Shortlist: December 18, 1973 – Tampa, FL (Just the Jerry Songs)

LP 1 (42 minutes):

  • Tennessee Jed
  • Brown-Eyed Women
  • Peggy-O
  • Eyes of the World >
  • Wharf Rat

LP 2 (46 minutes):

  • Bertha
  • They Love Each Other
  • Deal
  • Row Jimmy
  • Dark Star
  • Uncle John’s Band

192kbps mp3 download

This is every Garcia-written song (plus "Peggy-O") from this show, and it’s quite a fine selection of tunes, played consistently well. There’s a small snag here and there, but I haven’t encountered another show that you can slice this way with such a good result.

I also can’t think of many shows where both the band and the sound mix were ready for business on the first song. The Dead played “Tennessee Jed” a million times from 1972 through 1974, but they only opened two shows with it, and this is one of them. The result is a version that stays restrained and deliberate throughout, never becoming as fully deranged as it typically did in the final instrumental break.

The last song of the show was “Uncle John’s Band,” and this is a version I find pretty satisfactory. I rarely like 1973-1974 UJBs much, because the melody gets tortured by the singing, but this performance and mix get it closer to the right place than many. It certainly ends the show nicely.

This is the first version of “Brown Eyed Women” I pulled aside for one of my mixes. I’m not sure why I perceive The Dead as hardly ever nailing this song between Europe ’72 and sometime in 1976 or 1977, but whatever I typically find lacking, this one doesn’t lack it. The opening bars are wobbly, but so it goes.

The “Eyes of the World” is nearly perfect throughout, and the jam continues to cook after they’ve finished the climactic synchronized riff sequence. The “Wharf Rat” that follows is not one that pounces on the big moments the way some do, but I can’t fault its overall approach to the drama, and the extended coda/fadeout is a nice touch.

The “Row Jimmy” is one of my favorites. “Peggy-O” is beautiful (if not transcendent), one of only three played in 1973, all in December; the next one would be in May 1974. “They Love Each Other” has the bouncy syncopation you’re looking for, with nice rushes of intensity. “Bertha” is rather explosive (originally sandwiched between “Promised Land” and “Greatest Story, giving it extra propulsion). And Jerry's so into "Deal" that he throws a bunch of extra little vocal punches.

I’ve always liked this simultaneously compact and restless “Dark Star,” pursuing the melody prettily and nonchalantly for about five minutes, then considering other options for a few minutes, including a little hint of the “Mind Left Body Jam” and a brief dance with “The Other One,” before settling in for a perfectly executed verse of “Dark Star.”

If you like the feel of an all-Garcia show, you will also like this.

Save Your Face: Garcia Songs Live 1972-1974

SET 1 (73 minutes)

  • Bertha
  • Loser
  • Friend of the Devil
  • To Lay Me Down
  • Here Comes Sunshine
  • Deal
  • Sugaree
  • Tennessee Jed
  • He’s Gone
  • Don’t Ease Me In

SET 2 (62 minutes)

  • U.S. Blues
  • They Love Each Other
  • Loose Lucy
  • Scarlet Begonias
  • Row Jimmy
  • Eyes of the World
  • Mississippi Half-Step > We Bid You Goodnight

SET 3 (74 minutes)

  • Comes a Time
  • Stella Blue
  • Black Peter
  • Morning Dew
  • China Doll
  • Bird Song
  • Wharf Rat
  • Ship of Fools
  • Brokedown Palace

320kbps zipped download

Ripped from official archive releases and edited as AIFF, then reduced to 320kbps mp3s. Tagged files include source concert dates, if you really have to know. 

If you look for “the best” version of any song from any period of the The Grateful Dead, you will fail. There are great versions, average versions, and lame versions, but the great versions will not present a single best version.

With this compilation, I was looking for a live version of the studio albums “Garcia,” “Wake of the Flood,” and “From the Mars Hotel.” I wanted a handy “album” containing all of those songs – and other Garcia compositions – that I could put onto the stereo, with anyone in the room, without caveat or apology. Just great music: “Here’s ‘Eyes of the World” and ‘Stella Blue,” with full-bore Dead behind them.” Strong vocals, strong musical performance, and good sound.

For uniform sound quality, and for selection-sanity reasons, I stuck to officially-released archive concert releases that I could rip from physical CDs. Regarding vocal quality, I was merciless; I never found an acceptably-sung post-Europe ’72 “Uncle John’s Band,” among my official purchases. This and a couple of other great Garcia compositions went by the wayside simply because my available official releases didn’t offer up a version that I could comfortably foist on other humans as proof of the song’s, and the live band’s, excellence. 

Late 1969 through 1975 were clearly Garcia’s songwriting flood years – an amazing catalog of songs written with Robert Hunter, the notable status of which, as an oeuvre, is perhaps partly obscured by both by the relative marginality of the studio albums on which they appear and the dispersion of these songs, in live performance, among both country and western covers and expanses of improvisational playing. Too many of these great songs ultimately ended up as mundane fodder for The Dead's first sets and late second sets, tunes that you weren't especially there to hear, or that signaled the end of surprises in a given show. This compilation highlights "Jerry Garcia: Singer and Songwriter," at his peak, interpreted by The Grateful Dead in arguably their most potent, flexible, and nuanced years as a live band. 

These selections intentionally skew hard toward 1973 and 1974, when the arc of the acid tests was moving through its final mutations with a single drummer, and the songs and sounds of Europe '72 were no longer the dominant traits. Nonetheless, I had to reach back into the Europe ’72 tour for a great, official “Comes a Time.” And, obviously, “Morning Dew” is not a Garcia original, but it had to be here. 

If you enjoy this experiment with an all-Garcia setlist, you might also enjoy this one.