Today we welcome new contributor Ed Martin who for the past two Decembers has created compilations of live Grateful Dead tracks called The Unofficial 31 Days of Dead. We’ll be posting Ed’s 2012 compilation featuring a “new” track each day from December 1st to 31st. Before December starts we wanted to share Ed’s 2010 and 2011 compilations to give a taste of what you can expect. We’ll post the 2011 compilation on Thursday.
I definitely enjoyed the “30 Days of Dead” daily picks at dead.net last month, but I don’t think I was alone in feeling just a little underwhelmed by some of the choices. Therefore, I thought it might be fun to select my own daily picks during the month of December and share them with the community at large. New Year’s was always a big celebration for the Grateful Dead, so I suppose we could think of my daily picks as a sort of advent calendar leading up to New Year’s Eve.
[Artwork by Brian Levine]
The parameters of my selection are as follows:
- No official releases
- Nothing too predictable or obvious (i.e., 5/8/77 or 8/27/72)
- Represent many different eras and years
Let’s see if this thing has legs!
Download Links for ECM’s The Unofficial 31 Days of Dead (December 2010) – Inspired by www.dead.net’s 30 Days of Dead (November 2010)
Here is a re-post of the daily write-ups…
Big Railroad Blues
4/17/72 Tivoli Gardens, Copenhagen, Denmark
A giddy version where the band wears the Bozo masks. Garcia is in fine vocal form – at times almost screaming. Check out his vocal inflection @ 1:34 mark (never got there on time). And, his guitar blazes with that twangy ’72 sound.
LMA Link: http://www.archive.org/details/gd1972-04-17.sbd.ashley-field.flac16
West L.A. Fadeaway
7/19/89 Alpine Valley Music Theatre, East Troy, WI
A white hot version of this song on the final night of the 1989 summer tour that many consider the beginning of the band’s final creative peak that lasted through Spring 1990.
6/19/76 Capitol Theatre, Passaic, NJ
High Time was perfectly suited for the band’s new post-retirement sound in 1976. Garcia sings this version from the Capitol Theater in Passaic, New Jersey with lots of soul. Check out the passion at the eight-minute mark during the final verse – “come on in when it’s raining, go on oooouuuuut when it’s gone.”
LMA Link: http://www.archive.org/details/gd1976-06-19.prefm.nickspicks.10186.shnf
Let It Grow
3/25/85 Springfield Civic Center, Springfield, MA
The band is firing on all cylinders on this explosive, amphetamine-version of Let It Grow that closed the first set in Springfield at the beginning of the Spring 1985 tour.
Close Encounters Space > St. Stephen
1/22/78 University of Oregon, McArthur Court, Eugene, OR
The movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind was released just three months before this show in Eugene, Oregon. Here, Jerry uses the famous “spaceship communication” five-tone motif from that movie to bridge a deep space jam with perhaps the finest “modern-day” version of St. Stephen. The final jam is one for the ages.
7/2/89 Sullivan Stadium, Foxboro, MA
Sure the band opened the show with Playin’ in the Band > Crazy Fingers but the real buzz among all who were sitting in my section at this show from Foxboro on the 1989 summer tour was the Tennessee Jed! If you don’t believe me check out Garcia’s blistering solo at the 6:40-7:00 mark.
4/27/77 Capitol Theatre, Passaic, NJ
This version of Morning Dew will always fall in the shadows of the epic version played at Cornell less than two weeks later. That is a real shame because this version was the template for the Cornell Dew and it’s easily in the top 10 versions ever played.
Feel Like A Stranger (version A)
10/3/81 Rainbow Theatre, London, England
This second set opener is a very different Stranger than most others. For one, Jerry uses a distorted guitar tone rather than the usual wah-wah pedal. Also, there is an urgency to this version that I have not heard in others. But the real interesting part is how this version takes a brief, but marvelous left turn at around the 6:30 mark where Garcia sounds like a possessed man. Definitely a strange Stranger!
Feel Like A Stranger (Version B)
3/2/87 Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center, Oakland, CA
Another unusual version of Stranger, this time as a powerful first set closer on the post-coma “Come-Back Tour of 1987.” The band ditches the usual funk for burning intensity. Jerry absolutely shreds everything in sight. And his authoritative howl, “Long, long crazy night” at the 4:54 mark shows that he means serious business!
6/17/75 Winterland Ballroom, San Francisco, CA
1977-78 was a very fertile period for Peggy-O. However, this gorgeous version during the band’s 1975 “retirement” is often overlooked. Taken at a slower tempo than normal, this version reads like an aching ballad that creates as much drama as Stella Blue. Jerry’s vocal delivery is sincere and his guitar both sings and weeps at the same time (check out his solo at the 4:48 mark). Keith’s beautiful electric piano/Rhodes accompaniment is also noteworthy. Album-perfect!
U.S. Blues / Me & My Uncle (Hidden Track)
6/26/74 Providence Civic Center, Providence, RI
Here’s a tune that gets overlooked all too often because it got mired as a quick, throw-away encore. Sure, there are a few great versions out there – 4/12/78 and the October 1974 versions from Winterland come to mind. But this version from the epic June 1974 tour has all of the qualities that make a great U.S. Blues – a perfect shuffle-tempo, Honky-Tonk piano throughout and an aggressive solo by Jerry (beginning at the 3:33 mark). This version opens the second set and maybe the unusual song placement invigorated the band(?) It’s a shame that this version of U.S. Blues was left off Dick’s Picks 12 because it is one of the finest versions ever played. I presume that there is a flaw in the master soundboard. No worries, because the audience source enhances the listening experience. The infectious party atmosphere comes through and it is very apparent that the crowd is really INTO it. By the way, the Me & My Uncle that follows is completely on fire too!
6/9/91 Buckeye Lake Music Center, Hebron, OH
Crazy Fingers is a controversial song among Deadheads. Depending on its execution, it could either be a train wreck or transcendent. Most people (myself included) go to 1976 when they want to hear Crazy Fingers. However, this version from the 1991 summer tour is a real gem that should not be overlooked. Here, both the lead and harmony vocals are clean (probably the biggest challenge for this song). Garcia’s middle solo at about the four-minute mark is a real slice of heaven and the outro-solo with the Middle-Eastern-Spanishy-theme (6:34 mark) is even better as his notes seem to echo into blissful oblivion.
10/27/80 Radio City Music Hall, New York, NY
Ballads are generally more powerful when they float out of a deep “Space” and this version of Wharf Rat from the epic Radio City Music Hall run in 1980 is no exception. There is one reason that I am drawn to this version and it is the bridge. Check out the part when the band sings the verse, “I know that the liiiiife…” As the harmonies swell to a peak, Jerry comes in with a glorious, extra-soulful vocal wail that makes the listener feel as if he/she were just baptized in the Church of Garcia. The audience roars with approval of its Savior on this exceptional audience recording courtesy of Jim Wise. This is the same show where Friend of the Devil was recorded for the commercially released album, Dead Set. I always loved that version because Garcia’s voice had just the right amount of wear and fragility that typically occurred at the end of a long tour. This version of Wharf Rat has the same qualities. As a side note, Brent’s youthful, high harmonies also hit all of the right spots and complement Garcia’s lead vocals beautifully. The “fly away” part is a powerful combined effort by the entire band.
China Cat Sunflower -> I Know You Rider
3/9/81 Madison Square Garden, New York, NY
A sterling reading of the timeless classic combo, China/Rider taken from the 1981 “early” Spring Tour (they did two that year – one in March and one in May). Garcia sets the tone right from the start by dialing up a groovy, fat guitar effect that I’ve never heard him use on China Cat. The tempo quickens at the beginning of the jam as the band prepares to ride a huge musical wave. We have lift-off! Garcia is just bursting with ideas. He climbs to the first peak at around the 4:47 mark but he is far from done. He then, begins weaving a complex musical web of notes which gets very exciting between the 5:06 – 5:20 mark. For their part, the band – especially Bobby – is right there with him at every step. Things simmer down as the band sets up a slow, final climatic build-up which includes another variation of Garcia’s musical spider web between the 6:52 – 7:17 mark. This leads to the transition into a solid I Know You Rider.
Doin’ That Rag
2/21/69 Dream Bowl, Vallejo, CA
The sound quality is a little muddy and every live version of this gem from Aoxomoxa is practically indistinguishable. However, this version has a stunning bonus moment at the very end of the song that must be heard to be believed. As the band harmonizes the last line of lyrics a cappella, Phil suddenly takes the helm of the microphone and becomes very prominent in the mix. Hanging on to the last word, “Raaaaaaaaag,” with an exaggerated, sinister growl, Phil then adds, “You motherfuckers!!!!!” My, what potty-mouth you have, Phil!
10/15/77 Moody Coliseum, SMU, Dallas, TX
This show was not represented on Road Trips Vol. 1, No. 2 (October 1977) and that is a real shame because it captures the band doing what they did best on the Fall tour of 1977 – showcasing their rock and roll chops. The recording that circulates is pretty muddy so my guess is that there was a problem with the master tapes that prevented it from being released commercially. Anyway, this version of Sugar Magnolia is easily my favorite. It begins with an unusually extended instrumental intro. The vocals don’t begin until the 3-minute mark. Bobby and Donna blend very nicely on this version. Garcia patiently builds his solo from a light and happy melodic sunshine toe-tapper to a hard-edged, distorted body-thrusting head-banger. They bring it to a halt so that Weir can express his greetings to the audience. He then counts off, leading the band into a searing finale for the ages that has him and Donna frenetically screaming for their lives while Jerry and the drummers push them further and further with rapid machine gun fire intensity.
I Just Want To Make Love To You
10/8/84 The Centrum, Worcester, MA
I know what you’re thinking – an obscure cover song performed by Brent during what is arguably one of the darkest eras of the Grateful Dead? I can see the raised eyebrows and disapproving looks on your faces. Well, I’m here to tell you that this hyper-speed, psychedelic dance number is the real deal. Think Cumberland Blues, except much filthier. A review taken from the LMA probably summed it up best by referring to the music as “primal 60′s Dead playing with Brent on their 80′s instruments.” The energy here is relentless, teetering on the brink of disaster at any moment. Musically, this just may be Brent’s finest moment ever. And to think it happened in a small arena in a random, blue collar city in central Massachusetts. As they say in New England – Wicked cool! An added primal Dead bonus here is when Phil slips in some hints of Caution at the tail end of the jam just to ensure that your jaw remains hanging on the floor. ‘80s Dead at its best!
3/30/90 Nassau Coliseum, Uniondale, NY
The Nassau shows from 1990 were a highlight of the monster Spring tour that year. On a tour full of big jams, this rockin’ version of Dire Wolf is perhaps the best three-minute performance you’ll ever hear. Garcia’s peppy solo packs a powerful punch. His notes are practically skipping rope on this rarely-played, campfire sing-along nugget.
Here Comes Sunshine
6/10/73 RFK Stadium, Washington DC
This three-set show from RFK Stadium in 1973 has certainly earned a spot in the Grateful Dead Hall Of Fame. The sweltering heat that day calls to mind the famous show at Ken Kesey’s farm in Veneta the previous year and the performance is just as inspired. This version of Here Comes Sunshine is a notable standout. It was the only time I am aware that Jerry performed his solo with his wah-wah effect like he used on Playing in the Band. The effect is pure bliss. I wish he had done it more! I’m surprised that this (and Veneta) have not been commercially released yet.
8/21/72 Berkeley Community Theater, Berkeley, CA
No need to mention the mind-melting Dark Star from this show because you know it has reduced many a listener to a rainbow-hued, shaking blob of Jell-O. However, you may not be familiar with this sublime, embryonic version of Stella Blue performed the same evening (in the first set!). The classic ’72 twang of Jerry’s guitar provides a genuine country flavor to this ballad. Garcia’s crooning after the last verse (between the 5:43 – 5:53 mark) really tugs at the heartstrings and foreshadows some of the great later versions that were anchored more by the outro vocals than the instrumental jam (i.e., 3/21/94, 8/1/94, 6/14/91). The interplay between Jerry and Keith during the all-too-brief closing jam is nothing short of gorgeous.
So Many Roads
6/23/92 Star Lake Amphitheater, Burgettstown, PA
No song defines ‘90s Dead better than So Many Roads. The debate among Deadheads over the “best” version will continue, but this version from Star Lake Amphitheater in 1992 certainly delivers the goods – flubs and all. Garcia’s titanic vocals at the end are unreal.
10/28/77 Soldier’s & Sailors Memorial Hall, Kansas City, MO
Taken from the fall 1977 tour, this version of Casey Jones is cut from the same cloth as the version of Sugar Magnolia that was posted last week. The build-up is slow but ferocious. They repeat the last verse nearly a dozen times taking it up a notch each round while Jerry adds some manic guitar fanning. The effect is explosive. A top version for sure.
Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo
9/1/79 Hollender Memorial Stadium, Rochester, NY
While this version of Half-Step may not reach the heights of 5/7/77, 9/3/77, 11/6/77 and 9/18/90, it is a powerful version in its own right. Problems with the sound system plague the beginning but if you stay with it I promise that you will fall madly in love with this version. The majestic closing jam following the “Rio Grande” verses will make you feel about as good as humanly possible. Definitely worthy of repeated listening.
Comes A Time
7/17/76 Orpheum Theater, San Francisco, CA
This stand-alone version of Comes A Time (without Donna) is taken from the famous six-night run at the Orpheum Theater in San Francisco. The unique jam that evolves at the end has a beautiful melody that is a joy to behold! This run needs to be released as a box set or a Road Trips edition.
Estimated Prophet -> Terrapin Station
3/31/87 The Spectrum, Philadelphia, PA
This powerful combo from the Spring 1987 tour showcases two workhorses from the album Terrapin Station. The FM broadcast source really highlights the typical East Coast party atmosphere. The explosive middle jam in Estimated is about as good as it gets and Bobby’s vocal theatrics on the outro will have you shaking your head in disbelief. Terrapin Station is picture-perfect ending with thunderous, crashing chords
10/28/90 Zenith, Paris, France
I love the watery effect that Jerry uses for his solo on Candyman and this sprightly version from Europe 1990 is among my favorites.
Little Red Rooster
9/24/88 Madison Square Garden, New York, NY
Despite everybody’s high hopes, the Rainforest Benefit at Madison Square Garden in September 1988 was a bit of a disappointment. However, this incredible version of Little Red Rooster performed with guest Mick Taylor (guitarist for John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers and the Rolling Stones) is stunning. Taylor takes two gritty solos that seem to inspire the rest of the band. Unlike Garcia, whose voice was totally shot, Weir is in fine vocal form. Brent lays down the filth, growling his “henhouse” verse – expletives and all – following it up with an utlra-bluesy B-3 solo that sets the barnyard completely on fire. A great version of a song considered by many to be a warm-up, throw-away tune.
He Was a Friend of Mine -> Viola Lee Blues -> The Seven -> Cumberland Blues
3/21/70 Capitol Theater, Port Chester, NY
There is nothing more that I can add to the excellent review of this show from the Dead Listening Blog, so I will paraphrase:
The night sparkles with energy all over the place, and more than anything this roaring 1970 concert might suggest on paper, the show continually plumbs some of the more majestic, lyrical and picturesque vistas of Grateful Dead jamming. He Was A Friend Of Mine is so lovely. Garcia’s lilting, melodic solo rotates and soars gracefully, as soft as a flower opening in the morning sun. It’s sad to think where this song could have gone if they kept it around. But this was the last one ever. At least they give it a fitting farewell. The tune comes to its natural end, and is immediately followed by the explosive intro of Viola Lee Blues, the full power of Phil bass exploding with great gouts of magma. The music enters a loose bluesy gait for a bit before finding its footing back on the road to meltdown. Soon enough they are building again, and eventually reach that searing, scorching precipice that only Viola Lee could reach. Pure electric meltdown. The rush of mayhem is as blinding as it is infinitely revealing. Wind takes on the form of boulders as they continually explode and race across the stage. The band is swirling, not headed toward the last verse at all. This is a wonderful “musical satori” moment where the music is wanting for nothing, happy to simply be with nothing but itself being perceived. But there’s a destination after all—the all too few times played Seven jam. Phil is rolling. Jerry is absolutely flying. The only trouble is it’s far too short. That said, the transition it offers into Cumberland Blues is a piece of priceless 1970 segue jamming. Just as we are completely at the mercy of The Seven jam, the Dead bring us lusciously into psychedelic bluegrass. The Grateful Dead seem to be evolving before our ears here as the unmistakable nuisances of the past and future come together.
4/28/85 Frost Amphitheater, Palo Alto, CA
This version of China Doll from Frost Amphitheater in the Spring of 1985 is a tad rushed and Jerry’s vocals are a little “froggy.” But, all of those things don’t matter because when you hear the beautiful, thematic jam at the end it is sure to put an orange sunshine smile on your face.
Not Fade Away -> GDTRFB -> Not Fade Away Reprise
12/1/71 Boston Music Hall, Boston, MA
The addition of Keith Godchaux in the Fall of 1971 marked the beginning of what was arguably the golden age for the Grateful Dead (1971-74). The Not Fade Away / GDTRFB combo suited the band perfectly at the time and it is no mistake that it was played in heavy rotation in 1971. This version of that glorious sequence from the Boston Music Hall in December 1971 is an excellent representation of the high energy the band could reach during that era. That energy is especially apparent on this matrix audio source recording by Matt Vernon. Garcia’s searing guitar solo during GDTRFB and Weir’s heroic screams on NFA reprise are some of the reasons why we followed this band thousands of miles for nearly 30 years. P.S. You would be well advised to listen to The Other One from this show too!
Playing In The Band
11/18/72 Hofheinz Pavilion – University of Houston, Houston, TX
This is Dick Lavata’s favorite version of Playing In the Band (see: http://agitators.com/gd/dick_misc.html) and it is hard for me to disagree (although it is very close with 8/27/72). The playing is so fast and furious that it is breathtaking. Michael Getz reviewed this show in the Tapers Compendium (Vol. I). Here is his review because there is nothing more that I can add:
In place of the usual “Dark Star” or “Other One” centerpiece is an extraordinary “Playing in the Band.” Here the slugfest is taken to a peak. There’s a priceless moment during the jam when the band slows down to a near halt from its furious pace. Billy waits a second or two before – bam!- he pops a few nasty karate chops on his snare. The rest of the band responds instantly, as if on cue, and off they trudge again battling, shredding everything in their path. For this is not some peace ‘n’ love, hippy-dippy version to get mellow with, man. Rather, it feels like having a fellow in a ski mask holding a fully fueled chainsaw two inches from my genitals for twenty-four minutes.”
5/16/80 Nassau Coliseum, Uniondale, NY
The Grateful Dead ended many tours with Brokedown Palace. Therefore, it seems fitting to conclude these 31 Days of Dead with that classic from American Beauty. This version from Nassau Coliseum in May 1980 was originally broadcasted on the nationally syndicated radio program, The King Biscuit Flower Hour and it is easily my favorite. Everything about it is just exactly perfect – Brent’s swelling B-3 Gospel-sounding organ, Garcia’s fragile, tour-worn vocals, and most of all, Garcia’s aching solo. That solo has been memorized in my head for years and it is the standard by which I judge all other versions of Brokedown Palace. For years I had a CD of a vinyl bootleg of that FM broadcast titled, Coupla Shots of Whiskey (I guess the bootlegger was not familiar with Minglewood Blues). You can even hear the static of the vinyl on my CD recording! When Go To Nassau was released years later I discovered – much to my horror – that all of the material broadcasted from the King Biscuit Flower Hour appeared EXCEPT Brokedown Palace! What?!!! And, because Go To Nassau is now an official release you can no longer stream the SBD on LMA. Therefore, I felt that it was my obligation to provide the soundboard copy (FYI, it’s a Mediafire download) on this final day of my own personal 31 Days of Dead. So, in this case I suppose we can say “thank you” to the bootlegger for preserving the only soundboard copy of this top version of Brokedown Palace for all of us to enjoy.
Mediafire Link: http://www.mediafire.com/?m7iz92383jwv3ix
Scarlet Begonias > Fire on the Mountain
11/30/80 Fox Theater, Atlanta, GA
As a special New Year’s treat I have included a bonus track. This well-known version of Scarlet>Fire from the very intimate “Fox’s” Den” in 1980 is simply flawless. The transition into Fire on the Mountain is one for the ages. The Bird Song from this show was one of the tracks that was leaked a few years ago via “The Taper’s Section.” Since we know that this great show is sitting in the vault in high quality audio we can only hope that it will be officially released in the near future. I hope you enjoyed my selections. Happy New Year everybody.