August 25, 2012

Playlist Week of 8-25-12

Grateful Dead - Spring '90
* Stan Getz & Charlie Byrd: Jazz Samba (Verve CD)
* Ike Quebec: Heavy Soul (Blue Note LP)
* Miles Davis: Pangaea (CBS/Sony 2CD)
* Cecil Taylor & Tony Oxley: Moers Festival, Germany 5-12-08 (FM CDR)
* Stefan Prins: Fremdkörper (selections)(Sub Rosa 2CD)
* Steve Tibbetts: Safe Journey (ECM LP)
* LTJ Bukem: Drawn Inward (Good Looking/Kinetic 2CD)
* Grateful Dead: Formerly The Warlocks: Hampton 1989 (d.5) (GDP/Rhino 6HDCD)
* Grateful Dead: Spring ’90 (selections) (GDP/Rhino 18HDCD)
* Deep Purple: Concerto For Group And Orchestra (Warner Bros. LP)
* King Crimson: Live In Argentina 1994 (d.1) (DGM/Inner Knot 2DVD)
* Fleetwood Mac: Fleetwood Mac (Reprise/Warner Bros. 2-45RPM LP)
* Supertramp: Breakfast In America (A&M LP)
* This Mortal Coil: It’ll End In Tears (4AD HDCD)
* Aphex Twin: Selected Ambient Works 85-92 (R&S CD)
* Wilco: Summerteeth (Nonesuch 2LP)
* Opeth: In Live Concert At The Royal Albert Hall (selections) (Roadrunner 3CD/2DVD)
* Storm Corrosion: Storm Corrosion (Roadrunner CD/BD/2LP)(†)
* Anathema: Falling Deeper (KScope CD)
* The Mars Volta: Frances The Mute (Gold Standard Labs/Universal CD)†
* The Mars Volta: Amputechture (Gold Standard Labs/Universal CD)†
* The Mars Volta: The Bedlam In Goliath (Universal CD)
* Agalloch: Pale Folklore (The End CD)†
* Agalloch: The Mantle (The End CD)†(‡)
* Agalloch: The Grey EP (Agalloch/Bandcamp FLAC)†/‡
* Agalloch: Ashes Against The Grain (The End CD)†
* Mastodon: Crack The Skye (Reprise 2-45RPM LP)
* Six Organs Of Admittance: Ascent (Drag City LP)(†)
* Pelican: The Fire In Our Throats Will Beckon The Thaw (Hydra Head CD)†
* Pelican: “March Into The Sea” (Hydra Head EP)
* Pelican: What We All Come To Need (Southern Lord CD)†
* Pelican: Ataraxia/Taraxis (Southern Lord EP)
* White Hills: White Hills (Thrill Jockey LP)
* White Hills: H-p1 (Thrill Jockey 2LP)
* White Hills: Frying On This Rock (Thrill Jockey LP)
* Russian Circles: Empros (Sargent House CD)†/‡
* Holograms: Holograms (Captured Tracks MP4)†



Well, look what arrived in the mailbox today: this year’s big Grateful Dead box set, Spring ’90!  Unlike last year’s mammoth Europe ’72 box, this one does not contain every show from the tour; instead, there are only six—one night from each venue—totaling just eighteen CDs.  Do I wish all sixteen concerts had been included? Of course I do! Nevertheless this is a gorgeous box set—and a welcome reminder of why I still cared about the Dead in the 1990s.

Spring 1990 is widely considered to be the Grateful Dead’s last truly great tour. The band was definitely on an upswing after Jerry Garcia’s miraculous recovery from a near-death coma in 1986 and, after abandoning the recording studio for nearly a decade, the Dead’s 1987 album, In The Dark, yielded an unlikely hit single with “Touch of Grey” and a solid follow-up album, Built To Last, was released in 1989. On stage, the band was as energetic and cohesive as ever—almost slick at times—mostly as a result of Garcia’s renewed health. But keyboardist, Brent Mydland, had finally come into his own, writing songs and taking the lead far more than he had in the past and his enthusiasm seemed to inspire everyone (particularly Garcia) to bring their A-game night after night. This upward trajectory continued through the summer, but ended with Mydland’s tragic death in July 1990. The Dead soldiered on, quickly hiring Bruce Hornsby and ex-Tubes keyboardist, Vince Welnick, to fill his shoes for the imminent fall tour and this version of the band managed to keep the momentum going into the summer and fall of 1991. Hornsby left in 1992 and while Welnick never quite totally fit in, the spring tour of ‘93 was excellent, in my opinion. But, in retrospect, it seems clear that Spring ‘90 was the pinnacle of the Dead’s long, strange career.

All of the fall ‘89/spring ’90 shows were all recorded for a live album, Without A Net, which came out in September 1990 and the rest of this material has been mined for several other archival releases over the years, including Dozin’ At The Knick (1996), Terrapin Limited (1997), Nightfall of Diamonds (2001), and Formerly The Warlocks: Hampton 1989 (2010). With the exception of Terrapin Limited, the original multitrack tapes were remixed (with variable results) but for Spring ’90, recordist John Cultler’s original two-track reference tapes, mixed “on the fly” in the recording truck are used instead of remixing from scratch. This could be a cost-cutting measure on the part of GDP and Rhino, but Cutler’s “rough” mixes actually sound quite good:  well-balanced and dynamic, with a spacious soundstage and pleasing (if artificial) ambience—far preferable the flat and over-compressed sound of the Formerly The Warlocks box. I’ve only listened to a handful of discs but they sound great cranked up to “realistic” volume levels.

Once again, the packaging is over-the-top: a thick, twelve-by-twelve inch box containing the “25th Anniversary” program booklet, a hardcover book of liner notes and essays, a black-and-white promo-photo of the band circa. 1990, mail-order flyers, facsimiles of tickets, backstage passes and other tchotchkes, along with triple-disc digipacks containing the six shows (Capital Centre, Landover, MD 3/16/90; Hartford Civic Center 3/19/90; Copps Coliseum, Hamilton, Ontario 3/22/90; Knickerbocker Arena, Albany, NY 3/26/90; Nassau Coliseum, Uniondale, NY 3/30/90; and The Omni, Atlanta, GA 4/2/90). I would have rather had more music and less “swag,” but it is exquisitely well executed, a genuine limited edition object d’art. The only problem is: where am I going to put it?

Close readers of my Playlist may have noticed a steep decline in Grateful Dead listening since the arrival of last year’s Europe ’72 box. Well, I have to admit: that 73-disc behemoth kind of burned me out (I never want to hear “Mr. Charlie” ever again!) and the first three volumes of the new Dave’s Picks series have left me nonplussed so far—not to mention I’ve been on this prog/metal kick lately. But Spring ’90 reminds me of why I loved the Dead so much and why I used to go see them as often as possible: they were a hot-shit band with a vast, wildly diverse repertoire, which made every show different—at the time, the possibilities seemed endless. And Garcia will always be one of my favorite guitar players, so fluidly melodic and endlessly inventive and with such gorgeous tone, I could listen to him all day—which is just what I did today. Spring ’90 is limited to 9000 copies, most of which are already sold, so if you want it, you better hurry! Only available from

1 comment:

Sam said...

Well, the nice thing about CD technology is that it's not too hard to make sure you don't ever have to hear "Mr. Charlie" ever again. I'm about there with "Row Jimmy."

Here are my lists from last week:

Playlist 2012-08-27:

*Albert Ayler: Holy Ghost, disc 7
*Daniel Barbiero and Jimmy Ghaphery: Hermes’ Labyrinth
*Rodger Coleman & Sam Byrd: 2009-07-23 Nashville
*Bill Dixon University of the Streets Orchestra: 1968-??-?? NYC (CDR)
*Andrew Hill: Mosaic Select (disc 3)
*New Loft: 2012-08-13 “The Suitability of Persuasion” (wav)
*Sam Rivers: A New Conception
*Sam Rivers: Dimensions and Extensions
*Cecil Taylor Unit: 1969-02-08 Grinnell College, IA (CDR)
*Cecil Taylor: Cecil Taylor Unit “Holiday En Masque”
*Amon Duul II: Phallus Dei
*Anduin: Stolen Years
*Beatles: Love
*De La Soul: First Serve
*Mike Elder/Greg Jordan/Harry Forrest/Sam Byrd: 2012-08-10 (wav)
*Bill Fay: From the Bottom of an Old Grandfather Clock
*Grateful Dead: Dick's Picks 26 (1969-04-27 Minneapolis) "Dark Star"
*Guided By Voices: Propeller
*Kinks: The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society (Special Deluxe Edition disc 3)
*Radiohead: OK Computer
*Red Krayola: The Parable Of Arable Land
*Red Krayola: God Bless The Red Krayola And All Who Sail With It
*Soft Machine: Virtually
*Soft Machine: Bundles
*Stock, Hausen, & Walkman: Stock, Hausen, & Walkman’s Hangups
*Yes: Tales From Topographic Oceans (sides 1-3)

Reading List 2012-08-27:

*Barth, John. Final Fridays (started)
*Barth, John. Further Fridays (finished)
*Barthelme, Donald. Sixty Stories (in progress)
*King, Stephen. 11/22/63 (in progress)
*Link, Kelly. Magic For Beginners (in progress)