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.

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