January 28, 2012

Playlist Week of 1-28-12

Europe '72

* Marais: Pieces De Viole Du Troisieme Livre, 1711 (Savall, et al.) (Alia Vox SACD)
* Marais: Pieces De Viole Du Quatrieme Livre, 1717 (Savall, et al.) (Alia Vox SACD)
* Venice Baroque Orchestra (Marcon/Carmignola): Concerto Veneziano (Archiv Produktion CD)
* Venice Baroque Orchestra (Marcon/Carmignola): Concerto Italiano (Archiv Produktion CD)
* Beethoven: String Quartet, Op.130 (Alban Berg Quartett) (EMI Classics CD)
* Sun Ra: Chateauvallon, France 8-25-76 (AUD 3CDR)
* Sun Ra: Solo Piano Vol.1 (Improvising Artists, Inc. CD)
* Sun Ra: St. Louis Blues: Solo Piano Vol.2 (Improvising Artists, Inc. CD)
* Wayne Shorter Quartet: Piazza Della Riforma, Lugano, Switzerland 7-13-01 (SBD CDR)
* John Abercrombie & Ralph Towner: Audi Max TU, Vienna, Austria 5-11-84 (FM 2CDR)
* John Abercrombie Quartet: Wait Till You See Her (ECM CD)
* Pat Metheny Group: Travels (ECM 2LP)
* Taylor Ho Bynum Sextet: Apparent Distance (Firehouse 12 CD)
* Olu Dara: In The World: From Natchez To New York (Atlantic HDCD)
* Grateful Dead: City Hall, Newcastle, England 4/11/72 (selections) (GDP/Rhino 3HDCD)
* Grateful Dead: Musikhalle, Hamburg West Germany 4/29/72 (selections) (GDP/Rhino 3HDCD)
* Grateful Dead: Olympia Theatre, Paris, France 5/3/72 (selections) (GDP/Rhino 4HDCD)
* Nick Drake: Five Leaves Left (Island CD)†
* Nick Drake: Bryter Layter (Island CD)†
* Nick Drake: Pink Moon (Island CD)†
* King Crimson: Beat (DGM HDCD)
* Genesis: A Trick Of The Tail (Atco LP)
* Big Star: Keep An Eye On The Sky (d.1) (Ardent/Rhino 4CD)
* Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers: Echo (Warner Bros. CD)
* The Police: Synchronicity (A&M SACD)
* Shockabilly: The Ghost Of Shockabilly (Shimmy Disc CD)
* Bob Mould: Workbook (Virgin LP)
* Yo La Tengo: Painful (Matador CD)†/‡
* Yo La Tengo: “Shaker” (B-sides) (Matador CDEP)†/‡
* Yo La Tengo: “From A Motel 6” (B-sides) (Matador CDEP)†/‡
* Beck: Sea Change (Geffen/Mobile Fidelity CD)
* Gastr Del Sol: The Serpentine Similar (Teenbeat/Drag City LP)
* Gastr Del Sol: Crookt Crackt Or Fly (Drag City LP)
* Gastr Del Sol: Mirror Repair (Drag City CDEP)
* Porcupine Tree: Recordings (KScope CD)†
* Porcupine Tree: In Absentia (Lava/Atlantic CD)†
* Porcupine Tree: Deadwing (Lava/Atlantic CD)†
* Porcupine Tree: Fear Of A Blank Planet (Atlantic CD)†
* Porcupine Tree: Nil Recurring (KScope CDEP)†
* Porcupine Tree: The Incident (Roadrunner 2CD)†
* Steven Wilson: Grace For Drowning (KScope 2CD)
* Opeth: Still Life (Peaceville/Icarus CD)†
* Opeth: Blackwater Park (Music For Nations/KOCH CD)†
* Opeth: Deliverance (Music For Nations/KOCH CD)(†)
* Opeth: Damnation (Music Forn Nations/KOCH CD)†
* Opeth: Ghost Reveries (Roadrunner CD)(†)
* Opeth: Watershed (Roadrunner CD)†
* Opeth: In Live Concert At The Royal Albert Hall (Roadrunner 2DVD/3CD)†/‡
* Opeth: Heritage (Roadrunner CD+DVD/2LP)(†)
* Katatonia: The Great Cold Distance (Peaceville CD)
* Tool: Lateralus (Volcano HDCD)
* Agalloch: Marrow Of The Spirit (Profound Lore CD)(†)



Several folks have asked me for a show-by-show rundown of the Grateful Dead: Complete Europe ’72 box set, so I thought I’d share some preliminary thoughts after having lived with it for a while. All twenty-two shows are still available (minus the box and books) for $450.00 at dead.net—at about six bucks a disc it’s a relative bargain—and hardcore Deadheads will want them all. For the less obsessed, Europe ’72 Vol.2, a two-disc compilation is nicely done and contains the unique “Dark Star>The Other One” pairing from the Bickershaw Festival on 5/7; that may be all most people need. And, if you already have previous archival releases from this tour, like Hundred Year Hall; Steppin’ Out With The Grateful Dead; or Rockin’ The Rhein, you will probably want to hold on to those discs no matter what since the sound quality is noticeably better than what is found here. I attribute this fact to the sheer magnitude of the Complete Europe ’72 project, which prevented the kind of time and care being put into the mixing that makes those earlier releases sound so sweet(ened). That said, the workmanlike mixes found here are fine and certainly sound way better than the “soundboard” tapes which previously circulated (which I suspect are actually rough mixes of the multitrack tapes). As with all other official releases over the last several years, the CDs are mastered in HDCD and benefit greatly from proper decoding, revealing extended dynamic range and smoother frequency response than with vanilla Red Book playback (though that sounds good, too).

What makes this tour so special? For one thing, it’s the last one with Ron “Pigpen” McKernan, arguably the Grateful Dead’s original leader and frontman, who, despite failing health, wrote a bunch of new songs for the occasion and gives his all on rave-ups like “Good Lovin’”; “Caution (Do Not Stop On The Tracks)”; and “Turn On Your Lovelight.” He even contributes some tasty Hammond organ and percussion from time to time—if you don’t look at the photos, you can hardly tell he has less than a year to live. Moreover, new keyboardist, Keith Godchaux, has really started to come into his own and he propels the group to new heights with his mellifluous, multi-stylistic piano playing. Finally, the entire band sounds overjoyed to be on an extended working vacation and inspired by the glamour and glorious acoustics of the prestigious Old World venues in which they (sometimes) found themselves performing. They deliver powerful, remarkably professional shows night after night—even in the more mundane settings like the low-ceilinged lunchroom at Aarhus University or the sterile broadcast studios of Radio Luxembourg and “The Beat Club” in Bremen. Each show is also available individually and, while every one of them is worth hearing, some are definitely better than others. The first sets are somewhat repetitive, with “Mr. Charlie” being performed at all twenty-two shows. Even so, Jerry Garcia’s guitar playing is so fluidly inventive (and the tone of his modified Stratocaster so completely gorgeous); each version of this relatively simple song is subtly different, making them well worth listening to. But it’s all about the jams for me and every night has either a “Dark Star” or “Truckin’>The Other One” of epic proportions—how can you go wrong? But for those who wish to pick and choose, herewith is my individual assessment:

Wembley Empire Pool, London, England 4/7/72 (3CD)
Wembley Empire Pool, London, England 4/8/72 (3CD)

The tour got off to a bumpy start. These shows were supposed to occur at the fabled Rainbow Theatre, but financial problems had temporarily caused it to shut down, leaving the Dead to scramble to find an alternate venue. At the last minute, the cavernous Wembley Empire Pool was made available and the shows went on as scheduled. Perhaps because of these logistical difficulties, the first night is the only recording with significant flaws: “Big Boss Man” stopped recording with less than a minute to go in the song and is therefore omitted on CD and while “Casey Jones” was apprently performed later in the same set it was not recorded at all. Despite these technical glitches, the playing is incredibly strong, capped with an hour-long jam: “Truckin’>The Other One>Drums>The Other One>El Paso>The Other One>Wharf Rat” Whew! The second night is even better, with the incredible “Dark Star>Sugar Magnolia>Caution” sequence appearing on the better-sounding Steppin’ Out set.

City Hall, Newcastle, England 4/11/72 (3CD)
A nondescript concrete venue with terrible acoustics leads to a somewhat subdued performance. Typically good, but not terribly memorable either except for maybe Garcia’s pedal steel accompaniment on “Looks Like Rain” and a jazzy “Other One.” An off night, booked en route to the Continent.

Tivoli Concert Hall, Copenhagen, Denmark 4/14/72 (4CD)
A couple days’ rest and a posh concert hall does the band a world of good and they deliver a long, twenty-nine song concert. Garcia again jumps on the pedal steel for “Looks Like Rain” and the “Dark Star” is long and exquisitely spacey, with a thoroughly ecstatic segue into “Sugar Magnolia.” A note-perfect show with a richly reverberant acoustic.

Stakladen, Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark 4/16/72 (3CD)
The “lunchroom” show. The Dead give it their best, but the ambience is a little tense. The overflowing crowd is going bonkers, climbing the rafters and threatening to take over the stage. Garcia responds appropriately with “Dire Wolf” (“don’t murder me!”). “Truckin’” devolves into an interesting seventeen-minute jam before resolving into a strangely short “Other One>Me & My Uncle>Other One” sequence. Very odd; I guess you had to be there.

Tivoli Concert Hall, Copenhagen, Denmark 4/17/72 (3CD)
Back to the Tivoli, this time for a TV broadcast. This is the famous “Bozo & Bolo” performance, where the band wears clown masks for one song—even Jerry! It’s a shame a DVD is not included, but my “bootleg” copy is fine. This is another great show, if a little less polished than the previous one. It opens with a semi-rare “Cold Rain & Snow” and features the first performance of “He’s Gone,” in its embryonic form, minus the bridge and coda. Curiously, they reprise the “Dark Star” sequence in the second set but with a very different, more aggressive feel with Garcia doing some nice slide and fingerpicking work during the twenty-four minute “Caution.” Another totally great show.

Beat Club, Bremen, West Germany 4/16/72 (1CD)
Another TV broadcast, this time recorded in the tiny confines of the Studio 3 of Radio Bremen. Unlike most bands, who would record a quick rendition of whatever single they were promoting, the Dead play an eighty-minute set, including a long “Truckin’>The Other One” that must have bewildered the stoic TV technicians. Since this was not a concert per se, two takes of “Playing in the Band” are attempted and some songs breakdown hilariously. As it turns out, only the “hit” single, “One More Saturday Night” was ever broadcast. Blair Jackson’s liner notes hint that video of the complete performance might someday be released—but I’m not going to hold my breath.

Rheinhalle, Dusseldorf, West Germany 4/24/72 (4CD)
Rockin’ The Rhein sounds a bit better, but is incomplete. “Dark Star>Me & My Uncle>Dark Star” is where it’s at, so choose your poison.

Jahrhundert Halle, Frankfurt, West Germany 4/26/72 (4CD)
Another long show with lots of great songs and inspired performances. Hundred Year Hall presents highlights on two discs in better sound (now out of print), but it’s nice to have the whole thing. One of only three performances of “Turn On Your Lovelight” on this tour.

Musikhalle, Hamburg, West Germany 4/29/72 (3CD)
Overshadowed by Hundred Year Hall and the Paris shows a few nights later, this one is rather short and while it has its ups and downs, it opens with a nicely jammed “Playing in the Band," a rare occurrence in any year. The second set features an outrageously dissonant, thirty minute “Dark Star” into “Sugar Magnolia,” ending with a nicely-jammed “Caution.” What more could you want?

Olympia Theatre, Paris, France 5/3/72 (4CD)
Olympia Theatre, Paris, France 5/4/72 (4CD)

The Paris shows are revered for good reason, with five songs appearing on the original Europe ’72 LP (with overdubbed vocals) and spectacular performances all the way around. Those overdubbed vocals are hardly noticeable and do not interfere with the flow of the concerts so don’t worry about it. Both shows are lengthy affairs, spread out across four densely-packed discs. The first night has an epic eighty-minute jam cemented by “The Other One” while night two gets the “Dark Star.” Both are essential.

Bickershaw Festival, Wigan, England 5/7/72 (4CD)
A cold and rainy outdoor festival, the Dead bring some California sunshine to the proceedings, delivering a solid, at times transcendent, show. The hour-long “Dark Star>The Other One>Sing Me Back Home” appears on Europe ’72 Vol.2, but really stands out in the midst of this sprawling, surprisingly mellow concert in the mud. Pigpen attempts “Lovelight” again, but the inclement conditions keep it short.

Concertgebouw, Amsterdam, Holland 5/10/72 (4CD)
Finding themselves in one of the finest halls in all of Europe, the Dead are on their best behavior—a near-perfect show with “Truckin’>Drums>The Other One>Me & Bobby McGee>The Other One>Wharf Rat” taking up all of disc three. “He’s Gone” appears on the original Europe ’72 LP, with the vocal coda, which was added later in overdubbing sessions. It’s interesting to hear “He’s Gone” develop over the course of the tour; while songs like “Ramble On Rose” and “Tennessee Jed” seemed to have been born fully grown, “He’s Gone” took a while to come together.

Grote Zaal De Doelen, Rotterdam, Holland 5/11/72 (4CD)
As good as the Amsterdam show is, I like the Rotterdam show even better. The band is a little looser and the forty-five minute “Dark Star” is by far one of my all-time favorites. Essential.

Lille Fairgrounds, Lille, France 5/13/72 (3CD)
The Dead were supposed to play the Opera de Lille (or perhaps La Rotonde in the town of Faches-Thumesnil, outside of Lille) on May 5 or 6 but those plans were scuttled by an altercation with a self-styled revolutionary after the second Paris concert. Remember, this is not too long after the 1968 student uprisings that nearly toppled the French government and young idiots were still feeling encouraged to behave badly. After the band and management rebuffed his increasing aggressive entreaties (by dumping a bucket of ice cream on his head), he responded by sabotaging the equipment truck, pouring water in the gas tank. The Dead found themselves at the edge of the Belgian frontier with no gear and a restive audience. The concert had to be abruptly cancelled and the band barely escaped out of the bathroom window (documented by photos in the booklet included in the box set). To make amends, a free show was negotiated for the 13th. The band set up in the middle of a park and put on a remarkably relaxed concert, considering the ill-feelings the whole episode generated. Bob Weir songs dominate the show with a long “Playing in the Band” in the first set and an extended “Truckin’>The Other One” in the second. You can sense, though, they’re playing it safe in hostile territory. Frankly, the story is more interesting than the music.

La Grande Salle Du Grande Theatre, Luxembourg 5/16/72 (2CD)
Recorded for broadcast on Radio Luxembourg in front of a small invited audience, this show has circulated widely amongst Deadheads ever since. It offers everything that makes Europe ’72 so special—tight performances, exceptional jamming—and packs it into a miniaturized setting. Even though the “Truckin’>Other One” sequence is cut in half, it still packs a punch. As a radio broadcast, it is just about exactly perfect; but this is not the first show I’m going to grab when I’m looking for some E72. Maybe it’s a bit too perfect, without enough edge to keep it interesting. Casual listeners would do well to check it out since it makes for an unusually accessible introduction to the band.

Kongressaal, Munich, West Germany 5/18/72 (3CD)
I wasn’t very familiar with this show at all, but, boy, it’s a stunner. The first set is long and energetically played and the old electrified jug-band tune, “Sitting on Top Of The World” makes a welcome reappearance to open the second. A twenty-eight minute “Dark Star” is deliciously weird and twisted as it winds its way to a cathartic “Morning Dew.” Incredible!

Lyceum Theatre, London, England 5/23/72 (3CD)
Lyceum Theatre, London, England 5/24/72 (3CD)
Lyceum Theatre, London, England 5/25/72 (4CD)
Lyceum Theatre, London, England 5/26/72 (4CD)

To top it off, could these last four nights of the tour be the best of them all? Yes, I do believe so. 5/23 was new to me and it’s a corker: “Sitting On Top Of The World” returns again, followed by a ridiculous cover of “Rockin’ Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu.” Maybe there was something in the water (or the Kool-Aid) but this is one of those shows where even “Mexicali Blues” sparkles—the forty-minute “Dark Star>Morning Dew” is just the icing on the cake. The next night is just as good, though, with another “Rockin’ Pneumonia” and the only performance of “Black Peter” of the tour. The usual “Truckin’>Drums>The Other One” jam is concluded with a heartfelt “Sing Me Back Home,” Merle Haggard’s heartbreaking prison ballad—a beautiful rendition. 5/25 stretches things out even further with some interesting song choices. “Brokedown Palace” makes a rare appearance in the first set and the second gets an unusual sequencing: “Uncle John’s Band>Wharf Rat>Dark Star>Sugar Magnolia; Comes A Time; El Paso; Sitting On Top Of The World.” Wow! As if that couldn’t be topped, 5/26 is just a mind-blower, start to finish. It’s almost like they knew they had accomplished what they set out to do: conquer Europe, record a killer live album and go home. The audience is in the spirit: their spontaneous clapping of the Bo Diddley beat prompts a rare first-set “Not Fade Away>Goin’ Down The Road Feeling Bad>Not Fade Away.” A crazy-collage of “Truckin’>The Other One>Drums>The Other One>Morning Dew>The Other One>Sing Me Back Home” is just as wild as it looks. Without their usual set closer, the show ends with what feels like a series of encores; fitting, I suppose, given the last night of the tour. While some of this stuff is on Steppin’ Out, I couldn’t live without any of these four complete shows. Essential.

Well, there you have it. Rumor has it their cooking up the next multi-disc box set for 2012. Some ideas floating around are Fall ’73 and Spring ’90. I may sound like a heretic, but of those two choices I would pick Spring ’90. Sure, Fall ’73 is a peak period—but they were only recorded to two-track tape, copies of which circulate widely (with some exceptions). Spring ’90, on the other hand, was recorded to multitrack and was arguably the pinnacle of the Brent Mydland era—the era in which I discovered the band. Whatever they put out, I will likely buy it anyway since I am a hopeless Deadhead. But I’d love to see the same lavish attention devoted to the 1980s and 1990s as they have given the 1970s (the Formerly The Warlocks box being the lone exception). But that’s just me. Purists should be overjoyed with the Complete Europe ’72 box set—and this is evidenced by its quick sellout. Now, how about the rest of us weirdoes, the really hardcore Deadheads? We want it ALL.

1 comment:

Sam said...

Thanks for the great write-up, Rodger! That'll definitely help as a guidepost for me to accumulate these recordings.

Here's my list from last week:

Playlist 2012-01-30:

*Anthony Braxton Ensemble: 1976-06-27 Newport Jazz Festival, Carnegie Hall (CDR)
*Anthony Braxton Pine Top Aerial Music: 2011-12-01 Wesleyan (CDR)
*John Coltrane: 1965-07-25 Paris (CDR)
*Miles Davis Quintet: 1967-04-07 Berkeley, CA (CDR)
*Ingrid Laubrock Quintet: 2011-06-18 Red Hook Jazz Festival, Brooklyn (CDR)
*Myra Melford's Be Bread Sextet: 2010-08-27 Saalfelden, Austria (CDR)
*Charles Mingus: Epitaph (disc 1)
*Office Ladies: Brains in Bed, Brains and Boots, No Boots in Bed
*Paradoxical Frog: 2011-06-10 Vision Festival, NYC (CDR)
*Sam Rivers Winds of Manhattan: Colours
*Ches Smith/These Arches: 2011-10-22 Krefeld (CDR)
*Sun Ra: The Eternal Myth Revealed, Vol. 1 (discs 9, 10)
*Sun Ra: 1976-08-24 Chateauvallon, France (CDR)
*Sun Ra: 1976-08-25 Chateauvallon, France (CDR)
*Sun Ra: 1976-09 rehearsal, USA (CDR)
*Cecil Taylor Unit: 1979-03-15 WKCR-FM, NYC (CDR)
*Henry Threadgill's Zooid: 2004-08-13 Jazz Gallery, NYC (CDR)
*Various artists: Wildflowers: The New York Jazz Loft Sessions, Complete (discs 1, 2)
*Animal Collective: Merriweather Post Pavilion (selections)
*Beach Boys: The Smile Sessions (disc 2)
*Beatles: Live Highlights, Disc 2: Down Under & All Over (CDR compilation)
*Cornelius: Sensuous
*Grateful Dead: 1968-09-02 Sultan, WA (CDR)
*Grateful Dead: 1972-07-18 Roosevelt Stadium, NJ (CDR) "Dark Star"
*Grateful Dead: 1972-09-24 Waterbury CT (CDR) "Dark Star"
*Grateful Dead: 1973-11-11 Winterland (CDR) "Dark Star"
*Mark Linett & Alan Boyd: SMiLE followup podcast (Icon Fetch, 2011-11-22)
*Robert Pollard: The Crawling Distance
*Prince: Letitgo Maxi Single
*Prince: Space Maxi Single
*Stock, Hausen, & Walkman: Stop!
*Stock, Hausen, & Walkman: Organ Transplants Vol. 1
*Kelley Stoltz: To Dreamers
*Various artists: Atlantic Unearthed: Soul Brothers
*Wings: Wild Life

Reading List 2012-01-30:

*Coe, Jonathan. The Rotters' Club (started)
*Beaumont, Francis, and John Fletcher. The Knoght of the Burning Pestle (started/finished)
*Hornby, Nick. High Fidelity (reread/started/finished)
*Rothfuss, Patrick. The Wise Man's Fear (finished)
*Arabian Nights: Tales of 1001 Nights (transl. Malcolm C. Lyons) Vol. 3 (in progress)
*Manguel, Alberto. A Reader on Reading (in progress)