Sunday, August 25, 2013

Tim Buckley-'Just Like A Mockingbird'-1969's Happy Sad LP


      Today in the 'rock room' spins one of my personal favorite LP's, as well a terribly unappreciated and underrated album by one of rocks finest voices. 'Folk' singer Tim Buckley is one of the most diverse and experimental rock artists off all time, this being one of the reasons for his popularity and his obscurity. Most of Buckley's fame has come posthumously especially after the popularity and tragic death of his musician son Jeff. Tim's first two LP's 'Tim Buckley', and 'Hello Goodbye' stayed close to the folk troubadour, pop rock tradition with concise well written two minute pop songs. With the release of this LP 'Happy Sad' Tim started to shy away from the mainstream world of pop and rock, and started to drift into experimental jazz arrangements and avant garde vocalizations. His Miles Davis, Charles Mingus, and Fred Neil influences to name a few had started to seep through his commercial exterior, taking Buckley's music to uncharted areas. These areas are often criticized by media and misunderstood, but for the true artist rules are meant to be broken.

     There are only six tracks on the 1969 album, because of the expanded length and artistic development of all the songs. Another important point regarding 'Happy Sad' is that for the first time Buckley composed all of the lyrics himself, as well as stripping his band down to congas, bass, vibes, and long time friend and player Lee Underwood on lead guitar, in addition to Buckley's own lush twelve string guitar strokes filling out the sound. The conga/vibe combination gave Buckley's music an ethereal, loose groove always threatening to float away at the sign of the slightest breeze. But this instrumentation also allowed Buckley greater freedom to soar and any moment. This is an important record in both Buckley's career as well as in the history of rock for its display of musical collaborations between genres.

     Like previously mentioned this LP is the turning point in Buckley's music, eventually culminating in the experimental albums 'Lorca' and 'Starsailor' respectively, which then took his music in unimaginable directions, combining jazz, aural distortion, experimental vocal gymnastics and unique time signatures. 'Happy Sad' is the genesis of these journeys into the deep expanse of space. Buckley straddles the fence between his home and the unknown, in between creating some of his most affecting music in the process. The album opens on the gently swaying groove of 'Strange Feelin' that tip toes in on gently dinging David Freidman vibes. The song oscillates on an axis made of air, suspended on the warm pulse of John Miller's acoustic bass. Buckley's vocals are like a flesh horn, a true tenor with the ability to pierce octaves, smoothy soothing the ear with sneaky melody lines that hang off the churning rhythm set by his earthy twelve string. Rocked like a child snug in his crib, I drift on shifting ground, comforted by Buckley's deep knowing voice, made even more powerful by the sparse instrumentation. A Strange Feelin' indeed.

     The next track on side one is probably Buckley's most popular and well known song, and for good reason. 'Buzzin Fly' is the signpost pointing to Buckley's new direction, yet rooted in the past, arranged around vibes and acoustic guitar the song elicits sunshine, sandy toes, and lost love. Opening on a resonant acoustic guitar chime, the vibes ring in, and the invigorating popping plucks from Lee Underwood's crystal Telecaster echo Buckley's deep acoustic longing. Tim's cotton delivery in deep blue vibrato shakes me to my roots. The song moves with his breathy vocals on quickly fluttering wings that rise and fall dynamically.  The song's fade out gently tickles all synapses with each instrument organically slowing as Buckley soulfully sighs the lyrics "I miss you so'.

     The final of only three extended tracks on side one is the Buckley opus, 'Love From Room 109 at the Islander (On Pacific Coast Highway). This song begins with the sound of therapeutic waves crashing against the shore in rhythmic time. As the waves continue, a nimble jazz band made up of bass, vibes, and acoustic guitar improvise a light groove that reveals a voluptuous twelve string strike that introduces the song proper. Buckley's riveting vocals enter and the song gains altitude, rising away from the sands and foam and toward the deep blue. The melody which the song balances is timeless, an ancient old sea ballad, or a melody only created from the deepest recesses of someones soul. This is magic in its most artistic and fundamental state. Tossed by the wind and the sea the song rocks buoyantly until it comes to rest on the shore, formless, shining under stars, a dream. Held together by benign bass drones and hollow bells, the songs only form is Buckley's voice, resonate in its emotion, undeviating in its strength, enchanting in its tone. The crashing of the ocean waves the beat, natures metronome, reigning in the delicate instrumentation. When the deep bass marimba swells with the rolling foaming waves, Underwood's seabird guitar sails inches above the breakers, groaning, then resting. The song then concludes as it began with the tender caress of the sounds of the sea. One of Buckley's finest moments as a composer and performer, a must have in any rock collection.

     Side two begins on the indescribable sound of Lee Underwood's shimmery guitar combined with the pensive chime of the vibes, setting up a musical mood that can only be known by experiencing. A hair raising droning bass note startles my stomach and jumps from the revolving record as Buckley sings. 'Dream Letter' is a musical note composed from a regretful father to the family carelessly left behind. This song is a stirring admittance of grief that tears at the soul both lyrically and musically, with the attentive musicianship only adding to the seriousness of the lyrics. After each verse for only a moment the music seems to play itself, there is no arrangement, no theme, just the sound of the musical notes yearning to exist, only momentary before they fade into the alleys, eardrums, and empty fields of our world.

     'Gypsy Woman' was a extravaganza when performed live in concert by this Buckley line up, but the original version on this LP is no slouch either extending to over twelve minutes. Beginning on the multi-rhythmic thump of C.C. Collins congas, some mysterious bass sliding is blended with jungle Buckley interjections, and the song builds slowly like a backwoods tribal gathering, gaining momentum as Underwood's guitar growls with his timely scrubs. As Buckley's excited asides increase, the groove intensifies. This is the one song on the LP where Buckley uses the entire range of his voice from guttural grunts, to climbing and bouncing moves rising up to and running away from notes. Falsetto hollers initiate the band to move forward, drop back, or just hang out and let Buckley groove. 'Gypsy Woman' moves through many frames in its twelve minutes from full blast chunky grooves, to percussion vocal breakdowns, to moments where the sliding sound of fingers on bass is the only lonely backing to Buckley's cries. A powerful and unique expression that again defies categorization.

     The final song on the album is short, sweet, and straightforward, its also one of Buckley's most enduring melodies. 'Sing a Song For You' (covered by a few artists including Radiohead) is the type of track that says volumes in such a short span of time. The tune to me is Buckley's tribute to the muse, that not only assists him, but will help the subject of the song through their own troubles. The comfort provided by music is at the root of all of Buckley's songs, and is the lifeblood running through the Troubadour.  Buckley writes, 'In my world the devil dances and dares to leave my soul just anywhere. Until I find peace in this world, I'll sing a song everywhere I can'. Acoustic guitar and delicate accompaniment on the vibes are all that's needed for this album closer. In every way a perfect ending to a unique journey.

     The six songs on Tim Buckley's 1969 LP 'Happy Sad' are of a unique breed and defy classification. Whereas groups like the Band, Flying Burrito Brothers were pioneering 'country rock', the Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane were disseminating 'acid rock', Buckley was developing a genre of music that could not be caught or explained and would eventually come to full fruition in 1970 with the career defining 'Starsailor'. Taking pieces and influence from jazz, country, baroque, folk, and vocalists of varying vintage, Buckley created a musical blend that was uniquely his. His vocal and musical developments made some listeners angry because they had no point of reference to understand. Others in the media lashed out because he refused to be boxed in or locked into a genre. Tim Buckley created music that made him 'Happy Sad', if it sold great, if it didn't he would keep creating regardless. 'Happy Sad' was the start of the journey that would take him to musical places he could only dream of. His career, like many musical revolutionaries would only start be understood in the  years after his demise. This LP is one of the most important releases that you will never hear of. Listening to this record now will finally allow us to catch up with Buckley's innovative ideas over forty years later. Fortunately we will have the vinyl documents to enjoy and preserve Tim Buckley for the many years to come.

Dream Letter
Love From Room 109


    

Friday, August 16, 2013

Put The Boot In: -'Walking Through the Clouds' The Jimi Hendrix Experience-September 7, 1968

 

     In the very recent past, the world of Jimi Hendrix bootlegs has been taken over by a flood of new live material, various concerts emerging from closets, basements and personal collections to be disseminated and devoured by the Hendrix faithful. This 'Talk From the Rock Room' will focus on a recently discovered concert tape made in Vancouver on September 7, 1968 that came into circulation over 45 years since its performance. The audience recording is a purported master, or at worst a first generation reel according to the lineage. There is a lot of on stage dialog captured by the recording that is easily discernible, as well as Redding's resonating bass and Mitch's snapping machine gun snare sounding quite audible and enjoyable. Jimi's guitar obviously comes through loud and clear,  like a silver bullet traveling through a crisp cold night. The high end is slightly squashed at some points, but really, I really have to search for faults with this recording , it is a magical experience to behold. Two final notes that deserve mention while listening to this recording, is than many of Hendrix's family members were in attendance for the performance as he mentions his grandmother (I believe his Father, Aunt, and Cousin were also there) and dedicates the 'show and everything' to his family. Finally, Jimi also mentions that he has a nasty cold toward the end of the show which must account for his decision to not play 'Sunshine Of Your Love', and conclude the concert with 'Purple Haze'.

     The performance begins with Mitch and Jimi greeting the crowd and saying how nice it is to be in Canada. After tuning up the band begins with the still officially unreleased 'Voodoo Chile'. While not as expansive as future versions this rendition contains a alchemical enthusiasm. Jimi's first solo is a  sharp streaking star burning with tremolo bends that sometimes illicit the sounds of multiple guitars. Hearing this song for the first time in concert I'm sure was a mind altering experience for the crowd. When the jam is brought down in volume Redding's puffy bass is a 'fat mattress', fluffy, warm and enveloping. Mitchell's snare hits are crisp, and as a listener I am brought down the wormhole and placed into the Vancouver arena in the fall of 1968. 'Voodoo Chile' comes to a crashing conclusion, and Hendrix thanks the crowd humorously, 'for staying this long'. After an announcement by the MC for the crowd to 'sit down', Jimi introduces 'Hey Joe'.

     'Hey Joe' is a textbook version of a tune the Experience played every night. Hendrix sings the song like it was a premier, and peels open his solo like a fresh juicy fruit. The crowd inundates the band with song requests after the crisp version, to which Hendrix replies, 'What are we slaves to the public?', and explains how long the band has been on the road, and that they are just 'trying to play and get themselves together'. After the verbal exchange the Experience dissolve into a unique feedback laden introduction for 'Are You Experienced'.

     'Are You Experienced' is a hallucinatory reading with Hendrix's opening guitar melody similar to a mystical door opening, with Redding's guttural bass drone adding a touch of apprehension to the jam. Beautiful. Mitchell's military drums push the weightless rotating melody onward through the night. Hendrix's first solo starts with some feedback manipulation and by 3 and a half minutes Hendrix fire hoses the crowd with liquid psychedelia.  Mitch picks up the pace slightly, pounding the jam to another level,  and by 4 minutes Hendrix reaches out of the Earth's orbit and pulls a melody from the deep reaches of space back to his instrument, painting the sky with transparent rainbows. The song returns to the final verse and concludes on the fuzzy buzz of electronic mice. A powerful and inspiring version.

     The next tune up is another unreleased song that would eventually end up on 'Electric Ladyland', 'Come On Part I'. Redding plays a simple pulse to which Hendrix initiates an ascending and descending exploration of his guitar neck nuances. Entering the song proper, the Experience detonates, and thrashes through the start and stop changes of the tune. The first solo segment features Hendrix soloing with a warm muted tone over Mitchell's schizophrenic drumming. Jimi builds on each run through the changes, and by his final lap he is sawing heavy logs with his impressive rhythm and has kicked on the wah wah for a build up of the tension. His final solo is a bit more over driven, and just as impressive, but ends quickly to conclude the song.

     After an energetic and explosive opening to the show, Jimi brings the vibe down slightly with a gliding on the jet stream version of 'Little Wing'. A highlight in every show in which it is performed, 'Little Wing' is one of Hendrix's most enduring melodies with both Eric Clapton and Stevie Ray Vaughn releasing their own stellar versions of the song. All the instruments are audible and balanced on the recording, with special attention brought to Mitchell's skipping stone drumming. Short and oh so sweet, this 'Little Wing' fits perfect in the context of the set, and is a classic rendition dripping with emotional playing.

     'Foxy Lady' comes next and is a track that was used as an opportunity for Jimi to let loose with his theatrics and to ignite some Stratocaster fireworks. Similarly to the prior songs, this version is as hot and sexy as its subject and showcases crowd pleasing guitar gymnastics.

     A highlight of the performance and maybe of the tour is the version of 'Red House' that comes next. Jimi dedicates this blues to his family and proceeds to work his way through an extended guitar introduction to the song. From regal psychedelic prince to Delta blues man, Hendrix displays his versatility with a expressive clean tone intro, that becomes syrupy and as thick as the southern delta air. Each version of 'Red House' as unique as a fingerprint, containing the basic framework, but inside metamorphosing into an array of tones and shades emanating from Hendrix's guitar as he searches for diverse ways to express his deep feeling through his instrument. Redding and Mitchell are in the pocket, two ruts on a two track road, providing a foundation for Hendrix to travel on. Hendrix begins his first solo probing his standard blues changes for unique ways of expression. At a bit after six minutes Mitchell thrashes his kit signaling Hendrix to ignite into a incredulous display of why he is the greatest guitar player of all time. The band erupts, and at one point Hendrix reaches low on the neck and fans an arc of a colorful series of notes that defy explanation, changing shape, oozing from the wah-wah pedal, sharp, then muted, even on this field recording the riffs come through as mind expanding and chill inducing, I can only imagine what the crowd was experiencing with the concert amplification in full effect. Shortly after eight minutes the band cuts the cord on the expansive jam and drops into a quiet shuffle, Mitch's drums gallantly gallop with a multitude of rhythmic variations. Mitchell then falls out himself, letting Hendrix solo tenderly with a stretchy, husky tone. Pulling on notes slowly, Mitch rejoins quietly, letting Jimi lather on a series of juicy licks that lead to the last verse. With such a plethora of  legendary 'Red House' performances available, its hard to rank this one, but I can say that being a newly discovered version makes this one of my new favorites. (5/24-25/1969 are also contenders)

     After a brief pause the Experience ignite a sultry version of 'Fire'. Again, Mitchell is the hero of this version with dancing, excitable drums that are as melodically pleasing as Hendrix's guitar playing. Noel lays down the R and B inspired start and stop bass notes and the group coagulates into an impressive portrayal (in spite some lyrical miscues) of one of their most high octane songs. Sweet.

     A gigantic 'Spanish Castle Magic' follows with a stratospheric Hendrix guitar break. Jimi takes off above the band with a prismatic opening series of notes. While this version is not as extended as the later Winterland versions, Hendrix's two apocalyptic solos slither like electric snakes, twisting and turning, disappearing beneath the earth and then reappearing in a different form, heading for the deep blue unknown, hovering above the earth. After 'Spanish Castle Magic' Jimi explains to the crowd that 'This cold is killing me', and that the show will be somewhat truncated. He begins to introduce a version of 'Sunshine of Your Love', then changes his mind and says, 'Hell no, we're gonna do Purple Haze, good night'.

     The 'Purple Haze' is unfortunately marred by some speed issues, and what sounds like the recording machine's batteries fading. Regardless, the version is a fitting show closer, and what is available is a crunchy journey through psychedelic fog with Hendrix's guitar the shining beacon directing the trip. The conclusion of the song cuts off just as Hendrix brings his guitar to a screaming shrill peak, but this is a small issue considering the rarity of this unearthed performance. Thus ends this amazing concert, thought to be lost to the mists of time, but now available to enjoy and include in rock collections everywhere. The Experience, psychedelic messengers, playing in 'Electric Churches' across the nation, captured for eternity.

     For a 'rock geek' like myself, knowing there is still a steady stream of concert performances being unearthed is a indescribable thrill. These recordings can range from a cache of Lennon home demos unearthed a few years ago, to the Grateful Dead soundboards discovered just this year, to field recordings like the aforementioned, kept by enterprising tapers for decades, and now being shared with the public at large. These discoveries keep the artists music alive, and add to their already impressive catalogs with rarities that the hardcore fans welcome with open arms. This particular Jimi Hendrix Experience concert hails from a prime era for the group, and is another puzzle piece in completing a more definitive view of his career as a live performer. Thank you for taking the trip with me, now go check this one out!

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Interview Vancouver 1968
Rare 1968 Are You Experienced Performance


    

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Grateful Dead-Dave's Picks Vol. 7-April 24th, 1978 'Heart of Gold Band'

     Sticking out of the mailbox today I excitedly discovered Grateful Dead Dave's Picks Vol. 7. After a quick excavation I promptly dropped the first set into the 'rock room's' CD player for an afternoon of aural discovery. The preserved concert hails from a deep and wondrous, but also under appreciated era in Grateful Dead history. The performance of April 24th, 1978 in Normal, Illinois had been in the works for sometime, as it was a candidate for release in the short lived and now defunct Grateful Dead download series. It's a relatively well known show from a tour with more than a few highlights. This three disc set finds the band in jubilant and fiery form, taking even pedestrian numbers to definitive heights. The drummers are off the hook, crashing with a reckless abandon around their kits. The band is playing on a knife edge, and stand poised. While not the most popular choice to some discerning Deadheads, this show is one of the best of the tour, and captures for posterity the band playing powerful enthusiastic rock shows, while still remaining completely 'Grateful Dead'.

     The April 1978 tour is sometimes hit and miss, but for the willing to search, one can uncover intense evenings of magic. This isn't 1972 remember, the shows are formatted, streamlined and tailored to some of the bands new habits.  In my humble opinion April 21 or April 22 could be an official release just as much as this show from the 24th. A bit over two weeks later during the second leg of the tour both the May 10 and 11 concerts hit crazy peaks, immense enough to be represented on Dick's Picks 25. Some things to notice and concentrate on during this era's performances are the extended and communal drum sessions, Weir's slide guitar excursions, and Garcia's return to playing the 'Wolf' after a two year break with his Travis Bean guitar. The Wolf was now outfitted with new Dimarzio single coil pick ups and a upgraded effects loop increasing Garcia's arsenal. My personal favorite factor in Garcia's playing during this time is his quivering full guitar tone, similar to a psychedelic trumpet! This sound translates well to some of the other recordings available from this tour. This official recording was captured by none other than Betty Cantor-Jackson, which promises the listener balanced dynamics, warm enveloping sound, and perfect levels. Also of note during this era are the exaggerated and over the top vocals expressed by all the members of the band. Garcia quite possibly never offered such emotive vocals in the Dead's career as during this tour.

     The show opens with the normally unassuming 'Promised Land', which in this case builds quickly to the explosive caliber of a show closer with an extended and rocking outro jam. Anyone who has listened to a good amount of Dead, can tell you by an opener such as this that the band means business. Ever heard the saying, 'When Phil's on, the band's on?', it was made for concerts like the aforementioned. One of the finest versions you will ever hear.

     Jerry follows up Bobby with a rotund and juicy 'Ramble On Rose' that lumbers, tipping buoyantly from side to side grinning. Garcia's vocals, true to this era, still contain his smooth youthfulness, but have acquired a growling emphatic intensity. His enunciation and off mike asides are proof of the high times that the entire group was having on this tour. The smiles are contagious and can be heard leaking through onto the soundboard recording. Jer brings 'Rose' to a prominent central summit playing out a colorful array of guitar fireworks, and crushing the finale vocals.

     The oft played pairing of 'Me and My Uncle' and 'Big River' gets an inspired reading with the recently released (December 1977) Bee Gee's track 'Stayin Alive' receiving musical quotes throughout both songs. The riff gets bounced around by Weir before 'Uncle' and then Godchaux quotes the melody line throughout both numbers in a playful fashion. Garcia gets in on the fun by  quoting the disco licks throughout 'Big River' tastefully. Cute and playful interplay between Weir, Garcia, and Godchaux highlight the solo segments of this pairing, with 'Big River' peaking nicely. The show thus far is proof that in Grateful Dead land set lists mean nothing. The concert has contained no surprises song wise, but has incorporated powerful and inventive playing into recognizable packages.

      A languid and detailed 'Friend Of the Devil' comes next with Garcia leaving the stock riffs behind, and revealing a special series of melodic statements that again make this a special version. The drummers seem very interested in these Spring 1978 shows, even adding point/counterpoints  to songs they later would drag down to bland dirges. It's refreshing to hear such enthusiasm, and its a testament to the high quality of playing the band had become accustomed to in the 1970's.

     'Cassidy' trickles in like a summer rain and is a high octane version that both soars, glides, and dives like a whirling seabird. This is the era in which this song really started to expand, gaining its color and personality. Moving forward on anxious percussion, 'Cassidy' unfolds, reveling a surreptitious center that finds the three guitarists wrapped in a colorful embrace. The song builds to a short but oh so sweet central climax that reveals the first exploratory musical peak of the set.
     A shifty and rhythmically unique 'Brown Eyed Women' continues the musical journey, with the drummers hitting the 'three' as the song begins, giving the track a new groove. 'Brown Eyed Women' was in its mature state during 1977 and 1978 and this version contains the defining features that make up the best versions. Garcia's guitar bellows profoundly, as the drummers beat there sets into submission, even Weir's amateur slide excursions don't detract from the jamming.

     A song made for the heavy and heady days of 1978, 'Passenger' rides shotgun with shrieking slide guitars and Lesh's chunky chordal explosions. Weir and Donna sound great with joint vocals on this track which keeps the high energy of the set at an increased level. Jerry scrubs up some bubbles with a lumpy trill induced solo that brings the energy to a fevered pitch. The buzz in the auditorium is tangible on the recording. Another unusual spot for magic, but the band is conjuring nonetheless.

     Garcia brings the level down slightly with a soulful 'It Must Have Been the Roses' that once again is played with a crisp concentration, making it a top notch version. Dave picked a good one. The first set comes to a monumental conclusion with an atomic version of 'The Music Never Stopped'.
Opening on the eager drummers funky groove, the group falls into a slippery shuffle. Once the lyrics are finished with, the band oscillate into a breezy alternating collection of riffs. The jam gently rises and falls with Lesh's persuasion as Garcia weaves between musical trees. Weir hits well timed and lush strokes that signal the fall into the final closing extravaganza. Hope you have on your dancin shoes, as Garcia twists deep string bent melodies that exist for the moment, then fly away. Hopelessly danceable and euphoria inducing, the boys take this one as far as they can building a 'best of' version. The scrubbing and thrashing peak delivered by Garcia and punctuated by the drummers will give you chills. 1978 is one of the years for 'Music Never Stopped',its versions like this one that prove it.

     Bobby then announces the set break, and the band take a rest before raising the musical stakes with a stunning second set opener. A thick slice of 'Scarlet Begonias' is served with dynamic drums and hopped up guitarists. This is a big cozy version. The expanding solo segment goes a few glorious laps with Godchaux and Garcia arranging scales into an amazing floral arrangement. Following the 'heart of gold band' lyrics the band stays with the exit 'Scarlet' riff a bit longer than usual, feeling their way, sounding pensive. Weir then hits some whistling slide licks, Godchaux and Lesh intertwine in the center, the drummers begin to perk up. Garcia claws his way to a lookout, smelling the air for smoke, searching, finding, discarding, following, chasing. The band reaches their first signpost at a bit after ten minutes, at half after Garcia hits a speedy turnaround that fires up the paisley steamroller, rolling forward, as if operated by a dream. A series of jamming waves cascade over each other as the band has now found their special place. At twelve minutes there is a descending and watery release by Weir and Garcia that ends in Garcia turning on the Mutron pedal for the signal into 'Fire On the Mountain'. At thirteen minutes the band falls into a nifty call and response that morphs into a sideways entry into 'Fire' proper. Lesh plays his recognizable ringing signature riff completing the journey.

     The 'Fire' continues the trend of a top notch performance as Jerry really digs in vocally, letting loose with a 'Let It Burn' addendum and intense voice expressions. His solos contain endless melodic variations on the 'Fire' theme, all unique. Lesh is Garcia's shadow, never far behind, his soul mate in music. Weir scrapes his fingers down the chalkboard with some of his usual slide playing, but in his 'Weird' way it fits just right. A fine group effort, and a personal favorite.  Honestly, for me the 'Good Lovin' that follows does not have my entire attention as I am still digesting the grandiose version of 'Scarlet/Fire' that scrambled my synapses in this wonderful quality. "Good Lovin' was probably great to witness, is a solid rendition, but it pails as a tack on to the 'Scarlet/Fire'. Wow.

     Garcia comes right back with a majestic and detailed 'Terrapin Station' that benefits from the crazed drummers. An explosive ending prefaces the next highlight, a deep, rainforest jungle drums. Anything that can make a sound is banged upon, by the drummers, roadies, crew, and the band, a characteristic of the percussion segments taking place nightly in 1978. This show is no different with a plethora of bangs and beats emanating from the stage. Of course, Billy and Mick do most of the work, and keeping with the trend of the evening they pound out the ghosts. Spooky steel drums and repetitive endless monkey calls reverberate through the metaphorical forest landscape. This fourteen minute display gets out there quick and is capable of taking the listener 'there'. The drum expedition leads nicely into a psychedelic pre-MIDI space. Garcia slathers succinct Mutron runs over the fading steel drums leading into a Weir/Garcia duo of trippy shadow sounds. Garcia touches on the 'Close Encounters' theme briefly, like a landing butterfly, while Weir scrapes wavy and metallic sounds from his insect instrument. This early space experiment reaches some dark corners of the universe, it also breaks some unique musical ground, eventually revealing the strata of undiscovered themes. Lesh puts forth some snarling rumbles, the drummers jump back on their kits and the weightless space starts to lift, rising into a short rolling jam that eventually becomes the 'Not Fade Away' introduction.

     Similar to other versions of the era, 'NFA' is ushered in on a slumbering and heavy groove. Once the verses are sung, the jam begins. It contains some exciting moments, but it does not stretch its legs as some other versions from Fall 1977, Spring 78. But even this 'average' take keeps your feet tapping and head bobbing, with attentive playing by the entire band, but nothing new is said. Godchaux's piano is intermittent, becoming silent at some points, but so is the issue for Keith on this tour. Again, in my opinion Garcia's guitar tone and technique are a highlight of this performance, the following shows and the entire tour. At half past six minutes the group hits on a disorienting peak that Garcia steers into a thumping groove the drummers jump all over. The inspiration leaves quickly though, as the jam peters out slightly and the band riffs on the normal Bo Diddley beat, bouncing some licks off the wall to see what sticks.

     'Not Fade Away'' segues perfectly though, as it deconstructs into a mournful 'Black Peter'. Another song that benefits from Garcia's investment in his vocalizations on this tour. For a brief moment 'Wharf Rat' peeks its head from under the docks, then disappears as 'Black Peter' raises his voice for a final eulogy. Played with wistful dynamics and a sleepy tempo 'Black Peter' nestles in the Garcia ballad spot beautifully. A perfect 'air guitar' solo extends from the song proper, with Garcia bending strings and pulling taffy, building the tension that eventually releases into a wham bam 'Around and Around'.

     The quintessential show closer for the time, 'Around and Around' hits a high octane rock and roll shimmy that spotlights the band thrashing their instruments for the rock and roll gods. Weir never stops rocking at center stage, using all of the 'rocker' tools at his disposal, taking the band up, down, and eventually blasting straight through the finish. Jumping into double time the band blows some fire then crushes everything in their path, bringing the show to an exhilarating conclusion. A perfect second set that includes exploration, rock and roll, tribal gatherings, and as we will see next for the encore, music from the radio pop parade.

     After the crowd's appreciative response the boys return to the stage for a rare and good time cover of Warren Zevon's 'Werewolves of London'. A favorite of the group, and a popular track of the time, the band jubilantly strut there way through the newly added song. Good or bad, depending what side you are on, this version is filled with Bob Weir slide guitar excursions, squeaking and squealing during the solo segments...most of the time in key. But all is forgiven, because the enthusiasm can be felt by the crowd and the group, throughout this boisterous concluding song. The fade out of 'Werewolves' contains a group vocal jam, including Lesh jumping on mic for some rare vocal additions. Good stuff with Garcia and Weir showing off their falsetto prowess. A wonderful communal ending to a marvelous and diverse performance.

     While not the psychedelic beast of the 1960's or the 'turn on the time' band of pre retirement, this 1978 edition of the Grateful Dead has its own special charms. The Spring of 1978 was still a good time for the band , where even their bad nights had great moments! The attitude of the players combined with their heavy hitting orchestrated approach, made for shows that walked the tightrope between disaster and alchemy nightly. They always took the crowd along for the trip, and they can still do it today through their substantial archive.

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The Music Never Stopped-4 24 1978