October 8, 2011

Playlist Week Of 10-08-11

Grateful Dead - Complete Europe 72 (interior)

* Rebel: Violin Sonatas (Manze/Egarr/ter Linden) (Harmonia Mundi CD)†
* Vivaldi: Concertos, RV 331, etc. (VBO/Marcon/Carmignola) (Archiv Produktion CD)
* Vivaldi: Concertos For Two Violins (VBO/Marcon/Carmignola/Mullova) (Archiv Produktion CD)
* Miles Davis: The Complete In A Silent Way Sessions (Columbia/Legacy 3CD)
* Herbie Hancock: Sextant (Columbia/Legacy CD)†
* Anthony Braxton: Trio (Wesleyan) 2005 (New Braxton House FLAC>CDR)
* Anthony Braxton: Septet (Pittsburgh) 2008 (New Braxton House MP3)†
* Anthony Braxton: Quartet (Mannheim) 2010 (New Braxton House FLAC>CDR)
* John Fahey: Of Rivers And Religion (Reprise LP)
* Grateful Dead: Wembley Empire Pool, London, England 4/7/72 (GDP/Rhino 3CD)
* Grateful Dead: Wembley Empire Pool, London, England 4/8/72 (GDP/Rhino 3CD)
* Grateful Dead: City Hall, Newcastle, England 4/11/72 (GDP/Rhino 3CD)
* Grateful Dead: Tivoli Concert Hall, Copenhagen, Denmark 4/14/72 (GDP/Rhino 4CD)
* Grateful Dead: Stakladen, Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark 4/16/72 (GDP/Rhino 3CD)
* Grateful Dead: Tivoli Concert Hall, Copenhagen, Denmark 4/17/72 (GDP/Rhino 3CD)
* Allman Brothers Band: At Fillmore East (Deluxe Edition) (Mercury/Universal 2CD)†/‡
* Allman Brothers Band: Eat A Peach (Deluxe Edition) (selections) (Mercury/Universal 2CD)†/‡
* Stephen Stills: Manassas (Atlantic 2LP)
* Carole King: Tapestry (Columbia Mastersound LP)
* King Crimson: Absent Lovers: Live in Montreal 1984 (DGM 2CD)†
* King Crimson: Vroom Vroom: Live in Mexico City and On Broadway 1995-96 (DGM 2CD)†
* Adrian Belew: Lone Rhino (Island LP)
* Adrian Belew: Twang Bar King (Island LP)
* Tony Levin/David Torn/Alan White: Levin Torn White (Lazy Bones CD)†
* Brand X: Product (Passport LP)
* Cocteau Twins: Echoes In A Shallow Bay (4AD/Capitol CDEP)†
* Cocteau Twins: Tiny Dynamine (4AD/Capitol CDEP)†
* Thurston Moore: Demolished Thoughts (Matador CD)†
* Spiritualized: Lazer Guided Melodies (Arista CD)†
* Spiritualized: Pure Phase (Arista CD)†
* Spiritualized: Ladies And Gentlemen, We Are Floating In Space (Arista CD)†/‡
* Spiritualized: Let It Come Down (Arista CD)†
* Spiritualized: Amazing Grace (Spaceman/Sanctuary CD)†
* Spiritualized: Songs In A & E (Spaceman/Sanctuary CD)†
* My Bloody Valentine: Loveless (Sire/Warner Bros. CD)†
* Wilco: Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (Nonesuch CD)†/‡
* Wilco: A Ghost Is Born (Nonesuch CD)†(‡)
* Wilco: The Whole Love (dBpm/Epitaph 2LP/1+1CD)(†)(‡)



OK, all is forgiven. Europe ’72: The Complete Recordings is by far the most audacious box set ever: twenty-two full concerts spread across seventy-three CDs with a 100-page hardback book of essays and photos plus a reproduction of “The Book of The Dead” handed out at the Lyceum Ballroom, all packaged in an oversized, leather-bound “steamer trunk” festooned with vintage travel stickers from London, Newcastle, Paris, Munich, Luxembourg, Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Copenhagen and Rotterdam. The presentation alone is worth the price of admission: it’s a gorgeous object d’art and a fitting monument to what was arguably the Grateful Dead’s finest hour.

This was Pigpen’s last tour and, despite his failing health, he gives it his all, as if he knew he was soon to die. Photographs show him looking thin and pale, bundled up against the cold and dreary European spring. But he’d written a number of new songs for the occasion (including uptempo swingers like “Mr. Charlie” and “Chinatown Suffle” and the heartrending ballad, “Two Souls In Communion”) and he belts out classic numbers like “Good Lovin’”, “(Turn On Your) Lovelight” and “Caution (Do Not Stop On The Tracks)” just like the old days, complete with freewheeling raps and bloodcurdling screams. He even adds some soulful organ to many songs, giving lie to the idea that he was somehow inadequate as an instrumentalist. This was also Donna Godchaux’s first tour singing with the band who along with her husband, Keith, on keyboards, brought a refreshing creative boost to the group. While her banshee wails on “Playing In The Band” are a bit over the top, Donna Jean’s harmony vocals elsewhere add a sweetness and feminine energy that balanced perfectly with Jerry Garcia’s reedy tenor and Bob Weir’s idiosyncratic yelp. Keith had been with the band about six months by this time and he fits in perfectly: whether it’s a rollicking boogie-woogie, a tender country-western ballad, the furthest reaches of spaced-out improvisation or full-tilt rock ’n’ roll, he’s right there with supportive comping and a sparkling flourish. The band was inspired enough to write a bunch of new songs, many of which were debuted on this tour and would go on to become staples of their repertoire: songs like “Cumberland Blues,” “Ramble On Rose,” “Tennessee Jed,” “Brown-Eyed Women,” and “He’s Gone” tap the rich vein of American folk music, sounding like they could have been written sometime in the late-19th Century, yet still sound timeless and hip, like a psychedelicized, electric string band from the planet Neptune. While the band would soldier on and write many more great songs, things would never be quite the same with Pigpen’s passing. Europe ’72: the Complete Recordings offers a panoramic view of the glorious final days of the so-called “primal” era of Grateful Dead music.

I’m of two minds regarding the sound quality of these discs. On the one hand, they lack the Technicolor vividness of 2002’s Steppin’ Out With The Grateful Dead: England ’72 (Arista), one of the best-sounding releases in their catalog. On the other hand, Jeffrey Norman’s simple and directed approach to mixing the original sixteen-track tapes (necessitated by the time constraints imposed by the sheer enormity of the project) offers a more honest representation of the band’s sound, warts and all. Sometimes the balance is muddled and there’s a midrange graininess that is a little distracting; nevertheless, these discs are very pleasing to listen to—certainly much better than the old “bootleg” soundboard tapes which circulate. But what really makes these CDs worthwhile is the high-tech time alignment performed by Plangent Processes: the pitch is rock solid and any azimuth smear or wow-and-flutter issues are completely eliminated. I wish all their releases would get this kind of treatment, particularly the lowly cassette sources, which were notorious for extreme time-based problems (e.g. some of the Road Trips releases). So while the mix on these discs is a little bit slapdash, they still sound delightful to these ears—especially at, um, “realistic” volume levels. It would have been nice if a DVD of their television appearances in Copenhagen and Bremen had also been included to make it truly “complete” but maybe they will be released separately sometime in the future; in the meantime, my fuzzy boot of the broadcasts will have to suffice.

I’m slowly making my through the box in chronological order (it’s all I can do not to jump ahead to the Rotterdam “Dark Star”) and, quibbles aside, I’m in Deadhead heaven. Dead.net’s customer service left something (a lot!) to be desired, but the thing did finally arrive—and it’s truly extraordinary. No doubt I’ll have more to say about this set as I listen further. Stay tuned.


Sam said...

Oh, hell, why not just jump to the Rotterdam "Dark Star"? Go for it!

Here's my list for last week:

Playlist 2011-10-10:

*Phil Austin: Roller Maidens from Outer Space
*John Barry: Thunderball (original soundtrack)
*Anthology of Noise and Electronic Music vol. 5: Fifth a-chronology 1920-2007 (disc 1)
*Anthony Braxton: This Time
*Anthony Braxton: In the Tradition (Vol. 2)
*Charles Mingus: Jazzical Moods
*Charles Mingus: Jazz Composers Workshop
*New Loft: 2011-09-21 "Kitchen Drawer" (wav)
*Sun Ra: 1985-01-04 Columbus OH (CDR)
*Cecil Taylor Quartet featuring Anthony Braxton: 2007-10-13 Reggio Emilia, Italy (CDR)
*Beach Boys: Shut Down Vol. 2
*Beatles: With the Beatles Studio Sessions: Back to Basics disc 2 (boot CDR)
*Boredoms: Super Roots 7
*James Brown: Funk Power
*OOIOO: Kila Kila Kila
*Elvis Presley: A Golden Celebration (disc 4)
*Splitsville: The Complete Pet Soul
*Tad Thaddock: Electric Flunk Thigh
*Various artists: Not the Beach Boys (CDR compilation)

Reading List 2011-10-10:

*Bride of Dark and Stormy, compiled by Scott Rice (started)
*Turow, Scott. Ordinary Heroes (started)
*Furst, Alan. The Spies of Warsaw (finished)
*Manguel, Alberto. History of Reading (finished)
*Shakespeare, William. Twelfth Night (First Folio ed.) (finished)
*Arabian Nights: Tales of 1001 Nights (transl. Malcolm C. Lyons) Vol. 2 (in progress)
*Bradbury, Ray: Bradbury Stories (in progress)
*Lambert, Philip. Inside the Music of Brian Wilson (in progress)

Andrei said...

Congratulations, Rodger! You've got it! Excellent and amazing box!
It would be nice if you write your reviews on every show.