Grateful Dead: Lesh is More Concrète (December 1973)

Jesse Jarnow pointed out that Phil Lesh takes over the Grateful Dead for six, extended, abstract bass adventures during the December 1973 shows.

Here are those passages, in chronological order, gently segued, totaling 39 minutes. The first one gives you a couple of minutes to orient yourself before Godzilla reaches the power station.

These are not bass solos (other players present), but Phil steps beyond the normal zones of 1973-1974 collective abstraction to establish his own soundscape plots - dropping bombs, embracing distortion, shifting an octave, firing off drones and tones. The band generally steps back to give him a canvas, with much of the accompaniment minimal and often gentle. It is paradoxically violent and soothing music.

39-minute mp3 mix zipped up here (dates/cities included in song titles)

Cover art: Howard V. Brown for the May 1934 issue of Astounding Stories. It reminds me a little bit of the cover of Neil Young’s abstract distortion album “Arc,” while also inviting you to hear this music in color.

The Grateful Dead: February 1973 Improvisational Highlights

This post offers a three-piece, chronological survey of improvisational Grateful Dead performances from their first seven shows of 1973 – February 9th to 24th – none of which have been officially released. Highlights of the last two shows of the month (2/26 & 2/28) were released as “Dick’s Picks, Vol. 28” (2003).

These are older Save Your Face mixes, but I am taking the opportunity to re-share them now that streaming options are available, in addition to the blog's traditional mp3 downloads.

February 1973 was rough going for nearly all the many new songs the band was learning on-stage that month, and old standards weren’t often particularly tight or exciting, compared to late 1972 or later 1973.

However, the improvisational band leapt into 1973 with a big grin on its face – continuing its rapid expansion into the spaces opened up by Pigpen’s departure from the stage in mid-1972. (He died in March 1973). “Like a steam locomotive, rolling down the track,” the Dead were constantly departing and arriving in this period. 

This mix is a dense collection of February’s more exploratory passages. I included full (sung) songs and made instrumental edits as I saw fit, in order to avoid anything that got in the way of the overall momentum and quality.

The two new-for-1973 songs that were on target, right out of the gate, were “Eyes of the World” and “China Doll.” Both are extensively documented on the mix. With “Eyes,” you can hear the band figuring out how to put the pieces together to create the the structured ’73-’74 jam. There’s no good execution of “Here Comes Sunshine” in the first seven shows of the year, but they nailed it musically once, and that performance flowed seamlessly into “China Cat,” so I took out the sung parts of “Sunshine.” (You’re welcome!)

February 9, 1973: Palo Alto CA (56 minutes)

  • PA: Wavy Gravy
  • China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider
  • Uncle John’s Band (instr. edit)
  • Playin’ in the Band (instr. edit)
  • Eyes of the World (1st time played) >
  • China Doll (1st time played)

Stream on Youtube

Stream on Archive

Read the original post and download here

February 15-19, 1973: Madison WI, St. Paul MN, Chicago IL (107 minutes)

  • Bertha (2/15)
  • Here Comes Sunshine (instr. edit) > China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider (2/17)
  • Not Fade Away > Goin’ Down the Road > Not Fade Away (2/17)
  • Dark Star (2/15)
  • He’s Gone (2/19)
  • The Other One  > Bass & Drums (edit 2/19)
  • Playin’ in the Band (2/15>2/17) > China Doll (2/15)
  • Birdsong (instr. edit 2/17)

Stream on Youtube

Stream on Archive

Read the original post and download here

February 21-24, 1973: Champaign Urbana IL, Iowa City IA (86 minutes)

  • Truckin’ > Bass & Drums (2/21) > 
  • Eyes of the World (2/21 > 2/22) >
  • China Doll (2/22)
  • Playin’ in the Band (2/22)
  • Dark Star (2/22) >
  • Space (2/22) >
  • Bass > Feelin’ Groovy Jam (2/24) >
  • Sugar Magnolia (2/24) 

Stream on Youtube

Stream on Archive

Read the original post and download here

Grateful Dead: Victim or the Crime Jam (1989-1991)

This mix presents an hour of vocal-free “Victim or the Crime” jams. 

I want to call “Victim” the Dead’s “Sister Ray” – a chugging, ecstatic, downer groove that pounds, drones, gets quiet, freaks out, dissolves, reforms, etc. Stringing 10 performances together does the same thing on a larger scale.

Resistance is futile. PLAY IT LOUD.

53-minute mp3 mix here

The sequence:

  • 1991-09-25
  • 1990-07-12
  • 1991-09-13
  • 1991-06-19
  • 1991-03-21
  • 1990-02-27
  • 1990-07-04
  • 1990-05-06
  • 1990-04-01
  • 1989-12-31

Note on selections:

I asked twitter for suggestions of good versions, and the responses mostly guided this mix, augmented with some poking around of my own. The mix doesn’t reflect a comprehensive review of all versions from the period covered. The date range bridges the 1990 keyboard player changeover without diverging in character very much. I’m also a fan of the 1993-1994 approach, which is quite different.

Jon Hassell: Actual Musics (Live 1981-2006)

I discovered Jon Hassell’s music in the Fall of 1983, soon after I arrived in Ann Arbor for college. Schoolkids Records had all the EG label “ambient” albums in their cut-out bin for three or four bucks each. In addition to finding out what Eno and Fripp were doing outside of rock and roll, I heard Harold Budd and Jon Hassell for the first time. 

This short mix draws from several of the live Hassell bootlegs I happen to have. It’s my audio argument in support of an expansive, official, live release program.

You can support that goal by contributing to this official fund dedicated to preserving and releasing Jon Hassell's archives. I hope you'll donate, if you enjoy this sampler of unreleased music.

I started with the intention of including one excerpt from every tape I had, but I ended up pruning and adding tracks in pursuit of a more aesthetically satisfying double-LP experience.

The mix's mp3 song title tags provide details in this format:

Charm (Live 1981-11-13 Toronto, Art Gallery of Ontario (Hassell, Eno, Brook, Dieng))

92-minute mp3 mix zipped up here

  • Nice 3 (1998)
  • Nice 1 (1998)
  • Berlin 8 (1988)
  • Nice 5 (1998)
  • Missing You (2006)
  • Charm (1981)
  • Courage > Dream Theory (1982)
  • The Elephant and the Orchid (1985)

Grateful Dead: TLEO Spring 1977 (10-version instrumental edit)

This mix is a 21-minute edit of all 10 Keith and Jerry “They Love Each Other” solo passages from April and May, 1977. Three tracks include only Garcia’s solo. 

It’s a wonderful, woozy conversation, in slow motion. They’re not quite two souls in communion. Keith is a little uptight and resistant, though flirtatious. Jerry’s just like, “Come on baby, let’s go downtown and have some fun.” Except for one night, when Keith was the horny one.

I did the best I could with the segues (jump cuts), given the combo of official sources and fan sources, including audience tapes. The sonic and mood shifts might actually enhance the drama of this dialogue going round in circles.

The download contains both a single-track (21-minute file) and an “album” made up of the 10 separate pieces - in case you want to poke around by date. The single-track file is tagged to become part of this mix, which includes similar edits of Spring ’77 performances of Peggy-O, Sugaree, and Brown-Eyed Women.

21-minute mp3 mix zipped up here (dates in tags)

Grateful Dead: Instrumental Eyes of the World (1974-1994)

This mix offers instrumental edits of eight performances of Eyes of the World, featuring many tempos and temperaments. The vocals appear once, in the middle of a long studio rehearsal edit from 1976. 

The aesthetic premise is to cut Eyes thematic jamming free from the song-structure and the vicissitudes of vocals. For instance, cocaine Eyes, minus cocaine singing. 

There aren’t many Dead pillows of grooviness as fine as Eyes. This mix overstuffs that pillow. One drummer and two. Keith, Brent, and Vince. The band and its members being all their different selves, across the decades, with their eye on this particular, happy place.

Cover art: Odilon Redon, “Closed Eyes” (1894)

100-minute mp3 mix zipped up here (tagged appropriately)

  • 6/8/74 (9:32)
  • 3/25/90 (8:55)
  • 5/76 (16:48, w/vocals)
  • 6/11/93 (8:00)
  • 11/5/79 (19:01)
  • 2/27/81 (6:03)
  • 9/11/74 (15:52)
  • 4/7/94 (17:14)

Grateful Dead: Chamber Music (1972-1995)

Throughout the Dead’s career, there are improvisations so perfect that they seem, in retrospect, to be compositions, arranged perfectly, played only once.

A subset of those are performances that exclude the drummers, allowing Weir, Lesh, and the keyboardists to spontaneously weave gorgeous textural arrangements around Garcia story arcs. 

They are tiny planets that coalesced in the vastness of space – often lasting only a minute, rarely as long as three minutes.

With shape and momentum, but no beat, these passages sometimes brush up against classical music. In October 1972, they may actually be attempting something like that, in form and bowed string-sounds, long before MIDI. (I find 10/23/72 mind-boggling in this respect.)

Later, keyboards and MIDI enabled simulated strings, brass, woodwinds, pedal steel, etc. Sometimes the band sounds like it’s scoring tender scenes in movies or playing in a Bill Frisell zone. The extended, heartbreaking melody they crafted on 10/2/94 is another of my favorite Dead passages. 

The earliest hints of such music are in the beauty-seeking drones and tones that often followed noisy Feedback in 1969. Compilation of those here. 

The mix below hints at the subsequent history of the this gentle mode with selections from just a few, far-flung periods: 1972-1973, 1981, 1993-1995.

30-minute, 12-track, mp3 mix zipped up here

Grateful Dead: Out of Nowhere Jams 1976

This mix gathers up Easter eggs that the Dead scattered across their 1976 shows. The title and track list come from this Dead Essays/Light Into Ashes guide

It’s quite a trip to know you’re listening to 1976, yet all you’re hearing are big, extremely-together, nimble, out-of-nowhere jams. The fullness of the the manifestation confuses your inner-ear timeline.

The jams come in many flavors, and some taste quite quite a bit like Tighten Up, Stronger Than Dirt, and Dark Star. Fire on the Mountain makes its first live Dead appearance as Happiness is Drumming. The other passages are entirely their own trips.

This mix contains 16 tracks, including some vigorous Playin’ jams from the same shows and instrumental edits of two Wheels and a Wharf Rat that were integral to the surprise trips.

83-minute mp3 mix zipped up here

Grateful Dead: Playing with Friends (1968-1970)

This mix compiles improvisational highlights of six different live configurations of the Dead (whole or members) and other musicians. 

All of these performances appeared on an earlier Save Your Face mix at some point. The focus of this sub-curation is to concentrate great stuff that sounds really different from “normal” Dead of the period. The stuff is that is more literally far out. Alternate universe Dead.

No aspersions are being cast on anything I didn’t include. Poke around SYF for more from nearly every configuration presented here.

In addition to choosing start- and end-points, several performances are edited: The Crosby material is presented as instrumental edits; the Elvin Bishop jam is extensively edited to isolate one theme from other stuff that happened; and the Volunteers Jam has been shortened via a couple of edits.

77-minute mp3 mix zipped up here

  • Jam (8/28/69 Harbeats w/Howard Wales, organ)
  • Jam (edit, 10/30/68 Hartbeats with Elvin Bishop, guitar)
  • Wall Song & Laughing (instr. edits, 12/15/70 Crosby, Garcia, Lesh, Kreutzmann)
  • Jam (11/20/70 Garcia, Weir, Kaukonen/Lesh/Kreutzmann, Hart)
  • Volunteers Jam (edit, 9/6/69 Garcia, Hart, Jefferson Airplaine)
  • Dark Star (8/3/69 w/unidentified sax and violin players)

Grateful Dead: “Mason’s Children” Jams (1969-1970)

This mix offers an extended, instrumental excursion into a wonderful song that appeared briefly in Dead history and didn’t make the original, official records. 

“Mason’s Children” debuted in mid-December 1969 and, after fewer than 20 performances, it was last played at the end of February 1970.

A weird amalgam of psychedelic moves and the band’s new, old-timey vocal approach, Mason’s was a tough song for the vocal ensemble. The “Workingman’s Dead” studio outtake is the only version that properly represents the composition itself and reveals what the vocals/harmonies are supposed to sound like. 

Nonetheless, the live band dove into it with vigor and sometimes jammed it rather extensively. This mixtape highlights that jam by removing the vocals from five performances of the song. I looked for the longer, exploratory takes and those that found interesting little dynamic pockets.

The final version on 2/28/70 is a real outlier – slower, with a heavy Rolling Stones vibe. (It is speed/pitch-correct.) 

26-minute mp3 mix zipped up here

Instrumental Mason's Children:

  • 12/28/69 (6:56)
  • 12/29/69 (5:54)
  • 12/31/69 (4:48)
  • 2/5/70 (4:46)
  • 2/28/70 (3:10)

Cover photo: John Hilgart. Detail of mural on the wall of the Kalamazoo People's Food Co-Op, after a car crashed through it, and the mural's painted bricks were reassembled randomly.