Friday, May 26, 2017

May of the Dead

It's the last Friday of the month, and time for an anniversary post celebrating one of the all-time classic tours.
Full disclosure: I can't stand 95% of the Grateful Dead's music. For me, the drummers played so far behind the beat that they may as well have been playing a show from the previous Tuesday. To my ears most of what they did sounds out-of-focus and like a band of noodling hippies turned loose upon an unsuspecting audience of extremely hazy high people. The old joke about what do Deadheads say when the drugs wear off (Gosh, this music sucks) rings too true.
There are a couple of eras of theirs, however, that I absolutely adore. One is the Spring and Summer of 1970, on tour with the New Riders of the Purple Sage. The other -- my total go-to Dead epoch -- is the six weeks of shows extending from the end of April to the beginning of June 40 years ago, commonly referred to as May 1977.
What is it? What theretofore and thereafter was different? What makes May 1977 the acknowledged pinnacle of GD goodness? I have my theories.
It really boils down to what a soloist needs to truly soar atop an ensemble. In the mid-1970s improv-rock firmament, groups with rock-solid rhythm sections were always ahead of the pack. The 1972-74 King Crimson, for instance, played on average a set where a good 40% was completely made up on the spot, but they had Bill Bruford and John Wetton anchoring the thing, driving the guitar and violin solos with an undeniable, near-terrifying momentum.
In the majority of GD material, this is a serious handicap, as the dual drummers drag the tempo constantly and rarely push Jerry Garcia to build a recognizable drive and arc to what he's attempting to construct. As Jimi Hendrix once famously said, "That's what happens when Earth fucks with Space."
The story goes that the record the Dead were making leading up to this tour --  the stellar and cohesive Terrapin Station, for many their finest recorded hour in terms of studio work -- forced the issue. Their first to be assisted by an outside producer, legend has it that the drummers were told to tighten up their act or leave the building, and they complied with the former.
Perhaps the return of a refreshed Mickey Hart to the fold had a bit to do with it as well, but the upshot was that the rhythmic motivation of the music got turned up a good few notches, and this carried over to these shows in May when the album was in the mixing stages.
Whatever it was, the performances given across those six weeks of (mostly) Eastern seaboard US dates stand out as the perfect pinnacle of what the Grateful Dead could be capable. Whereas most GD tours have one or two shows that tower above the rest, May 1977 features set after set of pure, unadulterated excellence, with Jerry positively playing his ass off over the top of what the drummers are laying down.
Thankfully the lion's share of these shows is available officially, now embellished with the release of the ultra-limited edition Get Shown the Light box set earlier this month that documents the run of shows from the first 10 days of May, including the Cornell University gig from 5/8 that many hold as the single greatest show ever played by this band.
To commemorate this most iconic of road-rock adventures, we have one of the seminal Dead shows from this time period that sadly remains unissued... by my count only the New York City Palladium shows from the first week of May, the Atlanta show from 5/18 and this Baltimore performance remain in the realm of the unreleased. This one is remastered by Jay Seraphin -- the notable audio-restoral boffin of distinction -- and fits right on in with the torrid playing and tight-as-they-ever-were vibes of the GD during this Spring '77 sojourn.
Grateful Dead
Civic Center
Baltimore, Maryland

01 The Music Never Stopped
02 Sugaree
03 Mama Tried
04 Sunrise
05 Deal
06 Passenger
07 Brown-Eyed Women
08 Looks Like Rain
09 Jack-A-Roe
10 New Minglewood Blues
01 Bertha
02 Samson & Delilah
03 High Time
04 Big River
05 Terrapin Station
06 Estimated Prophet
07 Eyes Of the World

01 Not Fade Away
02 Goin' Down the Road Feelin' Bad
03 Around & Around
04 Uncle John's Band

Total time: 2:51:50

Jerry Garcia - guitars & vocals
Bob Weir - guitars & vocals
Phil Lesh - bass & vocals
Bill Kreutzmann - drums
Mickey Hart - drums
Keith Godchaux - keyboards
Donna Jean Godchaux - vocals

master soundboard reels, remastered by Jay Serafin
So that will do it for May... I'll return in June with assorted tributes to the recently deceased, as well as more birthday and anniversary mayhem for your musical mind. For now, I'd advise pulling 5/26/1977 down and grooving gratefully to its charms, recorded 40 years ago tonight, as well as purchasing every show from the Spring '77 period you can get your hands on. Shake, Sugaree!--J.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Black Hole Sunset

Whatsoever I've feared has come to life
Whatsoever I've fought off became my life
Just when everyday seemed to greet me with a smile
Sunspots have faded and now I'm doing time
Now I'm doing time
'Cause I fell on black days
I fell on black days
Whomsoever I've cured, I've sickened now
And whomsoever I've cradled, I've put you down
I'm a searchlight soul they say
But I can't see it in the night
I'm only faking when I get it right
When I get it right
'Cause I fell on black days
I fell on black days
How would I know
That this could be my fate?
How would I know
That this could be my fate?
So what you wanted to see good
Has made you blind
And what you wanted to be yours
Has made it mine
Don't you lock up something
That you wanted to see fly
Hands are for shaking
No, not tying
No, not tying
I sure don't mind a change
I sure don't mind a change
Yeah, I sure don't mind, sure don't mind a change
I sure don't mind a change
'Cause I fell on black days
I fell on black days
How would I know
That this could be my fate?
How would I know
That this could be my fate?
How would I know
That this could be my fate?
How would I know
That this could be my fate?
I sure don't mind a change
"MTV Live & Loud"
MTV Studios
London, UK

01 Burden In My Hand
02 Spoonman
03 Blow Up the Outside World
04 Mailman
05 Black Hole Sun

Total time: 25:08

Chris Cornell -  guitar & vocals
Kim Thayil - guitar
Matt Cameron - drums
Ben Shepherd - bass

PAL DVD of a master VHS tape
1.62 GB

pre-FM compilation
various USA venues
1989 - 1992

01 Come Together
02 Ugly Truth
03 Get On the Snake
04 Beyond the Wheel
05 Into the Void (Sealth) 
06 Outshined   
07 Gun    
08 Room a Thousand Years Wide 
09 Big Dumb Sex   
10 Jesus Christ Pose 
11 Searching with My Good Eye Closed
12 Rusty Cage   
13 Hands All Over   
14 Face Pollution   
15 Slaves and Bulldozers
Total time: 1:19:54

Chris Cornell -  guitar & vocals
Kim Thayil - guitar
Matt Cameron - drums
Ben Shepherd - bass (Tracks 05-15)
Jason Everman - bass (Tracks 01-04)

Tracks 01 - 04
Concrete Foundations Forum (Hollywood Live)
Hollywood, CA

Tracks 05 - 11
The Palladium
Hollywood, CA

Track 12
Omaha Civic Auditorium Music Hall
Omaha, NE

Tracks 13 - 15
The Palladium
Hollywood, CA

selections from various pre-FM broadcast CDs, compiled and remastered by exene
DVD and CDs are in the same folder/May 2017 archive link
I sure don't mind a change
7.20.1964 - 5.18.2017

Thursday, May 18, 2017

18th May You Never

It's time for a May 1977 anniversary special, courtesy of one of the all-timers.
I remastered this one 8 years ago, when its author passed away after a long and storied career. It was recorded exactly 40 years ago tonight, in a venue normally used for children's shows.
The temperature onstage is roughly 100 degrees Fahrenheit, and the performance is even hotter than that.  Somehow he manages to keep his guitar in tune, in itself a Herculean feat under the oppressively warm circumstances. Luckily early on someone brings him a cold one.
If you don't know who John Martyn was, it's probably time to find out. This performance is almost an ideal introduction to who he was and what he did, and why he's still and will likely always be one of the top-drawer songwriters of any era.
The audience in this one is characteristically boisterous, as with many's an Italian crowd. JM feeds off this energy and turns in a monster 79-minute set, thankfully captured from the mixing desk but never officially issued. Years ago I found it on eMule (remember eMule?) and I almost never see it circulating, so it's time to change that.
You can read my eulogy of John in the info file that comes with this one... I'm not going to rehash it here in all its treacly glory. Suffice to say very few people have ever heard him whose lives he did not alter forever.
This set in particular sees him at his absolute peak, just as arguably his finest record -- One World, recorded mostly outside on a European lake in the small hours of the morning -- is about to drop. He runs through 13 of his signature tunes and sings/plays his ass off as usual.
John Martyn
Teatro Antoniano
Bologna, Italy
EN remaster

01 One Day Without You
02 Certain Surprise
03 Couldn't Love You More
04 Big Muff
05 Jelly Roll Baker (Easy Blues)
06 Seven Black Roses
07 Over the Hill
08 Spencer the Rover
09 Outside In
10 One World
11 May You Never
12 Singin' In the Rain
13 I'd Rather Be the Devil

Total time: 1:19:02

John Martyn - vocals and guitar

master soundboard, possibly a cassette, remastered in 2009 by EN
Ol' Johnny Toobad is long gone from us now, probably enjoying another cold one with his old pal Nick Drake in Music Valhalla, the two of them ruminating upon how much everyone loves you after you're dead. No matter, for we have the artifacts they left behind, and as long as their sounds are still around, they can never die. Our friends, after all, are never really dead to us until we have forgotten them.
Anyway that's all I am gonna say except that this show never fails to blow the mind of anyone for whom I've ever played it. Pull it down, fire up that cone or that single malt, and John Martyn and his echoplex will make sure you're next.--J.
9.11.1948 - 1.29.2009

Sunday, May 14, 2017


The sumptuously sunny Sunday springs a seminal centennial celebration, concerning a seriously superlative savant of soundshaping.
He'd have been 100 years old today, and although he's been gone almost 15 years his influence and the ideas and alchemic combinations of disparate musical elements he pioneered will never die.
This, because Lou Silver Harrison is arguably the father of World Music, and was among the first (if not the first) composers to fully integrate the sounds of faraway cultures into the Western landscape.
This idea seems as normal as rain today, but back when he started doing it in the 1930s, such combinations were unheard and unheard of.
Central to Lou Harrison's experiments was the music of Indonesia, and in particular the gamelan sounds native to Bali and to Java.
Over the course of seven decades and with the aid of his partner Bill Colvig -- yes, Lou Harrison was openly gay and was with the same guy for those same seven decades -- he invented a whole new framework of integration for those sounds and instruments into the firmament of Classical music.
I don't recall where or when I first became aware of his world and the astonishingly gorgeous results of his exploratory voyages, but I do know I have been in love with his music since I was a young adult. His guitar and harp music in particular has been an important part of my life since I can remember.
For today's tribute I have placed cloudward my crazy and comprehensive Lou Harrison with Strings compilation that I made years and years ago and which resides in my phone. This contains multiple, divergent versions of all his music for stringed instruments, made over the course of the 20th century.
Lou Harrison
Lou Harrison with Strings
guitar, harp & related music

01 Harp Suite - Serenade for Frank Wigglesworth
02 Harp Suite - Avalokiteshvara
03 Harp Suite - From Music for Bill and Me
04 Harp Suite - Jhala
05 Harp Suite - Sonata In Ishartum
06 Harp Suite - Beverly's Troubadour Piece
07 Harp Suite - A Waltz for Evelyn Hinrichsen
08 Serenade - Round
09 Serenade - Air
10 Serenade - Infinite Canon
11 Serenade - Usul
12 Serenade - Sonata
13 Threnody
14 The Perilous Chapel - Prelude andante/Poco maestoso
15 The Perilous Chapel - Barbaro/Brilliante'Energico
16 The Perilous Chapel - Alleluia Poco adagio
17 Music for Violin with Various Instruments - Allegro Vigoroso
18 Music for Violin with Various Instruments - Largo
19 Music for Violin with Various Instruments - Allegro Moderato
20 Four Pieces for Harp - Serenade for Frank Wigglesworth
21 Four Pieces for Harp - Beverly's Troubadour Piece
22 Four Pieces for Harp - From Music for Bill and Me
23 Four Pieces for Harp - Avalokiteshavara
24 Plaint
25 Variations

01 Tandy's Tango
02 Suite No. 1 - Avalokiteshvara
03 Music for Bill and Me
04 Sonata In Ishartum
05 Plaint and Variations (Song of Palestine)
06 Variations
07 Serenado for Guitaro
08 Serenade for Guitar (with percussion) - Round
09 Air
10 Infinite Canon
11 Usul
12 Sonata
13 Waltz for Evelyn Hinrichsen
14 Scenes from Nek Chand - The Leaning Lady
15 Scenes from Nek Chand - The Rock Garden
16 Scenes from Nek Chand - The Sinuous Arcade with Swings In the Arches
17 Two Pieces for Psaltery - Psalter Sonata
18 Two Pieces for Psaltery - The Garden At One and a Quarter Moons
19 Hyi Mun
20 Improvisations In Greek Tunings I
21 Improvisations In Greek Tunings II
22 Suite No.2 - Jahla
23 Suite No.2 - Waltz for Evelyn Hinrichsen
24 Suite No.2 - Threnody
25 Suite No.2 - Sonata In Ishartum
26 Suite No.2 - Beverly's Troubadour Piece

Total time: 2:23:22
Wow, I almost wore the same hat as Lou and Bill today... gosh I am unoriginal and derivative. Most unlike the music and life of Lou Harrison, born this day in 1917 and forever inspiring the integration of seemingly unrelated musical material into cohesive and unforgettable new shapes and sounds.--J.
5.14.1917 - 2.2.2003