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
8 responses
Thanks for your great work. Just came across the site last nite. Have listened to a ton since then. Came here for the Dead, but stayed for the rest... Your descriptions of your creative decision-making process are enlightening and inspiring. To me, that indicates a knowledge beyond facts, and a passion beyond knowledge.
Moondog/Pitbull, your comments are very kind and encouraging. Thank you. I am glad to know that my notes come across this way to you. These mixes come out of a very subjective process, designed to please myself – so, when I decide to post something, I try to retrofit that subjective process into a reasonably objective note about the mix that resulted from it. I want to be an advocate for the music that I’m telling people is worth listening to, rather than a DJ or critic who thinks the story is about him. If your comment indicates that I’ve struck that balance, that makes me happy.
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