Grateful Dead Shortlist: Uptown ’81 Jams (Chicago, Feb. 26-28)

This mix curates improvisational material from the Dead’s first shows of 1981, at the Uptown Theatre in Chicago. The band and the mix are crackling.

I’ve edited large swaths of the music into instrumental versions. One reason is Garcia’s exceptionally weird, small voice. The other is that I like to make instrumental edits for every era/year. 

Instrumental edits eliminate the distractions of song-tightness and vocal quality altogether, leaving only the pure playing. As an improv-head, listening to vocal-free Dead has made me an advocate of nearly every year in the band’s history. 

The band certainly played a lot of exciting and surprising minutes of music at the Uptown Theatre in February 1981. I’d never heard these performances, but Jesse Jarnow’s @bourgwick show-by-blow account persuaded me to baste in them on their 40th anniversaries and to pay particular attention to the material on this mix.

The first set includes unedited vocal performances, plus one big, stand-alone jam. The second set is all-instrumental, except for “Not Fade Away” and “The Other One.”

2h20m mp3 mix zipped up here (dates included in song title tags)

Set One (65 minutes):

  • China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider
  • Bird Song
  • Truckin’
  • Jam
  • Let It Grow >
  • Deal

Set Two (75 minutes):

  • Scarlet Begonias (instr. edit) >
  • Fire on the Mountain (instr. edit) >
  • Estimated Prophet Intro & Jam >
  • Eyes of the World (instr. edit)
  • Drums > Space > 
  • Quiet Improvisation >
  • Not Fade Away >
  • Wharf Rat (instr. edit)
  • Terrapin Station (instr. edit) >
  • Jam
  • Quiet Improvisation >
  • The Other One

Cover artist: unknown

14 responses
Oh yes! Thanks for making this happen John! And thanks Jessie for all your hard work. Todd Carey Www.Twitter.Com/ToddCarey Www.Instagram.Com/ToddCarey Mgmt@ToddCareyMusic.Com > On Mar 2, 2021, at 7:56 PM, Posthaven Posts wrote: > > 
Another great mix from a fantastic run of shows! Thanks for putting this together. If you’re still digging 1981, I wonder if there is potential for a mix like this drawn from the Nassau shows in May?
Thanks for adding to my collection of 1981 Dead! One of my absolute favorite eras of the GD. And thanks for pointing out the impending 40th anniversary of all 1981 shows this year!!! May is going to be particularly fun. (hey...later this year, the Halloween 1971 "Tighten Up jam" 50th Anniversary!)
Ryan, do you follow Jesse Jarnow (@bourgwick) on twitter? He's reporting on every 1981 show on its anniversary.
Oh my - that post-Truckin' Jam: A little TOO tease, then a Uniquely Percussive' Tango! Crackling is right! Right into LIG!! Cool rhythmic Begonia bridge taking its time fold into Fire.... Highly charged Eyes - Jerry racing alongside Billy and Mickey! Exciting stuff! Jerry keeps inventing, then calms down and Brent joins in nicely as they approach drums. I know shows are 3+ hours long, but there are times (like this) that you want it to linger just a bit longer! That surprising porcine rusty hinge squeal edging into drums...? Then, more variations of said squeal.... the Space is spacey, and then a sublime Jerry solo that the rest of the band gives him room until the first plucks of Buddy's Song - a really NICE build... Brent counter's Jerry perfectly! Then some FAT organ - a semi funky version that finds a great groove that keeps going until it softly lands on Wharf Rat (as an instrumental) that literally blasts in the final jam - Nicely done by everyone!! That post-Terrapin Jamming (and Brent) builds really nicely! Love the feel of that second quiet improv - Absolutely beautiful!! As is the way it luxuriously and gently blends into Phil's opening burst into never-never land. 1981 - Wow!!
Bart, I love your run-down of the music on this mix! Putting it together was my "1981 - Wow!" moment too, and I've listened to the mix a bunch since then.
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