Improvisation 1972-1974 Vol. 2 (Best of Shortlists Vol. 3)

Zipped up file of mp3s here

LP 1 (46 minutes)

  • Jam (Vancouver, BC 6-22-73) (8:28)
  • Jam Inside Playin’ (Seattle, WA 5-21-74) (7:10)
  • Jam > Mind Left Body Jam (Portland, OR 5-19-74) (9:49)
  • Jam > Bass & Drums > Jam > Spanish Jam > Jam (Philadelphia, PA 3-24-73) (20:34)

LP 2 (46 minutes)

  • Jam > Dark Star (Williamsburg, VA 9-11-73) (9:43)
  • Mind Left Body Jam > Jam Inside Dark Star (Madison, WI 10-25-73) (5:23)
  • The Other One Excerpt (Jersey City, NJ 9-28-72) (11:22)
  • Jam Montage (San Francisco, CA 12-31-72) (14:25)
  • Jam (Berkeley, CA 8-21-72) (5:07)

Aside from “space” (improv without meter), Grateful Dead improvisations that aren’t directly related to a particular song are rarer than you’d think, even in 1972-1974. 

Most “Playin’ in the Bands” and “Other Ones” are comprised of space and more-or-less direct exploration of the songs’ themes. “Eyes of the World” jams have a wide dynamic range, but they’re still working their way through the same series of checkpoints, with rare exceptions. Likewise, "Bird Song" and "Scarlet Begonias."  “Dark Star” is the most pliable, a song that is anchored but that is also often a “unique jam” without ceasing to be “Dark Star.” 

The point of this compilation (and the one that preceded it) is to bring together material that is largely outside of all such song-based frameworks. Pure, spontaneous jamming, with a beat you can dance to.

I believe that everything (or nearly everything) I distilled for the first improvisation compilation I posted has been officially released within full shows. To the extent that many of those tracks sound like planned compositions, once you choose start- and end-points that isolate them, I'd say the Dead Vault Curators are doing a good job of making the most astonishing material available. 

This second compilation comes entirely from “shortlists” of single shows that I have previously posted, which means that all of it is unreleased as of June 2017. (So, from my fake album blog's POV, this is “Improv Vol. 2,” but also “Best of Shortlists Vol. 3.”) 

I have used this opportunity to once again promote a couple of passages of music that I adore, even though I would urge you to go listen to them in context. From May 19, 1974 in Portland, I’ve pulled an exceptionally buoyant jam that includes “Mind Left Body.” From September 28, 1972 in Jersey City, I’ve isolated an extended passage from “The Other One” that is “The Other One,” while also being something else altogether. Both are among my favorite Dead moments. 

I have also scratched a long-standing itch and combined three improvisational passages from the long, multi-chaptered “The Other One” of New Year’s Eve 1972 that aren’t “The Other One.” 

As always, tracks have been edited (start and end) to feel coherent and sequenced to provide some continuity – and everything is tagged to stand clearly apart from other “albums”/songs I’ve posted. For the CD burners among you, any compilation longer than 80 minutes is broken into/tagged as multiple "albums." 

Slipknot '74

Zipped up file of mp3s here

20 minutes:

  • Slipknot (out of Eyes 6-20-74) (5:34)
  • Slipknot (inside The Other One 2-23-74) (3:17)
  • Slipknot (within a longer jam 7-25-74) (5:22)
  • Slipknot (inside Playin’ 2-22-74) (4:27)
  • Slipknot (out of Eyes 10-20-74) (1:52)

Jerry Garcia introduced the “Slipknot” riff into the band’s live jamming five times in 1974, including the first and last shows of the year. These early appearances aren’t “Slipknot” proper, since the band is just doing whatever comes naturally at the time, but there’s some added satisfaction in hearing them all together, juxtaposed with the riffs and jamming modes of several different songs.

I have kept a fair amount of surrounding material on most of these edits, so the context isn’t lost, and you can hear the riff sliding in and out of the proceedings. So, this isn’t truly 20 minutes of “Slipknot,” but rather 20 minutes of jamming in which “Slipknot” keeps appearing.

Phil & Ned 1974

Zipped up file of mp3s here

70 minutes:

  • September 18
  • June 26 or 28
  • September 14
  • June 30
  • July 31

This compilation is purely for convenience's sake. I don't often want to listen to a Phil & Ned performance in the middle of Grateful Dead music, but my love of early electronic, minimalist, ambient, Krautrock, and other related music also makes me a fan of Phil & Ned. I quite enjoy 70 minutes straight, and I look forward to gathering together more sometime.

I am by no means an expert on all of their performances, and I don't think there was any method when I chose these five a year or two ago; I think I just wanted some isolated Phil & Ned. One criterion I did have was that no one other than Phil & Ned appeared. No cameos by Jerry or transitions into Dead Space are included here. 

(Pulled from released and unreleased shows, at least at the time I made it.)

Steal Your Voice: Instrumental Versions 1972-1974

76-minute 192kbps mp3 download (4th edition)

Vocal-free versions of:

  • Here Comes Sunshine (8:16)
  • Loose Lucy (4:26)
  • Johnny B. Goode (1:41)
  • Promised Land (1:51)
  • Scarlet Begonias (7:10)
  • China Cat Rider (9:16)
  • Big River (2:42)
  • Let It Grow (5:32)
  • Bird Song (9:32)
  • Eyes of the World (7:46)
  • Playin' in the Band (17:57)

All from unreleased shows, with all original source dates contained in mp3 tags. 

This compilation is the counterpart to another mix I posted that is comprised of remarkable Grateful Dead improvisational passages that aren't related to any song – that just happened once. In this version, The Dead play their familiar, formal compositions, but they leave out the words.

The edits here preserve almost every note of the original performances, except the sung sections. Verses/choruses have been edited out and the surrounding musical movements seamed together to keep music flowing without disruption. The only exceptions are the final vocal reprises of “Here Comes Sunshine” and “I Know You Rider,” because only they resolve the songs.

It's both startling and familiar to hear The Dead working through the changes of all these songs, as if the truck carrying the microphones had been delayed, and they decided to go on with the show. The funny thing is that you already know these songs in this way. How each one starts, how it gets to every verse, and how it leaps out of every verse into an instrumental break that has different rules than the others. 

I made these edits in order to hear those songs within the songs, performed by a jazzy combo that hardly needs to play the melody straight once, before both bending it all out of shape and guiding it through a structured build and resolution. And indeed The Dead were that band, and this is an imaginary concert they performed in the early 1970s. 

    Shortlist: Improvisation 1973-1974 vol. 1

    74 minutes (10 tracks) of vocal-free improvisation in lossy 192kbps mixtape glory.

    New link: Let me know if it doesn't work.

    The aspect of The Grateful Dead’s record release strategy since Garcia’s death that I’d particularly fault is the failure to secure the band’s legacy as one of the outstanding jazz-fusion explorers of the early 1970s. Ten years ago, I became fed up with poor 1972-1974 vocals, and was tired of most of The Dead’s songs, after 20 years of listening to them a lot. So, I made 10 volumes of nothing but vocal-free improvisational material from 1972 to 1974, and listened to nothing but that for a while. As this blog’s mixtapes indicate, I eventually came back around to the songs themselves, but the improv tapes remain a concentrated thrill. 

    This is the first volume I made, probably the one most focused on spontaneous musical compositions that have no relation to any particular song. Some of this material was subsequently released officially, but whatever the provenance of the sources I used at the time, it’s all crispy. The 11/11/73 material may be sourced from a cassette that Dick Latvala sent me in the early 1990s, when I was sending him tapes of Pigpen outbursts, mostly directed at the sound mixer, that Dick couldn’t find in the archive. We’d argued, first, about whether “Dark Star” or “The Other One” was the ultimate Dead barometer (he insisted on “The Other One” and may have been correct), and then about the merits of the dreamy, drifty 11/11/73 “Dark Star” (the jam following it is on this mix). I loved that "Dark Star"; Dick was meh. I eventually conceded that maybe I was partly in love with the particular vibe of my mid-generation cassette, which I'd clutched tightly to my breast for years. Dick responded by sending me a dub of his reference copy of the whole show; he was a very nice guy. The "Dark Star" was still the song I knew and loved, but so much cleaner, so I guess I accidentally tricked Dick – but he was satisfied to receive in return a tape of Pigpen threatening to cut off the sound mixer’s head and shit in it. 

    Dark Starlets: A Europe ’72 Single-Song Mega-Mix

    This mix is comprised of 21 musical segments drawn from all the “Dark Stars” performed during the Europe ’72 tour. They are arranged into two 64-minute sequences, each of which begins with the song’s intro, and each of which contains a verse. It’s all “forward moving” improvisation, whether on the “Dark Star” theme or farther afield. There’s no “space,” though the segments wind up and wind down from spacey zones, such that The Dead’s development of each musical angle here is respected, and the result feels more or less like a single performance, with ebbs and flows. If you’ve ever imagined a one-hour or two-hour “Dark Star” that never completely spaces out and keeps finding new melodic avenues, this is for you.

    192kbps mp3s sourced from the official Europe ’72 box.