Side Trips: The Concise Beatles Get Back/Let It Be Sessions

75-minute mp3 zipped file here

I downloaded and studied something like 28 discs of these sessions. They mostly sucked as hard as every two-LP bootleg of them that I bought in my youth. I came away with one disc that reliably delights me and suggests/simulates a band that was really going for it, collectively. Most of their supposed recordings of (seemingly juicy) covers during these sessions were lame piss-takes that inspired no real band performance. So, my picks are mostly focused on interesting/hot performances of original tunes, which they attempted 1000 times each, plus some outliers. 


Side Trips: Imaginary Post-Punk Maxi-12-Inch Split Single

"It was in the city of shapes that she made love to several apes. She felt weird for a couple of days, but pretty soon she got used to their ways." (Robyn Hitchcock) I think you'll have a similar encounter with these mixes.

mp3s here  

Talking Heads: One Mix About Buildings and Food (8:51): An edit made up of pieces from nearly every song on "More Songs About Buildings and Food" that is looking for the proto-“Remain in Light” jam lurking inside it.

Television: Marquee Miniature (4:51): An almost entirely instrumental recombination of most of the album's  short instrumental breaks, which results in something that sounds surprisingly prog-y, and surprisingly like one song.

Talking Heads vs. NEU! (6:34): NEU!’s “Negativland” segues seamlessly into the “Psycho Killer” jam from the Talking Heads’ live performance in Sydney, Australia in 1979. A hint about what The Talking Heads were listening to and being inspired by.

Side Trips: Bob Dylan: Outtakes/Album Companions 1962-1964

For reasons unknown, Sony decided not to release expanded editions of “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan,” “The Times They Are a-Changin’,” and “Another Side of Bob Dylan,” in 2012, 2013, and 2014. 

In those years, Sony was required to “officially” release any unreleased material that they wanted copyright ownership of in Europe, prior to that material turning 50 years old. If they didn’t release it, it would become public domain. 

To meet this requirement, they released something like 100 vinyl boxed sets of studio outtakes and live recordings from each year. These did not in any way attempt to curate the material or to weave it together with outtakes or live material that had been previously released somewhere at some time. The only consideration was to publish previously unreleased material. Nonetheless, it meant that everything remaining in the vault was finally available in high fidelity.

For 1965-1966, Sony got wise and released three different versions of “The Cutting Edge,” ranging from two discs of studio outtakes from that period to a massive box including everything that was recorded during the sessions for the three relevant albums. It was the “copyright box” for 1965-1966, but it also included the previously-released material from those sessions.

So… there is still no canonical set of studio outtake companions to Bob Dylan’s official releases prior to 1965. That’s what the mixes here attempt to provide: the best general audience-through-semi-fanatic companion albums I can engineer, pulling from every official release there is, volume-equalizing it all, and assembling it into coherent listening experiences. Each of the three companions parallels the recording dates of their respective albums. 

They aren't complete, but they go deep enough that when I couldn't choose between two versions of a song, I included them both. With very few exceptions, my omissions were more takes of the same songs.

Hopefully, Sony won’t smack me down too hard for sharing these, since they have shown no interest in a general releases of this sort. 

Improvisation 1972-1974 Vol. 2 (Best of Shortlists Vol. 3)

Zipped up file of mp3s here

LP 1 (46 minutes)

  • Jam (Vancouver, BC 6-22-73) (8:28)
  • Jam Inside Playin’ (Seattle, WA 5-21-74) (7:10)
  • Jam > Mind Left Body Jam (Portland, OR 5-19-74) (9:49)
  • Jam > Bass & Drums > Jam > Spanish Jam > Jam (Philadelphia, PA 3-24-73) (20:34)

LP 2 (46 minutes)

  • Jam > Dark Star (Williamsburg, VA 9-11-73) (9:43)
  • Mind Left Body Jam > Jam Inside Dark Star (Madison, WI 10-25-73) (5:23)
  • The Other One Excerpt (Jersey City, NJ 9-28-72) (11:22)
  • Jam Montage (San Francisco, CA 12-31-72) (14:25)
  • Jam (Berkeley, CA 8-21-72) (5:07)

Aside from “space” (improv without meter), Grateful Dead improvisations that aren’t directly related to a particular song are rarer than you’d think, even in 1972-1974. 

Most “Playin’ in the Bands” and “Other Ones” are comprised of space and more-or-less direct exploration of the songs’ themes. “Eyes of the World” jams have a wide dynamic range, but they’re still working their way through the same series of checkpoints, with rare exceptions. Likewise, "Bird Song" and "Scarlet Begonias."  “Dark Star” is the most pliable, a song that is anchored but that is also often a “unique jam” without ceasing to be “Dark Star.” 

The point of this compilation (and the one that preceded it) is to bring together material that is largely outside of all such song-based frameworks. Pure, spontaneous jamming, with a beat you can dance to.

I believe that everything (or nearly everything) I distilled for the first improvisation compilation I posted has been officially released within full shows. To the extent that many of those tracks sound like planned compositions, once you choose start- and end-points that isolate them, I'd say the Dead Vault Curators are doing a good job of making the most astonishing material available. 

This second compilation comes entirely from “shortlists” of single shows that I have previously posted, which means that all of it is unreleased as of June 2017. (So, from my fake album blog's POV, this is “Improv Vol. 2,” but also “Best of Shortlists Vol. 3.”) 

I have used this opportunity to once again promote a couple of passages of music that I adore, even though I would urge you to go listen to them in context. From May 19, 1974 in Portland, I’ve pulled an exceptionally buoyant jam that includes “Mind Left Body.” From September 28, 1972 in Jersey City, I’ve isolated an extended passage from “The Other One” that is “The Other One,” while also being something else altogether. Both are among my favorite Dead moments. 

I have also scratched a long-standing itch and combined three improvisational passages from the long, multi-chaptered “The Other One” of New Year’s Eve 1972 that aren’t “The Other One.” 

As always, tracks have been edited (start and end) to feel coherent and sequenced to provide some continuity – and everything is tagged to stand clearly apart from other “albums”/songs I’ve posted. For the CD burners among you, any compilation longer than 80 minutes is broken into/tagged as multiple "albums." 

Slipknot '74

Zipped up file of mp3s here

20 minutes:

  • Slipknot (out of Eyes 6-20-74) (5:34)
  • Slipknot (inside The Other One 2-23-74) (3:17)
  • Slipknot (within a longer jam 7-25-74) (5:22)
  • Slipknot (inside Playin’ 2-22-74) (4:27)
  • Slipknot (out of Eyes 10-20-74) (1:52)

Jerry Garcia introduced the “Slipknot” riff into the band’s live jamming five times in 1974, including the first and last shows of the year. These early appearances aren’t “Slipknot” proper, since the band is just doing whatever comes naturally at the time, but there’s some added satisfaction in hearing them all together, juxtaposed with the riffs and jamming modes of several different songs.

I have kept a fair amount of surrounding material on most of these edits, so the context isn’t lost, and you can hear the riff sliding in and out of the proceedings. So, this isn’t truly 20 minutes of “Slipknot,” but rather 20 minutes of jamming in which “Slipknot” keeps appearing.

Shortlist: October 25, 1973 – Madison, WI

Zipped up file of mp3s here

53 minutes:

  • Here Comes Sunshine
  • China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider
  • Weather Report Suite
  • Playin’ in the Band jam

48 minutes:

  • Dark Star (including Mind Left Body) >
  • Space >
  • Eyes of the World >
  • Stella Blue

In addition to the great performance, this soundboard features a superb mix, including the vocals. There's only one excessively sour harmony moment in "Here Comes Sunshine." (The cut around the 9 minute point of "Playin'" was in my source.)

Dick Latvala discussed this show in his best of 1973 list:

Now we get to one of the all-time, out-of-this-world kind of shows: 10/25/73. I really can't say enough about this one! The first set is very good, but it is the second set that does you in. 

The "China Cat->Rider" is one of the better ones from that era when they used that transition material that people call "Tighten Up" and other names, and I am just as confused about this as the next guy. So, a detailed discussion about that wonderful "jam" occurring towards the ends of some "Dark Stars" from 1969 and 1970, (and which is stated as beautifully as I could ever hope to hear on 4/8/72- Wembley) and which also could be occasionally intimated during some versions of "Dancing in the Streets", that kind of discussion is something that I would like to learn more from some of you guys who have been investigating this. 

But not right now, since I need to finish gushing all over this Madison show. The "Dark Star->Eyes->Stella Blue" is where the action is! There are "jams" surrounding these songs that contain some very, very scary and unbelievable playing. A bass sound that Phil employs here will pretty much have you seriously thinking that this might be too much! Obviously, words will never get this described very well, at least not my words. The "Eyes" is another one of those "best versions" type of things.

Phil & Ned 1974

Zipped up file of mp3s here

70 minutes:

  • September 18
  • June 26 or 28
  • September 14
  • June 30
  • July 31

This compilation is purely for convenience's sake. I don't often want to listen to a Phil & Ned performance in the middle of Grateful Dead music, but my love of early electronic, minimalist, ambient, Krautrock, and other related music also makes me a fan of Phil & Ned. I quite enjoy 70 minutes straight, and I look forward to gathering together more sometime.

I am by no means an expert on all of their performances, and I don't think there was any method when I chose these five a year or two ago; I think I just wanted some isolated Phil & Ned. One criterion I did have was that no one other than Phil & Ned appeared. No cameos by Jerry or transitions into Dead Space are included here. 

(Pulled from released and unreleased shows, at least at the time I made it.)

Shortlist: February 23, 1974 - San Francisco, CA (Winterland)

Zipped up file of mp3s here

70 minutes:

  • Introduction
  • Here Comes Sunshine
  • Weather Report Suite
  • The Other One >
  • Eyes of the World
  • We Bid You Goodnight

1974 began with three isolated shows at Winterland in late February.  The third one was released as “Dave’s Picks” Vol. 13; this is the second one. It closes off 1973 to the extent that this is the final “Here Comes Sunshine” of the era. The way the vocals are mixed on this soundboard makes it one of the best sounding versions, overall. 

The highlight of the show is a long, mostly-quiet, but very powerful, slowly building stretch of exploration in the middle of “The Other One,” which eventually leads to some early “Slipknot” riffing.

The soundboard mix of this show is strange. At times, Jerry’s guitar is extremely quiet or vanishes altogether. Keith’s piano can also vary from absent to leading the mix. However, everything else about the sound is robust, and you won’t experience any deficits in the material I’ve pulled aside. 

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.