“Blues for Allah” Rehearsals – 1975 (improved 2nd edition)

This is a replacement for mixes I previously posted (now deleted). See notes below the track lists.

Folder containing six zipped files of mp3s available here.

1: Sketch of Allah #1 (62 minutes)

  • Help on the Way > Slipknot > Franklin’s Tower (“stunning”) (14:46)
  • Stronger Than Dirt (with conclusion) (7:25)
  • Primordial Crazy Fingers (“Distorto”) (8:15)
  • The Music Was a Jam (11:29)
  • In Search of Allah (19:53)

2: Low-Key Investigations (76 minutes)

  • Paging Getz & Gilberto (1:01)
  • Ace’s Riff (6:36)
  • Sleepy Desert Jam (14:25)
  • Beautiful Song (2:26)
  • Descent into a Spacey Place (7:12)
  • Homeward Through the Haze (7:58)
  • Supple Lightning (4:49)
  • Stronger Than Dirt (low-key) (2:06)
  • Ace’s Riffsong (edit of four pieces of three takes) (4:24)
  • Noodle on the Mountain (23:00)
  • The Music Almost Stopped (:44)
  • The Drunk Lounge Band from Ipanema (1:57)

3: Grooves (79 minutes)

  • Supplication Groove (“Groove" #1 full-length) (14:54)
  • Maybe This Town Has Got Some Heart (“Groove #2” full-length) (10:07)
  • A to E-Flat (full-length) (16:37)
  • Photo 18 Proper (full-length) (11:30)
  • Funky Plunky (5:07)
  • What if the Music Never Stops? (20:49)

4: Sketch of Allah #2 (53 minutes)

  • Help on the Way Jam > Looseknot (8:10)
  • Slipknoodle (1:09)
  • Franklin’s Tower (slow version) (6:37)
  • The Nines > Jam (“Orpheus”) (16:45)
  • Blues for Allah > Stronger Than Dirt” (14:50)
  • Low Down Payment Blues (5:25)

5: Full of Dirt (47 minutes)

  • Stronger Than Dirt (whimsical Keith) (1:48)
  • Longer Than Dirt (10:16)
  • The Nines 2 (9:39)
  • Stranger Than Dirt > Space > Stranger Than Dirt (6:26)
  • Help on the Way > Slipknot #1 (looser) (7:57)
  • Franklin’s Tower (encouraged muttering) (4:48)
  • The Nines 1 (5:10)

6: Sketch of Allah #3 (67 minutes)

  • Help on the Way > Slipknot #2 (speedy, tight) (6:08)
  • Franklin’s Tower (“Ow!” conclusion) (4:48)
  • Blues for Allah > Stronger Than Dirt > Closure (“The First Day”) (21:35)
  • Jam (23:45)
  • Crazy Fingers (studio instrumental) (6:51)
  • Hollywood Cantata (early Music Never Stopped) (4:15)

I previously posted a series of compilations of this material, but I did it hastily, didn’t think it through, posted stuff before I was finished, and made a number of unforced errors. If you downloaded that stuff, I advise you to move it to your trashcan and grab this instead. (Sorry!) There’s even more delightful material in this edition, and the presentation (sonic and sequential) is much improved.

The objective of this set is to distill a vast swath of fairly unapproachable, overlapping bootlegs into something that you can just put on, enjoy, and get to know. I'm confident of its usefulness until The Dead bring out a big, definitive boxed set. 

The result is about 6.5 hours of material from about 11 hours of bootlegs and other sources that I had available. It’s divided up into six “discs,” each of which is intended to provide a pleasurable, non-repetitive listening experience. I recommend spending time with 1-to-3 first, then proceeding to 4-to-6. Material on the latter three is just as interesting (mostly), but you risk repetition-fatigue if you dive into all six at once, IMO. That was the problem with the original bootlegs. Of course, you can choose your own adventure through all of it.

After identifying the material that I thought was distinctively delightful, I trimmed off all the dead air/noodling, rebuilt some long jams that were sliced up on the bootlegs, did some mild EQ-ing to bring muffled/shrill tracks into line, volume equalized it all (fairly well), and tried to title everything in a way that was musically accurate and provided ways to tell versions of the same song or theme apart. I started with 192kbps mp3s, so that’s what I outputted after editing. Lossy but delicious, I assure you. 

I have included unedited versions of the material released on the expanded editions of “Blues for Allah” and “Reflections,” (adding 2-10 minutes to those tracks that were edited) as well as the long recording known as “The First Day,” and three tracks from The Grateful Dead Hour that include David Crosby and Ned Lagin, while lacking Weir and Godchaux. Everything is from bootleg sources, except two tracks taken from the expanded “Allah” release and "Orpheus" from the expanded "Reflections" (because they were complete there and sounded better).

Shortlist: September 10, 1972 – Hollywood, CA

80-minute mp3 download here

  • Dark Star (20:41)
  • Sing Me Back Home (9:30)
  • He’s Gone Jam (4:57)
  • Truckin’ (12:26)
  • Jam (6:07)
  • Black Peter (8:48)
  • Playin’ Jam (16:47)

This show has a large amount of excellent improvisational playing, which I’ve boiled down to an 80-minute sequence. 

I find most of the vocals hard to listen to on this show, due to some combination of the mix and the distortion in (what seems to be) the best circulating SBD source. It’s also a show with some technical difficulties and some slop.

But these 80 minutes – boy howdy! Great playing from a month of great playing. 

The “Dark Star” is top-drawer, feisty out of the gate and jamming widely before the verse, 20 minutes later. The inspiration and pace don’t flag anywhere else, either. It’s one of those shows where every time the band jumped into jam mode, they hit the ground running and then stayed intent on their course.  

There’s some guest guitar from David Crosby in here. 


The Final Face (1989/1991)

Update: This post was/is of a Frankenstein show I constructed out of the best unreleased material I saw live and that I have in good recordings. It's from Ann Arbor, April '89, with "Dark Star" from Greensboro, April '91 added in. Since posting it, I regretted the inclusion of a lame "Wharf Rat" and the louder, duller sound of the Greensboro recordings. So, I EQ-ed the "Dark Star" to sound more like the Ann Arbor material – and that sonic matching, plus the deletion of "Wharf Rat," led to a more exciting running order for the second half.

So, edition #2 is a better experience than my original post - and it's as close as I can come to pretending that I saw a 1974 second set. 

mp3 download here

Part 1:

  • Feel Like a Stranger  8:15
  • Brown Eyed Women  4:55
  • Bird Song  13:14
  • Let It Grow 11:41
  • China Doll  6:50
  • Scarlet Begonias >  9:31
  • Fire on the Mountain  12:08

Part 2:

  • Dark Star  12:34
  • The Other One  7:47
  • Playin’ in the Band  12:45
  • Dark Star > Playin’ Jam  7:25
  • Playin’ in the Band Reprise  3:53
  • Not Fade Away  11:25

Original Post: 

Lest anyone assume that this blog implies that I only appreciate a few years of the Dead’s history, here’s an outlier post. I saw live Dead from 1988 to 1993. In there was the final renaissance, from 1989 through Brent Mydland’s death in 1990, with some post-Brent afterglow, before Bruce Hornsby dropped off. 

Of the unreleased shows I saw in that period, Ann Arbor April 1989 seems to be the best - two shows that between them hit a lot of the songs you particularly want to hear, with excellent, extended jamming. These shows were my first exposure to genuinely great in-person Dead music, my previous shows having been creaky-to-okay post-coma affairs. 

The last great live Dead performance I saw was at the other end of their final peak: "Dark Star" on April Fool’s Day in 1991, in Greensboro, NC. The rest of that show was nothing special, but the only "Dark Star" I saw turned out to be one worth pulling aside. Brent's gone, and there wasn't any full recovery from that, but perhaps because "Dark Star" is "Dark Star," and the band was game, and they hadn't played it in 15 shows, this one hits some very fine places, and the slow build to the reprise is quite delightful. More than 15 minutes, all told.

Here I’ve joined together all that material in a pseudo-album format. (Dates/cities included in tags for all song titles.) If these late years are unknown to you, this is a fine introduction to a period that in my mind is not impossibly distant from '77. Once again, we have a tight, enthusiastic, funky, reliable band that likes to lock into a bouncy place and hang out there for a while. If the '89-'91 bounce works for you, you're going to be happy straight through Stranger, Birdsong, Let It Grow, Scarlet-Fire, Dark Star, Playin', and Not Fade Away. 

I'm also of the opinion that Weir's guitar playing - always the decisive spice in the GD mix for me - got increasingly interesting after the '70s, so one benefit of the Dead's final flowering is a band that was as into it as Weir. The SBD mix for most of the Ann Arbor material is excellent, and Weir's playing really shines.

Steal Your Voice: Instrumental Versions 1972-1974

76-minute 192kbps mp3 download (4th edition)

Vocal-free versions of:

  • Here Comes Sunshine (8:16)
  • Loose Lucy (4:26)
  • Johnny B. Goode (1:41)
  • Promised Land (1:51)
  • Scarlet Begonias (7:10)
  • China Cat Rider (9:16)
  • Big River (2:42)
  • Let It Grow (5:32)
  • Bird Song (9:32)
  • Eyes of the World (7:46)
  • Playin' in the Band (17:57)

All from unreleased shows, with all original source dates contained in mp3 tags. 

This compilation is the counterpart to another mix I posted that is comprised of remarkable Grateful Dead improvisational passages that aren't related to any song – that just happened once. In this version, The Dead play their familiar, formal compositions, but they leave out the words.

The edits here preserve almost every note of the original performances, except the sung sections. Verses/choruses have been edited out and the surrounding musical movements seamed together to keep music flowing without disruption. The only exceptions are the final vocal reprises of “Here Comes Sunshine” and “I Know You Rider,” because only they resolve the songs.

It's both startling and familiar to hear The Dead working through the changes of all these songs, as if the truck carrying the microphones had been delayed, and they decided to go on with the show. The funny thing is that you already know these songs in this way. How each one starts, how it gets to every verse, and how it leaps out of every verse into an instrumental break that has different rules than the others. 

I made these edits in order to hear those songs within the songs, performed by a jazzy combo that hardly needs to play the melody straight once, before both bending it all out of shape and guiding it through a structured build and resolution. And indeed The Dead were that band, and this is an imaginary concert they performed in the early 1970s. 

    Shortlist: September 11, 1973 – Williamsburg, VA

    Ladies and gentlemen… Bob Weir and The Grateful Dead.

    75-minute 192kbps mp3 download

    • Looks Like Rain
    • Message to Shouters
    • Weather Report Suite: Prelude > Part 1 >
    • Let It Grow (with horns)
    • Let Me Sing Your Blues Away (with horns)
    • Mississippi Half-Step
    • Jam > Dark Star
    • Jack Straw
    • The Race is On
    • Beat It On Down the Line
    • Playin’ in the Band

    Between recording “Wake of the Flood” during the first half of August and the album’s release in mid-October, The Dead played eleven shows in September, all but the first two of them featuring the album’s horn players (Martin Fierro and Joe Ellis) on three songs. ("Eyes of the World" with horns debuted the night after this show.)

    Williamsburg was the first horns show, featuring the 2nd ever performance of “WRS Prelude > Part 1” and the 3rd ever performance of “Let It Grow.” Probably because they’d just been rehearsing and recording these compositions, this is one of the tightest, by-the-book, performances of the whole suite that I have. Plus, it’s got exciting horns!

    It’s just by chance that almost everything that stood out to me in this show is authored and/or sung by Bob Weir. This is one of the best performances of “Looks Like Rain” I have heard, so gentle and nuanced in all respects that I took the opportunity to start the shortlist sequence off in hushed beauty, rather than with the traditional bang of a Grateful Dead concert.

    “Let Me Sing Your Blues Away” is a mess, but it’s such a rarity that I had to keep it, and I enjoy it too. 

    Shortlist philosophy: Start with a good soundboard of an unreleased show, and keep only what you honestly want to hear again and again. Be song-agnostic; look for outstanding performances of anything and everything, and reject an average performance of any song, no matter how grand that song’s generic status as a big deal may be. Whatever’s left, edit out the tuning and other delays, and arrange everything into a pleasing sequence. Share the results in lossy mp3 format, in the spirit of the cassette tape trading of my youth, diligently not trying to compete with or annoy Grateful Dead Enterprises, whose property this music is. 

    Shortlist: May 25, 1974 – Santa Barbara, CA

    57-minute 192kbps mp3 download

    • Sugar Magnolia
    • Deal
    • Mexicali Blues
    • Promised Land
    • Scarlet Begonias
    • Tennessee Jed
    • Let It Grow (instrumental) > (6:01)
    • Wharf Rat
    • Ship of Fools
    • Casey Jones

    As a whole (2h40m), this isn’t one of the notable May 1974 shows. On the other hand, an hour comprised of 10 crackling performances by the May ’74 Grateful Dead is nothing to sneer at. If you were compiling a summary box set of the month, you’d want to take a close look at these performances.

    This version of “Let It Grow” isn’t a particularly potent one song-wise, but the playing is excellent, so I took the vocal sections out to let the music do the talking.

    "Wharf Rat" begins and ends in "Dark Starry" fashion. “Tennessee Jed” gets really deranged by the end. “Casey Jones” swings more gently than usual. And I very rarely pull aside a “Sugar Magnolia,” much as I love the song itself, but I haven’t gotten tired of this rendition.

    Shortlist philosophy: Start with a good soundboard of an unreleased show, and keep only what you honestly want to hear again and again. Be song-agnostic; look for outstanding performances of anything and everything, and reject an average performance of any song, no matter how grand that song’s generic status as a big deal may be. Whatever’s left, edit out the tuning and other delays, and arrange everything into a pleasing sequence. Share the results in lossy mp3 format, in the spirit of the cassette tape trading of my youth, diligently not trying to compete with or annoy Grateful Dead Enterprises, whose property this music is.

    Shortlist: July 27, 1974 – Roanoke, VA

    • Big River (instrumental) (2:43)
    • Jack Straw (5:03)
    • Mississippi Half-Step > (7:22)
    • It Must Have Been the Roses (5:08)
    • Bertha (5:18)
    • China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Briefly (10:48)
    • Johnny B. Goode (instrumental) (1:42)
    • Not Fade Away > Goin’ Down the Road > (15:45)
    • U.S. Blues Jam > Promised Land Jam (6:35)
    • The Main Ten (10:37)
    • Brokedown Palace (5:35)

     76-minute mp3 download

    Remember that stretch of July 1974 when Donna was away recording her solo album, and Bobby couldn’t play guitar because of a broken wrist and just did some singing, on crutches? Basically, the band decided to honor several tour dates as a four-piece:

    • Jerry: guitar
    • Keith: electric piano
    • Phil: bass
    • Billy: high-hat and other drums

    Some stuff just couldn’t convert. “Row Jimmy” without Bobby’s guitar was like a clock missing a gear. But at other times, this stripped-down combo achieved a smooth, spacious groovy lockup that reminds me a little of 1977. Jerry on the left, Keith on the right, going solo in the rhythmic and harmonic role that he and Bobby’s guitar usually shared. Phil definitely seemed into it, putting some extra spring into their step on some tunes, like “Jack Straw” and “Bertha” in this show.

    Roanoke was the last of these shows, by which time they weren’t even attempting to play normal set lists, doing some songs as breakneck instrumentals and gravitating toward songs with groovy riffs that they could just play with for a while.

    Of course, none of this ever happened, but if you want a frame of reference for appreciating this show – and the edit I’ve made of it – that’s it.

    The SBD mix of this show almost doesn’t have Bobby’s guitar in it. Sometimes it’s quite perceptibly there, but much of the time you have to look for it, or it slides into/behind Keith’s piano. And it’s Keith’s piano, holding down the right channel as loudly as Jerry’s holding down the left that turns this bad mix into a happy accident: A Grateful Dead that is strangely unfamiliar and yet works, if you pay attention to the right songs. They make you dance a little differently. My source is the beautiful Miller-engineered one, with a big, shimmering, spacious sound. Definitely a show that sounds great on your good speakers.

    I took all the vocals out of “Big River,” “Johnny B. Goode,” and “Promised Land” (which they jammed into), which serves to highlight the solos Keith took in those songs. I also dropped out the song part of “I Know You Rider,” so for once we don’t have to listen to it in order to get from the beginning of “China Cat” to the end of “Rider.” “The Main Ten” is a piece of the “Playin’” jam.

    The way “U.S. Blues” went down in this show is funny; when they got to the end of the song, they weren’t agreed on whether to end it or jam on, so it ends with a whimper of collapse. Then they gather themselves and go for it.

    This is my second favorite early '70s "Half-Step."

    Shortlist: December 18, 1973 – Tampa, FL (Just the Jerry Songs)

    LP 1 (42 minutes):

    • Tennessee Jed
    • Brown-Eyed Women
    • Peggy-O
    • Eyes of the World >
    • Wharf Rat

    LP 2 (46 minutes):

    • Bertha
    • They Love Each Other
    • Deal
    • Row Jimmy
    • Dark Star
    • Uncle John’s Band

    192kbps mp3 download

    This is every Garcia-written song (plus "Peggy-O") from this show, and it’s quite a fine selection of tunes, played consistently well. There’s a small snag here and there, but I haven’t encountered another show that you can slice this way with such a good result.

    I also can’t think of many shows where both the band and the sound mix were ready for business on the first song. The Dead played “Tennessee Jed” a million times from 1972 through 1974, but they only opened two shows with it, and this is one of them. The result is a version that stays restrained and deliberate throughout, never becoming as fully deranged as it typically did in the final instrumental break.

    The last song of the show was “Uncle John’s Band,” and this is a version I find pretty satisfactory. I rarely like 1973-1974 UJBs much, because the melody gets tortured by the singing, but this performance and mix get it closer to the right place than many. It certainly ends the show nicely.

    This is the first version of “Brown Eyed Women” I pulled aside for one of my mixes. I’m not sure why I perceive The Dead as hardly ever nailing this song between Europe ’72 and sometime in 1976 or 1977, but whatever I typically find lacking, this one doesn’t lack it. The opening bars are wobbly, but so it goes.

    The “Eyes of the World” is nearly perfect throughout, and the jam continues to cook after they’ve finished the climactic synchronized riff sequence. The “Wharf Rat” that follows is not one that pounces on the big moments the way some do, but I can’t fault its overall approach to the drama, and the extended coda/fadeout is a nice touch.

    The “Row Jimmy” is one of my favorites. “Peggy-O” is beautiful (if not transcendent), one of only three played in 1973, all in December; the next one would be in May 1974. “They Love Each Other” has the bouncy syncopation you’re looking for, with nice rushes of intensity. “Bertha” is rather explosive (originally sandwiched between “Promised Land” and “Greatest Story, giving it extra propulsion). And Jerry's so into "Deal" that he throws a bunch of extra little vocal punches.

    I’ve always liked this simultaneously compact and restless “Dark Star,” pursuing the melody prettily and nonchalantly for about five minutes, then considering other options for a few minutes, including a little hint of the “Mind Left Body Jam” and a brief dance with “The Other One,” before settling in for a perfectly executed verse of “Dark Star.”

    If you like the feel of an all-Garcia show, you will also like this.

    Feedback?

    If anyone is downloading and listening to these shortlists, I'd love to hear what you think. I've made these mixes for my own listening pleasure, but if people are enjoying them and want more, I'll keep posting them. 

    Now that you can listen to a quality SBD of nearly any show on archive.net, I've long since stopped worrying about preserving unreleased shows in their entirety for myself. And The Dead have released SO many shows that I have no shortage of complete shows that sound great, all mediocrity and repetition intact.

    My goal is to avoid listening to a bad-to-average performance of any song more than once or twice, and to listen to very good-to-great performances of songs over and over again. Life is too short.

    They played "Row Jimmy" something like 70 times in 1973 and 1974; I want to find and memorize the best 10, which would probably be enough to sustain me for the rest of my life, since I'd also have 10 or more great versions of every other song too - and that's just from 1972-1974.

    Ultimately, I think the tyranny of "the show" has limited a demonstration of The Dead's oeuvre, excellence, and achievement since Garcia's death. It's rare that The Dead curate a live release, rather than releasing the entire show – but when they do curate, the result is typically great. At the same time, many Heads (and I was once one of them) still don't want to hear live Dead for the first time, except in the context of the complete show. They wouldn't want to have anything to do with my shortlists, because they deform the show and won't be identical to those parts of the show that they would have chosen as outstanding. 

    True, "there's nothing like a Grateful Dead concert." However, there are also eight bajillion recorded Grateful Dead concerts, and there hasn't been an actual Grateful Dead show since 1995 - 21 years ago. There's absolutely no reason to keep treating concerts as though they are inviolable holy ceremonies, especially when you can stream them complete anytime you want. There's no reason to always stack their tunes in ways that mimic their typical placement in set lists. You don't have to alternate Jerry and Bobby songs. You don't have to bury a monumental "Wharf Rat" at the end of three hours of everything that came before it. You can choose your own adventure.

    It's good to shake things up and to shave things down; it makes everything fresher to set it in a new context that doesn't follow the same old pattern. There's no right way to look at The Grateful Dead.

    Step back from your screen and this swirl will become a 1972 Garcia:

    (Image from a fan t-shirt I bought at a show in the 1980s.)

    Shortlist: June 22, 1973 - Vancouver, BC

    90 minutes of gold, extracted from a messy, 240-minute show - 192kbps mp3 download:

    Episode 1 (48 minutes):

    • Here Comes Sunshine (instrumental edit) (8:16)
    • Bird Song (13:45)
    • A Few Words from Phil (0:19)
    • Playin’ in the Band (18:34)
    • Looks Like Rain (6:58)

    Episode 2 (45 minutes):

    • China Cat Sunflower > I Know You, Rider (14:01)
    • Jam > (8:36)
    • The Other One > (6:59)
    • Industrial Space > (6:15)
    • The Other One. (2:06)
    • Sugaree (7:24)

    I have only had this show for a couple of years, and it has steadily grown in stature for me, as I’ve listened to and pruned it. It is a concert plagued by errors, a combination of flubbed vocals, bum notes, and non-synchronized swimming.

    Over time, a number of performances that are otherwise strong have fallen by the wayside, due to fumbles and dreary patches (e.g., “Jack Straw,” “Big River,” “Row Jimmy,” “Wharf Rat”). “Here Comes Sunshine” made it through with some plastic surgery. 

    Jerry forgot the first line of the song and the first line of the reprise, and therefore understandably never quite seems sure of where he is among the lines that he has sung or not sung. Maybe that’s why everyone sounds so excited to jump into the instrumental breaks; it is, in fact, an exciting “Here Comes Sunshine,” instrumentally speaking. So, I’ve edited out the verse/chorus trainwrecks and made it the jammy overture to the shortlist.

    Similarly, there’s a long jam out of “Truckin’,” in the full show, including a “Drums & Bass” segment, but it never quite reaches anywhere fantastic. Then, eight-and-a-half minutes from “The Other One,” a wonderful stand-alone jam materializes and keeps going.  So I started at the point that jam began to materialize.

    The jam might be the diamond of the show, but the gentle-to-the-point-of-near-evaporation “Birdsong” might be a contender too.  Keith's electric piano is a big part of both of them. And, even as a slut for “Playin’ in the Band” jams from this period, I think this is a notable one. It doesn’t just go to the Playin’ place; it hunts around.

    So, here’s my shortlist case for this show, mined out of a sequence where other stuff went badly wrong or failed to surmount meh. You'll still hear a few wobbles in what I've chosen. There’s even an uncertain moment in the two and a half minute stem song of “Playin',” something you'd think muscle memory alone would make impossible. 

    All in all, I think this is a show where The Grateful Dead mechanism was poorly calibrated to perform songs and well calibrated to groove and explore. It's 90/240ths fantastic – or 37.5% absolutely worth your attention.

    Many thanks to the anonymous master version editor who interpolated quality patches so seamlessly. 

    Shortlist philosophy: Start with a good soundboard of an unreleased show, and keep only what you honestly want to hear again and again. Be song-agnostic; look for outstanding performances of anything and everything, and reject an average performance of any song, no matter how grand that song’s generic status as a big deal may be. Whatever’s left, edit out the tuning and other delays, and arrange everything into a pleasing sequence. Share the results in lossy mp3 format, in the spirit of the cassette tape trading of my youth, diligently not trying to compete with or annoy Grateful Dead Enterprises, whose property this music is.