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. 

6 responses
Looks great, thanks.
John - I've been meaning to thank you for these. What a great concept - and the execution is flawless. Thanks for doing these. Have a great holiday weekend (assuming you are in the US).
Got hipped to your site by the Doom/Gloom/Tomb tumblr. I've got to say: I grew up with Deadheads in the '80s and tried in vain to get into them many times, only to appreciate the rare tune (Brown Eyed Women) and be generally turned off by the culture and baggage. Lately, my listening interests has drifted back to trying again, and your offerings on this site have finally made all the difference. It's official: I 'get' the Dead. The shortlists are a revelation, and this 'best of' is sublime. Many thanks!
Love your editing, but your covers go a long way too. Nice to see a bit of Saul Steinberg matching the Dead so well.
Thanks, Alec. As I've probably said somewhere on this blog before, I think the music has been underserved by the permanent visual fixation on tie-dye and hippie aesthetics.
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