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, 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.)

23 responses
Please keep them coming, if you so desire. I am a longtime head who for many many years only wanted "the context of the complete show." Your mixes have, subtly yet powerfully, changed that context for me. That's opened up new doors of perception. For me, that's really what is has been all about anyway. And .... thank you!
I really enjoy listening to each mix. I've downloaded them all so far. I was a casual listener, starting 10 years ago or so. I downloaded 11-17-73 and Barton Hall, bought Europe 72, and didn't really wonder about anything else in almost all that time. This summer, however, I started really becoming interested in all the different songs and shows, and have been listening to almost exclusively Dead for three months. Your mixes have come at a good time, as I really enjoy listening in a car, and find CDs to be the best way to do that. So a compilation under 80 minutes is what I typically make. I have the same challenges as you - shows with bad vocals but great jams, versions ruined by a bad jam, etc. So I love the format, and I have no attachment to "the show" as a unit. My favourite so far is 74-05-19 - so much fun!
Hey - nice job here. How do you edit your mp3s (e.g., the 6-22-73 Here Comes Sunshine edit)? Which software?
Robert, I've used "SoundStudio" for a long time to edit sound files, but I'll bet there are a lot of similar products. It gives me a waveform that I can enlarge infinitely to find exact cut points, easy tools to amplify, fade in/out, a graphic equalizer, etc. Splicing together the bits is just trial and error. I separate the pieces into different files, do preliminary edits to the beginnings and endings, tentatively splice them together, and then fiddle around until it sounds okay. A Dubs and James, I'm so glad these mixes are working for you! I too like defined time spans: the length of an LP, or an hour, or the length of a CD.
I'm loving these mixes as well, and have developed a similar philosophy regarding Dead listening. There are as many different ways to approach the Dead's catalogue as their are individual perspectives. Their is no need to stick to a whole show only format, and creating these mixes highlights different aspects of the band. It's fun when people's tastes align, interesting when they don't. I tried to do something similar with a compilation and accompanying book I created, which you can check out in my URL. Hope you keep more of these coming, inspiration for my next project.
I love your shortlists. great performances and well chosen. In particular, I love the improvisation list. Keep it going if you can find the time and the muse for it. Thanks a lot
The Europe '72 Dark Starlets are gorgeous. I anticipate years of enjoyment. The other sets are wonderful, too!
Loving these. If nothing else, they're incredible palate cleansers during other listening projects, or when I'm in need of some really great stuff and dont want to think about what to listen to.
Thanks for the comments, people! Mitch, I don't see a live URL in your comment, but I'd love to check out your book/soundtrack.
Hi. I wrote a somewhat garbled piece, in part by way of thank you. For me, you arrived at the perfect time:
Stan, you write beautifully. I didn't experience the slightest garble, and it is great to hear the perspective of someone who came to the Dead later, already having developed big ears for all sorts of music, and who wasn't shackled to the original... rules (?)... about how to listen to and appreciate the band's recorded legacy. And thanks for the plug, too! Mitch, I enjoyed your volume 1 mix! There's stuff on there I'd never heard until now. I've peeked at volumes 2 and 3 as well. I think I would go insane if I tried to do what you are doing!
Stumbled upon this site just today and please believe I am digging it! I want to listen/read some more of what you have, but so far, big kudos to you sir! Keep up the good work!
Dude, I just found this blog a couple weeks ago and have slowly started listening and I want to say thank you! And please keep it up. Such a thoughtful way to listen to the Dead and your edits are brilliant. Big cheers, bud!
Thanks, Mike! I'll post every time I get a little pile of shows thoroughly listened to and have time to isolate the best stuff on them.
I've come to your blog very belatedly, but please keep these shortlist jewels coming if you have the time and desire. They're truly fascinating. Aside #1: The first Dead show I attended was 5-18-72 (great Dark Star>Morning Dew at that one) in Munich, Germany while serving as a medic in the U.S. army (*^&$#* drafted!). To kill time between episodes of fighting the bloody Nazis (or was it the Russians?...I forget) in the taverns ("Gasthauses') of Bavaria, I would borrow the few GD bootlegs I could find and transfer them to cassettes on a cheap Radio Shack cassette recorder. I'd do massive edits, much in the manner you do, but without your golden ears, patience, or present-day sound editing technology. I still have a few of those old BASF tapes, but they sound pretty laughable now, and most of the oxide has worn off leaving the fidelity pretty murky. I just can't part with them, though, and it's terrific to hear how well you can do this type of thing today. Aside #2: It was always funny to hear American musicians attempt to speak to audiences made up of mostly Germans. I went to a Frank Zappa gig at the the Circus-Krone, a building originally built to showcase circus acts. At the start of the concert, Frank walked up to the microphone and said, "Children of Munchkin, tell the city fathers to build you an electric music palace so you don't have to sit out there on the elephant shit." Enough said.
Marc, thank you for this comment and those stories! Amazing to think about finding bootlegs and making transfers in the early '70s. By the time I came along in the '80s, it was easy to have a pair of tape decks connected to your stereo through a 12-band equalizer - and even that sounds like a horror show to me now. I am a big original Mothers/instrumental Zappa fan (up to '74 or so), so I love this Zappa anecdote. And there's no "belatedly" about finding this blog. All the blogs I have or have had are just about parking stuff on the internet that other people might like. I don't promote them. I don't have Google analytics attached to them. They're just there, and sometimes I add stuff to them.
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