Today in Grateful Dead History: April 30, 1977 – The Palladium, New York, NY

stealieThis is another good show from 1977, but the audience recording quality is not the best and things are muddy throughout.  Luckily, the show has been commercially released as the first volume of the Grateful Dead Download Series if you want to hear the crisper soundboard recording.

Highlights from this show are the first set Mississippi Half Step and, dare I say it, Looks Like Rain.  In the second set, we have a Scarlet Begonias>Fire on the Mountain (pretty good) AND a St. Stephen>Not Fade Away>Stella Blue>St. Stephen (great).  On top of that, Terrapin Station is the encore.

This show exists on the archive only as an audience recording: https://archive.org/details/gd1977-04-30.sonyECM33p.moore.vernon.4949.sbeok.shnf

The Best of KC and the Sunshine Band

KCIt boggles the mind that this remains important, but it bears noting that KC and the Sunshine Band is one of the most successful integrated non-jazz bands of all time.  Ponder that for a moment.  The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Sly & The Family Stone, Love, The Allman Brothers, The Dave Matthews Band and . . . KC and the Sunshine Band?  There aren’t a lot of others.

This has nothing to do with the band’s music, other than to point out that there may be a little more to KC and the Sunshine Band than meets the eye.  When you actually listen closely to their music, instead of just dancing to it at every wedding you’ve ever attended, you hear a disco band that is firmly rooted in funk beats and the prevalence of the horns in all of these songs cements the funk connection.

Of course, this greatest hits package has the monster hits that everyone knows – That’s The Way (I Like It), (Shake, Shake, Shake) Shake Your Booty, I’m Your Boogie Man and Get Down Tonight are all here.  These songs are really the only reason I have this album, just in case I have to play music at a party that involves dancing.  Otherwise, if I’m falling asleep in the car, the first five songs on this album always wake me up – beyond that, it gets a little repetitive.

Today in Grateful Dead History: April 29, 1972 – Musikhalle, Hamburg, Germany

stealieFor those of you who don’t pay any attention to live Grateful Dead recordings, there are three main types – the soundboard (recorded directly from the soundboard mix that is output to the PA system in the hall itself), the audience (recorded by a member of the audience on a microphone pointed at the stage) and the matrix (where some lunatic takes a soundboard and an audience recording from the same show and attempts to mix them together to achieve the perfect balance).  People have their personal tastes, but I’d say that a majority of listeners favor the soundboards because they typically have a much cleaner sound and a better contrast between the instruments than the audience recordings.  But a good audience recording can be wonderful to listen to, and today’s show is a fine example of one.

This show, from Hamburg on the band’s 1972 European tour, is not one of the best from that run.  When you read the comments on this particular show, you get a lot of “great sounding recording” but not a lot of focus on the music itself, because most of the songs are pretty standard versions.  However, the Dark Star is better than average, even though the ending crashes unsteadily into Sugar Magnolia.

Here’s the link to the audience recording:  https://archive.org/details/gd72-04-29.aud.vernon.5250.sbeok.shnf

For the soundboard fans: https://archive.org/details/gd1972-04-29.sbd.miller.125888.flac16

Duran Duran’s Greatest

DuranDuranGreatestPop music from the 1980s is probably one of the biggest gaps in my collection and, frankly, I don’t plan on plugging that hole any time soon.  This album, which is not arranged in chronological order, features all of the Duran Duran songs that anyone who doesn’t care much about Duran Duran could ever want to own (here’s looking at you Girls on Film, Hungry Like the Wolf, Rio, A View to a Kill, Notorious and Ordinary World) plus 13 other basically interchangeable songs.

A couple of quick takeaways.  First, most of the bass lines, especially on the early songs, are strictly disco runs, which I didn’t expect to hear so explicitly in the 80s, but this seemed much less strange once I discovered that Nile Rodgers produced a bunch of these songs.  Second, I think that one of Duran Duran’s enduring influences is the production value of their music videos.  When you listen to this album without the visual cues, the music seems hollow.  I’m glad that I have the six necessary songs from this album and I’m also glad that the closest I ever really got to liking Duran Duran musically was through a sample on a Biggie album.

Today in Grateful Dead History: April 28, 1991 – Sam Boyd Silver Bowl, Las Vegas, NV

Yesterday the Beach Boys sat in, today we have Carlos Santana playing on Bird Song –  it’s a good one that clocks in at over 18 minutes.  This show suffers from the usual array of 1990’s problems like Vince playing over everyone else and no one really interacting with one another for long stretches, but the setlist is, for the year, top-notch and there are no major clunkers.  There’s also a blistering second set Deal, a Space featuring recorded slot machine noises and a good jam into The Other One.

Here’s the Charlie Miller transfer of the Soundboard:  https://archive.org/details/gd1991-04-28.sbd.miller.92278.sbeok.flac16

Today in Grateful Dead History: April 27, 1971 – The Fillmore East, NY, NY

Did you know that the Grateful Dead played with the Beach Boys on this day in 1971?  The two bands collaborated on Searchin’, Riot In Cell Block #9, Help Me Rhonda, Okie From Muskogee and Johnny B. Goode, and the Beach Boys played Good Vibrations and I Get Around on their own in the middle of all of that ruckus.  Unfortunately, none of it is any good, but it does represent the first and only time that the Dead played Riot In Cell Block #9, Help Me Rhonda and Okie From Muskogee, so it fills a historical footnote at the very least.  The rest of the show is a fairly typical 1971 performance, with a very high quality Hard to Handle.

Here’s the link to the Charlie Miller transfer:  https://archive.org/details/gd1971-04-27.sbd.miller.114461.flac16

AC/DC’s Back in Black

I’m rolling thunder pouring rain
I’m coming on like a hurricane
My lightning’s flashing across the sky
You’re only young but you’re gonna die

-Hells Bells

AC/DC’s Back in Black is, alphabetically, the first album in my CD collection.  What a way to start, huh?

AC/DC is a divisive band – the haters really hate them and the lovers . . . well, do you know anyone who is a truly hard core AC/DC fan?  They’re a different breed.  Even within the AC/DC fan community, this particular album appears to mark a turning point.  It’s the first album the band produced after Bon Scott pulled a Hank Williams and it’s Brian Johnson’s first album with the band.  (As an aside, is there another person who came into an established band, mid career, and was an essential part of a massive album like Brian Johnson was here?)  Back in Black, much like Metallica’s album with a similar cover, also represents AC/DC’s biggest selling album and stands as the pinnacle of their mainstream success.  Like it or not, you wouldn’t have most of the rock and roll that you probably love from the 80’s without Back in Black.

Nothing about this album is subtle, starting with the all-time classic riffs in Hells BellsBack in Black, You Shook Me All Night Long and Rock and Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution.  Then you come to the lyrics.  For instance:

Don’t you struggle
Don’t you fight
Don’t you worry cause it’s your turn tonight
Let me put my love into you babe
Let me put my love on the line
Let me put my love into you babe
Let me cut your cake with my knife

-Let Me Put My Love Into You

Wonderful.

And that’s my biggest problem with Back in Black.  Even allowing for a huge helping of “things were different back then”, I can’t get past the fact that AC/DC, and a lot of AC/DC fans, probably take these lyrics seriously.  (This will come up again, with a slightly different result, when I talk about Frank Zappa).  So even though the music is an all time great course in power rock, the lyrics are so over the top that they actually manage to detract from the album, which, given the scope of the production, is hard to do.  Still, everyone knows these songs, and for good reason – despite many imitators, there is nothing like Back in Black.

We’re just talking about the future
Forget about the past
It’ll always be with us
It’s never gonna die
Never gonna die
Rock ‘n’ roll ain’t noise pollution
Rock ‘n’ roll ain’t gonna die
Rock ‘n’ roll ain’t noise pollution
Rock ‘n’ roll is just rock ‘n’ roll

-Rock and Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution