The Velvet Underground: Instant 1969 Bootleg Collection

The first thing to say about this mix is that none of these performances appear on “The Complete Matrix Tapes” (November 26-27, 1969). 

This compilation is intended to be the second place to go for 1968-1969 live Velvet Underground, in the period when both Mo Tucker and Doug Yule were in the band. It contains a version of every composition that made it onto an audience tape, with one exception, and only three compositions are repeated. All songs are unreleased, except those from “The Quine Tapes.”

Practically speaking, this compilation replaces “1969 Live,” the glorious, old, murky double-LP, which was whittled down to four unique tracks, when the release of “The Complete Matrix Tapes” provided upgrades of all the other performances. Likewise, it upgraded nearly a third of the performances on “The Quine Tapes.” 

So, the live VU universe lies in splinters around the amazing soundboard monolith of “The Complete Matrix Tapes.”

I’ve tried to fix that with these 3.5 hours of lovingly selected audience tape performances.

Many of these selections are the only live recording of a song (at all), the only audience recording of it, or the only version in which the vocals are clear (enough) and the distortion low enough to deliver for real. That’s a sad truth about the poor quality of the few tapes that exist, but it’s also miraculous that so many songs actually exist in versions that you want to hear repeatedly. We got lucky in our unluckiness, I guess. 

I had really good, known- or seemingly-uncompressed sources for most of this material. I have applied no compression filters, and very, very little frequency-EQing. (i.e., No attempt has been make to make these diverse recordings "sound like" each other.) However, those who are familiar with VU recordings of this sort will find that I have significantly fixed the problem of wild volume variations among and within songs. It took fucking forever - hundreds of manual corrections, slicing songs into pieces at the right places to shift their volumes into alignment without revealing the shift. But it paid off; those too-quiet parts are louder, and those crazy distorted loud parts are tamed. 

The three volumes outlined below are zipped up together here, as 320kbps mp3s – 500MB total. 

A Complete Show: October 19, 1969 Dallas – 83 minutes

The leftover songs from “1969 Live” came from this show. It’s a great performance, and it is absolutely the best audience recording of the band in this period. It's the one, complete (non-Matrix) show that everyone should have. (If you already possess it in full, you might still appreciate some of the refinements I’ve made.)

  • Good Evening
  • Waiting for the Man
  • It’s Just Too Much
  • Band Intro
  • Some Kinda Love
  • I’ll be Your Mirror
  • Femme Fatale
  • Beginning to See the Light
  • I’m Set Free
  • After Hours
  • I’m Sticking with You
  • One of These Days
  • Pale Blue Eyes
  • Ocean
  • What Goes On
  • Heroin
  • Sister Ray

A Quiet Set (composite) – 59 minutes

Low-key VU – concentrated. More from the October Dallas stand, Lou Reed singing “Candy Says,” Doug and Mo singing “Rock and Roll,” the early days of “Lisa Says,” a fast live version of “I Found a Reason,” and – yes, truly – a “Sister Ray” that belongs in something called “a quiet set.” This is the only non-Matrix 1969 “Sweet Jane” (another fun variation) and the only live recording of “Ride into the Sun.” The “Ride into the Sun” demo is one of four tracks that were presumably an acetate at some point, two of the others having been officially released on archival sets (“Countess from Hong Kong,” and “I Found a Reason”). 

Caveat: I did my best to moderate the defects on “Jesus” and “That’s the Story of My Life,” which seem to be on all my VU fan friends’ versions as well.

  • Candy Says (12-12-68 Boston)
  • Jesus (10-18-69 Dallas)
  • That’s the Story of My Life (10-18-69 Dallas)
  • I Found a Reason (10-18-69 Dallas)
  • Sunday Morning (10-18-69 Dallas)
  • Ride into the Sun (unreleased demo)
  • Sweet Jane (11-69 San Francisco – Quine outtake)
  • Rock & Roll (10-69 Dallas – “after hours jam”)
  • Lisa Says (10-69 Dallas – “after hours jam”)
  • Over You (11-69 San Francisco – Quine Tapes)
  • Sister Ray (10-18-69 Dallas)
  • Ride into the Sun (11-69 San Francisco – Quine Tapes)
A Rock Set (composite) – 65 minutes

This set leads with the other unreleased 1969 demo/acetate recording, then works its way through all the rockers not represented by the October 19th Dallas show. Sound quality gets a little rough as it proceeds, but in terms of a balance between exhilarating crunch and listenable songs, these are the ones.

  • Real Good Time Together (unreleased demo)
  • It’s Just too Much (11-69 San Francisco – Quine Tapes)
  • Sweet Bonnie Brown (11-69 San Francisco – Quine Tapes)
  • I Can’t Stand It (11-69 San Francisco – Quine Tapes)
  • Move Right In (1-10-69 Boston)
  • Foggy Notion (11-69 San Francisco – Quine Tapes)
  • Run Run Run (8-2-69, Ringe, NH)
  • Follow the Leader (11-69 San Francisco – Quine Tapes)
  • White Light White Heat (12-12-68 Boston, MA)
  • Ferryboat Bill (3-13-69 Boston)

Bonus disc here.

Lost 4th album here. 

The Velvet Underground: Live Instrumental Edits (part 1)

I have started extracting improvisational material from the tragically murky audience tapes that tragically constitute most of the live documentation of The Velvet Underground. I’m taking the same approach as with my Grateful Dead “instrumental edits” – keeping everything but the vocals, so songs still start and end, but the songs themselves are never sung. 

This solves the biggest problem with those bootlegs: The songs are the weakest point, constantly reminding you how bad these tapes are. Vocals are distantly shouted, and often barely discernible. The contours of melodies and harmonies are lost. When the band settles into playing behind verses and choruses, it gets the most noisy, blurry, and boring.

However, the instrumental, improvisational stretches are mostly as listenable as VU’s second studio album, “White Light White Heat.” You can hear all four musicians, and you can rather easily pretend that the various “mixes” and distortion effects are intentional. It’s nothing but relentless VU jamming and extended Reed solos. You can turn it up and just dance to this rock and roll station.

Some songs are not susceptible to this treatment, or at least I haven’t found versions of them that are. But you never know. There’s a three-minute “Jesus” jam, so we can only imagine the many unique wonders we would be enjoying today, if VU had been recorded as assiduously as The Grateful Dead. 

The first show, below, is one of the higher fidelity ones, and it includes one of my favorite “Sister Rays.” The second one is one of the worst sounding ones, but it has its small share of gold – the extended “Jesus” and great long versions of the other two tunes I saw fit to edit. 

All files zipped up here. 58 minutes total time.

January 10, 1969 – Boston (Boston Tea Party)

  • Move Right In (2:12)
  • What Goes On (2:29)
  • I Can’t Stand It (3:23)
  • Run Run Run (5:35)
  • I’m Set Free (1:21)
  • Pale Blue Eyes (1:17)
  • Sister Ray (with vocals) (21:07)
  • White Light White Heat (3:02)

October 2-4, 1968 – Cleveland (La Cave)

  • Jesus (3:16)
  • I Can’t Stand It (5:44)
  • Foggy Notion (8:49)

Grateful Dead: New Year’s ’77 (Jarnow Road Trip)

I’ve been neglecting The Grateful Dead, so I’m going to exploit a guest DJ.

Jesse Jarnow (@bourgwick) is the only person I know who has set out to listen to every Grateful Dead concert in chronological order. On his 40-year delay, he reached the end of 1977 a week ago. In a couple of decades, he will be the King Deadhead; no one else will be able to claim to have gone to every show, in order, and live-tweeted it. 

Jarnow shared his ideal setlist from the 1977 New Year’s Winterland run, and I’ve edited it together here. Thrilling. First "China > Rider" since October 1974.

100-minute mp3 mix here (source dates included in title tags)

  • Mississippi Half-Step
  • Dire Wolf
  • Passenger
  • Row Jimmy
  • Estimated Prophet >
  • Eyes of the World
  • China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider >
  • China Doll >
  • Playin’ Jam
  • Scarlet Begonias >
  • Fire on the Mountain
  • Terrapin Station

I think the cover photo is actually from the Dead New Year’s show exactly 10 years later. I just wanted a good balloon drop, and that's what the search engine handed me. Here's an actual photo from the run:


The Velvet Underground: Unloaded (1969-1970)

Cover photograph by Henry Chalfant.

This is my late entry into the “lost fourth album” competition. VU completed its eponymous third album at the end of 1968, and then, in 1970, released a very strange final (actual fourth) album, “Loaded.” 

In between these documents, the Velvet Underground were peaking live and writing and recording new songs for two different labels. But the closing of the fourth album gate was deferred and deferred, until Lou Reed had actually quit the band, and the final batch of released songs only slightly represented what had transpired since December 1968. 

So, this is the space-of-an-album that I wanted to fill:

  • Ignore the MGM/Atlantic label divide that has segregated releases of archival VU recordings from this period. Follow the continuous trail of the art.
  • Demonstrate that this was a staggering year in Lou Reed’s songwriting and singing history. A “Blonde on Blonde” year. And these are only 20 of the songs he wrote that year.
  • Avoid the sudden, new moves presented on the released “Loaded,” and instead extend the vibe of the third album/1969 VU as far as possible. “Loaded” leans forward into the 1970s and a different VU that never happened; this leans backwards into one that did.
  • Capture the 1969 VU groove as far as possible. Quiet or loud, live or in the studio, they were a magical combo that only lasted a little while. Even the absence of Mo Tucker from most of the Atlantic sessions didn’t prevent Reed/Morrison/Yule from sustaining the 1969 band’s shimmery chug, much of the time. Amazing, definitive versions abound. 

This fake double album includes 20 songs, including three straight from “Loaded” and three live ones from “The Complete Matrix Tapes.” The other 14 are studio outtakes, demos, and alternate versions drawn from various vault releases. 

It’s a portrait of a band at its peak, happy to be here with you, appreciative of your ears – intimate, generous, unhurried. Do you want two short sets, or one long one? Anyone have a curfew? 

82-minute mp3 pseudo-album here

Side One:

  • Sweet Jane (live at the Matrix)
  • Sad Song (Atlantic demo)
  • Rock & Roll (Atlantic demo)
  • I Can’t Stand It (MGM, 2014 mix)
  • Foggy Notion (MGM, 1969 mix)

Side Two:

  • Andy’s Chest (MGM, 1969 mix)
  • Cool It Down (Atlantic, Loaded version)
  • Coney Island Steeplechase (MGM, 2014 mix)
  • Satellite of Love (Atlantic demo)
  • Countess from Hong Kong (late 1969, demo)
  • I’m Gonna Move Right In (MGM, 1969 mix)

Side Three:

  • Over You (live at the Matrix)
  • Lisa Says (live at the Matrix)
  • I’m Sticking with You (Atlantic version)
  • Walk & Talk (Atlantic demo)
  • Oh! Sweet Nuthin’ (Atlantic, Loaded version)

Side Four:

  • Ocean (Atlantic outtake)
  • New Age (Atlantic, Loaded version, full-length)
  • I Love You (Atlantic demo)
  • I Found a Reason (Atlantic demo)


Self-Impersonation: Bob Dylan 1970 Reconfigured (Vol. 3)

Let’s pretend that the music Bob Dylan recorded circa 1970 had resulted in a series of different albums than the ones we got. In the real world, those recordings are smeared all over the place: Self-Portrait, New Morning, Dylan, Greatest Hits Vol. 2, vault releases, and bootlegs. The point of this curation is not to include everything, but to finally give persuasive form to a period that remains blurry (based on commercial releases) and that is often derided as a low point. I consider it a high point, even at its weirdest points. This is my case, via four imaginary albums. 

Volume 3: The Boxer

“Still a man hears what he wants to hear, and disregards the rest.”

“What is this crap?” a famous critic famously asked, after being exposed to “Self Portrait.” 

This third volume of my 1970 reconfiguration is a journey to the center of the crap. I’ve piled it up until there’s a whole statement’s worth of it. It’s delightful. It coheres. It’s greater than the sum of its parts. It’s not a joke.

And it’s not crap at all, of course. Dylan’s not singing as Mr. Nashville, or taking on any fixed poses. He’s taking all of this seriously and covering a lot of ground. He’s putting quarters into his private jukebox. Next up, “Mr. Bojangles.” 

If he’d named these songs in an interview as what he was listening to, we’d find it fascinating, but his playing of them, and the way he played many of them, are often ridiculed: covers of contemporary songs, lightweight originals that sound like those contemporary songs, weird oldies, non-adversarial-Dylan approaches to interpreting it all, backup singers all over the place.

Yes, it is Dylan’s easy listening album from 1970, and aren’t you glad you can finally listen to it all the way through?

43-minute mp3 pseudo-album zipped up here

  • The Boxer (SP)
  • Early Mornin’ Rain (SP)
  • If Not for You (NM)
  • Can’t Help Falling in Love (D)
  • Gotta Travel On (SP)
  • Woogie Boogie (SP)
  • Bring Me a Little Water (ASP)
  • Spanish is the Loving Tongue (b-side)
  • Mr. Bojangles (D)
  • Lily of the West/Flora (D)
  • Mary Ann (D)
  • Winterlude (NM)
  • Big Yellow Taxi (D)

Additional notes: 

  • As many before me have said, this b-side version of “Spanish is the Loving Tongue” is one of Dylan’s greatest performances. The fact that I would dare to place it in the midst of this other stuff reflects my confidence that I can serve you four stacks of 1970 Dylan, and make you like every song in each one of them… including three versions of “Spanish is the Loving Tongue,” a lyric and melody that Dylan obsessively explored in this period, beginning with The Basement Tapes. It’s a song about the borderlands between acceptance and regret, choice and fate, true love and inadequate love. It makes perfect sense that Dylan kept circling around it in this period, and that he also dug out and seriously recorded his old song “Tomorrow is a Long Time” and wrote “Watching the River Flow.” They’re all versions of the same separation narrative, questioning whether the narrator has irretrievably lost something, or is just too weak to pursue it. 
  • Dylan can’t be credited or blamed for some of the overdubbed arrangements here, but unfortunately the material originally released on the album “Dylan” (1973) seems to be so hated that the compilers of the archive box “Another Self Portrait,” didn’t consider including any of it in a purer form. For all I know, some of them began as amazing solo performances, later to be encrusted by others.  
  • I haven’t included anything from the widely-bootlegged June 1, 1970 screw-around recording session on my four compilations. It’s one of those Dylan documents best left to be enjoyed in isolation, IMO, like the ’66 hotel tapes, ’69 Dylan/Cash sessions, and ‘78 Rundown sessions. Lots of fun to be had, but no knockout performances of anything. However, one of the high points of the 6/1/70 recording is a rendition of “Matchbox,” which reveals exactly where “Woogie Boogie” came from.

Self-Impersonation: Bob Dylan 1970 Reconfigured (Vol. 2)

Let’s pretend that the music Bob Dylan recorded circa 1970 had resulted in a series of different albums than the ones we got. In the real world, those recordings are smeared all over the place: Self-Portrait, New Morning, Dylan, Greatest Hits Vol. 2, vault releases, and bootlegs. The point of this curation is not to include everything, but to finally give persuasive form to a period that remains blurry (based on commercial releases) and that is often derided as a low point. I consider it a high point, even at its weirdest points. This is my case, via four imaginary albums. 

Volume 2: To Woody

This is the sub-plot of 1970-ish Dylan studio recordings that I most wanted to pull together – the record I always wanted “Self-Portrait” to be. It’s something like the return of folk singer Dylan, but with the wider, weirder scope of traditional music opened up by The Basement Tapes. Covers and originals sit together comfortably. 

At the edge of the imaginary stage, alone in the spotlight, is Dylan, with microphone, acoustic guitar, harmonica, and a nearby piano. He’s singing his heart out without raising his voice, inhabiting each song as though it’s the most important or delightful story he’s ever told. Additional musicians appear in various formations to provide reserved accompaniment for one song or another. 

If this had been the 1970 comeback concert or “Self Portrait," I think it would be revered. 

63 minute pseudo-album zipped up here

  • Alberta #3 (ASP)
  • Down in the Flood (GH2)
  • In Search of Little Sadie (ASP)
  • George Jackson (single, solo)
  • Song to Woody (bootleg)
  • Only a Hobo (ASP)
  • It Hurts Me Too (SP)
  • You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere (GH2)
  • Copper Kettle (ASP)
  • Spanish is the Loving Tongue (ASP)
  • Thirsty Boots (ASP)
  • I Shall Be Released (GH2)
  • Days of ’49 (ASP)
  • Belle Isle (ASP)
  • Pretty Saro (ASP)
  • House Carpenter (ASP)
  • These Hands (ASP)
  • Tattle O’Day (ASP)

GH2 tracks and “George Jackson” were recorded in 1971. ASP songs are sometimes SP takes without the overdubs. 

Self-Impersonation: Bob Dylan 1970 Reconfigured (Vol. 1)

Let’s pretend that the music Bob Dylan recorded circa 1970 had resulted in a series of different albums than the ones we got. In the real world, those recordings are smeared all over the place: Self-Portrait, New Morning, Dylan, Greatest Hits Vol. 2, vault releases, and bootlegs. The point of this curation is not to include everything, but to give persuasive form to a period that remains blurry (based on commercial releases) and that is often derided as a low point. I consider it a high point, even at its weirdest points. This is my case, via four imaginary albums. 

Volume 1: The Morning After 

One reviewer called “New Morning” a mid-term report from a position of domestic tranquility. However, the final report card, based on original songs recorded in 1970 and 1971, is a much more unsettled communique.

The first volume of my 1970 reconfiguration attempts to turn “New Morning” into the most substantial possible album of originals recorded in this period. The result includes six songs from "New Morning," three alternate versions of "New Morning" songs, and four songs that weren't on the album. 

The object of thematic puzzling is time. Simplified into biography (which isn’t fair), the plot involves “Bob Dylan” fleeing himself and celebrity into domestic tranquility and artistic freedom in upstate New York, but ending up estranged from wife and self, that masterpiece he was going to paint colliding with not having much to say, the past a mixed-up confusion, the future a blank, the river of time continuing to flow by. The gypsy he goes to see in the end, and can't connect with, is the Bob Dylan he escaped from and now can’t find his way back to. He’s the restless wallflower in his own life. He’s half-inclined to consider religion. Or he's just a restless Bob Dylan, hanging out in the cafes and bars of upstate New York, taking notes. 

  • Act 1: Hopeful escape
  • Act 2: Bliss
  • Act 3: Ambivalence, boredom, regret, and resignation

It’s the mighty Bob Dylan album, hiding in plain sight, that marks the mid-point between the official mileposts planted by “John Wesley Harding” (1967) and “Planet Waves" (1973). This re-stacking should startle even those who are intimately familiar with this material in its original contexts, especially in the second half. 

42-minute pseudo-album zipped up here.

  • Three Angels (NM)
  • Day of the Locusts (NM)
  • When I Paint My Masterpiece (ASP)
  • If Dogs Run Free (ASP)
  • New Morning (NM)
  • The Man in Me (NM)
  • Watching the River Flow (single)
  • One More Weekend (NM)
  • Time Passes Slowly #2 (ASP)
  • Tomorrow is a Long Time (bootleg 6/4/70)
  • Wallflower (ASP)
  • Went to See the Gypsy (ASP)
  • Father of Night (NM)

Sidetrips: Elvis Costello – “Favorite Hour” (1994-2004 mix)

Born four years apart and releasing their first albums one year apart, Prince and Elvis Costello are artists that I also associate as eventually becoming capable of writing and singing nearly any kind of song exceptionally well.  

This mix is not intended to represent everything fantastic about EC 1994-2006 – not by a long shot.

It specifically curates the Costello development that proceeded from such early indicators as “Alison,” “Hoover Factory,” “Almost Blue,” “Boy With a Problem,” “Shipbuilding,” etc., and from Costello’s abiding interest in what can loosely be called American Popular Song. These are songs that might have originated in a musical, sung by a character, later to be picked up by others as a standard. 

This mix is also a celebration of the dynamic duo of Elvis Costello and pianist Steve Nieve, collaborators for nearly two decades by the time of the earliest recordings on this mix. Nieve appears on every, or nearly every song here. 

The selections come from the albums of the period (including expanded edition material), a series of EC & Steve E.P.s, and a little bit from bootlegs. The cover photo is from some years later, but I couldn’t find one that I liked better.

66-minute mp3 mix here

  • All This Useless Beauty
  • Still
  • Favorite Hour (Church Studios version)
  • Poor Fractured Atlas
  • Still Too Soon to Know
  • Just a Memory (live 1996)
  • When Did I Stop Dreaming?
  • That Day is Done
  • When It Sings
  • Let Me Tell You About Her
  • I Want to Vanish
  • World’s Great Optimist (demo)
  • All the Rage (live 1996)
  • Black Sails in the Sunset (live 1996)
  • Can You Be True? (live 2004)
  • Almost Blue (live 2004)
  • Baby Plays Around (live 1999)

Sidetrips: Cheap Trick – Best of 1997-2009

When I made this mix in 2010, I titled it “We’re All Alright,” a phrase from a classic Seventies Cheap Trick song that also describes the band’s shocking renaissance after a long, long period of being lame. A bad thing had happened, but now it was alright, those guys were alright, and they were picking up the dropped threads with great enthusiasm.

In 2017, the band released a new album with that same title, so now I’ve gone to Plan B with my mix titling.

My target audience is probably anyone who loves early Cheap Trick and doesn’t have much idea of what happened afterwards. You will be pleased.

This mix draws from four albums, singles, soundtrack & tribute contributions, and bootlegs. In the same period, the band re-recorded “In Color” with Steve Albini and performed the “Sgt. Pepper” album live. You can find the former on the internet and buy the latter on Amazon. 

My split into two volumes roughly follows the original yin/yang of the band, which was that they were half Electric Light Orchestra and half a CBGB band, sharing bills with The Ramones. They were extremely talented writers and musicians, who wrote and played soaring, baroque, Beatlesque songs and caveman head-bangers with equal authority and impact. By mixing these modes up into pop hits, they paved a lot of road in rock music that less talented people drove down.

So, start wherever you want – with the more Beatley one or the thrashier one. Neither is a sequel to “Heaven Tonight” or “Dream Police,” or wherever the “classic period” is supposed to end. However, the band that can seemingly do anything is intact, the songs are strong, and the performances are sharp. Even when the song is a commercial jingle, it's Cheap Trick – and there are plenty of reminders here of what forms of commercially successful music were enabled by Cheap Trick's early groundbreaking.

An example of the general mix of originality and homage here is the band's cover of Big Star's "In the Street," compared with the original composition, "Dream the Night Away." The vertically-oriented Big Star melody becomes a harder, more horizontal story in Cheap Trick's reading, largely organized around a version of Aerosmith's "Draw the Line" riff. Meanwhile, the lost Big Star melodic verticality manifests itself in the original song, "Dream the Night Away," which also pulls in Byrds moves. There's a sense of endless recombination of instinctual and homage-conscious moves in latter day Cheap Trick, but who else is keeping track of and reengineering these moves? The song "Everyday She Makes Me Crazy" is a slight revision of a literal Pepsi jingle, but it's also an amped-up take on '65-'66 Beatles. That's the excellent line that Cheap Trick always walked, in one way or another. 

Both volumes in mp3 zipped up here. 

Volume 1: After a Brief Interruption (55 minutes)

  • Miss Tomorrow
  • Sick Man of Europe
  • My Obsession
  • Mondo Raga
  • Everybody Knows
  • Carnival Game
  • Words
  • Dream the Night Away
  • Low Life in High Heels
  • Everyday You Make Me Crazy
  • California Girl
  • Say Goodbye
  • Closer, The Ballad of Burt and Linda
  • O Claire
  • When the Lights are Out
  • Shelter

Volume 2: Garage Days Revisited (47 minutes)

  • Baby No More
  • Baby Talk
  • Radio Lover
  • Brontosaurus
  • In the Street
  • Sorry Boy
  • Transformers Theme
  • Wrong All Wrong
  • Stone Cold Crazy
  • The Riff That Won’t Quit
  • I Hear You Knockin’
  • Rosie
  • Bonus Track


The Horn Section Episode – September, 1973

MP3s of both discs zipped up here

Main Course: 67 minutes

  • Prelude (Providence) 1:23
  • Let It Grow (instrumental edit – Buffalo) 10:31
  • Guest Player Introductions (Syracuse) 0:11
  • Eyes of the World > (Buffalo) 4:55
  • Eyes Jam (Buffalo) 9:31
  • Truckin’ (Providence) 10:57
  • Sugar Magnolia (Buffalo) 9:13
  • Weather Report Suite > (Syracuse) 11:58
  • Let It Grow Jam (Syracuse) 4:09
  • One More Saturday Night (Buffalo) 4:41

Bonus Disc: 56 minutes

  • Weather Report Suite > (Providence) 12:23
  • Let It Grow Jam (Providence) 6:13
  • Eyes of the World > (Syracuse) 7:24
  • Eyes Jam (Syracuse) 7:09
  • Let Me Sing Your Blues Away (Syracuse) 5:14
  • Let It Grow > (Williamsburg 9/12) 6:01
  • Let It Grow Jam (Williamsburg 9/12) 6:34
  • Casey Jones (Philadelphia) 5:00

After contributing to the recording of “Wake of the Flood,” Joe Ellis (trumpet, flugelhorn) and Martin Fierro (flute, saxophone) went on the road with The Dead for nine shows in September 1973. 

It was a fairly ramshackle affair. The horn section audibly contributed to only seven songs, several of them performed only once or twice. Some of them are quite well arranged/developed and some sound almost ad hoc, just an idea or two, repeated. 

As we’ve always known, the horn episode didn’t live up to the potential inherent in the idea of The Dead taking trumpets, flutes, and saxes onstage in 1973.

The first half of my curation is the best I can do to forge the horn episode into a compelling, surprising, frequently amazing listening experience with minimal repetition. It approximates a one-hour, all-horns set.

The second half (the bonus disc) is the “best of the rest,” mostly. To be considered, a recording had to be high-fi, and the horns had to be clear in the mix, and the second disc contains most of what hit that threshold without being the best representative sample, IMO. I think there is perhaps no definitive performance of "Let Me Sing Your Blues Away."

In the cases of “Let It Grow” and “Eyes,” the horn playing is great during the instrumental breaks in the latter portions of the songs themselves. However, I’ve put a seamless track division before the all-out jamming, because that’s where the horn episode really delivers on 1973 Dead promise. Fiero and Ellis play wildly and wonderfully, soloing, getting really far out, sound-wise. They and the band respond to each other, and it leads to some great places.  It’s a shame that they weren’t given a chance to shake up other improvisational songs. Anyway, while I’m not suggesting you skip the song sections, there’s great pleasure to be had in listening to just the jams. (On the "bonus disc," the "Eyes" jam is nothing special, compared to the Buffalo version, but both "Let It Grow" jams are excellent.)

There was no feasible song/jam cut-point in the one performance of "Truckin'." The horns don't come in until the later stages of the song section, but they're all-in pretty fast, and propel the transition out of vocals and into the immediate "Truckin'" jam. When the band takes that turn that moves closer to "Nobody's Fault," the horns sit back for a while, but they come back in for a very nice stretch. Outside of "Let It Grow" and "Eyes," this is the only place the horns seem to have improvised in wide open space with the band.

The Buffalo “Let It Grow” and “Eyes” performances are the greatest things to come out of this collaboration, IMO. It was the final horn section show, and it’s as close as The Dead ever got to sounding like The Mothers of Invention. RZZZZZ!

Source and editing notes:

  • Not included here are tracks from the first horn section show, which I previously shortlisted here.
  • Aside from the track separations before jams, I haven’t messed with much here. The whole Providence “Suite” appears on the bonus disc, but I’ve also isolated the “Prelude” to start the main course, because it features a unique Fiero flute part, while its “Part 1” section is very sluggish. The Buffalo “Let It Grow” is edited down to an instrumental version partly because it’s awesome that way and partly because of an audience tape patch that I didn’t want to ever hear again. Likewise, I’ve removed an audience patch from the Buffalo “Eyes” (first chorus and instrumental break) and made the splice more listener-friendly. I only included the full “Weather Report Suites” in cases where the horn players were evident in the “Prelude.” You can hardly hear the horns in "Casey Jones," but I included it to cover all the songs that included horns.