Saturday, March 26, 2011

Holly Golightly And The Brokeoffs: "No Help Coming" (2011) CD Review

This new album from Holly Golightly And The Brokeoffs is simply wonderful. All I can do is give you my impressions as I listen to it.

"No Help Coming" - Garage folk punk with a blues edge and a rock guitar solo. Holy moly. What do you make of it? What does it make of you? The title track has some kick-ass vocals. "No help coming/honey get the money and run." That's good advice, especially these days.

"The Rest Of Your Life" - Raw power. Holly has a voice that at times you could almost call "cute," but if you did, she might burst from the speakers and smack you across the face. Is it her time in Georgia that gave her voice the twang? I love how she holds onto each word in the lines, "there's no place, no time/there's no easy mind/there's nowhere to hide/not now, not for the rest of your life."

"Burn, Oh Junk Pile, Burn" - There is definitely some Tom Waits influence here, right from the opening of this song - the odd percussion. Like a faerie procession in a junk yard. Like Oberon wants to sell you some hubcaps, and Puck is the front man of a traveling medicine show.

"Here Lies My Love" - It's like folk music with a rusty blade against your throat, and something at your back. And you can't, or don't dare turn around to see what it is. "It was a bad situation/From the beginning to the end/You killed my love/Now the undertaker is your friend." Fantastic, wild stuff on guitar.

"You're Under Arrest" - Country music without the bullshit cowboy hats and boots. No posing in this dive bar anthem. It's somewhat along the lines of some of Cracker's early tunes - same sense of cocky irreverence. "He said I'm under arrest/guess I didn't pass that test/couldn't say the alphabet backwards in time/I'm gonna sleep it off in jail."

"The Whole Day Long" - Holly's vocals are smoother, softer, luring you in, singing "You get what you come looking for/creeping in my door at dawn." It's backroads swamp folk. Folk with an alligator skin, but a fox tail.

"Get Out My House" - Bluesy rock. Loud, immediate and also timeless. Blues from the back porch of a snake worshiper.

"The Only One" - A slower tune. This one has an early 1960s feel, particularly in the way she sings it. (Perhaps somewhere between The Shangri-Las and Lesley Gore.) With a Hawaiian element too, in the guitar. Gorgeous. Holly sings, "Out of all of my mistakes you'll be the only one I'll never be making again."

"Leave It Alone" - Goofy fun. Just wonderful. I absolutely love this. It's catchy, like a children's song for drunks.

"River Of Tears" - Beautiful and moving. How did this album do this to me, bringing me close to tears? I wasn't expecting this gentle acoustic number. Holly's vocals are so beautiful, particularly on "You said see how, see how it is/See how it came to this/This is the now that I got to go with/Set adrift on a river of tears." And the guitar is just perfect. This is probably the album's best track. If you listen to it several times in a row, you will cry.

"Lord Knows We're Drinking" - This is the sort of gospel I can get behind. Celebrate the finer things in life: drinking, fooling around, singing. Am I mad, or does she sound like Dolly Parton on this one? Written by Bill Anderson.

"L.S.D. (Rock 'N' Roll Prison)" - One of the album's few covers, written by Wavy Gravy. Begins weirdly, with echoes: "Hallucination." Then kicks in as country stomp. Recollections of the first time I met Wavy Gravy - when I actually was on LSD - dancing with him in a circle (What band? Maybe Clan Dyken, can't recall). Think the acid was laced with speed, for the circle wasn't going fast enough, me pulling Wavy Gravy - faster, faster, come on man. Fun tune. "L.S.D. made a wreck of me."

No Help Coming is scheduled to be released on April 26, 2011 on Transdreamer Records. Holly Golightly And The Brokeoffs have released three other albums: Medicine County (2010), Dirt Don't Hurt (2008) and You Can't Buy A Gun When You're Crying (2007), the last of which is one of the best album titles ever.

Holly Golightly has released several other albums over the years, including Truly She Is None Other (2003). She was originally in Three Headcoatees, an all-girl band.

Great American Taxi: "Reckless Habits" (2010) CD Review

Fronted by Vince Herman, from Leftover Salmon, Great American Taxi plays a great combination of country rock and bluegrass, with some New Orleans flavor thrown in.

The album opens with "One Of These Days," and oh boy, it's a fun song. It has a great New Orleans sound. Think Dr. John at his liveliest.

"Get No Better" is a great, positive song. It's uplifting, and it has a good groove. This song was written by John Hartford. There is some really cool guitar on this song, and the horns are wonderful.

Uncle Tupelo Cover
"New Madrid" is a more mellow song, with a country feel. It was written by Jeff Tweedy, and originally performed and recorded by Uncle Tupelo, and released on their fourth album, Anodyne (1993). This is a really good version, being true to the original, while at the same time giving the song a bit of a new life.

"Unpromised Land"

"Unpromised Land" combines bluegrass and rock, with a sudden Irish folk turn nearly three minutes in. And then it just keeps going. Wonderful, wonderful. This is certainly one of the best songs on the album.

"Reckless Habits" Has References To Other Country Rock

"Reckless Habits," the title track, has references to other country rock songs, albums and bands. References include "Sweethearts Of The Rodeo" (an album by The Byrds), "Wild Horses" (a Rolling Stones song), The Flying Burrito Brothers and "Drugstore Truck Driving Man." It's a good country song itself.

"Cold Lonely Town"

"Cold Lonely Town" has a cool, slow groove. This song gets right inside the listener, and makes a home for itself there. And then there are these incredible female vocals near the end - courtesy of The Black Swan Singers. This is a really good song.

"Tough Job"

"Tough Job" is a country rock song about playing music in a honkeytonk band. It's one of the less interesting songs on the album. The main line is "It's a tough job, but somebody's got to do it," which is such a cliche it should be banned from all songs and all conversation.

This song and the next song, "Fuzzy Little Hippy Girl," which is a silly little country rock song, are really the only two weak tracks on the album.

"Big Sandy River"

"Big Sandy River" is fun instrumental, with that quick bluegrass tempo. It was written by Bill Monroe and Kenneth Baker, and it's got a nice fiddle part.

Great American Taxi
Great American Taxi is Vince Herman on vocals, acoustic gutar, electric guitar and bongos; Chad Staehly on vocals, keyboards, piano and Hammond B-3 organ; Jim Lewin on vocals and electric guitar; Edwin Hurwitz on bass; and Chris Sheldon on vocals, drums and percussion.

Guest musicians on this CD include Barry Sless on electric guitar and pedal steel guitar, Tim Carbone on fiddle and vocals, Bonnie Paine on washboard and backing vocals, Noelle Virgil on backing vocals, Brooke Northropp on backing vocals, Justin Jones on saxophone, Nathan Peoples on saxophone, Dan Sears on trumpet and Dave Stamps on trombone. The Black Swan Singers perform on "Cold Lonely Town" and "Get No Better."

Interesting CD Packaging

The CD box has a wheel. When turned so that it says "Reckless Habits" on the front, on the other side a gun will be pointed at a nun's head. Just saying. Enjoy.

CD Track List
The following is the track list for Great American Taxi's Reckless Habits:

  1. One Of These Days
  2. New Millennium Blues
  3. Get No Better
  4. New Madrid
  5. Unpromised Land
  6. Reckless Habits
  7. Cold Lonely Town
  8. American Beauty
  9. Tough Job
  10. Fuzzy Little Hippy Girl
  11. Big Sandy River
  12. Albuquerque
  13. Good Night To Boogie

There is actually a 14th track on this CD, which isn't listed. It's a short (approximately two minutes) New Orleans jazzy type instrumental.

History Of The Grateful Dead - The 1990s, Part Two

The final decade of the Grateful Dead ended prematurely with the death of Jerry Garcia, but there were still many magical moments.

This is the second part of a two-part article. "History Of The Grateful Dead - The 1990s, Part One" focuses on the new material that the band introduced to their concerts, as well as live albums released during the decade.

Brent Mydland's Final Tour

The summer tour of 1990 was Brent Mydland's final tour. There were some pretty great performances on that tour. The show at RFK Stadium in Washington D.C. had some magical moments, and the show in Orchard Park, New York on July 16th was a great show. Brent's final concert was July 23, 1990 at the World Music Theatre in Tinley Park, Illinois. Oddly, it was on that date ten years earlier that the previous keyboardist, Keith Godchaux, died in an automobile accident.

Brent Mydland died on July 26, 1990.

Vince Welnick And Bruce Hornsby

The Grateful Dead kept trucking along after Brent's death. They were back in September for the fall tour, with a new keyboardist, Vince Welnick. Vince had played with The Tubes, who had a hit in 1983 with "She's A Beauty." His first show with the Grateful Dead was on September 7, 1990, in Richfield, Ohio.

Bruce Hornsby then joined the band on piano and accordion later that month. His first show was on September 15, 1990 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. He played as a member of the Grateful Dead through March of 1992 (though there were several shows that he missed during that time).

Bill Graham's Death

The year 1991 saw the Grateful Dead's final New Year's Eve show. The New Year's shows had really become Bill Graham's baby. Each year he would dress in some outrageous costume and ride a giant prop over the audience. On December 31, 1990, he dressed as a witch doctor and was accompanied by fire eaters.

Bill Graham died on October 25, 1991. The Dead had already booked their New Year's Eve show for that year, but after that they stopped doing those shows. A memorial concert was held for Bill Graham on November 3, 1991 at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. Besides the Grateful Dead, the lineup for that show included Jackson Browne, Aaron Neville, Tracy Chapman, Santana, Journey, Joan Baez and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. Joining the Grateful Dead for their set was John Popper on harmonica, John Fogerty on guitar and vocals, and Neil Young on guitar and vocals.

Benefit Concerts

The band continued to do benefit concerts, including several for the Rex Foundation (such as shows on 6/8/90, 6/9/90, 6/10/90, 5/3/91, 5/4/91, 5/5/91, 5/19/92, 5/20/92, 5/21/92, 5/25/93, 5/26/93, 5/27/93, 9/18/93, 9/25/93, 6/9/94, 6/10/94 and 10/9/94).

In 1992, Jerry Garcia introduced a line of neckties.

Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame

In 1994, the Grateful Dead were inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. Jerry Garcia couldn't make it, so the rest of the band brought along a cardboard cut-out of him.

The Final Tour Was Plagued With Problems

The summer tour of 1995 is often referred to as "The Tour From Hell." The show June 15th in Highgate, Vermont had trouble when thousands of fans without tickets crashed the gates. The police eventually let everyone in to avoid more problems, though some people were injured.
The show on June 21, 1995 was plagued with technical problems. There were also lots of drug busts (more than usual).

On June 25th, three fans were struck by lightning at the Washington D.C. show. All three survived.

On June 26th, there was also the death of an unidentified man who was wearing a 1995 tour T-shirt and had Grateful Dead ticket stubs in his pocket. The driver of the van he was riding in fell asleep at the wheel.

July 2nd saw more gate crashing, which actually caused the Grateful Dead to cancel the next night's concert. That was a first. The gate came down during the first set. The house lights were left on at the July 2nd show because Jerry Garcia had actually received death threats.

The show on July 5, 1995 saw more problems. Before that show, two fans died, apparently of drug overdoses. Also, more than 100 fans were injured at the nearby campground when a deck collapsed. The campground was extremely crowded because those fans without tickets were turned away from the venue and ended up back there. A lot of people were trapped beneath the deck.

This was also when the Grateful Dead issued a letter basically asking fans to not crash gates, and not to cheer those who were crashing the gates. The end was in sight at this point.

The final show was July 9, 1995 at Soldier Field in Chicago. They played a two-song encore that night: "Black Muddy River" and "Box Of Rain."

Death Of Jerry Garcia

Jerry Garcia died on August 9, 1995, just eight days after his fifty-third birthday. He had checked himself into the Betty Ford Clinic in July, and stayed there only two weeks. He then checked himself into the Serenity Knolls treatment center in Forest Knolls, California. There he suffered a fatal heart attack.

This was not the first sign of heart trouble for Jerry Garcia. In 1992, several concerts were canceled, including the Veneta, Oregon Third Decadenal Field Trip and the entire fall tour, due to Jerry Garcia's health issues. The word was he had an enlarged heart.

Jerry's death put an end to the Grateful Dead, but it wasn't until December 8th that the rest of the band officially announced that they would no longer be touring as the Grateful Dead.

History Of The Grateful Dead - The 1990s, Part One

The final decade of the Grateful Dead ended prematurely in 1995 with the death of Jerry Garcia, but still had many magical moments and lots of new songs.

The 1990s began with the death of keyboardist Brent Mydland and ended in 1995 with the death of Jerry Garcia. No new studio albums were released, though several live albums were.

New Material

The Grateful Dead released no new studio albums in the 1990s. But they did continue to write new material and introduce it to their live performances. They also chose to cover a lot of new songs during these last few years.

In 1990 the Grateful Dead first performed "The Weight," "The Valley Road" and "Stander On The Mountain," the last two being songs written by Bruce Hornsby. In 1991 the band first performed "Rubin And Cherise" (a song from Jerry Garcia's 1978 solo album, "Cats Under The Stars") and Paul McCartney's "That Would Be Something."

In the first two shows of 1992, they introduced four new songs: "So Many Roads," "Wave To The Wind," "Way To Go Home" and "Corinna." All of these were original Grateful Dead songs. That year also saw "Baba O'Riley," "Tomorrow Never Knows" and "Rain" added to the set lists.

Then 1993 introduced "Lazy River Road," "Eternity" and "Liberty." Those three were all introduced on February 21st. Over the next two nights, the Dead introduced "The Days Between" and "Broken Arrow." "I Fought The Law," "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds" and "Easy Answers" were also all played for the first time that year.

The following year saw the first performances of three new Grateful Dead tunes: "Samba In The Rain," "If The Shoe Fits" and "Childhood's End." The first was written by Robert Hunter and Vince Welnick. The other two were written by Phil Lesh, with the lyrics to "If The Shoe Fits" by Andrew Charles. The band also introduced "I Want To Tell You" (a Beatles song written by George Harrison) and "Matilda, Matilda" (a song written by Harry Belafonte).

The band's final year, 1995, brought the first performances of "Salt Lake City" (played only once - 2/21/95), "It's All Too Much," "Take Me To The River" (a song written by Al Green and Mabon Hodges), "Rollin' And Tumblin,'" and "Unbroken Chain." "Unbroken Chain" was a song the Grateful Dead included on their 1974 studio release, From The Mars Hotel, and yet had never performed in concert until March 19, 1995.

Reviving Old Material
The Grateful Dead also brought back a lot of old favorites that hadn't been played in years. For example in 1990, they played "Loose Lucy" and "Black-Throated Wind," both of which hadn't been played since 1974. That year they also played "Easy To Love You," which hadn't been played since 1980, and "Revolution" and "Werewolves Of London," neither of which had been played since 1985. They also played "The Last Time," which they hadn't done since 1965. The band was clearly trying to shake things up a bit.

In 1991, they played "New Speedway Boogie," which they hadn't played since 1970, and "It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry," which they hadn't done since 1973. They also brought back "The Same Thing," which they hadn't played since 1971.

The band also mixed up where songs fit into the set lists. For example, in New Jersey in 1991, they opened a show with "Eyes Of The World," a song that hadn't been played in the first set since 1975. Later that year in Mountain View they played "Dark Star" in the first set, something they hadn't done since 1971.

In 1992, they also re-introduced "Casey Jones," a song they hadn't performed since 1984. At the end of that year, they resurrected "Here Comes Sunshine," a song they hadn't done since 1974.

The band also had some interesting guest musicians during the 1990s, such as Huey Lewis (8/21/93), Edie Brickell (9/20/93), Ornette Coleman (12/9/93), Branford Marsalis (12/10/93, 12/16/94) and Bob Dylan (10/17/94).

Live Albums

Several live albums were released during the 1990s, including Without A Net (1990), One From The Vault (1991), Two From The Vault (1992) and Hundred Year Hall (1995). Also, the 1990s saw the beginning of "Dick's Picks," a series of live concert recordings picked by Dick Latvala, the concert tape archivist. The first volume was released in 1993.

This is the first part of a two-part article. "History Of The Grateful Dead - the 1990s, Part Two" focuses on the final tour and the deaths of Brent Mydland, Bill Graham and Jerry Garcia.

History Of The Grateful Dead - The 1980s

During this decade, the Grateful Dead had their only top ten hit. The decade was also marked by Jerry Garcia's collapse into a coma.

The 1980s began with the release of Go To Heaven, the first album to feature the band's new keyboardist, Brent Mydland (who had joined the band the previous April). This album included two songs that he wrote: "Far From Me" and "Easy To Love You." There would not be another studio album until 1987's In The Dark.

Also in 1980, the Grateful Dead did a long series of shows in which they did an acoustic set - something they hadn't done since 1970. These shows were held at the Warfield Theater in San Francisco and Radio City Music Hall in New York (there were also two shows in New Orleans in between those).

Live Albums

In 1981, two live albums were released: Dead Set, which featured live performances from the band's electric sets, and Reckoning, which featured live performances from the band's acoustic sets from the previous year. Reckoning was also released as For The Faithful, with a photo of the band on the cover instead of the artwork.

New Material

Though from 1982 through 1986, no new albums were released, the band was introducing plenty of new material to their concert performances.

In 1982, the band introduced "Touch Of Grey," "Throwing Stones," "West L.A. Fadeaway" and "Day Job." The band would play "Day Job" until 1986, stopping at the request of fans. Seriously.

In 1983 the band first played "My Brother Esau," "Maybe You Know," "Hell In A Bucket," "Wang Dang Doodle" and "Revolution." That year also saw the final performance of "St. Stephen," as well as the final performance of "Deep Elem Blues."

In 1984 the band introduced "Don't Need Love," "Only A Fool" (played only once - 4/23/84), "Dear Mr. Fantasy," "Gimme Some Lovin,'" "Day Tripper" and "Tons Of Steel." In 1985 they first played "Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues," "Keep On Growing," "Hey Jude Finale," "Kansas City" and "The Mighty Quinn." And 1986 saw the first performances of "Visions Of Johanna," "Desolation Row," "When Push Comes To Shove" and "Black Muddy River."

Tapers Section

In 1984, the band introduced the Tapers Section, a special area of each venue where those who wished to record the show would sit. The first show with a Tapers Section was October 27, 1984. Of course, fans had been recording the band's concerts almost since its inception. But now they were organized into one section, usually right behind the soundboard. This kept microphone stands from popping up all over the venues and obstructing other fans' view of the stage.

Jerry Garcia Collapses Into A Coma
In 1986, Jerry Garcia went into a diabetic coma. When he came out of it five days later, he had to relearn how to play guitar, as well as having to relearn other, more basic, skills. There were no shows from July 8th through December 14th. But he did recover fairly quickly, and the Grateful Dead were back to performing in mid-December. The first song he played when the band returned to the road was "Touch Of Grey."

"Touch Of Grey"

Of course, 1987 was a huge year for the Grateful Dead. It saw the release of In The Dark, the band's first studio album in seven years. That album actually went to #6 on the charts. And "Touch Of Grey" was the band's first real hit, reaching #9 on the Billboard 100 (it also reached #1 on Billboard's Mainstream Rock chart).

This was a blessing and a curse for the band, as suddenly there were many more people who wanted to see the band perform live. And the band would be forced in the coming years to play larger venues.

In 1988 they played certain venues for the last time, as the band was banned from such places as the Saratoga Performing Arts Center. This was mostly because of the hassle these communities suffered with so many people coming through.

Dylan & The Dead

In the summer of 1987, the Grateful Dead and Bob Dylan did a number of shows together. The Grateful Dead did its regular show, and then there would be another full set with the band backing Bob Dylan. A live album of songs from this tour was released in early 1989.

"Built To Last" - Final Studio Release
On Halloween of 1989 the band released its final studio album, Built To Last. It did not do nearly as well as In The Dark, and contained no hit songs. That was just as well, as there were so many fans trying to get tickets to the concerts already.

Rex Foundation Benefit Concerts
The 1980s saw band members involved in several side projects and environmental causes. There were many benefit concerts in this decade, including a lot for the Rex Foundation (such as concerts performed on 4/1/84, 3/10/85, 3/12/85, 3/13/85, 4/18/86, 4/19/86, 4/21/86 and 4/22/86).

The Rex Foundation was established in 1983 as a non-profit charitable organization by members of the Grateful Dead and their friends. The Rex Foundation enabled the Grateful Dead to provide community support to creative endeavors in the arts, sciences, and education.

The Decade Ends
On December 31st, 1989, the Grateful Dead did their usual New Year's Eve concert at the Oakland Coliseum. Bill Graham dressed as a chicken and landed on a giant egg. (Each New Year's concert, he would dress up and arrive riding on some giant prop piece.) The final encore that night was "In The Midnight Hour."

Grateful Dead Band Members
The band's lineup remained constant throughout the entire decade of the 1980s. The Grateful Dead at that time was Jerry Garcia on vocals and guitar, Bob Weir on vocals and guitar, Phil Lesh on bass and vocals, Brent Mydland on keyboards and vocals, Bill Kreutzmann on drums and Mickey Hart on drums.

History Of The Grateful Dead - The 1970s

The 1970s were a decade of change for the Grateful Dead - band members, sound systems, record labels were all in flux.

The 1970s were a period of change for the Grateful Dead. The decade started with Ron "Pigpen" McKernan on keyboards and vocals and ended with Brent Mydland, and in between there Keith Godchaux held that position for several years. The decade saw what at the time was billed as their final show. It also saw them release several albums, as well as a movie.

"Workingman's Dead" and "American Beauty"

The Grateful Dead released a lot of albums in the 1970s, at least one a year every year except 1979. The year 1970 saw the release of perhaps their two best albums, Workingman's Dead and American Beauty. These albums featured a different sound for the Grateful Dead - a more stripped down, acoustic, even country feel. These two albums also featured many of their most well known songs, including "Uncle John's Band," "Casey Jones," "Friend Of The Devil," "Sugar Magnolia" and "Truckin.'"

The Grateful Dead did a series of concerts with acoustic sets in 1970, featuring a lot of this new material as well as many traditional folk songs.

Skull & Roses

In 1971, they released a live album whose official Warner Brothers title is Grateful Dead, but which the band had wanted to call Skullfuck, and which most fans refer to as Skull And Roses because of the album cover art. The band toured Europe in 1972, and later that year released a live album of material from that tour.

In February 1971, Mickey Hart left the band. (He'd return in late 1974.)

Ron "Pigpen" McKernan

Ron "Pigpen" McKernan, the original keyboardist for the Grateful Dead, was having health problems by 1971. After the band's show on August 26, 1971, he didn't do another show until December 1, 1971.

In 1972, he did his final tour with the band, their famous European tour, which was captured on Europe 72. After that tour, he performed with the band just one more time, on June 17, 1972 at the Hollywood Bowl. He died March 8, 1973, at the age of 27. His grave marker says, "RONALD C. McKERNAN 1945–1973. PIGPEN WAS AND IS NOW FOREVER ONE OF THE GRATEFUL DEAD."

Keith and Donna Godchaux

Keith Godchaux replaced Pigpen on keyboards. Keith actually played a grand piano. His first show was October 19, 1971, while Pigpen was taking a break. Donna Jean Godchaux, his wife, joined the band on backing vocals. Her first show was December 31, 1971, but she sang on only one song, "One More Saturday Night." Her first official appearance as a member of the band was on March 25, 1972.

Grateful Dead Records - Band's Own Label

At the end of its contract with Warner Bros., the band decided to start its own record label, Grateful Dead Records. The first album to be released on this label was 1973's Wake Of The Flood. Some of the band's most loved songs come from this album, including "Eyes Of The World" and "Stella Blue." Also on this album is Keith Godchaux's one contribution, "Let Me Sing Your Blues Away."

Also released on this label were 1974's From The Mars Hotel, 1975's Blues For Allah and 1976's Steal Your Face.

Wall Of Sound

The Grateful Dead were always interested in getting the best sound possible for their concerts. Sound engineer/acid engineer Owlsey "Bear" Stanley began designing the Wall Of Sound, a distortion-free sound system.

Vocals and various instruments had their own channel and set of speakers. And Phil Lesh's bass sent signals from each of the four strings to a separate channel and set of speakers. Other channels were for the bass drum, the snare, the toms and cymbals. Because each speaker carried just one instrument or vocals, the sound was exceptionally clear.

The first show to feature the Wall of Sound was at the Cow Palace on March 23, 1974.

The Last Concert - Band Takes A "Break"
In 1974, the band decided to take a break. The October shows were to be the last shows, and in fact the final show of that run had "The Last One" printed on the tickets. That show was also the last show to feature the Wall of Sound. Another special thing about that show was Mickey Hart's return during the second set.

Those concerts were also filmed for what would eventually become the movie titled simply The Grateful Dead. A live album of songs from those shows would be released in 1976, titled Steal Your Face.

The Grateful Dead took a break from October 1974 until June 1976.

During the "break" the Grateful Dead did do a few concerts. They did four concerts in 1975. They also put out a new album, Blues For Allah. Also during the break, Jerry Garcia put together an incredible bluegrass band called Old And In The Way, and put out an album.

Meanwhile, Bob Weir had joined Kingfish, and put out an album with them.

The Grateful Dead Movie

The Grateful Dead was finally released in 1977. Jerry Garcia took it on as one of his personal projects, directing the film and overseeing the editing. The film really did work in capturing what the band and the concerts were all about, including lots of live performances, as well as footage of fans and a great scene where Phil Lesh explains the Wall of Sound. It also opens with a wonderful animated sequence.


The band started putting out albums on the Arista label beginning with 1977's Terrapin Station.

In 1978, they released Shakedown Street. (The band would continue to put out its studio releases on Arista through the 1980s and 1990s.)

Brent Mydland
In 1979, the band fired Keith Godchaux because they wanted someone who'd be willing to play more current keyboards and synthesizers. They found such a player in Brent Mydland. Brent had played with Bob Weir in 1978. Before that, he was a member of the band Silver.

The decade ended with a renewed energy in the Grateful Dead. The 1980s would be a different sort of decade for the band, with only two studio releases. However, it would begin the same way the 1970s began, with a series of shows featuring acoustic sets.

Grateful Dead: "Without A Net" (1990) CD Review

This two-disc CD contains live concert material from various concerts the Grateful Dead performed between October 1989 and April 1990, including "Althea."

This album contains two discs. The first disc is titled "First Set," and the second set is titled "Second Set." But these songs are not from one particular Grateful Dead concert, but rather culled from various shows between October 1989 and April 1990.

Without A Net came out a few years before the Dick's Picks series and the idea of releasing full sets or shows. So in a way, the first disc is an ideal first set, with excellent versions of songs picked from various shows. And the second disc is a sort of ideal second set, though it contains no version of "Drums" or "Space," which were always performed in the middle section of the second set in the 1980s and 1990s.

"Feel Like A Stranger"

The first disc opens with "Feel Like A Stranger." When Bob Weir sings, "You know it's gonna get stranger, let's get on with the show," the audience cheers. This was always a great song with which to open a show. Brent sings, "It's going to be a long, long crazy, crazy night." The section where Bob and Brent go back and forth, trading promises of how long and crazy the night is going to be is wonderful. And of course any night with a Dead concert was a bit crazy (though never long enough).

The first disc also includes a really nice version of "Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo" and "Walkin' Blues." Bob Weir's vocals on the latter are excellent.


That's followed by the beloved "Althea." A fair number of children born to Dead fans were given the name Althea. Perhaps a strange choice considering that the lyrics mention "the fate of Ophelia," and everyone knows what happened to her. This song also has the wonderful lines, "I told Althea I'm a roving sign, that I was born to be a bachelor/Althea told me, okay, that's fine - so now I'm trying to catch her."

This song originally appeared on the band's 1980 studio release, "Go To Heaven." The version included here is from a concert the Dead did on March 15, 1990 at the Capital Center in Maryland.

"Cassidy" and "Let It Grow"
"Cassidy" is a beautiful song, and this version benefits from Brent Mydland's backing vocals. The jam during this one might be a bit too busy, but it makes it all the more wonderful when they break back to the lyrics.

The first CD ends with a really great version of "Let It Grow." It has some high-energy jamming. This song also features some wonderful lyrics, such as "Water bright as the sky from which it came,/And the name is on the earth that takes it in./We will not speak but stand inside the rain,/And listen to the thunder shouting I am! I am! I am! I am."

Second CD Starts With "China Cat Sunflower"
"China Cat Sunflower" and "I Know You Rider" are presented as one track on this CD, not split up. This is a pretty fast version of "I Know You Rider." And the entire "China"/"Rider" is only ten minutes long.

Branford Marsalis on "Eyes Of The World"

Branford Marsalis sits in on saxophone for "Eyes Of The World," which is a wonderful touch to an already incredible song. This is one of the Grateful Dead's best. The saxophone of course adds a jazzy feel to the jams. It really works. The Dead should have invited him to play with them more often. The Grateful Dead already have a jazz element built into their music, because of the nature of jamming and especially with the drumming of Bill Kreutzmann.

The version included here is from a concert the Grateful Dead did on March 29, 1990 at Nassau Coliseum in New York. Branford Marsalis sat in with the band for the entire second set that night.

"Help On The Way," "Slipknot!" and "Franklin's Tower" are all included on one track. These songs were originally released on the 1975 album, Blues For Allah and were usually played together. "Help On The Way" ends with the line "Without love in the dream, it will never come true," a favorite line of Grateful Dead fans. This version of "Franklin's Tower" is phenomenal. Jerry sings, "If you get confused, listen to the music play." Indeed. Just listen to this version.

Brent Mydland Sings "Dear Mr. Fantasy"
The other highlight on the album is "Dear Mr. Fantasy." Brent Mydland singing lead was always an occasion for celebration, and he really excels on this particular song. He has so much energy, so much emotion. This version is just perfect.

But sadly, it fades out after five and a half minutes, which is just not nearly long enough. In concert, this song led into the "Hey Jude" finale.

Grateful Dead Band Members

The Grateful Dead at the time of these recordings was Jerry Garcia on guitar and vocals, Bob Weir on guitar and vocals, Phil Lesh on bass and vocals, Bill Kreutzmann on drums, Mickey Hart on drums and Brent Mydland on keyboards and vocals.

CD Track List

The following is the track list for Grateful Dead's Without A Net:

First Set (CD One):

  1. Feel Like A Stranger
  2. Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo
  3. Walkin' Blues
  4. Althea
  5. Cassidy
  6. Bird Song
  7. Let It Grow

Second Set (CD Two):

  1. China Cat Sunflower/I Know You Rider
  2. Looks Like Rain
  3. Eyes Of The World
  4. Victim Or The Crime
  5. Help On The Way/Slipknot!/Franklin's Tower
  6. One More Saturday Night
  7. Dear Mr. Fantasy

The Grateful Dead dedicated "Without A Net" to Clifton Hanger, which is a name that Brent Mydland used when registering at hotels. Brent Mydland died two months before this album's release. There is a really nice photo of him included in the liner notes of this CD. In the photo, his daughter is seated next to him on his piano bench.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Grateful Dead: Truckin' Up To Buffalo DVD

The Grateful Dead's Truckin' Up To Buffalo features the entire show the band performed on the 4th of July in 1989 at Rich Stadium.

In 2005, Truckin' Up To Buffalo was released on DVD. This DVD features the entire show that the Grateful Dead performed on July 4th, 1989 at Rich Stadium in Orchard Park, New York. (Orchard Park is right next to Buffalo; thus, the title, which of course is a lyric from "Truckin'.") The sound is excellent on this DVD. But for anyone having trouble understanding the lyrics, hitting the "subtitles" button on the DVD player brings up the song lyrics.


The DVD starts with the band already on stage, tuning up for the first set. There is a shot of Phil making a face just before Jerry starts in with the guitar lick from "Bertha." Jerry Garcia is wearing his customary black T-shirt; Bob Weir is wearing shorts and a pink T-shirt. There is great energy to start the show. There is a nice close-up of Jerry's guitar and a great shot of Jerry smiling at drummers Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart.

There is an intensity to Jerry and Brent's vocals on the verse that starts, "Test me, test me, why don't you arrest me." At the end of the song, there is a wide shot which includes the beautiful tapestries surrounding the stage. And heck, that's all in just the first song.

The energy continues with "Greatest Story Ever Told," especially Bob Weir, whose vocals are on fire. And at the end of this song, there is a much better shot of the tapestries. These were designed for that summer tour by Czech artist Jan Sawka, and depicted the sun over the course of a day from sunrise to sunset.

The band then goes into the crowd-pleasing "Cold Rain And Snow," with Jerry singing, "I married me a wife/She's been trouble all my life."

Shots Of Audience

At the beginning of "Row Jimmy" there is a shot of a banner some people in the audience were holding. It says, "What a long strange trip it's been. Happy birthday, Jillie." There is also a United States flag visible, which isn't surprising, as it was the 4th of July. This is a very pretty version of "Row Jimmy."

There is a wonderful moment just before "Stagger Lee" when Brent notices the camera right next to him and makes a face directly into it. He then says something to the camera man, but whatever he says in inaudible.

After a pretty good version of "Deal," Bobby says, "We'll be back in just a little bit." And the screen goes black for a few seconds to signify the set break. And then it's straight into set two.

"Touch Of Grey"

There is an excellent moment at the beginning of the second set when Jerry and Brent are scratching their heads, smiling at each other. Jerry then scratches his grey beard and the band launches into "Touch Of Grey." (Jerry signaled the song first by touching his grey hair.) This song was their only true smash hit, and it's a great song, and this is a fun version. "We will get by, we will survive," they sing, and Jerry raises his fist in the air, happily, defiantly.

"Man Smart, Woman Smarter"

From there, they go into another fun, vibrant tune: "Man Smart, Woman Smarter." Brent takes the second verse: "Little boy sit on the corner and cry/Big man come and he ask him why/Says I can't do what the big boys do/The man sat down and he cried too." Near the end of "Man Smart, Woman Smarter," Bob, Jerry and Brent each take a separate vocal part, and the blend and play are excellent.

"Playing In The Band" is not the full song; it's the reprise. The main part of the song was performed at the previous show, July 2nd, in Massachusetts. (The band actually started that show with "Playing In The Band," something rarely done.) Very quickly "Playing" leads into "Terrapin Station," one of the band's best songs. And this is an excellent version.


Then most of the band leaves the stage, and the drummers take over. Mickey Hart is quick to grab the talking drum, and there are some nice close-ups of him playing it. Partway into "Drums" some digital effects are added to the picture - tracers, really, at least at first, with various colors. Then there are some mirror images. (Keep in mind that a lot of folks timed their trips to peak during the "Drums/Space" segment of the show.) "Space" has more strange imagery, like the instrumentals are caught in a kaleidoscope.

"Space" leads into Brent Mydland's pretty "I Will Take You Home," a song he wrote for his daughter. The second set also includes a truly moving and powerful rendition of "Morning Dew."

"Not Fade Away" and "U.S. Blues"
"Morning Dew" leads into an excellent version of "Not Fade Away." The exchange between Jerry and Brent is wonderful. And of course at the end of the song, the audience does the vocals, with the band backing them. The lights dim on the stage until the band is no longer there. Most of the audience keeps up "Not Fade Away" until the band returns for the encore. The encore is of course "U.S. Blues," the perfect song for July 4th.

Grateful Dead Concert DVDs
The Grateful Dead have released several concerts on DVD over the years. The very next show, July 7th, was released both on DVD and CD this year under the title, Crimson, White & Indigo. Here's hoping that the previous show, July 2nd, will be released sometime soon.

Truckin' Up To Buffalo was directed by Len Dell'Amico.

Grateful Dead: "To Terrapin: Hartford '77" (2009 release)

This three-disc CD contains the entire concert the Grateful Dead performed on May 28,1977, including an excellent "Playing In the Band."

The year 1977 was a magical one for the Grateful Dead, a year when everything seemed to go right, a year when the band was just on. It was the year of "Terrapin Station," a song that came about by dual inspiration.

The story has oft been told about how Robert Hunter came up with the lyrics, and Jerry Garcia separately came up with the music, and how the two came together to share what each had been doing - and the music and lyrics fit perfectly together. And it was a song so different from anything either had written before, and one of the best songs the band would ever perform. As might be expected because of this CD's title, a version of the song is included on this live album.

To Terrapin: Hartford '77 contains the complete concert that the Grateful Dead performed on May 28, 1977 at the Hartford Civic Center.


The band opened the show that night with a great version of "Bertha." Sure, the energy is there. And the vocals sound heartfelt and clear and amazing. But there is also something beautiful about this version. Part of it is Donna Jean Godchaux's backing vocals, which are wonderful.

"Bertha" leads right into "Good Lovin'," a song the band had been doing since the early days but had recently revamped (it would be included on the following year's studio release, Shakedown Street).

The band was off to a rocking start on this night. No time spent warming up. No easing in. Just jump right in with everything they had.

"Good Lovin'" leads right into "Sugaree." It's always a treat to hear this one, and this particular rendition has some nice long jamming. This version is approximately nineteen minutes long. There is some sweet piano playing by Keith Godchaux, and of course some excellent guitar work from Jerry Garcia. There are a couple of brief moments when the jam gets just a bit messy, when the band wasn't completely in synch - but that's fine.

Jerry Garcia's Vocals

The first disc also contains some beautiful songs, including a sweet and easy version of "Jack Straw." The vocals sort of disappear for a moment when Jerry forgets the lyrics to a couple of lines, but it's still a really good version. Jerry Garcia's voice is particularly wonderful on "Row Jimmy."

"Row Jimmy" is one of those songs where on a good night the emotion would just flow from Jerry's voice out over the crowd. May 28, 1977 was clearly one of those nights. Especially as he sings, "Broken heart don't feel so bad/You ain't got half of what you thought you had/Rock your baby to and fro/Not too fast and not too slow."

Second Disc Includes "Passenger"

The second disc starts with "New Minglewood Blues," a song the band included on their first album under the title "New New Minglewood Blues" and then again on their 1978 studio release under the title "All New Minglewood Blues." It's a song Bob Weir always had fun with. And how could he not, especially with lines like "The preacher man call me a sinner, but his little girl call me a saint."

"Passenger" was a song the band played only from 1977 to 1981. Bassist Phil Lesh wrote this one with Peter Monk. It was included on the band's 1977 studio release Terrapin Station. The version on this CD has some good energy and some excellent work on guitar by Jerry Garcia. It has a great ending too.

Jerry Garcia's voice continues to shine on "Brown-Eyed Women." He hits the powerful emotional heights, but also sounds sweet on those quieter moments, trusting the audience to stick with him on the journey.

The first set ended that night with a great old rock and roll tune, Chuck Berry's "Promised Land." As the band left the stage for their set break, they said, "We're gonna take a short break and you can too."

The second set started with "Samson And Delilah." Bob Weir's vocals are intense on this one, and the jam just rocks. The energy is phenomenal. And Donna Jean's vocals combine so well with Bob's.

"Estimated Prophet" On Third Disc

The third disc opens with "Estimated Prophet," a song from Terrapin Station (1977). This is one of the best songs the band ever did, with lyrics by John Barlow and music by Bob Weir. The jam in this version is really cool, with some unusual riffs from Jerry. And Bob's vocals return unexpectedly right at the end - a nice touch.

"Estimated Prophet" was often paired with another favorite, "Eyes Of The World." But on this night it led into another Bob Weir tune, "Playing In The Band."

"Playing In The Band"

This is a seriously interesting rendition of "Playing In The Band." What is Keith playing here? It's certainly not his usual piano. Whatever he's doing, it sounds great. And of course Donna Jean's vocals are excellent, as they usually are on this song. There is some interesting stuff from Phil on bass too, and some jazzy stuff on drums. Everyone was venturing off into new areas, and it sounds fantastic. This is one of the best versions of this song, though at eleven minutes, it's a bit short.

But it does transition easily and perfectly into "Terrapin Station."

"Terrapin Station"
At the point of this concert, "Terrapin Station" was only a few months old. Each Grateful Dead fan has his or her favorite song, but a case could be made for "Terrapin" being the greatest song the band ever performed. It's beautiful and has the potential for eliciting all sorts of emotions from the audience. It features several distinct sections and excellent lyrics by Robert Hunter.

This song really is a journey. By the time Jerry sings, "Inspiration," the audience is fully involved, fully invested in the story. And the version on this CD is phenomenal.

The band brings the audience back from the "Terrapin" journey with a great rendition of Buddy Holly's "Not Fade Away." Interestingly, this is the longest song of the second set, at fifteen minutes. It features a nice long jam that becomes pretty far removed from the main thrust of the song. It's actually some of the most interesting jamming on this CD.

And it leads right into "Wharf Rat." "Wharf Rat" is another emotionally charged song, and Jerry's voice sounds perfect. He sings, "I'll get up and fly away." That leads back into "Playing In The Band."

May 28, 1977 was a Saturday, and so of course the band ended the second set with "One More Saturday Night." Bob really puts all of his energy into it, and it's a fun version. The encore is a playful version of "U.S. Blues."

CD Track List

Disc 1

  1. Bertha >
  2. Sugaree
  3. Jack Straw
  4. Row Jimmy

Disc 2

  1. New Minglewood Blues
  2. Candyman
  3. Passenger
  4. Brown-Eyed Women
  5. Promised Land
  6. Samson And Delilah
  7. Tennessee Jed

Disc 3

  1. Estimated Prophet >
  2. Playing In The Band >
  3. Terrapin Station >
  4. Drums >
  5. Not Fade Away >
  6. Wharf Rat >
  7. Playing In The Band
  8. One More Saturday Night
  9. U.S. Blues

At the time of this recording, the Grateful Dead were Jerry Garcia on vocals and guitar, Bob Weir on vocals and guitar, Phil Lesh on bass, Bill Kreutzmann on drums, Mickey Hart on drums, Keith Godchaux on keyboards and Donna Jean Godchaux on vocals.

The Grateful Dead have released other material from that wonderful year of 1977, including Dick's Picks Volume Three (5/22/77), Dick's Picks Volume Ten (12/29/77) and Dick's Picks Volume Fifteen (9/3/77).

Grateful Dead: "Hundred Year Hall" (1995) CD Review

This 2-disc set contains more than two hours of Grateful Dead live music, and yet is only approximately half of the show they performed on 4/26/72.

Hundred Year Hall contains a lot of the concert the Grateful Dead performed on April 26, 1972 at Jahrhundert Hall in Frankfurt, West Germany. This show was part of an extensive, two-month European tour.

"Bertha" Starts First CD

The first CD kicks off with "Bertha." This song often had a high amount of energy when the Grateful Dead performed it in concert, but this version surpasses most versions of the song. The band is cooking here.

This leads into a playful version of "Me & My Uncle." This is a song that the Grateful Dead performed more than six hundred times in concert.

First Disc Includes "Jack Straw" And "Playing In The Band"
"Jack Straw" is one of those wonderful Grateful Dead songs that seem to just bring everyone together. This song makes the audience feel good. And this is a really great version of it.

The version of "Playing In The Band" on this CD is relatively short, but it's good. Donna Jean Godchaux's backing vocals are crackling. And even though the jam isn't that long (by "Playing" standards), it's still pretty awesome, with Jerry Garcia's guitar pushing the band upward and out.

Pigpen's Final Tour With The Grateful Dead

Ron "Pigpen" McKernan sings lead on "Next Time You See Me," a song written by William Harvey and Earl Forest. He also plays harmonica on this song. This European tour was Pigpen's final tour. He would do just one more show when the band returned to the United States.

Ron "Pigpen" McKernan was the Grateful Dead's first keyboardist. He was a bluesman, and was not into the acid scene (preferring alcohol to hallucinogens). By the time of this 1972 European tour, he was joined by Keith Godchaux on keyboards. (Keith would continue to play keyboards in the band until 1979.)

The first disc of this album also contains "Turn On Your Lovelight," Pigpen's signature piece. The song has Pigpen's own sort of jam, a vocal improvisation section with call and response with the rest of the band. But this version doesn't contain as much of the vocal improvisation as other, earlier versions of this song. And of course, at nineteen minutes, this song contains plenty of the band jamming.

"Turn On Your Lovelight" contains teases of "Going Down The Road Feelin' Bad" toward the end, and even a bit of the drumbeat for "Not Fade Away."

"Going Down The Road Feelin' Bad"

"Turn On Your Lovelight" finally does lead into "Going Down The Road Feelin' Bad," a song listed as traditional, but which was most likely written by Woody Guthrie. It's famously used in the film version of Steinbeck's The Grapes Of Wrath.

"One More Saturday Night"

The first disc ends with "One More Saturday Night," a song that would be featured on Bob Weir's "Ace." That album would be released soon after this concert was performed, and while the band was still on its 1972 European tour.

"Truckin'" Opens 2nd CD
The second disc opens with "Truckin'," a song that would soon become an anthem of sorts for Dead fans, with its lyrics about being hassled by the law and its refrain of "What a long, strange trip it's been."

There is a drum solo approximately fourteen minutes into the song, which leads into "The Other One."

2nd Disc Features A 36-Minute Version Of "The Other One"

"The Other One," which for some reason is listed as "Cryptical Envelopment" on this CD, jumps into high gear right away. The jam is intense and fiery, as if to drive off some evil spirit. The jam then settles down into a mellow, tentative groove. The lyrics start approximately thirteen minutes into the song, and then it's soon back into spacey jam territory. The second verse comes thirty-five minutes in, just before the end of the song.

"Comes A Time" And "Sugar Magnolia"
That leads into the beautiful and mellow "Comes A Time." This song would be released on Jerry Garcia's third solo album, Reflections, in 1976. It was played sporadically throughout the Grateful Dead's career.

The album concludes with the always-pleasing "Sugar Magnolia."

CD Track List

The following is the track list for Grateful Dead's Hundred Year Hall:

CD One:

  1. Bertha
  2. Me And My Uncle
  3. Next Time You See Me
  4. China Cat Sunflower
  5. I Know You Rider
  6. Jack Straw
  7. Big Railroad Blues
  8. Playing In The Band
  9. Turn On Your Lovelight
  10. Goin Down The Road Feelin' Bad
  11. One More Saturday Night

CD Two:

  1. Truckin'
  2. Cryptical Envelopment
  3. Comes A Time
  4. Sugar Magnolia

The Grateful Dead released another live album of recordings from this tour. Titled Europe '72, this triple album was released in late 1972. However, it does not contain any recordings from the show on April 26, 1972.

Robert Hunter, who wrote the lyrics to many of the Grateful Dead's songs, wrote the liner notes for this CD on April 28, 1995. The album was released on September 26, 1995, a month after the death of Jerry Garcia.

Grateful Dead: "Go To Heaven" (1980) CD Review

This album features Brent Mydland's first songs for the band: "Far From Me" and "Easy To Love You."

Go To Heaven is Brent Mydland's first album with the Grateful Dead. He first performed with the band on April 22, 1979, after the band fired Keith Godchaux.

"Alabama Getaway"
The album opens with "Alabama Getaway," a lively rock tune that Jerry Garcia sings lead on. The first concert performance of this song was on November 4, 1979, in Providence, Rhode Island. The Grateful Dead often opened their concerts with this song in the 1980s.

"Far From Me" Features Brent Mydland
"Far From Me" is a song written by Brent Mydland. Brent had joined the band only the previous year, and Go To Heaven was the first album he appeared on. It didn't take him long to introduce songs to the band's repertoire. Two of those songs are included on this album. "Far From Me" was first played in concert on March 30, 1980.

This song is about the end of a relationship, a theme that Brent would return to in other songs. Brent sings, "This time's the last time I wanna say so long/This song is my last song for you/There's just nothing here to hold on to, baby/Nothing to hold on to."

Brent Mydland would always feel like the new guy, even though he was with the band longer than any other keyboardist. But at the time of this album he really was the new guy. In the photo on the cover for this album he seems to be almost hiding behind Jerry Garcia, like he's still not quite sure whether he's really in the band or not.


"Althea" is probably the most beloved song from this album among Grateful Dead fans. This song contains references to William Shakespeare's "Hamlet," with lines like, "You may be the fate of Ophelia, sleeping and perchance to dream/Honest to the point of recklessness, self-centered in the extreme." The lyrics were written by Robert Hunter, and the music by Jerry Garcia.

"Feel Like A Stranger"
"Feel Like A Stranger" was first played by the Grateful Dead on March 31, 1980 in New Jersey. This song was often played early in a concert, which makes sense, especially given the lines, "Well you know it's gonna get stranger/So let's get on with the show" and "It's gonna be a long long crazy crazy night/Yeah crazy night/Silky silky, crazy crazy night." The lyrics were written by John Barlow, and the music by Bob Weir.

"Lost Sailor" And "Saint Of Circumstance"
"Lost Sailor" is a wonderful song that was often paired with "Saint Of Circumstance" in concert performances. Both songs were written by Bob Weir and John Barlow, and both appear on this album. The audience would often cheer at the line, "Ooh where's the dog star," mishearing it as, "Ooh where's the Dark Star." "Dark Star" was one of the band's best and most loved songs.

"Saint Of Circumstance" has the excellent line, "I'm still walking so I'm sure that I can dance."

The instrumental opening to "Saint Of Circumstance" sounds remarkably similar to the instrumental opening to Bob Weir's "Heaven Help The Fool," which was released on his 1978 solo album, Heaven Help The Fool.

"Antwerp's Placebo (The Plumber)"
"Antwerp's Placebo (The Plumber)" is an interesting little song. It's only thirty-eight seconds long, and it's the closest thing to a drum solo that was ever released on a Grateful Dead studio album.

As a side note, there is a Grateful Dead cover band named Antwerp's Placebo.

"Easy To Love You"

"Easy To Love You" is Brent Mydland's second song on Go To Heaven. It's a straight-forward, unabashed love song. The Grateful Dead first played this song on August 14, 1979, only four months after Brent's first concert appearance. It was the first song that he introduced into the band's repertoire. Brent Mydland wrote the music, and John Barlow wrote the lyrics.

"Don't Ease Me In"

"Don't Ease Me In" is a song that the Grateful Dead had been performing in concert since 1966. It's a traditional song. It's fun, lively. In later years, they'd often close the first set with this song.

CD Track List

The following is the track list for Grateful Dead's Go To Heaven:

  1. Alabama Getaway
  2. Far From Me
  3. Althea
  4. Feel Like A Stranger
  5. Lost Sailor
  6. Saint Of Circumstance
  7. Antwerp's Placebo (The Plumber)
  8. Easy To Love You
  9. Don't Ease Me In

Go To Heaven was released April 28, 1980 on Arista Records. The Grateful Dead started releasing albums on Arista in 1977 with Terrapin Station. Go To Heaven would be the last studio release by the band until 1987's In The Dark. In between those two, they did release a couple of live albums.

Grateful Dead: Dick's Picks Volume Twenty-Three (2001) CD Review

Grateful Dead released a series of live albums called Dick's Picks. Most of these CDs are entire live concert recordings. Volume Twenty-Three is from a show at Baltimore Civic Center in Baltimore, Maryland, September 17th, 1972.

The first disc has a great "Black-Throated Wind." Bob Weir's voice is nice and rough, crackling with energy. There's also a really cool "Bird Song."

"Playing In The Band"

The second disc starts with a great "Playing In The Band." Any "Playing In The Band" from the 1970s is a treat because of Donna Jean Godchaux's excellent backing vocals, especially that near-scream as the band ventures back from foreign territories into the chorus near the end of the song.

The jam section of "Playing In The Band" is fantastic. Sure, there is a section where it gets a little messy, but hey, that's what happens when exploring new territory. At 18:48, it's certainly not the longest "Playing," but it is a fun ride.

"The Other One"

Of course, the main piece of the third disc is a thirty-nine minute version of "The Other One." This jam comes out of the end of "He's Gone," and very quickly breaks down so that Bill Kreutzmann is left alone on the drums. After a few minutes, Phil leads the band back into the jam with that monster bass part. And at this point the band is performing with an fierce intensity, and they're not even ten minutes into the song.

"Sing Me Back Home" - Merle Haggard Song

From "The Other One" the Grateful Dead seque into "Sing Me Back Home," a sweet and sad song written by Merle Haggard. It's about a man on death row who is about to go to his execution. His last request is to hear a song from his youth, to make his old memories come alive.
The Grateful Dead only performed this song for a few years, but it's a wonderful song, and this is a good version of it.

No Mickey Hart On This Recording
This recording is of a show from those few years when Bill Kreutzmann was the lone drummer. As a result of just one drummer, the jams in those years were looser, and the band ventured off into weird areas.

Mickey Hart had left the band after his father - acting as the band's manager - embezzled money. The band knew it was not Mickey's fault and did not ask him to leave, but those were some serious things for him to deal with, and so he stepped aside until late 1974. (His return to the band was captured in the film The Grateful Dead Movie.)

The Band

As mentioned, Mickey Hart was not in the band at this time. Also missing was Ron McKernan (known as "Pigpen"). Though still alive at the time of this recording, his health had deteriorated to the point where he was unable to go on the road with the band. His final concert had been earlier that year, on June 17th. He died March 8, 1973.

The band was Jerry Garcia on guitar and vocals, Bob Weir on rhythm guitar and vocals, Phil Lesh on bass and vocals, Bill Kreutzmann on drums, Keith Godchaux on piano and Donna Jean Godchaux on backing vocals.

This CD does not include the encore played that night, which was "One More Saturday Night."

CD Track Listing

The following is the track list for Grateful Dead's Dick's Picks Volume Twenty-Three:

CD One

  1. Promised Land
  2. Sugaree
  3. Black-Throated Wind
  4. Friend Of The Devil
  5. El Paso
  6. Bird Song
  7. Big River
  8. Tennessee Jed
  9. Mexicali Blues
  10. China Cat Sunflower >
  11. I Know You Rider

CD Two:

  1. Playing In The Band
  2. Casey Jones
  3. Truckin'
  4. Loser
  5. Jack Straw
  6. Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo >
  7. Me And My Uncle

CD Three:

  1. He's Gone >
  2. The Other One >
  3. Sing Me Back Home
  4. Sugar Magnolia
  5. Uncle John's Band

Grateful Dead: "Dick's Picks Volume Twenty-Two" (2001) CD Review

This two-disc set features selections from concerts the Grateful Dead performed on February 23rd and 24th in Lake Tahoe in 1968.

The year 1968 was the year the Grateful Dead released their most psychedelic-sounding and experimental record, Anthem Of The Sun. They played all of the songs from that album during their three-night run at Kings Beach Bowl in Lake Tahoe, California, in February of that year. Selections from the second and third nights are included on this two-disc CD.

Anthem Of The Sun was the second studio release from the Grateful Dead, and the first to feature Mickey Hart on drums, and Tom Constanten on piano. Though it's a studio release, the band mixed in elements and snippets from live concert recordings to some of the songs, particularly "Alligator" and "Caution."

The audience at Kings Beach Bowl, however, had not yet heard that album, as it wouldn't be released until July of that year. And in fact, portions from these concerts would make their way onto Anthem Of The Sun.

"Viola Lee Blues"
The first disc begins with "Viola Lee Blues." This is the longest track on the entire CD, which is surprising considering this album includes "Dark Star," "Turn On Your Lovelight" and "That's It For The Other One." But this "Viola Lee Blues" clocks in at more than nineteen minutes.

Only two minutes in, the band is already getting a bit crazy. But this is basically a good steady rock jam - not stretching into any Weird territory yet. Nevertheless, it's one of those great 1960s intense rock jams. And Jerry Garcia does some impressive wailing on his guitar. There is a short drum solo in the middle.

"Viola Lee Blues" is a song included on the band's first studio album, and was written by Noah Lewis.

"Hurts Me Too"

"Hurts Me Too," better known as "It Hurts Me Too," is a blues tune written by Elmore James and sung by Ron "Pigpen" McKernan. It's a shame the vocals weren't raised a bit in the mix - for this song, as well as "Viola Lee Blues." Pigpen also plays harmonica on this one.

"Dark Star"

This "Dark Star" has the fast intro it had in those days. "Dark Star" was always an interesting song, but at this time it had all that extra percussion, which was wonderful. The tempo was quicker and the instrumentation was low-key. This version is pretty short, especially by "Dark Star" standards, at less than seven minutes.

"China Cat Sunflower"
"Dark Star" leads directly into "China Cat Sunflower," a song about an acid trip. This was in the days before "China Cat" led predictably into "I Know You Rider." This jam is when the band really starts to cook,and it leads right into a really good rendition of "The Eleven."

It's with "The Eleven" that the jam starts getting good and messy. "The Eleven" is a loud, raucous piece of music, driven by Phil Lesh's bass (he co-wrote the tune).

"Turn On Your Lovelight"

"The Eleven" leads into Pigpen's signature tune, "Turn On Your Lovelight." Though he didn't write it, Pigpen really made this song his own, breaking it down in the middle, riffing vocally, with the band answering him. This version has the band repeating, "Shine on me" and then "A little bit higher" while Pigpen improvises. Then the song begins to build again, and it's just fantastic. This is one of the highlights of this release.

"Born Cross-Eyed" Into "Spanish Jam"
"Born Cross-Eyed" is a short, yet intricate (and totally cool) song written by Bob Weir and included on Anthem Of The Sun. The version included here leads into "Spanish Jam," and it's then that the band heads into Weird territory. Combining rhythms and dissonance, exploring and improvising within a very loose structure - more of a feel or temperament than a formal construct. The Grateful Dead were skilled at making temporary homes within the Unknown, and that night they were on top of their game.

"Morning Dew"
The second disc begins with the always-moving "Morning Dew." Jerry Garcia always poured his heart into this one, and gave it his all, especially in the vocals. Listen to the emotion in his voice as he sings, "I thought I heard a baby cry this morning/I thought I heard a baby cry today/You didn't hear no baby cry this morning/You didn't hear no baby cry today." Is there a better song about the end of the world? In this version, there is anger as well as sadness in his voice as he repeats, "I guess it doesn't matter anyway."

"Morning Dew" was written by Bonnie Dobson, and was included on the Grateful Dead's first studio release.

"Good Morning Little School Girl"

Another song that Pigpen always shines on his "Good Morning Little School Girl," written by Sonny Boy Williamson. Pigpen was always more comfortable in the blues than in the rock, and this song really plays on his strengths. He also adds harmonica to this one.

He sings, "Good morning little schoolgirl, can I come home with you?/Tell your mama and your papa I'm a little schoolboy too." In the band's later years, Bob Weir sang this one. The older he got, the less likely it was that those lines would work on the girl's parents. But whatever, this is a great tune.

"That's It For The Other One"

"That's It For The Other One" is the full song, as it is featured on Anthem Of The Sun. Later on, it would be split into two songs - "Cryptical Envelopment" (Jerry's section) and "The Other One" (Bob's section), which was originally called "The Faster We Go The Rounder We Get." It's that section that contains the reference to Neal Cassady.

The rendition included here is excellent, and it leads into "New Potato Caboose" (which also follows it on the album). "New Potato Caboose" was written by Phil Lesh and Robert Petersen, and include some interesting lyrics: "When the windows all are broken/And your love's become a toothless crone/When the voices of the storm sound/Like a crowd/Winter morning breaks, you're all alone."

"Alligator" and "Caution"

Pigpen sang lead on two tracks from Anthem Of The Sun - "Alligator" and "Caution (Do Not Stop On Tracks)." Both of those songs are on the second disc of this release.

The first, "Alligator," is split, with "China Cat Sunflower" and "The Eleven" in the middle. These versions of "China Cat" and "The Eleven" are even better than those on the first disc, with a fantastic jam. As they go back into "Alligator," there is a wonderful percussion section.

The jam in "Caution" is just incredible, coming right out of "Alligator." And there is some great work on percussion in this one too. This song also has fun some call and response, with the band echoing Pigpen as he sings, "All you need."

CD Track List

CD One:

  1. Viola Lee Blues
  2. Hurts Me too
  3. Dark Star >
  4. China Cat Sunflower >
  5. The Eleven >
  6. Turn On Your Lovelight
  7. Born Cross-Eyed >
  8. Spanish Jam

CD Two:

  1. Morning Dew
  2. Good Morning Little School Girl
  3. That's It For The Other One >
  4. New Potato Caboose
  5. Alligator >
  6. China Cat Sunflower >
  7. The Eleven >
  8. Alligator >
  9. Caution (Do Not Stop On Tracks) >
  10. Feedback

The Grateful Dead at the time of this recording were Jerry Garcia on guitar and vocals; Bob Weir on rhythm guitar and vocals; Phil Lesh on bass and vocals; Ron "Pigpen" McKernan on organ, harmonica, percussion and vocals; Bill Kreutzmann on drums; and Mickey Hart on drums.

Dick's Picks is a series of live Grateful Dead concert recordings started by Dick Latvala, the band's official tape archivist, in 1993. Dick Latvala's name is in the artwork in the liner notes to this CD.

Dick's Picks Volume Twenty-One contains the entire concert the Grateful Dead performed in Richmond, VA on November 1, 1985.

Dick's Picks Volume Twenty-Three is from a show at Baltimore Civic Center in Baltimore, Maryland, September 17th, 1972.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Ray Charles: "Live In Concert" (2011) CD Review

Live In Concert is a recording of the show that Ray Charles performed on September 20, 1964 at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, and this album captures Ray's energy, charm and soul. Included are great original songs like "What'd I Say" and "Hallelujah, I Love Her So," as well as some excellent covers.

Twelve of these tracks were released on vinyl in 1965 as Ray Charles Live In Concert. The other seven previously unreleased tracks surprisingly contain some of this CD's best material. For example, the two longest tracks, "Georgia On My Mind" and "In The Evening (When The Sun Goes Down)," were left off of the original record. And there is also the wonderful (and timely) "Busted."

There's not a lot of stage banter between songs. Ray Charles connects with his audience through the songs, not between them.

The album opens with an introduction, which mentions "the genius of Ray Charles," and then goes into the fast-paced jazz instrumental, "Swing A Little Taste." And it does certainly swing. This track immediately showcases what a great band is backing him. And Ray himself does a nice solo on piano.

From there, they go into "One Mint Julep." You can hear Ray calling the tune at the beginning of the track: "Okay, 'The Mint.'" This song contains a great moment when Ray sings, "Yeah, little bit of soul now," changing the tone mid-song. Wonderful. Ray Charles plays organ on this one, and it's one of the previously unreleased tracks.

"I Got A Woman"
Oh yeah, "I Got A Woman" is classic Ray Charles, with a wonderful opening. This was actually released as a single. When people think of Ray Charles, often it's this sort of tune they've got in mind. And understandably. This song is tons of fun - with that great positive energy Ray had in abundance. Near the end, there is that soothing repetition of "Feel all right," and damn if I'm not feeling all right myself.

"Georgia On My Mind"
"Georgia On My Mind" has a nice intro with Ray on organ. At the first word sung, the crowd explodes. This track was absent from the original vinyl release, and is one of the reasons why this CD is essential listening for any Ray Charles fan. This version is quite different from the studio recording. It's also the longest track on the CD, at approximately seven and a half minutes. Listen to Bill Pearson's playful work on flute. And the burst of horns at the end is fantastic.

"You Don't Know Me"
Ray Charles' voice is so gorgeous on "You Don't Know Me." So emotional, so full, so alive and so hurt. This might be the best version ever recorded of this song. Listen to the emotion, the pain in his voice as he sings, "For I never knew the art of making love/Though my heart aches with love for you/I'm afraid and shy/Well, I let my chance go by/A chance that you might love me too."

"You Don't Know Me" was written by Eddy Arnold and Cindy Walker. Other artists to cover this song include Jerry Vale, Elvis Presley and Bob Dylan.

"That Lucky Old Sun"

Another of the previously unreleased tracks, Ray's beautiful version of "That Lucky Old Sun" is nice and slow, and highlights his vocal power. Written by Haven Gillespie and Beasley Smith, this is a song that was often covered in concert by The Jerry Garcia Band.

"In The Evening (When The Sun Goes Down)"

"In The Evening (When The Sun Goes Down)" is also one of the previously unreleased tracks. It starts with Ray doing some wonderful stuff on keys while Edgar Willis and Wilbert Hogan keep a steady rhythm on bass and drums. A very nice, cool intro. And then come the horns, and Ray's vocals. And the song just gets better. This is definitely one of the CD's highlights, with its glorious combination of horns and Ray's voice.

"Hallelujah, I Love Her So" is just pure fun. The crowd agrees - you can hear the audience clapping along. Written by Ray Charles, this song was a hit for him in 1956.

That song is followed by the equally fun "Makin' Whoopee." This is the only recording of Ray Charles performing this song. And man, does he sound cool on this one. This song also shows off his sense of humor, getting quite a few laughs from the audience.


"Busted" was previously unreleased, and it's one of the best tunes on the CD. In this one, Ray Charles sings about being broke, something more than a few of us can sadly relate to now. He sings that he has "A big stack of bills that gets bigger each day." He also sings, "Well, I went to my brother to ask for loan/'Cause I was busted/I hate to beg like a dog without a bone/But I'm busted today/My brother said there ain't a thing I can do/My wife and my kids are all down with the flue/And I was just thinking of calling on you/'Cause I'm busted myself." Man, everything Ray Charles sings is so believable. It's all in his voice, a voice that can make us laugh, cry, swing, shout, and do just about any darn thing he wants us to do.

"Busted" was written by Harlan Howard.

CD Track List
  1. Opening
  2. Swing A Little Taste
  3. One Mint Julep
  4. I Got A Woman
  5. Georgia On My Mind
  6. Margie
  7. You Don't Know Me
  8. Hide Nor Hair
  9. That Lucky Old Sun
  10. Baby, Don't You Cry
  11. In The Evening (When The Sun Goes Down)
  12. Hallelujah, I Love Her So
  13. Makin' Whoopee
  14. Busted
  15. Don't Set Me Free
  16. Two Ton Tessie
  17. My Baby (I Love Her, Yes I Do)
  18. What'd I Say
  19. Finale


The musicians appearing on this CD are Ray Charles on vocals, piano and organ; Oliver Beener on trumpet; Phil Guilbeau on trumpet; Wallace Davenport on trumpet; John Hunt on trumpet and flugelhorn; Julian Priester on trombone; James Herbert on trombone; Henderson Chambers on trombone; Keg Johnson on baritone trombone; Hank Crawford on alto saxophone; Bill Pearson on alto saxophone and flute; David "Fathead" Newman on tenor saxophone; Leroy Cooper on baritone saxophone; Sonny Forriest on guitar; Edgar Willis on bass; Wilbert Hogan on drums; and The Raeletts on backing vocals.

Live In Concert is scheduled to be released April 5, 2011 through Concord Music Group. Last year saw the release of another amazing Ray Charles album - Rare Genius: The Undiscovered Masters, also put out by Concord Music Group.

Grateful Dead: "Dick's Picks Volume Twenty-One" (2001) CD Review

Dick's Picks Volume Twenty-One contains the entire concert the Grateful Dead performed at the Richmond Coliseum in Richmond, Virginia on November 1, 1985. It also contains some bonus material from September 2, 1980.

First Disc Is First Set

The first disc starts with a somewhat messy, but totally energetic version of "Dancing In The Streets," leading into "Cold Rain And Snow" - two songs from the band's early days. The crowd is clearly excited. This is a good version of "Cold Rain And Snow," with Jerry Garcia really belting it out. Often during those years, Jerry's voice sounded strained. Not on this song. He sounds great.

"Little Red Rooster" features some very cool keyboard work by Brent Mydland. The first disc also features a nice version of "Big River," with some really good guitar work and some strange stuff on the cymbals.

The version of "Brown-Eyed Women" on this CD has a really good groove. Jerry and Brent's voices together are awesome.

"Jack Straw" is almost always good, but this is a particularly wonderful version. The vocals are phenomenal, with so much raw emotion, so much power, so much beauty.

The first disc ends with a rocking "Don't Ease Me In." There is some great stuff on the keyboards by Brent, and Phil Lesh works his way up and down the bass, finding wonderful grooves. This version also features some excellent vocals.

Second Disc Features Incredible "Comes A Time"

The second disc starts with "Samson And Delilah." But right at the beginning someone says, "It's got to be funky." Who says it? It's totally weird. It sounds like a DJ speaking over the recording. There is no explanation in the liner notes. It's a good version of the song, with some serious energy.

Jerry Garcia's voice does strain a bit during "High Time," but it's such an emotional tune that he makes it work. It only adds to the feel of the song, like when he starts singing, "You told me goodbye/How was I to know/You didn't mean goodbye/You meant please don't let me go."

The band then goes into a wonderful version of "He's Gone." This is an incredibly emotionally charged rendition. "Nothing left to do but smile, smile, smile." Oh yes. This version has a nice extended vocal riffing section near the end.

That leads right into "Spoonful." Bob Weir's vocals just explode at the beginning, from the mellow instrumental introduction. Just wonderful.

Jerry Garcia was clearly in a certain soulful mood this night, because after "High Time" and "He's Gone," he chooses another beautiful and moving tune: "Comes A Time." Wow, his guitar is crying out to the audience. This version is almost heartbreaking, and the crowd responds enthusiastically when Jerry repeats, "Only love can fill" with a raw edge near the end of the song. The song then starts to end (too soon), with the drummers seemingly ready to go into their solo, until Jerry brings it back.

This then leads into a really nice version of "Lost Sailor." Bob Weir's vocals sound sweet, especially at the end, as he sings, "drifting and dreaming." For a moment it sounds like the band might go into "Saint Of Circumstance," as expected, but instead this leads into "Drums." And it's a very cool, fun version.

Third Disc Features "She Belongs To Me" And "Gloria"

The third disc starts with "Space," leading finally into "Saint Of Circumstance." From there, the band goes into "Gimme Some Lovin.'" This version is initially messy, but it's full of energy and drive. Phil Lesh and Brent Mydland are singing their hearts out, and Brent also does some great stuff on the keyboards.

That leads into Bob Dylan's "She Belongs To Me." Jerry's voice sounds great on this one. It's a truly beautiful rendition of the song. This is a song that the Grateful Dead did only in 1985 (except for one time in 1966).

After "She Belongs To Me" the band jumps into a lively version of "Gloria" to end the second set. Bob Weir is clearly having a great time with this song, stopping it with, "Wait a minute," and then building it again. He also goofs around with references to the space shuttle and jokes about spelling. The energy in this song is incredible.

The encore is "Keep Your Day Job," and this is a lively version of it.

Bonus Tracks

The last four tracks on the third CD are bonus tracks. They come from the second set of the concert the Grateful Dead performed in Rochester, New York on September 2, 1980. According to the liner notes, this segment is all that exists of the show in the Grateful Dead's vault. These tracks include an oddly slow version of "Iko Iko" and a beautiful "Morning Dew."

CD Track List
CD One:

  1. Dancing In The Streets >
  2. Cold Rain And Snow
  3. Little Red Rooster
  4. Stagger Lee
  5. Me And My Uncle >
  6. Big River
  7. Brown-Eyed Women
  8. Jack Straw >
  9. Don't Ease Me In

CD Two:

  1. Samson And Delilah
  2. High Time
  3. He's Gone >
  4. Spoonful >
  5. Comes A Time >
  6. Lost Sailor >
  7. Drums

CD Three:

  1. Space >
  2. Saint Of Circumstance >
  3. Gimme Some Lovin' >
  4. She Belongs To Me
  5. Gloria
  6. Keep Your Day Job
  7. Space
  8. Iko Iko >
  9. Morning Dew >
  10. Sugar Magnolia

The Dick's Picks series was started in 1993 by official Grateful Dead tape archivist Dick Latvala. There were thirty-six volumes in all, released from 1993 through 2005. In more recent years, a new series of live recordings titled "Road Trips" has taken its place.