Monday, March 27, 2006

Grateful Dead 1985-11-02 (set 2) & more

I've heard the 1985-11-02 show (set 2 mostly) several times, and tonight I watched it (set 2 only) on DVD (audience shot, available at ) and felt like writing this piece. This post will be a little serious as well, so bear with me...

For a very long time I was very reluctant to listening to any of the GD's 80s output. One thing was the fact that it was their 60s & 70s shows that got me hooked. Another was my somewhat strange feeling that the 80s was a dark, strange period of GD, a sort of wasteland, something I can't quite describe. I knew that Garcia's health was bad especially mid-80s, so that was one reason. And I felt drawn towards this great depth of mystery and darkness, but I wanted to wait. I don't remember exactly when or how, but at some point it struck me: Yes. Now. The 80s. It felt just right. I must have been a heavy period of my life, with my mind in the darkness and things in general being difficult. Anyhow, all I remember is that my first encounter with this was very much as expected! The darkness and sadness, and at times brilliant beauty, was there. Just exactly right. And sometimes they fuck up things so bad it's a shame, but usually Garcia manages to pull out all his powers and deliver something truely wonderful filled with truth and beauty, even during this dark age.

1985-11-02 is no exception. I would want to "dedicate" this review to a friend of mine who commited suicide last November, a little more than 20 years after this show.

Set 2 starts with "Iko Iko", a nice and inspired version, although Garcia's voice is kinda shot. Next comes an "Estimated Prophet", wher Weir is certainly in the mood, jumping around and waving his hands in the air. Garcia starts to get his fingers going here, and they jump into a very nice, jammed out "Uncle John's Band". After the last chorus Garcia hints at "Playin' in the band", but quite quickly draws everything down to the minor scale, and hey! A great, and unusual transition into the perfect song. And so damn good executed. Yes, it's the omnipotent "China Doll". And what a version! Garcia suddenly sings good. Really. And his solos are true perfection, pure haunting beauty! This is art imitating life, I suspect. "China Doll" during the mid-80s was something spectacular, and can't really be compared to the 70s-versions. OK, and here's the suicide-link. The working title of this song was "The Suicide Song", according to Robert Hunter (I believe). Reading the lyrics, it's not hard to understand at least that the song is about death.

After that they jam a little bit and Garcia once more hints at "Playin'", but they decide not to, and the drummers get to do their thing. This of course leads into "Space", out of which comes a powerful "Morning Dew". This song never disappoints, does it? At least Garcia's voice is even better now than before, and he sings with a lot of emotion, as well as playing the guitar magnificently and very inspired. All in all, a great "Morning Dew", although not the best one I've heard. After the final climax, not surprisingly, they dive straight into "Throwing Stones". This one nicely segues into a "Lovelight" which of course isn't the same as a 60s-Pigpen-Lovelight, but you gotta give it to Weir for trying. He does really do a good job, no doubt. And he's very theatrical on stage, doing lots of cool moves :)

The "Baby Blue" encore is also nice. Personally, speaking of GD doing Dylan covers, among many I love the few performances of "She belongs to me" they did in 1985.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Jerry Garcia + Merl Saunders 1974-09-02

One can probably think long and hard about the Grateful Dead and their connection with jazz. I'm not gonna try to analyze that any further right here and now, except to say that this gig must be one of Garcia's finer moments, even though that's just a stupid statement on par with "Yeah, today the sun shone particularly well!" - but anywho/anyhow:

Jerry Garcia and Merl Saunders 9/2/74
Marx Meadow (Golden Gate Park) San Francisco, CA

I Second That Emotion / Expressway (To Your Heart) / Sitting Here In Limbo / Neighbor, Neighbor / La-La / Mystery Train / How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)

What can i really say? A beautiful soundboard recording (atm available at least at and the music is just beautiful! "Expressway" has got Jerry playing in a style I can't recall having really heard before, it's very different from anything he did with GD. And, holy cow, "Sittin' here in Limbo" is simply the sweetest, most beautiful version I've heard so far! (It must be said: I am no expert on the JG solo bands and I haven't really heard super-much of Garcia's solo bands, but hey, this is a blog and what you get is my subjective view on this! ;) ) "Neighbor, neighbor" is a little bit more blues/rock-ish, but the second true highlight this night is "La-La" - what a wonderful tune! This night it's performed thoroughly beautifully, with flutes and everything, everyone in the band hitting every note just right - at points, small points, in a way, it reminds me of GD's "Eyes of the world" and the jazzier renditions of that one, and at times Garcia's guitar playing is very recognizably in that mood.

So far, so jazzy.

Next comes a funky, rocking "Mystery Train" that's sure to kick some life into your dance muscles! After that one Jerry informs us that the time is almost up, but they got time for one more tune. "How Sweet It Is" is a wonderful song - sit back and enjoy!

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Motorpsycho 1993-09-21

Motorpsycho, Rote Fabrik, Z├╝rich, SUI - 21.09.1993
Source: Unknown audience > ana? > CD-R > FLAC

Setlist: Home Of The Brave / Flesh Harrower / Feedtime / Mountain / Giftland -> The House At Pooneil Corners / Demon Box -> Step Inside Again -> Walk On Guilded Splinters -> Demon Box / The Golden Core / Nothing To Say

The sound ain't on top of the world here, but it's quite clear, maybe lacking some bass, but in any case it really manges to capture & transmit the wild energy unleashed by Motorpsycho this september evening back in 1993. They are simply on fire, on the verge of complete meltdown!

"Home of the brave" is raw, pure, kick-ass horse power, with a potentially deadly, intense & insane noise jam in the middle, and also some Matt Burt-samples here & there. After some inaudible jokes from Bent and monkey-like screams from someone in the audience they head into "Fleshharrower", a rendition covered in barbed wire. "Feedtime" is no less so. I'm wondering if maybe the "Rote Fabrik" got its name because of getting red hot after Motorpsycho played there? It wouldn't surprise me! This gig is btw the first one at this venue, and they didn't return before 2002 I think (or maybe 2001). Anyway, the reader is probably not surprised to learn that the next song, "Mountain", carries on the show with an equally heavy force. The middle part of the song jumps right out into space, with the familiar "Echoes"-ish groove, and Snah doing some really delicate and melodic soloing, and Geb keeps the train perfectly on time and helps fill out the sound at the same time. Is that Deathprod I also hear there? If I'm not mistaken he was with them on this tour, and judging by the sounds here that's very much possible! In any case they build up their mountain to a big and powerful one, in a masterful way. The overall structure is very much as one expects.

After "Mountain" they quickly get the "Giftland" intro-loop starting, and Bent announces that "This is a powerballad" and everyone should light their cigarette lighters (I think that's what he says). Well, the word "powerballad" certainly gets redefined here! But in a strange way it fits - i mean - "Giftland" can be called a ballad, but it's damn powerful! The song had its live debut less than 3 weeks earlier (september 2.), and of course wasn't officially released yet. Luckily Bent's voice is in better shape now, so Snah doesn't have to sing it this time. This has got to be one of the coolest of the early versions of "Giftland" that exists on tape - it's quite simply gorgeous - because just when you expect the song to explode into the magnificent climax - it doesn't! Do you wanna know what happens? Without a warning they take a detour straight into "The House at Pooneil Corners"!!! How strange, and cool! It leaves "Giftland" as simply a gorgeous, and somewhat strange, ballad! And with the way cool and unexpected segue into "Pooneil" this gets 5 stars in my book!

"Demon Box". Ah. Yes. That one. There's not much I feel I can say! Take all the power and energy displayed earlier this night, add it together and multiply the result by your favorite high number, and you're close. And oh, they end up enteraining us for over 24 minutes with this "Box". Please fasten seat belts. Noisespacenoisecrazynoisemeltdownmindblowingyeah! The middle jam is heavily dominated by Deathprod and various synths - way cool actually! And yeah, then we get "Step Inside Again" coming out of that semi-chaotic jam, a somewhat noisy, scary version. It continues into a "walk on guilded splinters" before they explode back into the Box. It ends quietly, and they go almost straight into "The Golden Core". Or, that is, they start the Core, but stops, perhaps to let the monkey-impersonator do his thing? (He does!)

Disc 2 starts here, and the sound is slightly different. Different source? Or perhaps just the taper moved to a better location? The sound is now quite a bit clearer at least. "The Golden Core" starts its magnificense, and what can one say? There are really not many words capable of doing this song justice. Perhaps the germans have one? Anyhow it's a bit disappointing that Snah sings, but this time he actually does a quite decent job! And it all gets sweeter when Bent joins in on the "a time for everything" part.

They end it all with "Nothing To Say", which is missing from the official setlist at the unoff.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

My favorite Grateful Dead songs

OK, here's an impossible task: list your favorite Grateful Dead songs!

Here's mine:
(I omit the obvious ones - Dark Star, The Other One & Playin' In The Band.)

1. China Doll
2. Terrapin Station
3. Scarlet Begonias > Fire on the Mountain
4. Help on the Way > Slipknot! > Franklin's Tower
5. Eyes of the World
6. Weather Report Suite
7. Althea

uh, crap. This is impossible! I think only the first 2 are correct. The rest should all be on a shared third place! And yes, a lot more songs should be there! This is just a tentative list.

The Grateful Dead anno 1977 (and some more)

I can't help but ask - what in the world was this band doing in 1977? I mean - how is it possibly to play such majestic, perfect music? Any song the Grateful Dead played in 1977 seems to be able to raise the dead, create world peace & cure cancer - to say the least! OK, my enthusiasm is enormous, but - listen! How can one, if one has heard this, a sufficient amount of times, not agree that it's the best thing ever? The complexity & the emotions, the synchronicity, a band shock full of creativity & synchronized like an atomic clock! And the most beautiful songs EVER!

Hell yeah, I've come to love every era of the Grateful Dead, be it the psychedelia of '69 or the haunting ghostly darkness of the mid-80s or the bursts of genuine brilliance that were more or less present in 88-95. But: 1977. How can anything beat this? Ah yes, everything is just as fantastic - 1972 Dark Star, 1973 Eyes of the World, 1984 China Doll, ...

Ah, it's impossible to say what is better... Just enjoy it all! :)