Shortlist: September 22, 24, and 26, 1991 - Boston, MA

Cover: Treated scan of thrift store photo

My sudden fascination with the post-Mydland years continues with a mix pulled from the period when Bruce Hornsby and Vince Welnick both played keyboards for The Grateful Dead. That period lasted a relatively long time, from September 1990 to March 1992, making it as distinctive an episode in band membership/chemistry as any other. 

I’ve combined pieces of three unreleased shows from a six-show September run in Boston, MA, one year into the two-keyboard lineup. I used matching matrix recordings as my sources (audience/soundboard hybrids), which offer a fat, immersive live experience. I haven’t made any internal edits in the material presented here, but I created cross-fades to make it sound approximately like two continuous sets. 

The mix of compositions that ended up on top, when I put pressure on these shows, has a definite personality – mostly Garcia-sung blues-boogies and sepia-toned character dramas. The song selections, general attitude, and group vocal approach put the vibe in a woody, "Workingman's Dead"/"American Beauty" place. The keyboard players help the groovy tunes cook, but they also add exciting emotional texture and narrative drama to all the songs that don't move very fast. I think they were both paying attention to the lyrics, and playing accordingly, and since Garcia is singing well (except for "New Speedway"), many of these performances really sell the songs. This "Stella Blue" is superb.

By accident, there are some statistically significant performances in this mix:

  • They hadn’t played “We Bid You Goodnight” in 107 shows, and this turned out to be the last one they ever played.
  • This is the first “Nobody’s Fault but Mine” in 450 shows (9/3/85), and they only played it two more times before the end of the band. 
  • Aside from an isolated performance on 6/10/73, The Dead played “It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry” only six times, all during the Hornsby period. This is the next-to-last one. (The song was a staple of solo Garcia shows from '72-'86 in acoustic & electric sets, though it disappeared after his coma and only popped back up in solo sets in '95.)
  • This is a fairly rare instance of The Dead playing full-blown “Dark Stars” twice in three consecutive shows, in the 1990s period, let alone at the same venue in three days. I haven't deleted anything from these "Dark Stars," so, in an era when there was often a first-verse-only "Dark Star," this mix offers a palindrome: first verse > second verse> first verse.
  • Though not covered in this mix, the 9/20/91 show of this Boston run includes the only time after 1976 that they played something other than “Franklin’s Tower” after “Slipknot” – playing “Fire on the Mountain” instead.

2h21m mp3 mix of September 22, 24, and 26, 1991 here (song title tags include performance dates)

Set 1:

  • Cold Rain and Snow
  • Let the Good Times Roll
  • Feel Like a Stranger
  • Althea
  • It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry
  • New Speedway Boogie
  • He’s Gone (final section) >
  • Nobody’s Fault but Mine >
  • Spoonful
  • High Time
  • Candyman
  • Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door
  • The Weight

Set 2:

  • Dark Star
  • Stella Blue
  • Dark Star
  • Ship of Fools >
  • Dark Star
  • Standing on the Moon
  • And We Bid You Goodnight

Dark Star Flashes: March 1994

Cover: “Full Stop,” John Latham, 1961

The last two “Dark Stars” The Grateful Dead played occurred within two weeks of each other, six months after the previous performance, and 1.3 years before the end of the band. On the calendar of career “Dark Stars," they draw attention to themselves. 

I honestly had no idea how great The Dead could be in this period, when the spirit of jammy exploration moved them. I like how laid back they are in these performances, which are simultaneously drifting and full of momentum. Thumbs up to this Grateful Dead. 

52-minute mp3 mix here, which flows approximately like a continuous set.

  • Dark Star (3/16/94, verse removed)
  • Victim or the Crime Jam (3/21/94)
  • The Other One (3/18/94)
  • Playin’ Jam > (3/30/94)
  • Dark Star (3/30/94)
  • Jamming Down the Road (3/21/94)

I’ve posted another 1993-1994 mix, which includes the “Dark Star” before these two, with David Murray on sax. 

Dead is Jazz: Live 1993-1994

Cover: Detail from “Dream No. 2” (1989) – Candy Jernigan

This mix combines pieces of unreleased 1993-1994 Grateful Dead concerts that featured saxophonists Ornette Coleman, Branford Marsalis, and David Murray, plus all appearances by word jazz great Ken Nordine. I've created connections where they were missing to simulate a continuous set.

If it weren’t for the obligations entailed by the concept of the “30 Trips Around the Sun” boxed set, The Dead’s final four calendar years of playing live (1992-1995) would hardly exist in the official release catalog. 

This is a disservice to the music and to the band’s fans - and seemingly the result of The Dead’s commitment to whole-show releases and disinclination to chop shit up and compile great live albums out of their favorite bits. 

I don’t know if what I’ve made here constitutes a great live album, but it is certainly a far out live album with a lot of greatness in it. Since nothing else is competing for the spot, you might even consider this mix as a provisional career bookend to “Live Dead,” 1969’s official live document of the first year of truly far out Dead. Here they are, freaking out with jazz musicians a quarter of a century later. There were only two more "Dark Stars" after this one.

I'd dedicate this mix to my dad, who immersed me in jazz and Ken Nordine from birth, but this would all probably be too post-bop/fusion/crazy for him. So, I'll dedicate it instead to 1967-1969 Frank Zappa (composer/editor) and Ian Underwood (Zappa's always game reed man in the early days). They might decry the lack of discipline, but I think that they would appreciate the overall effect. Murray's playing has some very Underwood-ish moments. It should be noted that Vince Welnick acquits himself beautifully all over the place.

93-minute mp3 mix here (all guests and source dates included in song title tags)

LP1:

  • Flibberty Jib (Nordine)
  • Drums (Murray)
  • Space > (Coleman)
  • The Other One > (Coleman)
  • Stella Blue (Coleman)
  • Unknown (Nordine)
  • Space (Coleman)

LP2:

  • Eternity (instr. edit – Marsalis)
  • Samba in the Rain (instr. edit – Marsalis)
  • Space (Marsalis)
  • Estimated Prophet > (instr. edit - Murray)
  • Space > (Murray)
  • Dark Star (instr. edit - Murray)
  • Space (Murray)
  • The Island (Nordine)
I've got a mix of The Dead's 1973 live horn section episode here.

Shortlist: December 28, 30, and 31, 1989 – Oakland, CA

The Grateful Dead played four New Year’s week shows at the Oakland Coliseum in 1989. These shows followed a two-week break and preceded a two-month break. The only material that’s been released from the four shows is a “Space” segment from the 28th, on “Infrared Roses,” a very worthy album.

I previously posted an hour-long mix from the first night of the run with a lot of songs edited into instrumental versions to create an unusual jam sandwich of mostly-Garcia themes. 

This complementary post turns material from the next three nights into a single, jam-song sequence of mostly Weir material, mostly as complete songs. I’ve created segues between all the pieces to provide continuities comparable to when “>” in the set list simply means that there was no delay between one piece and another, just a quick transition or a pregnant pause. 

80-minute mp3 mix here

(I've re-zipped and re-uploaded this file, because someone reported unzipping trouble. I think I just put some forbidden characters in the file name.)

  • Feel Like a Stranger (12/28)
  • The Music Never Stopped Jam (12/30)
  • Estimated Prophet (12/30)
  • Victim or the Crime Jam > (12/31)
  • Dark Star > (12/31)
  • Space (12/31)
  • Drums (12/31)
  • The Other One (12/30)
  • The Other One Space Jam (12/30)
  • Let It Grow (12/28)

“>” indicates unaltered Dead transition

I have a hard time faulting this moment in live Dead history. If you don't listen to it much, I think you should change that. In retrospect, a lot of the music they played during the final Brent Mydland year was better experienced live than on tape, even though the tapes are typically immaculate. By that time, many songs had become crowd-pleasing rave-ups and sing-alongs, rather than musical adventures. There was a jaunty mood nearly everywhere, which was both effective overall and something of a flattener of differences among songs. Fun if you were there – tight, infectiously danceable – but not necessarily an important thing to listen to in 2018. 

However, I’d agree with many others that you have to go back to 1970-something to find as consistently good a jam band as the 1989-1990 unit. These 1989 New Year’s shows might not be worthy of release in full, but you can certainly make a fake album from them that slays. 

When I was going to shows in this period, the anxiety was always about how much of the deep stuff you were going to get – which songs, and how many of them, would fill the slots where the real adventures typically happened. Every show you could manage to get to was so freighted with hope, especially if “they were due for” a big song you’d never seen, or never seen done really well. It’s nice to be far away from those years, able to simply dig through the shows - all now aurally attendable - and enjoy what they played, without the personal drama of shows, if you were a music-centric Head. It's hard to believe that it's been nearly 30 years. At the time, it seemed like the future of The Dead was wide open again - a band that was again as fascinating live as they were on old tapes - and I remember how completely devastating it was to learn that Mydland had died, knowing that the wave had probably crashed, again. 

Shortlist: December 27, 1989 - Oakland, CA

Cover art by Neon Park: Detail of "Green Goddess," 1984

I’ll always be grateful that my initial obsession with The Dead happened just as the band’s mid-to-late 1980s nadir gave way to a final, fantastic period of live playing. It makes perfect sense that The Dead have released a slew of shows from Spring 1989 through Spring 1990 – a career sweet spot between the end of the rebuilding period after Garcia’s coma and the death of Brent Mydland. 

I decided to try my Frankenstein editing approach on an unreleased show from this period – taking The Dead’s improvisational temperature by removing a lot of vocals to turn songs into jams and easing transitions that The Dead hadn't already provided. I chose this show at random.

62-minute mp3 mix here

  • Bird Song 
  • Playin’ Jam >
  • Crazy Fingers Jam > 
  • Uncle John’s Jam (>) 
  • Drums (>) 
  • Space > 
  • The Wheel Jam (>) 
  • Morning Dew

Real Dead segue: >

Edited transition: (>)


Pre-Order 1973-1974 Boxed Set

Just in case anyone here isn't on The Dead's mailing list, pre-order has just begun for a boxed set of the band's six shows in the Pacific Northwest in 1973 and 1974, including my beloved 5/19/74. 

• 6/22/73 P.N.E. Coliseum, Vancouver, B.C. 

• 6/24/73 Portland Memorial Coliseum, Portland, OR

• 6/26/73 Seattle Center Arena, Seattle, WA 

• 5/17/74 P.N.E. Coliseum, Vancouver, B.C.

• 5/19/74 Portland Memorial Coliseum, Portland, OR 

• 5/21/74 Hec Edmundson Pavilion, University of Washington, Seattle, WA

Shortlist: Pyramid Scheme - November 20-24, 1978

I decided to listen to all the Keith & Donna era “Shakedown Streets" (they overlapped for about five months), and it led me to this two-hour mix, pulled from four consecutive concerts. It simulates an almost non-stop jam that would have been nice to hear in Egypt, next to the pyramids and the Sphinx, on a starry night in the Fall of 1978. (The actual Egypt shows were a month earlier.)

Each of these shows featured an unorthodox second set sequence with carefully-crafted connections. “Shakedown Street” was brand new at this point (these are the 5th, 6th, and 7th performances), a second set song that they jammed into and out of. That song and the Middle Eastern motifs running through these shows precipitated some very interesting passages, even managing to pry “Fire on the Mountain” free of “Scarlet Begonias” one of only two times between March 1977 and October 1980. Rounding out this moment in live Dead, I’ve included the exceptionally rare “If I Had the World to Give” (3rd and final performance) and Donna’s “From the Heart of Me,” both featured on the studio album, “Shakedown Street,” released the week before these shows. This mix is very much the opposite of that album.

Two-hour mp3 mix here

11/24/78 Passaic, NJ

  • From the Heart of Me
  • Estimated Prophet >
  • Shakedown Street (instrumental edit) >
  • Ollin Arageed >
  • Fire on the Mountain (instrumental edit)

11/23/78 Landover, MD

  • Dancin’ in the Street (instrumental edit)
  • Playin’ Jam >
  • Egyptian Space >
  • Shakedown Street > Approach to Playin’

11/20/78 Cleveland, OH

  • Playin’ Jam >
  • Shakedown Street (instrumental edit) >
  • If I Had the World to Give
  • Supplication (instrumental edit)

11/21/78 Rochester, NY

  • Drums > Space >
  • Not Fade Away (instrumental edit)

Theme from Summer of ’73 – “The Phil Jazz Jam” (2nd Edition)

Cover art by M. DeNoor 

Repost with improved musical program. Details at the bottom, if you care. 

On the 45th anniversary summer of these performances, a mix ideally suited to any Deadhead’s summer listening. 

The Grateful Dead played live only sporadically in the spring and summer of 1973 – just 15 shows over five months, at only 10 venues. The Dead haven’t officially released anything from this period, that I am aware of, except the spectacular “Watkins Glen Jam.”

“The Watkins Glen Jam” is relevant here, because this mix is also an improbably long stretch of Summer '73 improvisation without more than a passing reference to identifiable songs. 

That summer, an improvisational theme in 6/8 that had been kicking around since late 1972 suddenly became the Dead’s regularly recurring jam, only to die out again in the early fall. It’s almost an extra Grateful Dead song from the period, sort of a relaxed version of Phil’s 1973-1974 “Eyes of the World” riff, leaning forward toward 1975’s “Stronger Than Dirt.” 

For more scholarship on this and other Dead themes, go here.

The accepted name for this theme seems to be “The Phil Jazz Jam,” and I’ve woven together five full-blown summer ’73 performances of it with other outstanding, non-song-based improvisation from that summer. 

The resulting mix is a five-part, early-Seventies “The Other One” from a parallel universe, in which “The Phil Jazz Jam” holds down that position. It’s an imaginary, extra “Watkins Glen Jam,” blown out to more than twice the length, with scads of different areas of exploration. It’s an outdoor, afternoon-into-sunset show in a meadow that you never heard about. It’s the unjustifiably neglected Summer of 1973 Grateful Dead, sending you a postcard from a wonderful place – a place that is not 1972, Spring 1973, Fall 1973, or 1974. 

67-minute mp3 mix here (with all relevant information included in mp3 tags)

  • Phil Jazz Jam (6/24/73)
  • Jam (7/1/73)
  • Jam with Phil Jazz Jam moments (5/13/73)
  • Phil Jazz Jam (7/1/73)
  • Jam (6/9/73)
  • Phil Jazz Jam > (6/29/73)
  • Jam (6/29/73)
  • Jam (6/30/73)
  • Jam > (6/22/73)
  • Phil Jazz Jam (6/22/73)
  • Space (6/10/73)
  • Quiet Improvisation (7/1/73)
  • Quiet Improvisation (8/1/73)
  • Jam (6/10/73)
  • Jam (6/23/73)
  • Phil Jazz Jam (5/20/73)

If you want more all-out playing from summer 1973, go here.

What's different in this second version? I've added notable material that I previously excluded because I'd posted it in another context, or because I'd overlooked it.  I've adjusted the track markers to separate every "Phil Jazz Jam" from any additional improvisation that it is attached to. I also fixed a section of one performance where the channels were flipped for several minutes.

Save Your Face Base

Image from Deadbase

The calendar below shows all the dates on which The Grateful Dead played a concert between their Europe 1972 tour and their last show of 1974 (boxed with dot next to the date). This is one of the handmade tools I’ve been using since I decided to finally listen to this entire period, my favorite. I recently recopied it and thought it might interest people who visit this blog. (A heavily marked up Deadbase X and archive.org are my other invaluable tools.)

Green on the calendar indicates a concert recording that The Grateful Dead have beautifully mastered and officially released, in whole or in reduced/curated form. This is a great resource, if you want to understand official releases by concert date.

Yellow on the calendar indicates a soundboard recording that I have posted highlights of on this blog. (If it is not definitively green to your eye, then it is yellow.) Sometimes this means I’ve kept as much as two hours from a single show; sometimes it means I’ve pulled together material from consecutive shows into 80 minutes of concentrated intensity. While I’m not always a stickler for the highest bit rate in my sources, I try to use the clearest circulating fan-master. 

As I’ve said before, my mixes are not meant to fill a FLAC-maniac-archivist’s sixth terabyte hard drive of Dead; they’re meant to be a cassette collection that you can carry with you and easily listen to, without wincing or wanting to skip to the next track very often. Hopefully, lots of them are previews of future, sonically-immaculate official releases. 

One way or another, each post/mix here offers a window into soundboard concert recordings that have not been released and maybe never will be (for a variety of reasons). If you don’t expect to listen to the complete 72-74 recordings in this lifetime, but you also want more 72-74 Dead in your life, all the time, then this jukebox-blog is meant for you. I never thought I’d get anywhere close to the end of this quest – even though it covers barely more than two years – but at this point (roughly 50 shows and 2.5 days of curated results) I believe that it’s becoming a pretty good map of the unreleased territory for anyone who’s willing to let a stranger give them an expedited tour.    

Anyway, this calendar might be the best possible document of what’s on this blog, so far, and where it fits into the gigography and into the officially released oeuvre. I’ll update the calendar and this post as I proceed.

Mixtape: I Spy a Riff

Cover art by Antonio Prohías

If you recognize a few of these songs, you’ll immediately recognize the organizing principle of this mixtape – incessant eighth notes refracted through a Neil Hefti (Batman) and Henry Mancini (Peter Gunn), 1960s pop espionage aesthetic – sometimes bent into surprising permutations. “The Lemon Song?” Yeah, really. HT to Matthew Specktor on that one.

86-minute, mostly-lossless-sourced, volume-equalized 320kbps mix here

  • Broken Days (outtake) – Bob Dylan
  • Brand New Cadillac – The Clash
  • The Lemon Song (edit) – Led Zeppelin
  • Car Song – Elastica
  • Hey Bulldog – The Beatles
  • TV Baby – Magazine
  • No Dark Things – Echo & The Bunnymen
  • Batman Theme – Neil Hefti
  • Candy Apple – Dipstick
  • Peter Gunn (Max Sedgley Remix) – Sarah Vaughn
  • Secret Agent Man – DEVO
  • Planet Claire – The B-52’s
  • Millionenspiel – Can
  • Map Ref 41° N 93° W (alternate version) – Wire
  • Incident on South Street – The Lounge Lizards
  • Top Floor, Bottom Buzzer – Morphine
  • (Drawing) Rings Around the World – Super Furry Animals
  • Rose Garden Funeral of Sores (live) – Bauhaus
  • On Top of the World – Cheap Trick
  • Fried Chicken and Gasoline – Southern Culture on the Skids
  • Happy-Go-Lucky Local (Night Train) – Jimmy Smith & Wes Montgomery
  • Peter Gunn – Henry Mancini
  • God Save the Queen (instrumental version) – The Sex Pistols