I had never closely listened to this because of the aud tape quality, but I was feeling intrepid and it paid off. This is currently the earliest Garcia/Saunders recording with Paul Humphrey. Some thoughts:
- Humphrey's first gig with the band was evidently at the tiny Chateau Liberté club on 10/11. The next night, Garcia/Saunders was at the Berkeley Community Theater, apparently being fronted by Maria Muldaur (JGMF). At a rare outdoor show in Santa Barbara on the 13th, Muldaur joined them again (JGMF). gdsets also lists a Keystone Berkeley gig on 10/15 (the night before the Dead's final pre-hiatus stand at Winterland!? hmm), and then this three-night run at the Golden Bear in Huntington Beach, just south of LA and presumably not far from Humphrey's home base (gdsets lists five nights?). Okay. In between all this, the Grateful Dead machine played their final five shows for the foreseeable future. Everyone at the time must have been reeling at the potential consequences of a Grateful Dead-less world, but Garcia's work schedule was not disrupted in any way.
- The sound quality of this tape is not great, but at least it sounds like our taper was right up front, maybe even with his mics set up onstage. The vocals are very low (another stage mic tape giveaway), but the instrumental balance is good. But it's overloaded and a couple generations down the line. Grit your teeth and adjust.
- Quality notwithstanding, I found the most of the music here surprisingly hot. That's a Touch I Like and Roadrunner, tunes that I usually enjoy without taking much notice of, are both really bangin', with Humphrey's powerful beat nearly levitating the whole band. Favela is another bananas crazy version, flying along really quickly, but incredibly energetic and intense. Expressway, like one on the 31st, feels draggier to me, with Humphrey perhaps overcompensating a bit (and Fierro deserves every "more cowbell!" joke that you care to make at his expense). It Ain't No Use is mislabeled in the text file as It's Too Late: besides plowing a deep groove, also take note of Garcia's nice Roy Buchanan-esque volume knob bends on the intro. Mystery Train is slamming. Wow! This band smokes.
- No big surprise that Maria Muldaur joins in again tonight, playing blue light chanteuse on Gee Baby Ain't I Good to You, an old chestnut that was recorded by loads of folks -- notably, in this case, also by her then-husband Geoff Muldaur on his album Having a Wonderful Time. The story of both of the Muldaurs' connection to Garcia in early 74 is worth parsing out, although not here -- but his album seems to have been made in Garcia's/Saunders' orbit (and with the latter's participation) around the time of Garcia's Compliments earlier in the year, and Geoff Muldaur was on stage with the band at least once, possibly twice. Also, the text file here mysteriously notes "Ringo on drums," but I am not hearing any audible evidence that anyone else is playing besides Humphrey. If there is, then there is no way in the world that it's that Ringo.
- Aud tape fun: the taper's pals provide a nice distraction during the downtime in between songs, but Garcia's voice (off mic) comes through in spots as well. Before Favela: "how do we start this? ... G minor?" (cue stoned chuckles). Before Mystery Train (track 8, @1:05) it sounds like one of the pals says something in a mock southern accent about Mississppi Moon, to which Jerry responds something that I can't make out. In the chatter after Expressway, another pal reasons, "guess they have new songs to worry about." Yes indeed.