 4/29/77 at the Palladium in NYC.  The show is deservedly overlooked: it’s fine, but nothing to write home about, especially by 1977 standards, and Jerry Moore’s aud tape is still the only circulating recording.  Sbd tape of bits and pieces of the show have trickled out, but really the only must-hear thing is this titanic HSF.  It’s not quite as good as the ones from May or June, but those are the very best of the best.  This one is a major high-steppin’ version and one of my very favorites, and I’m posting it here mostly just as an excuse to gush about how good it is and maybe win some new converts.

An mp3 was posted at the Tapers Section many moons ago, but the first 3 1/2 min are apparently missing from the vault tape.  So after years of bemoaning this to myself, I finally just patched in the aud for my listening pleasure.  It ain’t perfect: the mp3 was @192 kbps and sounds a little thin next to the oversaturated aud, but it blends okay.  Just for fun, I also matrixed a few seconds in Franklin's when Jerry sings “God save the child who rings that bell,” and some dude on the aud tape rings a little bell, which has always cracked me up, and I threw in a few seconds of crowd cheering at the end in honor of this monster version.


Tuesday, August 23, 2016

(Finder(’)s) (Keepers)

scan courtesy

I’ve been having myself a fine time digging into those newly circulating Garcia/Saunders shows from late 73.  The ‘new’ 11/5/73 has a stone-cold, stanky version of Finders Keepers that’s doing it for me, with some really outrageous keyboard from Merl.  Finders Keepers is a song that pretty much never fails me.

Finders Keepers is also probably the most misattributed song on official Garcia/Saunders releases.  Recent releases (the Keystone Companions set and GarciaLive #6 7/5/73) correctly give credit to General Johnson and Jeffrey Bowen, of the soul group the Chairmen of the Board, who released it in April of 1973 as a vocal tune with an instrumental version on the single’s b-side.  It was one of the group’s biggest hits and Garcia/Saunders recorded it that July, making it one of the rare tunes in their repertoire that was a more-or-less current hit single.  On all prior JG/MS releases, though, it’s credited either to Saunders & John Kahn (the original Live at Keystone album and on Pure Jerry 9/1/74), or just to Saunders (on his Keepers collection).  The song is called Finders Keepers (with a misplaced apostrophe on the single, though the name of the band also is misspelled), but on G/S releases the title was never quite settled upon: “Keepers”, or “Finders”, or “Keepers (Finders).”  It seems almost like a sly little joke about the incorrect songwriting credit, but it still seems like a questionably shady move (Saunders even named an album after it!).  The song also appears on several of Saunders’ albums from the 90’s-00’s, but I don’t know how it’s credited on those.   Deaddisc generously posits that perhaps the misattribution is because Saunders and/or Kahn rearranged the tune, but they didn’t.  Have a listen:

Merl did overdub a cool, soaring ARP synth part on the original Live at Keystone recording, so there's that -- but, as far as I know, he never tried recreating in performance.  He sure knew how to work the hell out of that clavinet though, as 11/5/73 and many other renditions show.  It turns out Merl was paying homage to one of the all-time greats: that’s Bernie Worrell (RIP) of Parliament/Funkadelic playing the clavinet part on the original.

And, just for fun, here’s the original vocal version, which is giving no trouble to the Soul Train gang:

Sunday, August 21, 2016

8/21/80: Uncle John's set

jam and Budweiser?  eww.

Time for a little anniversary shoutout to a favorite under-the-radar show: 8/21/80 at the Uptown Theatre in Chicago.  The acoustic-electric Warfield/Radio City runs define 1980 for many, but, for my money, the band’s best playing of the year happened on the August-September tour.  There are a lot of great shows from that stretch, and I wouldn’t claim that this one is the best, but it has a distinct flavor and a unique vibe that never fails to please me, particular in the dog days of August.

Take your pick between a nice sbd and an excellent aud.  I think the aud is the better bet:

The first set is nothing to write home about: it has a fine setlist and nothing is really lacking, but there’s also nothing that ever much jumps out at me, beyond a nice Peggy-O and a rare late-set Shakedown.  But the second set is one of those magical performances where individual songs are all pieces of a very complete whole, emerging and sinking back into a tapestry that feels as unified as any symphony.  Shades of 7/17/76 perhaps?  I don’t want to get your hopes up, but this takes me to a similar headspace as that classic [disclaimer: 7/17/76 is a much better show].  Mickey and Billy take the stage to start things off unusually with a quiet duet on tar and talking drum for a few minutes before the rest of the band enters softly to join in for a prelude to a long and stunning Uncle John’s Band.  Not your usual opener, and not your usual Uncle John's either, as it jams its way into something that resembles more of a Playin’ jam.  It’s some of my favorite music from that year, and it’s all right there in the first 20 minutes of the set!

I don’t know if the rest of the set necessarily holds up to a blow-by-blow style of review.  There are no ups and downs: the enchantment has been cast masterfully, and the spell isn’t broken until the very end.  They come back to earth for Truckin’, dive back in the pool for the Other One, then the drummers take another turn, and the boys forego any spacey exploration and ease right into the Wheel, jam it back into the end of Uncle John’s in a most satisfyingly symmetrical close to a wonderful 45 minutes of uninterrupted music.  A mere 45 minutes?  Yeah, well, quality over quantity I say, and I’m happy to sacrifice the more standard combinations and set-closing standards for a jam as unique as this.

The whole Uptown run is worth a listen: 8/19 is more well known and probably the “best show” of the run from top to bottom: there's a dynamite Half Step > Franklin’s > Minglewood and a fine Stranger that bookend the first, and the second is a top-to-bottom heavyweight muscle set.  8/20 is rightfully lesser known, but anyone under the spell of the other two shows will appreciate the heavy Space > NFA > Dew at the end.

Have fun!

Monday, August 1, 2016

Jerry Week 2016

Commence Garcia Week!  There's another reason to celebrate Aug 1 as well:

Garcia: …And on my 15th birthday my mother gave me an accordion.  I looked at this accordion and I said, “God, I don’t want this accordion, I want an electric guitar.”  So we took it down to a pawn shop and I got this little Danelectro, an electric guitar with a tiny little amplifier and man, I was just in heaven.  Everything!  I stopped everything I was doing at the time[…]

Reich: Can I ask for the date?
 Garcia: August 1st — let’s see, I was born in ’42 — Christ, man, arithmetic, school, I was 15 — ’57.  Yeah, ’57, there you go, it was a good year, Chuck Berry, all that stuff.

Reich: I wanted to get an historic date like that.
Garcia: Yeah, well that’s what it was, August 1st, 1957, I got my first guitar.
- Garcia: A Signpost to New Space, 1971.