September 25, 2010

Playlist Week of 9-25-10

* Buxtehude: Sonatas, Op.1 (Holloway/Mortensen/ter Linden) (Naxos CD)†
* Corelli: Trio Sonatas (Pinnock, et al.) (Archiv Prod. CD)
* Venice Baroque Orchestra (Marcon/Carmignola): Concerto Italiano (Archiv Prod. CD)
* Cage: The 25th-Year Retrospective Concert (Town Hall, NYC 5-15-58) (Wergo 3CD)
* Miles Davis: The Complete Live at The Plugged Nickel (d.7) (Columbia 8CD)
* Miles Davis: Quintet 1965-1968 (Columbia 6CD)
* Miles Davis Quintet: Oriental Theatre, Portland, OR 5-21-66 (FM 2CDR)
* Miles Davis Quintet: Harmon Gymnasium, U.C. Berkeley, CA 4-07-67 (FM CDR)
* Sun Ra: On Jupiter (Saturn/Art Yard CD)
* Anthony Braxton: Quartet (GTM) 2006 (d.3-4) (Important 4CD)
* Anthony Braxton Ensemble: Keuda House, Kerava, Finland 6-10-06 (FM CDR)
* Anthony Braxton Sextet: Anfiteatro ao Ar Libre, Lisboa, Portugal 8-12-06 (AUD CDR)
* Björkenheim/Parker/Drake: Old Customs Hall, Tampere, Finland 11-01-09 (FM CDR)
* Isaac Hayes: Shaft (Original Soundtrack) (Enterprise 2LP)
* Van Morrison: A Night in San Francisco (Polydor 2CD)
* Grateful Dead: Dane Co. Coliseum, Madison, WI 2-15-73 (selections) (SBD 3CDR)‡
* Grateful Dead: Road Trips Vol.3, No.4: Penn State-Cornell ‘80 (GDP/Rhino 3CD)
* Grateful Dead: Municipal Auditorium, Kansas City, MO 7-07-81 (SBD 3CDR)‡
* Led Zeppelin: III (Atlantic CD)
* Led Zeppelin: IV (a/k/a Zoso) (Atlantic CD)
* King Crimson: The Great Deceiver: Live 1973-1974 (d.4) (DGM 3CD)
* King Crimson: Discipline (DGM CD)
* Big Star: Keep An Eye On the Sky (d.3) (Ardent/Rhino 4CD)
* Robyn Hitchcock: Black Snake Diamond Role (Yep Rock CD)
* Robert Pollard: From a Compound Eye (Merge 2LP)
* Yo La Tengo: Popular Songs (Matador CD)
* Spiritualized: “Feel So Sad” (Dedicated—UK CDEP)
* Spiritualized: “Run”/”I Want You” (Dedicated—UK CDEP)
* Aphex Twin: Selected Ambient Works 85-92 (R&S—UK CD)‡
* Aphex Twin: Selected Ambient Works, Vol. II (d.1) (Sire 2CD)

†= iPod
‡= car


Along with the Warlocks box set, the Grateful Dead has also released another volume of the quarterly Road Trips series, this time focusing on two back-to-back concerts at Penn State and Cornell University on May 6 and 7, 1980. The Dead go Ivy League! Although their most recent album, Go to Heaven, went nowhere, colleges and universities were still breeding grounds for newly-minted young Deadheads—particularly on the east coast—and the band was invited to play their gymnasiums and field houses on a fairly regular basis during the early-Eighties. Every school had a subculture of Deadheads and going to a show was a rite of passage for many students. The band obliged their fans with a relentless touring schedule of almost two-hundred shows a year, with at least at least several dozen around the northeastern corridor throughout the school-year. The band may have seemed irrelevant to the mainstream culture, eclipsed by rapidly evolving trends like disco, New Wave, punk rock and nascent Hip-Hop, but for some the siren call of Jerry Garcia’s guitar continued to beckon. And so the band played on. “New guy”, Brent Mydland, had settled in as keyboardist over the past year and even contributed a couple of OK songs to the new album. While some Deadheads despise the “tinkly” sound of his (heavily modified) Fender Rhodes electric piano, I love it—probably because I was myself falling in love with the band in the spring of 1980. The sound of these tapes brings back fond memories and this period of the band’s music will always remain a favorite of mine, no matter what the cognoscenti say.

This edition of Road Trips sensibly expands to three CDs and foregoes the annoying “bonus disc.” Hooray! The first disc is a composite “first set” while discs two and three present the complete second sets (sans encores) from each show respectively. Nicely done. The music is typical of the period with no big surprises but the playing is sharp and the singing respectable. Jerry Garcia’s voice still retains some of its youthful sweetness and Mydland’s high tenor blends well with the ensemble, unlike Donna Godchaux’s sometimes wayward wail. The repertoire combines the new songs like “Althea”, “Feel Like a Stranger” and “Lost Sailor>Saint of Circumstance” with old favorites like “China Cat Sunflower>I Know You Rider”, “Loser” and “He’s Gone”, offering a sense of the band’s history and their vast stylistic range. Disc three presents perhaps the most compelling sequence, opening with a long, funky “Shakedown Street” that smoothly segues into a bouncy “Bertha” and a “Playing in the Band” sandwich containing a stately “Terrapin Station” and a moving “Black Peter” before concluding with the good-time grooving of “Good Lovin’.” Incidentally, “Saint of Circumstance” makes its first stand-alone appearance here, incongruously coming out of a dissonant and abstract “Space”, a curious bit of trivia for the statisticians.

Recorded onto a lowly cassette tape from the live soundboard feed by front-of-house mixer, Dan Healy, the sound quality is good but not great (though much better than the circulating versions of these shows). Presenting a mirror image of what was coming out of the PA, the drums sound distant while the vocals are way up front, making for a peculiarly unbalanced audio picture of how the band actually sounded on these nights. That said, these tapes don’t sound too bad, except they run about 3% slow, making the pitch ever-so-noticeably flat and the high end sound dulled. It is disappointing that this common anomaly of cassette recording was not fixed in the digital domain as it could have been easily corrected. Oh well—but I quibble; the early-Eighties are woefully underrepresented in the official discography and therefore this is a most welcome addition. But if you don’t already have Go to Nassau (GD/Arista, 2002), which was beautifully recorded to multi-track for the King Biscuit Flour Hour, start there for a much better-sounding example of the Grateful Dead in the spring of 1980. This volume of Road Trips is a step in the right direction, but still too flawed and weird to make it wholeheartedly recommendable to anyone except a hardcore ‘Head like me who came of age in the early-Eighties. Your mileage may vary.


The playlist may appear somewhat short this week, but take note that I listened to all six discs of the Miles Davis Quintet 1965-1968 box set. Good lord, what amazing music! I might have to listen to it again before moving on to the Complete In a Silent Way Sessions. I’ve also dipped my toe into the various verité recordings (as Bob Beldon calls ‘em in his liner notes). I might have to listen to them all! Great, great stuff.


Sam said...

You say: "I’ve also dipped my toe into the various verité recordings (as Bob Beldon calls ‘em in his liner notes)." What are these? Are these the undoctored session tapes from which "In a silent way" was constructed? (I ask this lazily, without perusing Belden's notes myself.)

Rodger Coleman said...

@Sam: a "verité" recording is a polite way of describing a bootleg recorded from the audience. I think he also includes radio broadcasts in the use of the term, which I have been avidly listening to since devouring that box. Man, that band was the last word on post-bop acoustic jazz. And then some!!

Sam said...

Well, duh. Shoulda known. har har --yes, that is truly great stuff. The planets were certainly aligned for that quintet!

Here's my lists for last week:

Playlist 2010-09-27

*Andrew Cyrille/Milford Graves: Dialogue of the Drums
*MIles Davis: In Concert: Live at Philharmonic hall, New York (disc 1)
*Sabir Mateen Quartet: Other Places Other Spaces
*Cecil Taylor/Tony Oxley: 2007-10-11 Modena, Italy (CDR)
*Cecil Taylor Quartet featuring Anthony Braxton: 2007-10-13 Reggio Emilia, Italy (CDR)
*Cecil Taylor/Tony Oxley: 2008-05-12 Moers (CDR)
*Henry Threadgill & Zooid: 2010-05-12 Koln (CDR)
*Grateful Dead: 1973-03-16 Uniondale, NY (CDR)
*Grateful Dead: 1973-03-21 Utica NY (CDR)
*Grateful Dead: 1973-03-24 Philadelphia (CDR)
*Grateful Dead: 1973-03-31 Buffalo (CDR)
*Grateful Dead: 1973-05-26 Kezar Stadium, San Francisco (CDR)
*Guided By Voices: Alien Lanes
*Jimi Hendrix: Lifelines, disc 4 (live, LA Forum, 1969)
*Jimi Hendrix: First Rays of the New Morning Sun
*OOIOO: Live Empty Bottle, Chicago 2006? (CDR mp3)
*Prince: 1982-11-30 Detroit (CDR)
*Rolling Stones: December's Children
*Chrissy Zebby Tembo & Ngozi Family: My Ancestors

Reading log 2010-09-27

*Sorrentino, Gilbert. Abyss of Human Illusion (started)
*Cross, Charles R. Room Full of Mirrors (finished)
*Larson, Gary. The Complete Far Side (finished)
*Tanner, Tony. Prefaces to Shakespeare (in progress)
*Theobald, Lewis. Double Falsehood (Arden Shakespeare ed.) (in progress)