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 (and reloaded to fix a defect)