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 “Allison,” “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.


Shortlist: June 9, 1973 – Washington, D.C.

Artwork by Moebius.

71-minute mp3 mix here

  • Deal (4:31)
  • Loose Lucy (8:04)
  • Row Jimmy (instrumental edit) (2:25)
  • Sugaree (7:43)
  • Eyes of the World (11:22)
  • He’s Gone Jam > (6:56)
  • Truckin’ (intro & jam) > Other One > Space > (6:40)
  • Playin’ in the Band (23:37)

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a Deadhead in possession of a good 1973 soundboard, must find something to love in it. 

This show (and its recording) are quite rightly overshadowed by the following day’s concert, 6/10/73, which ran to 4.5 hours, with three sets, the final one played with the Allman Brothers Band. I’m surprised it hasn’t been released yet; maybe the master tape is missing? 

I’ve circled around this day-before show for a long time, chipping away at it, wondering how short it was going to get before I loved every minute of it. That tipping point occurred when I had reduced the original 3.5 hours to 71 minutes. Four songs from each set. 

My picks result from the usual, vague combination of performance quality and how well the show’s sound mix does or does not favor a particular song. 

A few points of interest:

  • “Playin’” begins nearly a minute-and-a-half before the count-in; they walked up to the start of the song as if they were headed for the reprise. Additionally, the jam never spaces out, aside from a brief launching pad for the build to the reprise, so it’s a very long jam.
  • This is one of my favorite “Loose Lucys.” It’s so long that I made an instrumental mix of it (posted over here) that runs for 4.5 minutes. 
  • The “Eyes” is very solid, end-to-end, and quite compact.
  • Weir’s guitar has a great, shimmery quality on some songs; check out “Sugaree.”
  • Jerry calls for “Space” to turn into “Here Comes Sunshine,” before it turns toward “Playin’” instead. Listen to the very end of “Space” for his plaintive suggestion.

Shortlist: Berkeley ’72, Continued – 8/24/72

Zipped up mp3 compilation here

Part 1 (56 minutes):

  • Introduction 
  • Greatest Story Ever Told
  • Mississippi Half-Step
  • Truckin’
  • Brown Eyed Women
  • Jack Straw
  • Bird Song
  • China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider
  • Sugaree
  • One More Saturday Night

Part 2 (55 minutes):

  • Playin’ in the Band (15:09)
  • Dark Star > (13:01)
  • Space > (8:39)
  • Jam > (4:26)
  • Interlude > (1:06)
  • Morning Dew (13:04)
  • Sing Me Back Home (9:56)

Six months ago, when I posted highlight reels of the first two (of four) August 1972 Berkeley shows, I lamented the fact that I wasn’t able to process all four shows into a fake “Road Trips” “boxed set.” 

At the time, I didn’t have access to a SBD of the entire final/fourth show, and I judged the third one to perhaps be so good (performance/mix/recording) that it would become a “Dave’s Picks” release someday.

Six months later, on my birthday, no less, Dave did me one better by dropping the complete fourth show into my mailbox, complete and meticulously mastered! And, boy, it really does cap a fantastic run. 

Since there’s obviously no “Berkeley ‘72” box in the offing, I figured I’d go ahead and post my favorite stuff from the third one, so that the three Berkeley shows that Dave didn’t pick have good representation on this blog. You can make your own bonus disc(s) for “Dave’s Picks #24.” I’m reasonably sure that I haven’t left off anything that is for the ages, from the first three shows.

Context: After taking a week off, and having played only one show in three weeks, The Dead played five shows in seven days, culminating in the famed 8-27-72 Veneta, Oregon performance: San Jose on a Sunday, the four Berkeley shows across the following workweek, and then Veneta the next Sunday. (After Veneta, they took another week off.)

So, the Berkeley stand constitutes almost all of the prologue to Veneta: An extended, Bill Graham-sponsored, small theater, home-town residency for The Dead, in the midst of a very busy year. All things considered, it must have been a chill, comfy week for the band, and the high quality of playing suggests that they were both relaxed and focused over four nights at the community theater – very into it. And then, with only a day’s break, they moved from San Francisco/Bill Graham territory to an open field in the northwest, with their old acid test buddies, at an acid-test-level event. Additionally, the first Berkeley show is also just the 9th show after Pigpen’s last show, so we’re listening to the next phase of The Dead hitting its stride – the initial stage of the metamorphosis into 1973 Dead, two “Wake of the Flood” songs already clicking strongly, and jamming mutating in certain places to fill the Pigpen-song improvisational gaps. 

Would Veneta have been played the same way, if The Dead had come straight off of a random tour of sports stadiums in some region of the U.S.? I have no idea, but the character of Berkeley ’72 certainly seems to support the idea that it was the incubator of that transcendent Oregon afternoon. 

Compared to each of the first two shows of the run, I’ve held onto many more minutes from this one, totaling somewhat over two hours. As Dave noted about the next night, there are a lot of crackling smaller songs in this show, in both sets, and I’ve brought those together for the first part of this mix. 

You can tell that I feel good about the vocal mix of this show’s recording, as I’ve led both “discs” with full-throated Bobby and Donna songs, and I haven’t truncated anything into an “instrumental edit.” Loud Garcia vocals on “China Cat” make all the difference; when he’s quiet, the momentum goes completely out of the song. Group vocal songs, like “I Know You Rider” and “Truckin’,” really benefit from this mix, too. The harmonies go wrong in a few places, as you’d expect, but not so that it distracts from the overall impact of these performances. 

Side Trips: A Certain Ratio (1979-1980 mix)

This post presents a very small slice of the earliest output of the band A Certain Ratio. It's intended for people who don't already know them well and who are generally into 1978-1982 postpunk, who like Gang of Four, Joy Division, or Public Image Limited, and/or who are interested in the Manchester, UK scene, 1977-1986. 

A Certain Ratio (ACR) was a Factory Records band-mate of Joy Division and others, produced (in their early years) by JD’s producer/studio-translator, Martin Hannett, for better and for worse.

ACR was and was not conducive to the Joy Division treatment. They were a postpunk funk band that was also very gloomy in their early years. Balancing the funk and the gloom was the challenge, and I judge the official results to be extremely mixed. The band complained that Hannett often took the sound too far from the live band’s ethos, and I’d say that they were correct. 

After/during the period documented here, ACR went to NYC on tour, inspired Talking Heads to funk it up, soaked up a ton of influences and percussion instruments – and leapt forward with their next LP, the postpunk masterpiece “Sextet,” in 1981, which is now available as a perfectly-executed double-CD. After “Sextet,” ACR would continue to evolve into a more mainstream funk band, sliding successfully into the “Madchester” scene. There is no release that documents their 1984-1986, 12-inch/EP output, but they gave New Order and Primal Scream worthy competition. They still exist, with their three essential/unchanging original members, releasing challenging music sometimes, and playing live sometimes. 

Despite being an ACR super-fan, who collected and later meticulously ripped all of the original vinyl and cassette releases, I can’t fully endorse their earliest output. The vibe is consistent, if you’re in the mood for it, but the songwriting and the groove are inconsistent. One song, or version of a song, will lock into a great place, while another will be a cold fish. They were a young, experimental band, and they got it exactly right sometimes.

With today's single, LP, Peel Session, and live options, you can play to the strong points. The only reason I'm posting this mix is that I've been trying to find it since the early '80s, and I think I'm very happy with this "less is more than more" approach.

If you're into it, ACR is re-releasing (in late 2017) their two major, early documents, “The Graveyard & The Ballroom,” and “…to Each," which contributed songs to this mix. 

32-minute zipped mp3 file here

  • Flight (The Graveyard, cassette rip)
  • Loss (live 10/80, Groningen CD)
  • Oceans (To Each vinyl rip)
  • Choir (Peel Session 1979, Early CD)
  • Forced Laugh (live 10/80, Groningen CD)
  • My Spirit (To Each vinyl rip)
  • The Fox (single, Early CD)
  • Shack Up (single, Early CD)
  • All Night Party (Peel Session 1979, Early CD)

Side Trips: The Clash – “Sandinista LIVE!”

I imagine that many fans of The Clash have taken a shot at reducing, expanding, or otherwise mutating “Sandinista!,” in search of whatever it is they feel needs finding in that album. To me, there’s an overcooked, dimly-lit lack of dynamism that keeps me at arm’s length.

This post’s live approach to the album’s (period’s) songs provides a decidedly different slant on things. None of the “Sandinista!” songs were played live before they were recorded for the album, and nearly half a year went by between its completion and their next live performance.

So, they had to learn how to play their slow-cooked studio songs live as a rock band, and then they knocked them out on stage alongside “Career Opportunities” and “Janie Jones.” Sandinista v2.

This compilation comes mostly from two performances from the first two months of that touring period (Amsterdam in May, a NYC Bond's show in June). I have added a few recordings from earlier and later to expand the coverage of relevant songs as far as I can. (Recording dates/locations are included on the song title tags.)

Halfway between the cubicle-gray (stoned all night in the mixing booth) vibe of the studio album and the immediacy of this chaotic live Clash is the “Sandinista!” that I like best. This period was the beginning of the end of the classic lineup with Topper Headon.

67-minute zipped mp3 file here 

  • The Leader
  • Somebody Got Murdered
  • Lightning Strikes
  • Bankrobber
  • Ivan Meets G.I. Joe
  • Charlie Don’t Surf
  • This is Radio Clash
  • One More Time
  • Broadway
  • Street Parade
  • The Call Up
  • The Magnificent Seven
  • Lightning Strikes
  • Corner Soul
  • Washington Bullets
  • Armagideon Time
  • Junco Partner
  • Police on My Back

Dark Starlets: A Europe ’72 Single-Song Mega-Mix

I have reposted this because I discovered that it did not sort into the right track order as previously posted, due to a variation in an mp3 tag category that should have no impact on track sequence. WTF? I spent a good deal of time ensuring that the tracks were sequenced to have gentle transitions and provide good pacing, so I'm horrified that what I posted is all scrambled. This version works correctly.  

This mix is comprised of 21 musical segments drawn from all the “Dark Stars” performed during the Europe ’72 tour. They are arranged into two 64-minute sequences, each of which begins with the song’s intro, and each of which contains a verse. It’s all forward-moving improvisation, whether on the “Dark Star” theme or farther afield. There’s no “space,” though the segments wind up and wind down from spacey zones, such that The Dead’s development of each musical angle here is respected, and the result feels more or less like a single performance, with ebbs and flows. If you’ve ever imagined a one-hour or two-hour “Dark Star” that never completely spaces out and keeps finding new melodic avenues, this is for you.

192kbps mp3s sourced from the official Europe ’72 box.

Blog Index

As the blog's subhead partly indicates, my primary aim here is to share my personal consolidations of unreleased, live Grateful Dead shows, post-Europe '72- through-1974, as documented on fan-circulating soundboards. I post mp3 mixes downloadable from my harassment-free paid Dropbox account. I make no claims to being a decisive Dead authority, and I make and share these mixes in the spirit of the Dead cassette trading that got me hooked in the first place. 

I love the 1972-1974 period more than any other in the band's history, despite its notable flaws – insufficient rehearsing, car-crash harmony vocals, poor mixing/recording of many of the documentary soundboards, etc. What I post on the blog is the ongoing jukebox of repeat-listening-worthy, 1972-1974, live Dead that I am steadily building for myself, as I get intimate with one show after another, in no particular order. 

Links take you to the posts, which have full descriptions and links to the mp3s. 

Grateful Dead “Shortlists” (1972-1974)

Individual, unreleased Dead shows boiled down to 50-120 minutes. (These links, based on tags, will pull up a few non-shortlist posts, but mostly they'll do you right. Just keep scrolling.)

1972

1973

1974


Best of Shortlists (1972-1974)

Vol. 1: New songs of 1973-1974

Vol. 2: Summer ‘74


Improvisation & Instrumental Edits (1972-1974)

Just improvisation Vol. 1

Just improvisation Vol. 2

Dark Starlets - Europe '72

Steal Your Voice: The Instrumental Album (jam songs, and some non-jam songs, without the vocal sections)

Watkins Glen ’73 (same principle as The Instrumental Album)

Shortlist: Oakland 6-8-74 (same principle as The Instrumental Album)

More instrumental edits appear in some “shortlists.”


Riff Investigations/Compilations

Slipknot ‘74

The first three Eyes jams (1973)

The Main Ten & The Seven (1968-1970)


Blues for Allah Rehearsals (1975)

A six-disc curation


Garcia Songs Live (1972-1974)

Save Your Face: A three-disc curation drawn from officially released archival shows. (The post that started this blog.)

Shortlist: Tampa 12-18-73 – all Jerry songs


Phil & Ned 1974

A concentrated dose


Later Dead

The Final Face: A 1989/1991 mix of unreleased, jam-centric material from three shows I attended. Weirdly, one of the most visited posts on the blog.


Not The Grateful Dead

Curations and edits of other artists, on all sorts of different principles: The Beatles, Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones, Beck, David Bowie, Prince, The Clash, Talking Heads, Television. Source content ranges from unreleased to semi-released to widely released. 


Bonus Track

Cover image by Neil Barrett

The Port Chester 6-24-70 “Dark Star” played straight through

This edit is intended only for people who have already listened to the three-part, 6-24-70 “Dark Star” sequence 1,000 times. 

Everyone else should immediately go encounter it in its full, as-played glory (streamed or downloaded):

DS1 > early Attics > DS2 > primordial Sugar Magnolia > DS3

If you DO know this performance like the back of your hand, then you might enjoy this continuous edit, which eliminates “Attics” and “Sugar Magnolia.” It shortens the full 29:12 sequence to a single 21:20 “Dark Star.”

(Then again, like my friend who gave me a tape of this in 1987, you might scream, "Heresy!")

The gentle intro to “Attics” out of DS1 and the clean start of DS2 make the first edit pretty reasonable sounding. (There’s an errant, loud Garcia note just before “Attics” really gets underway, and I just put the note with which he re-starts “Dark Star” there instead.) The second edit, removing the song-ish part of “Sugar Magnolia,” is seamless.

I’m not casting any aspersions on the justifiably famous and genuinely thrilling sequence; however, “Attics” and “Sugar Magnolia” have become less satisfying uses of my time, over time, while I often wish to return to the "Dark Star." 

An aside: There’s a great discussion of audience-tape-only “Dark Stars” here.