Shakedown Street: ’79 Jams

This mix celebrates Brent Mydland’s arrival on “Shakedown Street” in 1979 and the particularly excellent “disco Dead” that resulted. I’ve chosen seven 1979 performances to edit to semi-instrumentals: intro > solo section > final chorus & jam.

1979 is arguably the most deeply funky year for “Shakedown Street,” early Brent being exactly what the song - and the rest of the band - had been waiting for. Things really go to outer space in the Halloween performance. 

The seven versions presented here are those for which there’s a soundboard recording that makes every player clearly audible and present – ensuring a properly syncopated and detailed groove. 

“Shakedown Street” is not as easy to edit as many other Dead songs, but it only requires two splices, so I hope you’ll put up with a few moments of awkwardness in exchange for the extended, jammy experience. 

71-minute mp3 mix here

  • 8/13/79 (7:52)
  • 8/31/79 (10:10)
  • 10/25/79 (10:57)
  • 10/31/79 (13:43)
  • 11/25/79 (9:23)
  • 11/29/79 (8:21)
  • 12/26/79 (10:24) 

Cover art: Richard Biffle

Grateful Dead: Space 1995

The Grateful Dead remained an experimental band to the end. This mix arranges portions of 1995 “Spaces” from 11 cities/runs, February through May, into several listening arcs, totaling two hours.

In 1995, certain themes recurred regularly in the open improv sections of shows, arguably making them a jam or jams that ought to be named. You’ll hear them in the “Philadelphia Suite” that leads this mix, and then more insistently and extensively in the “Thematic Suite” that follows.  

I’ve also assembled a different flavor of improvisation into a “Melancholy Suite,” which highlights a quest for strange, gentle beauty. This portion of the mix sometimes aligns with the decade-spanning Save Your Face compilation “Chamber Music.”

And lastly, there are several great outliers from the above categories, with which I’ve concluded the mix.

Lesh said the Dead were always playing “Dark Star,” even when they weren’t. This is that music in 1995. 

1h 50m mp3 mix zipped up here (dates/cities included in song titles)

Philadelphia Suite (18 minutes)

  • Three nights edited into a single track. It was a run packed with notable passages, which I’ve melded together.

Thematic Suite (49 minutes)

  • Nine segments from various shows, indexed as separate tracks

Melancholy Suite (31 minutes)

  • Eight segments from various shows, indexed as separate tracks

Outliers (13 minutes)

  • Three segments from three shows

Cover art: Detail from “Bed” by Robert Rauschenberg

Grateful Dead: Go to Alaska (June 19-21, 1980)

In June 1980, the Grateful Dead went to a very nice high school gym in Anchorage, Alaska, for three nights that included the summer solstice. The venue had previously hosted artists such as Dave Brubeck and Leonard Bernstein, and it held 2,000 people. The promoter sweetened the gig offer with a hunting and fishing trip for the band.

The Alaska run (June 19-21) came five days after the band dashed through Portland, Seattle, and Spokane on consecutive nights (June 12-14). A week after Alaska, the band performed in LA and San Diego and then took six weeks off. 

This mix offers a 3-LP (2h 15m) Alaska “album” derived from eight hours of soundboard recordings (mastered by Miller), which I find exceptional.

The vocals are very forward, and every voice and instrument is clearly separated, while blending nicely. The resulting sound experience is very detailed and intimate-feeling, while also having plenty of oomph. 

With very few exceptions, I was able to segue these picks, such that they provide an unbroken listening experience.

Download mp3s

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  • Feel Like a Stranger
  • The Music Never Stopped
  • Sugaree
  • Far from Me
  • Loser
  • Let it Grow
  • Althea
  • Estimated Prophet >
  • The Other One
  • Not Fade Away >
  • Black Peter
  • Playin’ in the Band
  • Supplication
  • Ship of Fools
  • Brokedown Palace

Grateful Dead: Early 1981 (February 26 - March 7)

Out of the gate in 1981, the Grateful Dead were lit. Exploratory and incendiary, it feels like a hard break with 1980. Perhaps the scrappy, early-‘80s Dead were born in February 1981? 

This post wraps together four Save Your Face mixes that summarize the first eight shows of 1981. Created two years ago, these mixes were based largely on Jesse Jarnow’s 40th anniversary listening notes from 2021. Now these mixes are steaming.

When the band got together after a break (for a new year or a new tour), the joy of their reunion as an exploratory musical collective was often palpable and measurable in magic minutes. Early 1981 is one of those events, and these mixes focus on that jammier material.

Chicago - Uptown Theatre (February 26, 27, 28)

Three nights in 2.3 hours, featuring most of the big songs, with many instrumental edits to create long stretches of improvisational playing. 



Original post

Cleveland Music Hall (March 2)

A 3-part “Playin’ in the Band” edited into a single 24-minute track, with “Supplication” for dessert.


Original post

Pittsburgh - Stanley Theatre (March 5, 6)

Second set highlights from each night, totaling 108 minutes. The first night’s second set began with a 7-minute jam without Garcia, who was having equipment issues. Both “Wharf Rat” and “Stella Blue” were given involved instrumental introductions. 


Original post

University of Maryland - Cole Field House (March 7)

74 minutes of highlights, including a 17-minute “Bird Song,” a 9.5-minute jam, and several other extra-long treats.



Original post

The Grateful Dead: February 1973 Improvisational Highlights

This post offers a three-piece, chronological survey of improvisational Grateful Dead performances from their first seven shows of 1973 – February 9th to 24th – none of which have been officially released. Highlights of the last two shows of the month (2/26 & 2/28) were released as “Dick’s Picks, Vol. 28” (2003).

These are older Save Your Face mixes, but I am taking the opportunity to re-share them now that streaming options are available, in addition to the blog's traditional mp3 downloads.

February 1973 was rough going for nearly all the many new songs the band was learning on-stage that month, and old standards weren’t often particularly tight or exciting, compared to late 1972 or later 1973.

However, the improvisational band leapt into 1973 with a big grin on its face – continuing its rapid expansion into the spaces opened up by Pigpen’s departure from the stage in mid-1972. (He died in March 1973). “Like a steam locomotive, rolling down the track,” the Dead were constantly departing and arriving in this period. 

This mix is a dense collection of February’s more exploratory passages. I included full (sung) songs and made instrumental edits as I saw fit, in order to avoid anything that got in the way of the overall momentum and quality.

The two new-for-1973 songs that were on target, right out of the gate, were “Eyes of the World” and “China Doll.” Both are extensively documented on the mix. With “Eyes,” you can hear the band figuring out how to put the pieces together to create the the structured ’73-’74 jam. There’s no good execution of “Here Comes Sunshine” in the first seven shows of the year, but they nailed it musically once, and that performance flowed seamlessly into “China Cat,” so I took out the sung parts of “Sunshine.” (You’re welcome!)

February 9, 1973: Palo Alto CA (56 minutes)

  • PA: Wavy Gravy
  • China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider
  • Uncle John’s Band (instr. edit)
  • Playin’ in the Band (instr. edit)
  • Eyes of the World (1st time played) >
  • China Doll (1st time played)

Stream on Youtube

Stream on Archive

Read the original post and download here

February 15-19, 1973: Madison WI, St. Paul MN, Chicago IL (107 minutes)

  • Bertha (2/15)
  • Here Comes Sunshine (instr. edit) > China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider (2/17)
  • Not Fade Away > Goin’ Down the Road > Not Fade Away (2/17)
  • Dark Star (2/15)
  • He’s Gone (2/19)
  • The Other One  > Bass & Drums (edit 2/19)
  • Playin’ in the Band (2/15>2/17) > China Doll (2/15)
  • Birdsong (instr. edit 2/17)

Stream on Youtube

Stream on Archive

Read the original post and download here

February 21-24, 1973: Champaign Urbana IL, Iowa City IA (86 minutes)

  • Truckin’ > Bass & Drums (2/21) > 
  • Eyes of the World (2/21 > 2/22) >
  • China Doll (2/22)
  • Playin’ in the Band (2/22)
  • Dark Star (2/22) >
  • Space (2/22) >
  • Bass > Feelin’ Groovy Jam (2/24) >
  • Sugar Magnolia (2/24) 

Stream on Youtube

Stream on Archive

Read the original post and download here

Frank Zappa: Instrumental Works (1973-1975-ish)

This Spotify playlist is a shortcut for anyone who wants to explore the immediate sequel to 1970/1972 instrumental Zappa (e.g., “Hot Rats,” “Waka/Jawaka,” “The Grand Wazoo”).

The seven albums Zappa released in 1973 through mid-1978 contained almost no instrumental compositions/performances. This was the period when his vocal music found chart success and established his permanent reputation as a joke song guy (dental floss, yellow snow, STDs, etc.). 

However, Zappa's longstanding instrumental ambition, reawakened in 1972 on two studio albums and tours with 20- and 10-piece live units, continued through 1973-1975 and is highly rewarding. Zappa wrote and recorded many new instrumental compositions and re-arranged his old and recent oeuvre for varied ensembles, including a proper orchestral approach in 1975. 

Some of this recorded backlog would come out belatedly and confusedly (and almost all at once) on “Studio Tan,” “Sleep Dirt,” and “Orchestral Favorites,” from September 1978 through May 1979. To confuse things further, the jokey album “Sheik Yerbouti” - made up of much more recent recordings – would come out in the middle this backlog release schedule. Eventually, archive releases clarified and filled out the early-mid-1970s instrumental story. All Zappa releases and recordings are well-documented on Wikipedia, should you want to delve more deeply into musicians, recording dates, circumstances, and release history. 

ANYWAY, here’s a large Spotify playlist that isolates (nearly all of?) the now-released instrumental material mostly recorded/overdubbed circa 1973-1975:

  • It leads with the instrumentals Zappa included on “Lather,” a proposed four-LP set he compiled in 1977, but which he began conceiving and sequencing several years earlier, around earlier instrumental recordings. It included nearly all the 1973-1975-ish recordings that would later be sliced (by the label) into “Studio Tan” and “Sleep Dirt,” plus a few pieces included on the more comprehensive “Orchestral Favorites.” (It also included later, live vocal tracks, omitted here.)
  • Next up are most of the tracks from a 1973 archival live release of a short-lived, live ensemble that featured Jean-Luc Ponty (“Road Tapes Venue #2”). Nearly the whole set played by this band was instrumental. Zappa complained that the tour was boring because the band wanted to play chess on the tour bus. Counterpoint: Great music, compellingly-executed, via fresh arrangements of classic compositions.
  • Following that are a couple of stray instrumentals from vocal albums of the era – a testament to how rare those tracks were for a half-decade of 1970s releases. Located where they are in the Spotify playlist, because playback volume is increasing. 
  • And lastly, I’ve compiled the instrumental (and nearly so) material from the giant Halloween ’73 and complete Roxy ’73 archival boxed sets. These are performed by the band that immediately followed the Ponty unit and significantly overlapped its membership. The instrumentals from these shows were often the same compositions, but not always, and there are some individual mind-blowers among the repeated tunes. Find your own gold.

Instrumental Zappa over these few years was wildly heterogeneous and greater for that. The composer and bandleader were occupying this space half the time. I have left everything in the order it appeared on the releases used for this mix, aside from shunting 1973 rehearsals and soundcheck recordings to the end - a fascinating but separate trip. This playlist is an ocean, not a take.


I have deferred to Zappa’s 1977 curation by limiting the 1975 orchestral recordings to those he put on the “Lather” track list two years later. The 1975 Abnuceals Emuukha Electric Symphony Orchestra was a great trip in its own right, now documented by an expanded release (studio/live) that is well worth your while, and that is as important to me as the material in the main Spotify playlist. But I consider it a distinct trip.

The Phil Lesh Quintet: The Planet Jams (June-July, 2001)

Over the course of a summer month in 2001, the Q played seven Lesh-composed instrumentals known as “The Planet Jams.” Each was performed only once.

On the site, user Brinkdeers30 posted the following:

I interviewed Barraco a few years back and asked him about the Planet Jams Tour. This is what he said..

“Phil got this idea to honor the seven ancient planets. He wrote all of this incredible music and we decided to hire this guy, John Dwork, and have him have a vision of what this could be. Every show we were going to do one of these pieces that would be a special honoring and it would involve the audience and take place during the whole day. It was supposed to be this spectacular tour and somehow it imploded. What we were left with was this big circle Candace Brightman had built, you see them at dead shows... it's like a canvas with lighting.

Each day, we would come out on stage and see a symbol for one of the planets and we knew, that day we would be playing that specific music. But nobody in the audience was hip to what the f*** was going on. We were playing this crazy music but (the audience) didn't understand. In a way, I don't understand why we went through the motions without actually making it happen. It was so bizarre, but the music Phil wrote... Jimmy has said it many times, he said, 'That was the coolest s*** Phil ever wrote.' It was very deep and every single tune was different and really cool.

Phil is a great composer, he really is. This was written music, we actually had to read that s***. Phil's not the most prolific composer, but think about the body of his work, it's pretty impressive. Just think about "Box of Rain" and "Unbroken Chain" alone.

All of the music was very heady and different, but from the audience perspective, they didn't know what was going on. But it was cool for us, we dug it.”

The objective for this mix was to extract these pieces as cleanly as possible from the music that directly flowed into and out of them. They were almost all tightly sandwiched – one of them in the middle of Viola Lee Blues. So, I found the best starting place I could for each and faded all of them. Thank you to the audience tapers for their beautiful work. I’m sorry my files do not contain the info to credit all of them.

The band:

  • Phil Lesh
  • Warren Haynes
  • Jimmy Herring
  • Rob Barraco
  • John Molo

73-minute mp3 mix zipped up here

  • Intrada > (7/28)
  • Saturn (7/28)
  • Luna (6/30)
  • Mars (7/22)
  • Comes a Time jam > Venus (7/17)
  • Sun (7/20)
  • Jupiter (7/26)
  • Mercury (7/6)

This mix is a sequel to the Save Your Face “PLQ Jazz 1" mix.  Posted here. Streaming here. Thank you to Josh Klay for introducing me to The Planet Jams and serving up the perfect concept for volume 2 of the series. 

Cover art: “Round,” Amaranth Ehrenhalt, 1961.   PLQ Jazz logo: John Hilgart & Ben Powers

Grateful Dead Shortlist: Merriweather Post Pavilion, Summer 1985

This mix curates the Dead’s unreleased June 30 - July 1 run in Columbia, Maryland. The soundboard mix is immaculate, and exceptional performances abound. 

The two shows are strong overall, and I’ve listened to them several times. However, as always, I think the best Dead minutes become even better, and a show’s stature greater, when you cut until you can’t bring yourself to cut anymore.

The only edits are segues to connect tracks toward the end of each of the two parts of the mix. There are crackles on a couple of songs that seem to be native to the sound boards. 

2.5-hour mp3 mix zipped up here (dates included in song titles)

Part One:

  • Shakedown Street >
  • Samson and Delilah
  • Walkin’ Blues
  • Big Railroad Blues
  • Looks Like Rain
  • My Brother Esau
  • Let It Grow
  • U.S. Blues
  • Sugar Magnolia

Part Two:

  • Scarlet Begonias >
  • Fire on the Mountain
  • Playin’ in the Band >
  • Uncle John’s Band
  • Drums > Space
  • The Other One
  • Good Lovin’
  • Satisfaction

Cover art: Framing photograph - JR Eyerman/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images. Inset detail: Yayoi Kusama

Grateful Dead Improvisation 1972-1974

One of the most common inquiries I get is where to look for improv-only 1972-1974 Dead mixes on the Save Your Face mixtape blog. Here’s the shortest answer: There are lots of SYF mixes that focus on the jammy side of ’72-’74 Dead, but the mixes below focus on zones of pure, spontaneous creation, largely detached from any particular song.

This is improvisational music of the highest order, full of indelible moments of delicate intricacy, collective synchronicity, individual virtuosity, melodic forward-motion, and complete narrative arcs... in real time. To me, this is where the Grateful Dead planted a flag that no one in the rock and jazz categories can dispute or directly compete with.

Bookmark this page, and you'll have instant access to hours and hours of that kind of music.

Dark Starlets: Europe ’72

This mix offers two hours of non-spacey listening from all the Europe ’72 tour “Dark Stars.” It is not every cool passage from those performances, but it is an ongoing melodic adventure that highlights the earliest signs of the improvisational Dead that would follow Pigpen’s departure. While the Dark Star theme returns many times, there are also numerous pure improvisations beyond that theme.

Original post/download


Improvisation Vol. 1: 1973-1974

The original SYF “jazz years” improv mix, isolating 10 passages/74 minutes that are among the most revered “out of nowhere” playing from the era. Bits you surely know well, but carved out as stand-alone tracks that reveal the GD’s ability to create something amazing from nothing. Henry Kaiser approved this mix at some point. 

Original post/download


Improvisation Vol. 2: 1972-1974

Nine passages/96 minutes more of improvisation that has little or no relation to song-themes - while coming across as wholly-formed ideas. This mix compiles the best open passages I discovered over a year or so of listening to unreleased shows from the era. 

Original post/download


Theme from Summer of ’73 (The Phil Jazz Jam)

Sixteen tracks/67 minutes of Summer ’73 improv that slightly overlap the 72-74 mix above - again avoiding song themes for pure improv. Summer bliss circling around multiple takes of “The Phil Jazz Jam.”

Original post/download


Pouring Light into Jazzes: Drifty Dark Stars (1973-1974)

Nine passages/two hours focused on some of the most diffuse and open Dark Star zones of the era. It’s Dark Star, but it’s also infinity. A perfect sequel to the more structured, era-beginning “Dark Starlets” mix, above. 

Original post/download


The Mind Left Body Jam

The first "disc" of this multi-decade anthology complies the 1972-1974 performances of the theme.

Original post/download


The Spanish Jam

The second “disc” of this multi-decade anthology compiles the 1973-1974 performances of the theme.

Original post/download


Cover art: Luigi Serafini - detail from a page of "Pulcinellopaedia Seraphiniana"

Magazine: Live in Boston (August 4, 1979)

This is a customized remix of one of the best live documents of the classic Magazine lineup that included guitarist/composer/occasional-sax-player John McGeoch. By the time they toured in 1980, and recorded their live album “Play,” McGeoch was gone.

In addition to McGeoch’s presence, what I like about this recording/show is the aggressive crunch, which is lacking in nearly all of the (scant) other 1978-1979 recordings that exist in good fidelity. Instead of coming across as a mannered post-punk/proto-synth-band, they hit with the punch of punk - bass, guitar, keyboards, drums, and Howard Devoto all coming for your ears in equal measure. 

The Boston ’79 recording is probably not a complete set list, but it’s close. I’m guessing the ultimate source was an FM broadcast.

The proximate source of the version presented here is the early 1980s vinyl bootleg “Back to Nature,” which I believe remains the only source for the show. The raw LP contains quite a bit of distortion, but when I scrutinized it, I discovered that it was a mono recording, and that the distortion was almost entirely in one channel. 

The customized version presented here is therefore the clean vinyl channel doubled to two-channel mono for the digital rip, with some mild EQ applied. Without the noisy channel, the recording really stands up.

51-minute mp3 mix zipped up here

  • My Tulpa
  • Give Me Everything
  • Definitive Gaze
  • Back to Nature
  • Parade
  • Boredom
  • Permafrost
  • The Light Pours Out of Me
  • I Love You Big Dummy
  • Thank You
  • My Mind Ain’t So Open 

For the curious, I’ve compiled a Spotify playlist of 1978-1979 live performances of songs that do not appear on the Boston ’79 tape. The first three - released as 12-inch b-sides in 1980 (but recorded earlier) - are the sonic peak of available McGeogh-era recordings, including the definitive version of “20 Years Ago.” The additional tracks come from the other official sources, all of which I find less compelling than the Boston tape - but great to hear the extra songs live.