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.

Summer ’74 (Best of Shortlists Volume 2)

Zipped up file of mp3s here

LP1: 44 minutes

  • Bertha (Roanoke, VA 7-27-74)
  • Deal (Seattle, WA 5-21-74)
  • Jack Straw (Roanoke, VA 7-27-74)
  • To Lay Me Down (Miami, FL 6-23-74)
  • Peggy-O (Springfield, MA 6-30-74)
  • Ramble On Rose (Vancouver, BC 5-17-74)
  • Let It Rock (Miami, FL 6-23-74)
  • Casey Jones (Santa Barbara, CA 5-25-74)

LP2: 43 minutes

  • Cumberland Blues (Springfield, MA 6-30-74)
  • Dire Wolf (Springfield, MA 6-30-74)
  • It Must Have Been the Roses (Seattle, WA 5-21-74)
  • The Race is On (Vancouver, BC 5-17-74)
  • Tennessee Jed (Santa Barbara, CA 5-25-74)
  • One More Saturday Night (Springfield, MA 6-30-74)
  • Ship of Fools (Chicago, IL 7-25-74)
  • Brokedown Palace (Roanoke, VA 7-27-74)

(12 of these songs come from previously-posted curations of individual shows, and the other four are new to this blog. All from unreleased shows, as of May 2017.)

This second “best of shortlists” is a little different from the first one. Instead of pulling particularly excellent performances from across 1972-1974, I’ve tried to distill something specific that I like about the middle of 1974.  The performances here come from May, June, and July. 

To emphasize this thing I like, I’ve selected mostly compositions that they started playing when they were the country and western band and the tight Europe ’72 unit. 

By 1974, on the right night, any one of these songs could shed its habituated execution and become a pliable, loping groove, the band locked into a magical zone of easy-going syncopation, inspired detailing, and sweet singing. It’s 1974 Dead at their fluid best, taking full possession of these older “small numbers.” Five players listening intently to each other, and strolling, striding, or bounding across the compositions with patience and joy. 

(The "Sugar Magnolia" on my first "best of" mix would fit right in here, too.)

In pursuit of my goal, I’ve included some songs with minor vocal flubs (“Bertha,” “Dire Wolf,” “Ramble on Rose," "Casey Jones"), but these moments didn't deter the band, so they probably won't deter you.

This mix also features songs that were rarely played during the Spring/Summer ’74 tours: “Brokedown” (once), “Dire Wolf” (twice), “Cumberland” (three times), and “Peggy-O” (four times). This is the only time they played “Let It Rock.”

In short, this is an imaginary 90-minute album of an imaginary mid-1974 first set that I would jump the watchman for, right outside the fence.

Shortlist: July 25, 1974 – Chicago, IL

75-minute mp3 download here

(Re-uploaded file to fix a screwup in the original one.)

  • Scarlet Begonias
  • Row Jimmy
  • Ship of Fools
  • Uncle John’s Band (instrumental edit)
  • Dark Star >
  • Jammy Space >
  • Jam (w/Slipknot riffing) >
  • Stella Blue
  • Let It Grow
  • Sugaree

This is one of the most noncommittal “Dark Stars,” with no verses and only holding together for six minutes. Nonetheless, those six minutes are delightful in the same way as the drifty “Dark Stars” of 11-11-73 and 10-18-74. The dissolve that follows is anticlimactic to me, in the sense that things go from barely there to nowhere – but it’s also somewhere, in the sense that the band rubs up against “Dark Star” a couple more times, while deliberately not playing it. If you want a more cohesive experience, just skip over what I’ve called “Jammy Space,” and you’ll jump pretty seamlessly from the “Dark Star” theme to an extended stretch of more vigorous and varied jamming. It spaces out in places, too, but eventually ends up featuring some early “Slipknot” riffing.

I’m always particularly interested to find versions of “Row Jimmy” and “Ship of Fools” that I love, and both of these seem strong to me. The “Ship of Fools” was the encore, and it’s got some extra oomph as a result. 

Shortlist philosophy: Start with a good soundboard of an unreleased show, and keep only what you honestly want to hear again and again. Be song-agnostic; look for outstanding performances of anything and everything, and reject an average performance of any song, no matter how grand that song’s generic status as a big deal may be. Whatever’s left, edit out the tuning and other delays, and arrange everything into a pleasing sequence. Share the results in lossy mp3 format, in the spirit of the cassette tape trading of my youth, diligently not trying to compete with or annoy Grateful Dead Enterprises, whose property this music is. 


Improvisational Highlights: June 30, 1974 – Springfield, MA

67 minute mp3 download here

  • Scarlet Begonias (7:51)
  • Truckin’ Jam > Approach to Eyes > (8:59)
  • Eyes of the World > (15:29)
  • A Mostly Quiet Space (7:40)
  • Playin’ in the Band Jam (9:40)
  • Not Fade Away > (9:59)
  • Goin’ Down the Road Feelin’ Bad (7:28)

This is an excellent show, very much worth a full listen on archive.org. Including “Seastones,” it’s 3.5 hours long, with very few lame spots. This mix just brings together some improvisational highlights.

(Update: You can get four fantastic first set songs here.)

There are two portions that strike me as particularly notable: 

1) A subtle “Truckin’” jam gradually finds its way to an unorthodox start to “Eyes,” and then the “Eyes” jam is one of those lower-key noodly ones, but it still manages to hit the synchronized riff climaxes accurately and sail out of them with great propulsion. It then proceeds into a wonderful, mostly-minimalist space led by a Garcia solo.

2) The “Not Fade Away” jam goes to places that are unfamiliar to me. The riff and rhythm are bent completely out of shape by the end. 

The “Scarlet Begonias” doesn’t hold any unique revelations, but it’s from the first month that the song was expanded to include several minutes of jamming, and it’s delightful.  

Again, this show is worth listening to in full,  but if you particularly want to spend time with some high-level improvisation, this highlights reel should please you. 

With the exceptions of presenting only the forward-moving part of the “Playin’” jam and skipping the song part of “Truckin’,” this is all as-played. 


Shortlist: May 21, 1974 – Seattle, WA

75-minute mp3 playlist here

  • Scarlet Begonias (5:14)
  • Beat It on Down the Line (3:13)
  • The Race is On (2:59)
  • Deal (4:39)
  • Let It Grow > (10:50)
  • China Doll (5:30)
  • Playin’ in the Band (jam excerpt) (7:10)
  • Eyes of the World > (13:49)
  • Wharf Rat (9:43)
  • It Must Have Been the Roses (5:25)
  • Ship of Fools (missing start) (5:41)

This show is known primarily for its 45-minute “Playin’ in the Band.”  You can listen to that on archive.org anytime; I have included a seven-minute excerpt from its jam here, which I think you'll want to hear more often than the whole.  Otherwise, my attention is on the rest of the show, which is excellent. 

I really enjoy May 1974 as a whole, with the exception of the Reno show. And aside from that Reno show, I believe I've now posted a shortlist of all of the month's unreleased concerts. Nothing beats 5-19-74, IMO, but they all contain wonderful stuff.

Shortlist: May 25, 1974 – Santa Barbara, CA

57-minute 192kbps mp3 download

  • Sugar Magnolia
  • Deal
  • Mexicali Blues
  • Promised Land
  • Scarlet Begonias
  • Tennessee Jed
  • Let It Grow (instrumental) > (6:01)
  • Wharf Rat
  • Ship of Fools
  • Casey Jones

As a whole (2h40m), this isn’t one of the notable May 1974 shows. On the other hand, an hour comprised of 10 crackling performances by the May ’74 Grateful Dead is nothing to sneer at. If you were compiling a summary box set of the month, you’d want to take a close look at these performances.

This version of “Let It Grow” isn’t a particularly potent one song-wise, but the playing is excellent, so I took the vocal sections out to let the music do the talking.

"Wharf Rat" begins and ends in "Dark Starry" fashion. “Tennessee Jed” gets really deranged by the end. “Casey Jones” swings more gently than usual. And I very rarely pull aside a “Sugar Magnolia,” much as I love the song itself, but I haven’t gotten tired of this rendition.

Shortlist philosophy: Start with a good soundboard of an unreleased show, and keep only what you honestly want to hear again and again. Be song-agnostic; look for outstanding performances of anything and everything, and reject an average performance of any song, no matter how grand that song’s generic status as a big deal may be. Whatever’s left, edit out the tuning and other delays, and arrange everything into a pleasing sequence. Share the results in lossy mp3 format, in the spirit of the cassette tape trading of my youth, diligently not trying to compete with or annoy Grateful Dead Enterprises, whose property this music is.

Shortlist: July 27, 1974 – Roanoke, VA

  • Big River (instrumental) (2:43)
  • Jack Straw (5:03)
  • Mississippi Half-Step > (7:22)
  • It Must Have Been the Roses (5:08)
  • Bertha (5:18)
  • China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Briefly (10:48)
  • Johnny B. Goode (instrumental) (1:42)
  • Not Fade Away > Goin’ Down the Road > (15:45)
  • U.S. Blues Jam > Promised Land Jam (6:35)
  • The Main Ten (10:37)
  • Brokedown Palace (5:35)

 76-minute mp3 download

Remember that stretch of July 1974 when Donna was away recording her solo album, and Bobby couldn’t play guitar because of a broken wrist and just did some singing, on crutches? Basically, the band decided to honor several tour dates as a four-piece:

  • Jerry: guitar
  • Keith: electric piano
  • Phil: bass
  • Billy: high-hat and other drums

Some stuff just couldn’t convert. “Row Jimmy” without Bobby’s guitar was like a clock missing a gear. But at other times, this stripped-down combo achieved a smooth, spacious groovy lockup that reminds me a little of 1977. Jerry on the left, Keith on the right, going solo in the rhythmic and harmonic role that he and Bobby’s guitar usually shared. Phil definitely seemed into it, putting some extra spring into their step on some tunes, like “Jack Straw” and “Bertha” in this show.

Roanoke was the last of these shows, by which time they weren’t even attempting to play normal set lists, doing some songs as breakneck instrumentals and gravitating toward songs with groovy riffs that they could just play with for a while.

Of course, none of this ever happened, but if you want a frame of reference for appreciating this show – and the edit I’ve made of it – that’s it.

The SBD mix of this show almost doesn’t have Bobby’s guitar in it. Sometimes it’s quite perceptibly there, but much of the time you have to look for it, or it slides into/behind Keith’s piano. And it’s Keith’s piano, holding down the right channel as loudly as Jerry’s holding down the left that turns this bad mix into a happy accident: A Grateful Dead that is strangely unfamiliar and yet works, if you pay attention to the right songs. They make you dance a little differently. My source is the beautiful Miller-engineered one, with a big, shimmering, spacious sound. Definitely a show that sounds great on your good speakers.

I took all the vocals out of “Big River,” “Johnny B. Goode,” and “Promised Land” (which they jammed into), which serves to highlight the solos Keith took in those songs. I also dropped out the song part of “I Know You Rider,” so for once we don’t have to listen to it in order to get from the beginning of “China Cat” to the end of “Rider.” “The Main Ten” is a piece of the “Playin’” jam.

The way “U.S. Blues” went down in this show is funny; when they got to the end of the song, they weren’t agreed on whether to end it or jam on, so it ends with a whimper of collapse. Then they gather themselves and go for it.

This is my second favorite early '70s "Half-Step."

Shortlist: May 17, 1974 – Vancouver, BC

78 minute 192 kbps mp3 download

  • Deal
  • Greatest Story Ever Told
  • The Race is On
  • China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider
  • Me & My Uncle
  • Ramble on Rose
  • Nobody’s Fault but Mine >
  • Eyes of the World
  • Playin’ in the Band

I think I’ve made shortlists of all the unreleased May 1974 shows except Reno, NV, which I’m inclined to judge simply a bad show.

Vancouver definitely has a lot of greatness in it. The “Eyes” is nearly perfect, both the song and the jam – and the fully sung and jammed “Nobody’s Fault” that precedes it is a superb specimen of that relative rarity.

Even though Jerry’s lyrics in “Ramble on Rose” slip a couple of times, and there are slightly ramshackle moments, I’m still going to call this a top 10 version. (Who even has a top ten list of “Ramble on Rose?”) From the screamer in the audience who helps launch it, straight to the end, it just cooks. Keith’s playing is fantastic. He’s great throughout, actually.

Since my shortlist-making days began, “Deal” has become a song that I pay far more attention to than I used to (also “Bertha”). The version in this show has a lazy lope of a groove, with a fine Garcia vocal. This "China Cat" also has a nice tempo, which leads to a nuanced, mellow execution.

Shortlist philosophy: Start with a good soundboard of an unreleased show, and keep only what you honestly want to hear again and again. Be song-agnostic; look for outstanding performances of anything and everything, and reject an average performance of any song, no matter how grand that song’s generic status as a big deal may be. Whatever’s left, edit out the tuning and other delays, and arrange everything into a pleasing sequence. Share the results in lossy mp3 format, in the spirit of the cassette tape trading of my youth, diligently not trying to compete with or annoy Grateful Dead Enterprises, whose property this music is. 

Shortlist: June 23, 1974 - Miami, FL

192kbps mp3 download

52 minutes:

  • Ramble on Rose
  • Black Peter
  • Let It Grow >
  • China Doll
  • To Lay Me Down
  • Jam >
  • Ship of Fools
  • Let It Rock

The excellent “Dark Star” > “Spanish Jam” > “U.S. Blues” sequence from this show’s second set was released on the “So Many Roads” box. I used to think of this show as a whole as too sleepy, but when I panned for gold, it turned out that the sleepy, mellow vibe was actually what this show was all about – kind of like that drifty second set “Dark Star.” The result makes for a distinctive, album-length arc of primarily subtle tunes and subtle playing. Keith's spooky organ on "Black Peter" makes me especially happy, and this must be one of the better "To Lay Me Down" performances.

Shortlist philosophy: Start with a good soundboard of an unreleased show, and keep only what you honestly want to hear again and again. Be song-agnostic; look for outstanding performances of anything and everything, and reject an average performance of any song, no matter how grand that song’s generic status as a big deal may be. Whatever’s left, edit out the tuning and other delays, and arrange everything into a pleasing sequence. Share the results in lossy mp3 format, in the spirit of the cassette tape trading of my youth, diligently not trying to compete with or annoy Grateful Dead Enterprises, whose property this music is.