May 7, 2011

Playlist Week of 5-07-11

Grateful Dead - Road Trips Vol4 No3

* J.S. Bach: Suites For Violoncello (ter Linden) (Harmonia Mundi 2CD)†
* J.S. Bach: French Suites (Leonhardt) (ABC/Seon 2LP)
* J.S. Bach: Cantatas, BWV56 & BWV82 (Baroque Ensemble/Brüggen) (Pro-Arte/Seon LP)
* J.S. Bach: Cantatas, BWV106 & BWV182 (Monteverdi Choir/Leonhardt Ens./Jürgens) (Telefunken LP)
* Miles Davis: In Concert: Live At Philharmonic Hall 1972 (Columbia/Legacy 2CD)
* Johnny Griffin: The Congregation (Blue Note LP)
* Grant Green: Idle Moments (Blue Note CD)
* Grant Green: Street Of Dreams (Blue Note CD)
* Milt Jackson/Hubert Laws: Goodbye (CTI LP)
* Sun Ra: Out Beyond The Kingdom Of (Saturn LP>CDR)
* Sun Ra: Hunter College, New York, NY 6-16-74 (AUD 2CDR)
* Sun Ra: The Antique Blacks (Saturn/Art Yard CD)
* Anthony Braxton: Orchestra (Los Angeles) 1992 (FM?>FLAC>CDR)
* Anthony Braxton: Sextet (Boston) 2005 (New Braxton House FLAC>2CDR)
* James Brown: Star Time (d.2) (Polydor 4CD)
* Sly & The Family Stone: Fresh (Epic/Sundazed LP)
* Johnny Cash: American IV: The Man Comes Around (American CD+DVD)
* Emmylou Harris: All I Intended To Be (Nonesuch CD)
* Emmylou Harris: Hard Bargain (Nonesuch CD+DVD)
* Lucinda Williams: Blessed (Deluxe Edition) (d.1) (Lost Highway 2CD)
* Grateful Dead: Road Trips Vol.4, No.3: Denver ’73 (GDP/Rhino 3CD)
* Grateful Dead: 2011 Bonus Disc (Cleveland, OH 12-06-73) (GDP/Rhino CD)
* Grateful Dead: West High Auditorium, Anchorage, AK 6-19-80 (selections) (SBD 2CDR)‡
* Grateful Dead: Deer Creek Music Center, Noblesville, IN 6-22-93 (SBD 3CDR)‡
* Grateful Dead: Deer Creek Music Center, Noblesville, IN 6-23-93 (SBD 3CDR)‡
* Santana: Caravanserai (Columbia/Legacy CD)
* Sir Douglas Quintet: The Mono Singles ’68-‘72 (Smash/Mercury/Sundazed 2LP)
* Tom Waits: Heart Attack And Vine (Asylum LP)
* Los Lobos: Kiko (Slash/Warner Bros. CD)
* The Fall: This Nation’s Saving Grace (Omnibus Edition) (d.1,3)(Beggar’s Banquet 3CD)
* Purple Trap: Decided…Already The Motionless Heart […] (Tzadik 2CD)
* Mars Classroom: The New Theory Of Everything (Happy Jack Rock Records LP)
* Lifeguards: Waving At The Astronauts (Serious Business LP)
* Those Bastard Souls: Debt And Departure (V2 CD)
* Fleet Foxes: Helplessness Blues (Sub Pop CD)
* Broken Bells: Broken Bells (Columbia LP)
* Broken Bells: Meyrin Fields EP (Columbia EP)



For many Deadheads, 1973 is their very favorite year—and for good reason: the band was at an undeniable peak of creativity and musicianship. A bunch of excellent new songs debuted during the year resulting in a decent studio album, Wake Of The Flood, released on their own label—a pioneering effort at the time. More subtly, a serious investment was being made behind the scenes developing new instruments and clean, high-power amplification, which would culminate in colossal “The Wall of Sound” in 1974. The Dead were nothing if not ambitious during this period and it resulted in some of the finest music they ever made. They were also about as overtly “jazzy” as they ever got, with outrageously inventive, hour-long jams breaking out just about every night—so, yeah, 1973 was a good year. Accordingly, it’s well represented in “official” releases, including the stupendous Winterland ’73 box set and Dick’s Picks Volumes 1, 14, 19, and 28. Soundboards[FN1] of almost every show circulate regularly (and legally) on the internet, so one might have to ask: is another ’73 release is really necessary? The latest Road Trips answers in the affirmative. Consisting of the complete concert from November 21 at the Denver Coliseum (and a portion of the night before), the sound quality is much improved over the circulating version (which includes a cassette generation) and, if you’ve heard that, you know this a spectacular show, representing everything that makes 1973 so special.

The first set is super-mellow but superbly well-played, highlights being a leisurely, loping “Sugaree” and a slowed-down “Dire Wolf” early on followed by a lacey, filigreed “Here Comes Sunshine” mid-set. Concluding with an expansive “Weather Report Suite,” the band finally stretches its wings and takes flight. The second set features one of those seamless song collages, with “Playing In The Band” cementing it all together, which coheres into a kind of vaguely cosmic meta-narrative. And as if that wasn’t enough, the band then launches into “Truckin’,” which leads to yet another long jam, ending with an extended “Uncle John’s Band” encore. The Dead certainly gave the Denver crowd their money’s worth! Filling out disc three with another version of “Truckin’” from the night before might seem like an oddly repetitious choice, but this one is quite different, demonstrating the open-ended, improvisatory nature of the band during this period. Rather than evolving into the blues explorations of “Nobody’s Fault But Mine” and “Goin’ Down The Road Feeling Bad,” the band segues into the jazz/fusion space-out of “The Other One” followed by a quiet and tender “Stella Blue.” Stunning. Road Trips Vol.4 No.3 is a hugely satisfying release and unreservedly recommended to both casual fans and obsessed Deadheads alike.

Early subscribers also received their annual “Bonus Disc” with this volume and, as usual, it’s a keeper—so good it almost overshadows the regular release. I’ve been critical of the whole limited edition “bonus disc” thing in the past and I’m glad they’ve stopped including them every time out and, instead, have expanded the Road Trips series to a more accommodating three CDs. The yearly subscription is a relative bargain if (like me) you plan to buy them all anyway; so the “bonus disc” actually feels like a genuine bonus rather than just a crass marketing ploy. Even so, it’s a shame punters will once again miss out on another slice of prime Dead, unless they want to pay ridiculous sums on the secondary market (or resort to piracy—and who could blame them?). Recorded at the Cleveland Public Auditorium on December 6, 1973, the forty-five minute “Dark Star” is justifiably legendary and the dreamy “Eyes Of The World” which follows does not suffer from the brutal cut in the middle as does the circulating soundboard—that alone makes it essential! This is another one of those mind-blowing, hour-long jams traversing across vast musical territories while remaining deeply rooted in the rich, earthy soil of American folk—the kind of stuff that makes 1973 a favorite year for hardcore Deadheads and turns the “Bonus Disc” into a real treasure. Thanks, GDP! Now, I wonder what’s planned for the next Road Trips? I can’t wait!

FN1. Technically, these tapes are not “soundboard” recordings at all, but a separate sub-mix made with a microphone splitter and a Nagra reel-to-reel. The spacious ambience and instrumental clarity made possible with this method is much preferable to the dry and often woefully unbalanced recordings made from the soundboard’s P.A. feed. The sheer quality of the recordings during this period is one of the reasons why the mid-‘Seventies are so revered amongst Deadheads, beyond the merits of the music itself. Sadly, the Nagra bit the dust around 1979 and the effort to make high-fidelity tapes was abandoned. That’s one reason why the 1980s have been largely avoided for “official” releases: actual soundboard tapes (which record an inverse mirror image of what the audience heard) often sound weird and awful, depending on the vagaries of the cavernous venues in which the band performed. Fortunately, there were some amazingly realistic recordings made from the audience during this period, although they are few and far between. It wasn’t until the 1990s that technology caught up with the Dead and soundboard tapes could be made to sound good—but by then, it was, perhaps, too late.

1 comment:

Sam said...

Damn, more 1973! I'm glad to have that "sbd" disc of the Cleveland "Dark Star" you sent me years ago. One of the all-time greatest.

I meant to dig out "Out Beyond the Kingdom Of" this week, but it's been a nutty month so far. Hopefully soon!

Here's my lists from last week:

Playlist 2011-05-09:

*Brand X: Morrocan Roll (side 1)
*Bruford: One of a Kind (side 1)
*John Coltrane: The Complete 1961 Village Vanguard Recordings (discs 1, 2)
*John Coltrane: Live in Japan "Crescent"
*John Coltrane: The Classic Quartet: Complete Impulse! Studio Recordings (disc 4)
*Duke Ellington: The Complete 1932-1940 Brunswick, Columbia and Master Recordings of Duke Ellington and His Famous Orchestra (discs 3, 4)
*Duke Ellington: The Complete 1936-1940 Variety, Vocalion, and Okeh Small Group Sessions (discs 1, 2)
*New Loft: 2011-04-27: "Empty Envelope, Pushed Over" (wav)
*Evan Parker Electro-Acoustic Ensemble: Memory/Vision
*Sun Ra & His Interglaxtic Arkestra: Second Star to the Right (Salute to Walt Disney)
*Sun Ra & His Arkestra: 1989-08-11 Cambridge, MA (CDR) Disney selections
*Cecil Taylor: Cecil Taylor Unit (New World)
*Animal Collective: Feels
*Beach Boys: Best Unsurpassed Masters (1962-1969) (boot CDR) discs 2, 3
*Dark Carpet: Let's Make a Deal (CDR compilation)
*Grateful Dead: 1977-05-04 Palladium, NYC (CDR) set 2
*Jimi Hendrix Experience: An Evening with the Jimi Hendrix Experience (1969-02-24 Royal Albert Hall, London)
*Jimi Hendrix: 51st Anniversary (The Story of Life...) (boot CDR) disc 1
*High Llamas: Talahomi Way (streaming)
*Ruby Johnson: I'll Run Your Hurt Away
*Elvis Presley: A Golden Celebration (disc 1)
*Rolling Stones: Beggars Banquet
*Time: Ice Cream Castle
*Various artists: WSAM: Sixty Hippies (CDR compilation)
*XTC: Coat of Many Cupboards (disc 3)
*Frank Zappa: Mystery Disc

Reading List 2011-05-09:

*Bell, Blake. Strange and Stranger: The World of Steve Ditko (readings in)
*James, P.D. The Private Patient (finished)
*Arabian Nights: Tales of 1001 Nights (transl. Malcolm C. Lyons) Vol. 1 (in progress)
*Ebert, Roger. The Great Movies (in progress)
*Gifford, Don, and Robert J. Seldman. Ulysses Annotated, rev. and expanded ed. (in progress)
*Joyce, James. Ulysses (reread/in progress)
*Segar, E.C. The Complete E.C. Segar Popeye Vol. 8 (Dailies 1932-1933) (in progress)