* Debussy: La Mer/Ibert: Escales (Boston Symphony/Munch) (RCA-Victor/Sony SACD)
* Ravel: Daphnis And Chloé (Boston Symphony/Munch) (RCA-Victor/Sony SACD)
* Dvořák: New World Symphony, etc. (Chicago Symphony/Reiner) (RCA-Victor/Sony SACD)
* Chicago Symphony/Reiner: Spain (RCA-Victor/Sony SACD)
* Julian Bream: Popular Classics For Spanish Guitar (RCA-Victor/Sony SACD)
* Miles Davis: The Complete Birth Of The Cool (Capitol CD)
* Miles Davis & John Coltrane: The Complete Columbia Recordings 1955-1961 (d.1) (Columbia 6CD)
* John Coltrane: Fearless Leader (d.1-3) (Prestige 6CD)
* Sun Ra: Dance Of The Living Image: Lost Reel Collection Vol.4 (Transparency 2CD)
* Sun Ra: Civic Arena, Santa Cruz, CA 12-11-74 (AUD 2CDR)
* Rashied Ali/Charles Gayle/Sirone: Stadtsaal, Burghausen, Germany 3-8-08 (FM 2CDR)
* Roscoe Mitchell’s Cards For Orchestra Project: Sant’Anna Arresi, Italy 8-30-09 (FM CDR)
* Weather Report: Shinjuku Kouseinen Hall, Tokyo, Japan 6-28-78 (FM 2CDR)
* John McLaughlin & The 4th Dimension: Schloss Johannisberg, Cuvéehof, Germany 7-4-08 (FM CDR)
* John McLaughlin & The 4th Dimension: Place du Chevalier D’Antras, Mauriac, France 7-30-11 (FM CDR)‡
* Parliament: Motor Booty Affair (Casablanca/Polygram CD)
* Bootsy Collins: Ahh…The Name Is Bootsy, Baby! (Warner Bros. CD)
* Bootsy Collins: Ultra Wave (Warner Bros. CD)
* Grateful Dead: Road Trips Vol.4 No.4: Spectrum 4-6-82 (GDP/Rhino 3CD)
* Grateful Dead: Civic Center, Hartford, CT 4-18-82 (selections) (SBD 3CDR)
* Emmylou Harris: All I Intended To Be (Nonesuch CD)†/‡
* Emmylou Harris: Hard Bargain (Nonesuch CD)†/‡
* Lucinda Williams: Blessed (Lost Highway CD)†/‡
* Thurston Moore: Demolished Thoughts (Matador MP3)†/‡
* Thurston Moore: KCRW-FM, Santa Monica, CA 7-28-11 (FM CDR)
* Wilco: Circus Krone, Munich, Germany, 9-24-10 (FM 2CDR)
* Boston Spaceships: Let It Beard (GBV, Inc. 2LP)
* Circus Devils: Gringo (Happy Jack Rock Records LP)
* Fleet Foxes: BBC Radio Theatre, London, Englan 6-03-11 (FM CDR)
1982 is an overlooked year in the Grateful Dead’s history. Of all the dozens of vault releases, only Dick’s Picks 32 is from ’82—and it’s one of the worst-sounding “official” releases ever (seriously, it’s almost unlistenable). Well, that’s one of the problems with trying to properly assess this era of the Dead’s career. Most of the band's recordings were made on a lowly cassette deck plugged directly into the soundboard, a less than ideal format to say the least. Most of the “official” releases from the early ‘80s suffer from awkward mixes, noticeable wow and flutter, and consistently off-speed playback. Ugh. Various soundboard tapes circulate in trading circles but a well-made audience tape will almost always sound better—unfortunately, they are few and far between. The new Road Trips, recorded at the Spectrum in Philadelphia on April 6, 1982, is a decent-sounding board tape from this era, and it appears some extra effort has been made regarding pitch-correction and Dolby implementation (it’s about time!). No, it’s not perfect but it sounds better than the circulating copy—and it’s a hot show to boot.
The unique thing about 1982 is Brent Mydland’s new keyboard, having traded the tinkly Fender Rhodes for a Yamaha CP-80 Electric Grand Piano, literally a miniaturized grand piano with built-in piezoelectric pickups. This, combined with his Hammond B3 organ, gave the band a warm, acoustic sound reminiscent of Keith Godchaux’s era with the band in 1970s. And Jerry Garcia’s slide into heroin addiction had not yet robbed the sweetness from his voice or the fluidity from his guitar-playing. Just take a listen to the super-funky “Shakedown Street” which opens the second set: Garcia’s solo is so sharp and purposeful, building up paragraphs out of a syntax of deliberative motives, riffs and melodic variations before moving on to another idea and exploring it in depth. Etc. He plays every note like he means it, telling a story with just his fingers and strings. Brent trades licks with Jerry at the outset and the rest of the band falls in behind, building up a series of climaxes before the big decrescendo and reprise. Really, folks, this is just about as good as it gets! Brent abandoned the CP-80 in 1983, adopting the nascent digital technology with its expanding palette of textures; but the pure, analog, semi-acoustic sound was gone forever. And, as is well known, Garcia’s health nosedived in the coming years, resulting in the near-fatal coma of 1986. Frankly, things would never quite be the same; still good—sometimes great—but something indefinable was lost.
So, this edition of the Road Trips series is a welcome reminder that 1982 was a real mid-career peak, even if nobody except Deadheads knew or cared at the time. It’s all consistently good with epic versions of “Terrapin Station” and “Morning Dew” rounding out the set and a lovely rendition of Dylan’s “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” for an encore. As an added bonus, selected cuts from the night before, including a rare electric “Deep Elem Blues” and a long, spacey “Playing In The Band” sequence, fills out discs two and three. You certainly get your money’s worth, even if the sound is a bit wonky. Perhaps not for everybody, but if, like me, you have fond memories of seeing the Dead back in the early 80s, then Road Trips Vol.4 No.4 is a most welcome release.
Of course, next month promises the arrival of the mammoth 73-disc Complete Europe ’72 box. Good lord! I’m overwhelmed just thinking about it.