Shortlist: December 13, 1992 – Oakland, CA

Cover: Kiki Smith, "Bird with Stars," 1954, MoMA collection.

Vince Welnick-era Grateful Dead continues to delight me. I’ve been looking for a definitive “Way to Go Home,” and I think I may have found it in this show – as part of a nearly perfect second set, captured by a superb soundboard mix/recording. 

The set list has no filler, the playing is tight and nuanced, and everyone is singing well. All I have deleted is “Drums > Space” and one verse/chorus of “Here Comes Sunshine” that Garcia thoroughly mangled/mumbled. Otherwise, it’s every minute of the second set, plus encore, in the order played. 

This is the second performance of the resurrected “Here Comes Sunshine,” which had been missing since February 1974, nearly 20 years. The discipline of rehearsals is still in effect, putting the vocals in a satisfactory place, and its whole trajectory is quite structured and exciting.

This was the third show in a five-show run at the Oakland Coliseum Arena, after which they took a break until late January 1993. There are only two official releases of live 1992 Dead, one of which is the entire fourth show and part of the fifth show from this Oakland run. That was “Dick’s Picks” #27, released in 2003. The other release is 3/20/92, included in “30 Trips Around the Sun,” released in 2015.

64-minute mp3 mix here

  • Here Comes Sunshine (minus one verse/chorus) >
  • Way to Go Home
  • Victim or the Crime >
  • Terrapin Station > Jam
  • The Other One >
  • Morning Dew
  • E: The Weight

Shortlist: September 21, 1993 – Madison Square Garden, NYC

Cover by Saul Steinberg.

A lot of The Grateful Dead mixes that get posted here start with some specific curiosity: shows with horn players, the final “Dark Stars,” Keith “Shakedowns,” “Sevens, Main Tens, and Elevens,” a month someone said was hot, etc. 

I’ve been poking around the Welnick years lately, and this mix came out of my interest in the sequence of “Here Comes Sunshine” followed by “Way to Go Home.” I really like “Way to Go Home,” and there’s a natural affinity between the two, given the way The Dead played “Sunshine” in this period. They played the pairing four times (’92, ’93, 2x’95). They never jammed a connection, but the 1992 one has a nice little hinge, and this one has an instrumental noodle in between that serves as both a coda to “Sunshine” and a walk-up to “Long Way.” This is a very good "Long Way," though the mix blunts it somewhat.

Beyond that material, it was the jamming and not the songs/singing that cooked that night. “Terrapin” reverted almost immediately back to a “Playin’” jam after the final vocal section, so this seemed like a good time to try an instrumental “Terrapin.” It’s a tough edit to get from the instrumental break to the final jam, but what the hell. The jamming on both sides of "Terrapin" is superb.

Anyhow, here’s another check-in with 1993 Dead that reassures you that more listening will be rewarded. 

42-minute mp3 mix here

  • Small Improvisation (1:44)
  • Here Comes Sunshine (mostly inst. edit) (4:09)
  • Way to Go Home (6:44)
  • Playin’ > Terrapin > Playin’ (inst. edit) (14:38)
  • The Same Thing (7:17)
  • Drum Space Improvisation (7:47)

Self-Impersonation: Bob Dylan 1970 Reconfigured (Vol. 4)

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

Volume 4: Nashville Hangover

This is the very belated final volume of my four-mix set. Unlike the other three, it doesn’t feature a new-for-1970 Dylan, so I decided not to post it, unless someone actually asked me to. Then several people did, and I apologize for taking so long to do it. For everyone else, for god’s sake, start with the other three!

There is at least as much vocal ambition and range in Dylan’s 1969-1971 singing as in any earlier year-and-a-half period. After perfecting the 1965-1966 Dylan, 1967 starts a period of dismantling that guy, including his epoch-making vocal approach. The naked playfulness of The Basement Tapes, the sustained voice from the grave of “John Wesley Harding,” the sweet crooner of “Nashville Skyline” – they’re all self-portraits that contrast with that Highway 61 pill-box hat guy and the punk rock singer of the 1966 tour’s electric set.

The first two compilations I posted (“The Morning After” and “To Woody”) capture the place I think that experimentation and disavowal circled back to – the natural sounding, but widely-ranging Dylan voice(s) of 1970-1971. It’s an iconic Dylan voice, corresponding to that curly-haired, denim-clad, spotlight-haloed guy on the cover of “Greatest Hits Volume 2.”

My third volume (“The Boxer”) and this one here (“Nashville Hangover”) capture the recordings that are, vocally-speaking, “less Dylan.” In the case of the present disc, it’s (nearly) every proper studio recording in that sweet Nashville voice that wasn’t on the puny, 27-minute “Nashville Skyline.”

Alone of the four sets, this one reaches back to 1969 “Nashville Skyline” sessions for material, but it seemed worthwhile to bundle that in with the “Self Portrait” material in the same voice. 

42-minute mp3 mix here

  • Lay Lady Lay (alt take, bootleg)
  • Let It Be Me (SP)
  • Take a Message to Mary (SP)
  • A Fool Such as I (D, remastered, EQed)
  • Country Pie (alt take, ASP)
  • Living the Blues (SP)
  • Blue Moon (SP)
  • Spanish is the Loving Tongue (D, remastered, edited, re-EQed)
  • I Threw It All Away (alt take, ASP)
  • Take Me as I Am (Or Let Me Go) (SP)
  • Wigwam (ASP)
  • One More Night (alt take, bootleg)
  • Ring of Fire (bootleg)
  • Folsom Prison Blues (bootleg)

Shortlist: September 22, 24, and 26, 1991 - Boston, MA

Cover: Treated scan of thrift store photo

My sudden fascination with the post-Mydland years continues with a mix pulled from the period when Bruce Hornsby and Vince Welnick both played keyboards for The Grateful Dead. That period lasted a relatively long time, from September 1990 to March 1992, making it as distinctive an episode in band membership/chemistry as any other. 

I’ve combined pieces of three unreleased shows from a six-show September run in Boston, MA, one year into the two-keyboard lineup. I used matching matrix recordings as my sources (audience/soundboard hybrids), which offer a fat, immersive live experience. I haven’t made any internal edits in the material presented here, but I created cross-fades to make it sound approximately like two continuous sets. 

The mix of compositions that ended up on top, when I put pressure on these shows, has a definite personality – mostly Garcia-sung blues-boogies and sepia-toned character dramas. The "Workingman's Dead"/"American Beauty" Revisited vibe of this music is unintentional, but refreshing – a reminder that there were always several Grateful Deads lurking in the hodgepodge of material they played on any given night. When you isolate one of them, you experience a show, a year, and/or a lineup differently than when you listen to whole shows. 

The two keyboardists lend texture, color, and exciting rushes to these old songs, and "Stella Blue" seems particularly excellent to me. I think that both those keyboardists were paying attention to the lyrics, and playing accordingly, and since Garcia is singing well (except for "New Speedway"), many of these performances really sell the songs. 

By accident, there are some statistically significant performances in this mix:

  • They hadn’t played “We Bid You Goodnight” in 107 shows, and this turned out to be the last one they ever played.
  • This is the first “Nobody’s Fault but Mine” in 450 shows (9/3/85), and they only played it two more times before the end of the band. 
  • Aside from an isolated performance on 6/10/73, The Dead played “It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry” only six times, all during the Hornsby period. This is the next-to-last one. (The song was a staple of solo Garcia shows from '72-'86 in acoustic & electric sets, though it disappeared after his coma and only popped back up in solo sets in '95.)
  • This is a fairly rare instance of The Dead playing full-blown “Dark Stars” twice in three consecutive shows, in the 1990s period, let alone at the same venue in three days. I haven't deleted anything from these two "Dark Stars," so, in an era when there was often a first-verse-only "Dark Star," this mix offers a palindrome: first verse > second verse> first verse.
  • Though not covered in this mix, the 9/20/91 show of this Boston run includes the only time after 1976 that they played something other than “Franklin’s Tower” after “Slipknot” – playing “Fire on the Mountain” instead.

2h21m mp3 mix of September 22, 24, and 26, 1991 here (song title tags include performance dates)

Set 1:

  • Cold Rain and Snow
  • Let the Good Times Roll
  • Feel Like a Stranger
  • Althea
  • It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry
  • New Speedway Boogie
  • He’s Gone (final section) >
  • Nobody’s Fault but Mine >
  • Spoonful
  • High Time
  • Candyman
  • Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door
  • The Weight

Set 2:

  • Dark Star
  • Stella Blue
  • Dark Star
  • Ship of Fools >
  • Dark Star
  • Standing on the Moon
  • And We Bid You Goodnight

Dark Star Flashes: March 1994

Cover: “Full Stop,” John Latham, 1961

The last two “Dark Stars” The Grateful Dead played occurred within two weeks of each other, six months after the previous performance, and 1.3 years before the end of the band. On the calendar of career “Dark Stars," they draw attention to themselves. 

I honestly had no idea how great The Dead could be in this period, when the spirit of jammy exploration moved them. I like how laid back they are in these performances, which are simultaneously drifting and full of momentum. Thumbs up to this Grateful Dead. 

52-minute mp3 mix here, which flows approximately like a continuous set.

  • Dark Star (3/16/94, verse removed)
  • Victim or the Crime Jam (3/21/94)
  • The Other One (3/18/94)
  • Playin’ Jam > (3/30/94)
  • Dark Star (3/30/94)
  • Jamming Down the Road (3/21/94)

I’ve posted another 1993-1994 mix, which includes the “Dark Star” before these two, with David Murray on sax. 

Dead is Jazz: Live 1993-1994

Cover: Detail from “Dream No. 2” (1989) – Candy Jernigan

This mix combines pieces of unreleased 1993-1994 Grateful Dead concerts that featured saxophonists Ornette Coleman, Branford Marsalis, and David Murray, plus all appearances by word jazz great Ken Nordine. I've created connections where they were missing to simulate a continuous set.

If it weren’t for the obligations entailed by the concept of the “30 Trips Around the Sun” boxed set, The Dead’s final four calendar years of playing live (1992-1995) would hardly exist in the official release catalog. 

This is a disservice to the music and to the band’s fans - and seemingly the result of The Dead’s commitment to whole-show releases and disinclination to chop shit up and compile great live albums out of their favorite bits. 

I don’t know if what I’ve made here constitutes a great live album, but it is certainly a far out live album with a lot of greatness in it. Since nothing else is competing for the spot, you might even consider this mix as a provisional career bookend to “Live Dead,” 1969’s official live document of the first year of truly far out Dead. Here they are, freaking out with jazz musicians a quarter of a century later. There were only two more "Dark Stars" after this one.

I'd dedicate this mix to my dad, who immersed me in jazz and Ken Nordine from birth, but this would all probably be too post-bop/fusion/crazy for him. So, I'll dedicate it instead to 1967-1969 Frank Zappa (composer/editor) and Ian Underwood (Zappa's always game reed man in the early days). They might decry the lack of discipline, but I think that they would appreciate the overall effect. Murray's playing has some very Underwood-ish moments. It should be noted that Vince Welnick acquits himself beautifully all over the place.

93-minute mp3 mix here (all guests and source dates included in song title tags)

LP1:

  • Flibberty Jib (Nordine)
  • Drums (Murray)
  • Space > (Coleman)
  • The Other One > (Coleman)
  • Stella Blue (Coleman)
  • Unknown (Nordine)
  • Space (Coleman)

LP2:

  • Eternity (instr. edit – Marsalis)
  • Samba in the Rain (instr. edit – Marsalis)
  • Space (Marsalis)
  • Estimated Prophet > (instr. edit - Murray)
  • Space > (Murray)
  • Dark Star (instr. edit - Murray)
  • Space (Murray)
  • The Island (Nordine)
I've got a mix of The Dead's 1973 live horn section episode here.

Shortlist: December 28, 30, and 31, 1989 – Oakland, CA

The Grateful Dead played four New Year’s week shows at the Oakland Coliseum in 1989. These shows followed a two-week break and preceded a two-month break. The only material that’s been released from the four shows is a “Space” segment from the 28th, on “Infrared Roses,” a very worthy album.

I previously posted an hour-long mix from the first night of the run with a lot of songs edited into instrumental versions to create an unusual jam sandwich of mostly-Garcia themes. 

This complementary post turns material from the next three nights into a single, jam-song sequence of mostly Weir material, mostly as complete songs. I’ve created segues between all the pieces to provide continuities comparable to when “>” in the set list simply means that there was no delay between one piece and another, just a quick transition or a pregnant pause. 

80-minute mp3 mix here

(I've re-zipped and re-uploaded this file, because someone reported unzipping trouble. I think I just put some forbidden characters in the file name.)

  • Feel Like a Stranger (12/28)
  • The Music Never Stopped Jam (12/30)
  • Estimated Prophet (12/30)
  • Victim or the Crime Jam > (12/31)
  • Dark Star > (12/31)
  • Space (12/31)
  • Drums (12/31)
  • The Other One (12/30)
  • The Other One Space Jam (12/30)
  • Let It Grow (12/28)

“>” indicates unaltered Dead transition

I have a hard time faulting this moment in live Dead history. If you don't listen to it much, I think you should change that. In retrospect, a lot of the music they played during the final Brent Mydland year was better experienced live than on tape, even though the tapes are typically immaculate. By that time, many songs had become crowd-pleasing rave-ups and sing-alongs, rather than musical adventures. There was a jaunty mood nearly everywhere, which was both effective overall and something of a flattener of differences among songs. Fun if you were there – tight, infectiously danceable – but not necessarily an important thing to listen to in 2018. 

However, I’d agree with many others that you have to go back to 1970-something to find as consistently good a jam band as the 1989-1990 unit. These 1989 New Year’s shows might not be worthy of release in full, but you can certainly make a fake album from them that slays. 

When I was going to shows in this period, the anxiety was always about how much of the deep stuff you were going to get – which songs, and how many of them, would fill the slots where the real adventures typically happened. Every show you could manage to get to was so freighted with hope, especially if “they were due for” a big song you’d never seen, or never seen done really well. It’s nice to be far away from those years, able to simply dig through the shows - all now aurally attendable - and enjoy what they played, without the personal drama of shows, if you were a music-centric Head. It's hard to believe that it's been nearly 30 years. At the time, it seemed like the future of The Dead was wide open again - a band that was again as fascinating live as they were on old tapes - and I remember how completely devastating it was to learn that Mydland had died, knowing that the wave had probably crashed, again. 

Shortlist: December 27, 1989 - Oakland, CA

Cover art by Neon Park: Detail of "Green Goddess," 1984

I’ll always be grateful that my initial obsession with The Dead happened just as the band’s mid-to-late 1980s nadir gave way to a final, fantastic period of live playing. It makes perfect sense that The Dead have released a slew of shows from Spring 1989 through Spring 1990 – a career sweet spot between the end of the rebuilding period after Garcia’s coma and the death of Brent Mydland. 

I decided to try my Frankenstein editing approach on an unreleased show from this period – taking The Dead’s improvisational temperature by removing a lot of vocals to turn songs into jams and easing transitions that The Dead hadn't already provided. I chose this show at random.

62-minute mp3 mix here

  • Bird Song 
  • Playin’ Jam >
  • Crazy Fingers Jam > 
  • Uncle John’s Jam (>) 
  • Drums (>) 
  • Space > 
  • The Wheel Jam (>) 
  • Morning Dew

Real Dead segue: >

Edited transition: (>)


Pre-Order 1973-1974 Boxed Set

Just in case anyone here isn't on The Dead's mailing list, pre-order has just begun for a boxed set of the band's six shows in the Pacific Northwest in 1973 and 1974, including my beloved 5/19/74. 

• 6/22/73 P.N.E. Coliseum, Vancouver, B.C. 

• 6/24/73 Portland Memorial Coliseum, Portland, OR

• 6/26/73 Seattle Center Arena, Seattle, WA 

• 5/17/74 P.N.E. Coliseum, Vancouver, B.C.

• 5/19/74 Portland Memorial Coliseum, Portland, OR 

• 5/21/74 Hec Edmundson Pavilion, University of Washington, Seattle, WA

Shortlist: Pyramid Scheme - November 20-24, 1978

I decided to listen to all the Keith & Donna era “Shakedown Streets" (they overlapped for about five months), and it led me to this two-hour mix, pulled from four consecutive concerts. It simulates an almost non-stop jam that would have been nice to hear in Egypt, next to the pyramids and the Sphinx, on a starry night in the Fall of 1978. (The actual Egypt shows were a month earlier.)

Each of these shows featured an unorthodox second set sequence with carefully-crafted connections. “Shakedown Street” was brand new at this point (these are the 5th, 6th, and 7th performances), a second set song that they jammed into and out of. That song and the Middle Eastern motifs running through these shows precipitated some very interesting passages, even managing to pry “Fire on the Mountain” free of “Scarlet Begonias” one of only two times between March 1977 and October 1980. Rounding out this moment in live Dead, I’ve included the exceptionally rare “If I Had the World to Give” (3rd and final performance) and Donna’s “From the Heart of Me,” both featured on the studio album, “Shakedown Street,” released the week before these shows. This mix is very much the opposite of that album.

Two-hour mp3 mix here

11/24/78 Passaic, NJ

  • From the Heart of Me
  • Estimated Prophet >
  • Shakedown Street (instrumental edit) >
  • Ollin Arageed >
  • Fire on the Mountain (instrumental edit)

11/23/78 Landover, MD

  • Dancin’ in the Street (instrumental edit)
  • Playin’ Jam >
  • Egyptian Space >
  • Shakedown Street > Approach to Playin’

11/20/78 Cleveland, OH

  • Playin’ Jam >
  • Shakedown Street (instrumental edit) >
  • If I Had the World to Give
  • Supplication (instrumental edit)

11/21/78 Rochester, NY

  • Drums > Space >
  • Not Fade Away (instrumental edit)