Shortlist: June 8, 1974 – Oakland, CA

Zipped file of mp3s here

48 minutes:

  • China Cat Sunflower (instrumental edit) (7:14)
  • Eyes of the World (instrumental/extreme edit) (9:35)
  • Scarlet Begonias (instrumental edit) (2:39)
  • Playin’ > Wharf Rat > Playin’ (instrumental edit) (28:30)

As a whole, this show and soundboard are a fairly rough listen, but when the band is stretching out instrumentally, the sonic sketchiness disappears. As with many shows that I’ve cut down and posted here, we await a crisp, properly-mastered SBD release to learn just how good the mix, the show, and the individual songs really are. 

What I post often isn’t a comprehensive judgement on the quality of every song from a show, or even the show as a whole; in addition to the performance itself, I’m picky about the mix and any generational degradations of the fan-circulated version that get in the way of my repeat listening enjoyment.

Anyhow, my pickiness has resulted in serious trimming of this show. I’ve taken all the vocals sections out of everything I’ve pulled aside. I realize that this might just annoy visitors to this site.

The great thing in this show is the “Playin’” jam, which gets pretty close to legitimate free jazz – and this is one of only two “Playin’ > Wharf Rat > Playin’s” from this period, the other being 11/21/73. It’s pretty satisfying to hear the whole thing as an instrumental. (They may be surreptitiously tuning up as they transition to “Wharf Rat.” There was a lot of tuning during this show.)

The “Scarlet Begonias” and “China Cat” edits may seem gratuitous, but the playing is very good, and the mix stands up. Without the vocals, “Scarlet” shrinks to the size of “Me and My Uncle!” 

I went further with “Eyes of the World,” in which the first two of the three synchronized riff moments are train wrecks. I took them out, leaving just the third one, but keeping the two big rushes coming out of the first and second ones. It works surprisingly well.

In short, I took a butcher’s knife to this show, but at least the result is 48 straight minutes of June 1974 jamming - and they don't screw up the "Eyes" jam.

Shortlist: June 30, 1973 – Universal City, CA

Zipped file of mp3s here

Part 1 (52 minutes):

  • They Love Each Other
  • Jack Straw
  • Beat It on Down the Line
  • Ramble on Rose
  • Bird Song
  • Black Peter
  • Playin’ in the Band

Part 2 (43 minutes):

  • Dark Star >
  • Space >
  • Eyes of the World >
  • Stella Blue

This 20-minute “Eyes of the World” is generally excellent, but it goes above and beyond in the final stretch: They hit the synchronized riff in the jam a fourth time, after bringing things down to a hush, via a Keith-centric jam - only to return to full-out jamming for a couple more minutes. All 11 minutes of the "Dark Star" are focused and forward moving, while also having quite a few distinct, dynamic little passages. "The Bird Song" is a very light, dreamy one. 

These songs and the others listed above escape a problem that plagues much of the rest of the recording of the show. The mix (as encoded on the circulating soundboards) has Garcia’s guitar so low that it vanishes sometimes and is never out front. I explored a matrix recording, in case it brought Jerry up significantly, but it didn’t. Many songs just sound incomplete, because the shy lead guitarist is standing at the back of the stage, using a tiny amplifier. Songs like “Row Jimmy” can’t lock up into a groovy mechanism with one of the interdependent gears all the way back there.

However, the frustrating mix doesn’t always get in the way. Sometimes Jerry is quiet, but the whole comes together nicely anyway. Other times, the spaces afforded by the song and arrangement (or jam) naturally give his guitar more room to stand out, and you hear the music complete, without making an effort. 

Beyond the guitar volume issue, this SBD has a rich, round sound, and the vocals and vocal mix throughout are way above average. What the mix loses of Jerry’s guitar is more than made up for in its warm embrace of his vocals.The "Black Peter" and "Stella Blue" are both treats in this respect.

The space after “Dark Star” segued directly into the opening of “Eyes” in the show itself (and on audience/matrix recordings), but my SBD fades out shortly before that transition. Sorry about that. I promise that not much is missing and that the clean SBD source is what you want to get familiar with.


Summer ’74 (Best of Shortlists Volume 2)

Zipped up file of mp3s here

LP1: 44 minutes

  • Bertha (Roanoke, VA 7-27-74)
  • Deal (Seattle, WA 5-21-74)
  • Jack Straw (Roanoke, VA 7-27-74)
  • To Lay Me Down (Miami, FL 6-23-74)
  • Peggy-O (Springfield, MA 6-30-74)
  • Ramble On Rose (Vancouver, BC 5-17-74)
  • Let It Rock (Miami, FL 6-23-74)
  • Casey Jones (Santa Barbara, CA 5-25-74)

LP2: 43 minutes

  • Cumberland Blues (Springfield, MA 6-30-74)
  • Dire Wolf (Springfield, MA 6-30-74)
  • It Must Have Been the Roses (Seattle, WA 5-21-74)
  • The Race is On (Vancouver, BC 5-17-74)
  • Tennessee Jed (Santa Barbara, CA 5-25-74)
  • One More Saturday Night (Springfield, MA 6-30-74)
  • Ship of Fools (Chicago, IL 7-25-74)
  • Brokedown Palace (Roanoke, VA 7-27-74)

(12 of these songs come from previously-posted curations of individual shows, and the other four are new to this blog. All from unreleased shows, as of May 2017.)

This second “best of shortlists” is a little different from the first one. Instead of pulling particularly excellent performances from across 1972-1974, I’ve tried to distill something specific that I like about the middle of 1974.  The performances here come from May, June, and July. 

To emphasize this thing I like, I’ve selected mostly compositions that they started playing when they were the country and western band and the tight Europe ’72 unit. 

By 1974, on the right night, any one of these songs could shed its habituated execution and become a pliable, loping groove, the band locked into a magical zone of easy-going syncopation, inspired detailing, and sweet singing. It’s 1974 Dead at their fluid best, taking full possession of these older “small numbers.” Five players listening intently to each other, and strolling, striding, or bounding across the compositions with patience and joy. 

(The "Sugar Magnolia" on my first "best of" mix would fit right in here, too.)

In pursuit of my goal, I’ve included some songs with minor vocal flubs (“Bertha,” “Dire Wolf,” “Ramble on Rose," "Casey Jones"), but these moments didn't deter the band, so they probably won't deter you.

This mix also features songs that were rarely played during the Spring/Summer ’74 tours: “Brokedown” (once), “Dire Wolf” (twice), “Cumberland” (three times), and “Peggy-O” (four times). This is the only time they played “Let It Rock.”

In short, this is an imaginary 90-minute album of an imaginary mid-1974 first set that I would jump the watchman for, right outside the fence.

Best of Shortlists Volume 1

78-minute mp3 download here

  • They Love Each Other (Philadelphia, PA 3-24-73)
  • Sugar Magnolia (Santa Barbara, CA 5-25-74)
  • Row Jimmy (Chicago, IL 7-25-74)
  • Stella Blue (Berkeley, CA 8-21-72)
  • Friend of the Devil (Berkeley, CA 8-21-72)
  • Mississippi Half-Step (Roanoke, VA 7-27-74)
  • Sugaree (Vancouver, BC 6-22-73)
  • China Doll (Miami, FL 6-23-74)
  • Scarlet Begonias (Springfield, MA 6-30-74)
  • Looks Like Rain (Williamsburg, VA 9-11-73)
  • Ship of Fools (Portland, OR 5-19-74)
  • U.S. Blues (Portland, OR 5-19-74)

It appears that I’ve got twenty 1972-1974 shows “shortlisted” on this blog – totaling close to a day and a half of music! Almost every song performed post-Europe ’72 is represented in one or more versions, though there are some glaring holes and instances where what I’ve got isn’t truly amazing.

This mix compiles what I think are some of the greatest hits of the shows I’ve surveyed so far, in the category of non-jam songs, with a strong slant toward compositions that were new in 1973-1974. 

I will admit that I think that this is a great mix, but it is disappointing that with all the shows I’ve scrutinized, there aren’t more versions of every song contending for greatest hits status. I've been trying to be rather rigorous when I pull stuff aside, but I’d like to be able to say, “That was fucking amazing,” more often.

Perhaps the conclusion to draw from this experience is that there should be more official albums like this mix: “Live Versions 1973-1974.” You can’t choose from among five great “Dark Stars” and six great “Other Ones,” etc. but you can – and probably should – choose from among ten “U.S. Blues” or ten “Mississippi Half-Steps.” With carefully structured songs, either the band (and the recording) shows you everything the song has to offer, or it doesn’t. I think of the band’s performances of each song as a series of “takes”; some takes are bad, some are okay, some are very good, and some belong on the album. 

Hopefully you’ll agree that the takes I’ve compiled here are album-worthy. 

Shortlist: July 25, 1974 – Chicago, IL

75-minute mp3 download here

(Re-uploaded file to fix a screwup in the original one.)

  • Scarlet Begonias
  • Row Jimmy
  • Ship of Fools
  • Uncle John’s Band (instrumental edit)
  • Dark Star >
  • Jammy Space >
  • Jam (w/Slipknot riffing) >
  • Stella Blue
  • Let It Grow
  • Sugaree

This is one of the most noncommittal “Dark Stars,” with no verses and only holding together for six minutes. Nonetheless, those six minutes are delightful in the same way as the drifty “Dark Stars” of 11-11-73 and 10-18-74. The dissolve that follows is anticlimactic to me, in the sense that things go from barely there to nowhere – but it’s also somewhere, in the sense that the band rubs up against “Dark Star” a couple more times, while deliberately not playing it. If you want a more cohesive experience, just skip over what I’ve called “Jammy Space,” and you’ll jump pretty seamlessly from the “Dark Star” theme to an extended stretch of more vigorous and varied jamming. It spaces out in places, too, but eventually ends up featuring some early “Slipknot” riffing.

I’m always particularly interested to find versions of “Row Jimmy” and “Ship of Fools” that I love, and both of these seem strong to me. The “Ship of Fools” was the encore, and it’s got some extra oomph as a result. 

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: Berkeley ’72 – August 20-21

Folder containing two zipped files of mp3s here

Monday (73 minutes)

  • Introduction
  • Friend of the Devil
  • Sugaree
  • Stella Blue
  • He’s Gone
  • Dark Star >
  • Space >
  • Keith’s Jam
  • Uncle John’s Band
  • Introducing Keith and Donna
  • Playin’ in the Band

Tuesday (70 minutes)

  • Birdsong (instrumental edit)
  • All That Top 40 Shit
  • The Other One
  • Not Fade Away >
  • Goin’ Down the Road Feelin’ Bad >
  • Hey Bo Diddley > Not Fade Away
  • Playin' in the Band

Immediately before their famous 8-27-72 performance in Veneta, Oregon (released as “Sunshine Daydream”), The Dead played four shows over five nights at the Berkeley Community Theater (August 21, 22, 24, 25).

It would have been fun to sift all four into a fake road-trip boxed set, but I don’t have a personal copy of the fourth show, and the third one – on the 24th – is so impressively, consistently strong, that you should just go listen to it on archive.org.

So, here’s a shortlist of material from the first two shows, on Monday and Tuesday of that week.

Both shows have a sort of “B+” quality overall, with many songs having little vocal screw-ups or wobbly moments, while still being perfectly fine performances. I didn’t include stuff like that.

Monday (8-21) is the more impressive of the two, with great performances of some “routine” numbers, plus a “Dark Star” sequence that musician Henry Kaiser called out for special praise in a “Deadbase” review a long time ago. The bit I’ve titled “Keith’s Jam,” is delightful and, I think, unique. This is a very early, sweet, and confidently-executed “Stella Blue” (the 8th?), and both it and “He’s Gone” were stand-alone first-set songs this night. This "Friend of the Devil" is the hardest, most fiestily-played version I know. The “Playin’” jam is great. Definitely a show of note, in terms minutes of excellence. 

Tuesday (8-22) presented less gold to me. “The Other One” is long (30 minutes!) and engaging, though without the cohesion and melodic reach of something like 9-28-72. In contrast the “NFA > GDTR > NFA”  is compact and focused, with a "Hey, Bo Diddley" insertion that breaks the momentum a bit, but the novelty of its occurrence and the Garcia soloing that ensues compensate for that! 

The only performance I #@$%ed with is the Tuesday “Birdsong,” which I was on the fence about, due to bad harmony vocals, so I eventually split the difference and included an instrumental edit. 

Shortlist: December 1, 1973 – Boston, MA

55-minute mp3 download here

  • Weather Report (instrumental edit) (2:42)
  • China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider (14:51)
  • Big River (5:14)
  • This Lame Trip 1 > (2:40)
  • Me & My Uncle > (3:20)
  • This Lame Trip 2 (2:14)
  • Playin’ > Uncle John’s Band > Playin’ (instrumental edit) (23:41)

You might well ask how I ended up with only 55 minutes from a 3.5 hour December ’73 show. Well, many songs are just okay or include little flubs and hesitations that make them less than exemplary performances. Additionally, when everyone is singing, it’s generally a mess of yowling and non-harmonizing, stabbing you in the head through a crystal clear SBD mix. 

But these 55 minutes, at a minimum, are completely excellent. 

“This Lame Trip” is an astonishing, and at times even virtuoso, stage banter performance featuring Phil, Bobby, and Jerry, often with spontaneous musical accompaniment.  “This Lame Trip 2” is one of best improvisations of the show. (The situation was that the police wanted the aisles of the stadium cleared.) The band also prevents Bobby from promising that they will re-learn "St. Stephen." 

The two cowboy songs are both crackling, and the "China > Rider" is a grand one.

The improvisational highlight of this mix is a "Playin' > UJB > Playin'" from which I've removed the vocal sections and segued a continuous jam. The harmonizing on "UJB" is acutely painful on this version, but musically it's an outstanding example of this particular song sequence: Without ever spacing out, the "Playin'" jam leads directly into and extended exploration of the "Uncle John's Band" theme, and as usual, "Playin'" reemerges smoothly out the end of the "UJB" jam. So, with such painful vocals, this seemed like the right version of this sequence to turn into an instrumental jam. It flows from the first note of "Playin'" through the last note of the "Playin'" reprise without any singing and without wandering into any deep space. 

I also made an instrumental edit of the show’s “Weather Report Prelude > Part 1.” The harmonies were very bad here, too, and there were a couple of stumbles during the verses. However, the playing on this version seems extra meaty to me (rather than thin and spindly) – almost “Stella Blue”-like – so I did my best to create a stand-alone instrumental piece. 

If you like these instrumental edit experiments, there are a bunch of them here

Improvisational Highlights: June 30, 1974 – Springfield, MA

67 minute mp3 download here

  • Scarlet Begonias (7:51)
  • Truckin’ Jam > Approach to Eyes > (8:59)
  • Eyes of the World > (15:29)
  • A Mostly Quiet Space (7:40)
  • Playin’ in the Band Jam (9:40)
  • Not Fade Away > (9:59)
  • Goin’ Down the Road Feelin’ Bad (7:28)

This is an excellent show, very much worth a full listen on archive.org. Including “Seastones,” it’s 3.5 hours long, with very few lame spots. This mix just brings together some improvisational highlights.

(Update: You can get four fantastic first set songs here.)

There are two portions that strike me as particularly notable: 

1) A subtle “Truckin’” jam gradually finds its way to an unorthodox start to “Eyes,” and then the “Eyes” jam is one of those lower-key noodly ones, but it still manages to hit the synchronized riff climaxes accurately and sail out of them with great propulsion. It then proceeds into a wonderful, mostly-minimalist space led by a Garcia solo.

2) The “Not Fade Away” jam goes to places that are unfamiliar to me. The riff and rhythm are bent completely out of shape by the end. 

The “Scarlet Begonias” doesn’t hold any unique revelations, but it’s from the first month that the song was expanded to include several minutes of jamming, and it’s delightful.  

Again, this show is worth listening to in full,  but if you particularly want to spend time with some high-level improvisation, this highlights reel should please you. 

With the exceptions of presenting only the forward-moving part of the “Playin’” jam and skipping the song part of “Truckin’,” this is all as-played. 


Shortlist: May 21, 1974 – Seattle, WA

75-minute mp3 playlist here

  • Scarlet Begonias (5:14)
  • Beat It on Down the Line (3:13)
  • The Race is On (2:59)
  • Deal (4:39)
  • Let It Grow > (10:50)
  • China Doll (5:30)
  • Playin’ in the Band (jam excerpt) (7:10)
  • Eyes of the World > (13:49)
  • Wharf Rat (9:43)
  • It Must Have Been the Roses (5:25)
  • Ship of Fools (missing start) (5:41)

This show is known primarily for its 45-minute “Playin’ in the Band.”  You can listen to that on archive.org anytime; I have included a seven-minute excerpt from its jam here, which I think you'll want to hear more often than the whole.  Otherwise, my attention is on the rest of the show, which is excellent. 

I really enjoy May 1974 as a whole, with the exception of the Reno show. And aside from that Reno show, I believe I've now posted a shortlist of all of the month's unreleased concerts. Nothing beats 5-19-74, IMO, but they all contain wonderful stuff.

“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).