A Little Housekeeping and a Big Move

So things are starting to get a little crowded over here with all the daily Grateful Dead posts.

When I started this site, I envisioned writing more short album reviews, but I think that the current pace of one or two reviews a week is going to be the norm, and I’m afraid that the Grateful Dead shows of the day are going to swamp the site and make it hard to find the reviews of the other music.

So as of today, I’m moving the Grateful Dead stuff to a new site called The Daily Dose of the Dead.  The old Dead posts will stay here.  So if you’ve enjoyed the Dead material, please subscribe to the new site as well as this one, that way you’ll be covered for all your music needs, Dead and non-Dead alike.  And thanks for reading (all three of you)!

Today in Grateful Dead History: May 28, 1982 – Moscone Convention Center, San Francisco, CA

stealieOur second benefit performance in a row, this one was for Vietnam Vets.  The Dead shared the bill with Country Joe and Jefferson Starship and played the entire show with Brazilian drummer Airto Moreira.  More importantly, John Cipollina sat in on Not Fade Away and he and Boz Scaggs sang / played on Walkin’ Blues, A Mind To Give Up Livin’>Turn On Your Lovelight>Johnny B. Goode.  This was the only time the Dead played A Mind To Give Up Livin’ and they hadn’t played Walkin’ Blues since October, 1966.

This is a short show, but it’s action packed.  Tennessee Jed is very raw, which is a good thing, and the entire second set with Scaggs singing and Cipollina playing is a blues/rock excursion that is worth hearing.

Most of the commentators on the Archive and Dead.net who were at this show complain about the sound quality in the pillared, low-ceilinged room, but this audience recording from an unknown source is really quite nice and sounds a lot better to me than the muddy soundboard version:  https://archive.org/details/gd1982-05-28.senn441.unknown.87547.sbeok.flac16

Pete Townshend Psychoderelict

KC Psychoderelict is Pete Townshend’s last original solo studio album to date and if he were to die tomorrow it should serve as a warning about the dangers of stretching a good idea past its breaking point.

In this case, the “good idea” is the narrative rock album / concept album / rock opera.  Townshend and the Who created two masterpieces of the genre, Tommy, released in 1969, and Quadrophenia, which came out in 1973.  But you don’t have to pay attention to those two classic albums in order to fully understand Psychoderelict .  Instead, you should focus on the years in between them, when Townshend suffered a nervous breakdown attempting to produce another concept album called Lifehouse.

To make an incredibly long story inappropriately short, Lifehouse was Townshend’s attempt to create a piece of music, utilizing synthesizers as well as the Who’s typical instruments, that would interact with the audience so that once everyone was dialed in, band, audience and, eventually, the world, would arrive at one perfect universal note that would cure humanity’s ills.  In the post-apocalyptic Lifehouse story, this comes to pass because almost everyone is hooked up to a mainframe called the Grid via Lifesuits that are designed to keep humanity alive in a completely polluted and inhospitable world.  Eventually, the Grid is manipulated by a proto-hacker named Bobby so that this perfect note, generated during a concert that he sets up to feed off of the attendees’ biometric data, is broadcast to everyone wearing Lifesuits, resulting in some kind of rapture.  Townshend fully intended to replicate this fictional concert, biometrics and all, in real life.

Needless to say, Lifehouse didn’t work out.  So the Who took a bunch of the Lifehouse songs and turned them into 1971’s Who’s Next and 1978’s Who Are You.  But Townshend never really let go of the project.

Believe me, I wouldn’t have spent over an hour trying to summarize Lifehouse unless it was absolutely necessary for understanding Psychoderelict, which should give you some idea of how convoluted this album is.  Since I’m a masochist, I’m going to try and summarize it anyway.

Psychoderelict tells the story of Ray High, an aging rock star brooding alone in his mansion while his royalties dry up.  Ray’s manager, Rastus Knight, is sleeping with Ruth Streeting, a rock critic who is clearly not a fan of Ray’s.  In exchange for piece of the pie should Ray start recording new material again, Ruth, at Rastus’s urging, devises a plan to lure Ray out of his cocoon by posing as a fifteen year old fan named Rosalyn.  (Are all of the names starting with “R” getting to you yet?)  In order to get Ray’s attention, Rosalyn sends him a picture of herself (really Ruth, remember) naked in a graveyard.  (Side note – Ten years after this album was released, Townshend would become involved in what can charitably be called “legal difficulties” related to child pornography.)  Ray and Rosalyn start corresponding and eventually Ray sends Rosalyn a demo of Flame, a song he has been working on for years that is part of his – wait for it – unfinished Gridlife project.  Ruth publishes a story framing Ray as a pedophile and, strangely enough, Ray’s album sales take off.  Ruth then produces Rosalyn’s version of Flame, and it becomes a monster hit.  Ray, who is now out of the doldrums and actively working on his Gridlife album, reveals to Ruth that he’s known that she was Rosalyn all along.

Elaborate explanations of Gridlife, which bears more than a passing resemblance to Townshend’s actual Lifehouse concept, are interspersed throughout this album.  To make matters even more meta than they already are, Townshend uses four synthesizer samples from the actual Lifehouse demos, including one that would eventually become Baba O’Riley, as songs in Psychoderelict.

In order to make this plot discernible, what seems like half of Psychoderelict is actually dialogue spoken by actors, which has a negative effect on the musical continuity of the entire affair.  (The record company actually released another version of the album without the dialogue, but it didn’t sell either.)  When it comes to the original songs, there’s not much to hold your interest in between the spoken word segments.  The supposed hit single, Flame, would never be one in real life and English Boy, an autobiographical piece, is OK but would have been better if it was faster and sung by Roger Daltrey.

I actually purchased Psychoderelict when it was released, and if you had asked me about it then, I would have given you a very different review.  At the time, my fifteen year old self thought that this concept was incredible and worthy of being evaluated in the same breath as Tommy and Quadrophenia.  Remember, the internet hardly existed in 1993, so I had no easy way to discover that the Gridlife project was actually recycled from twenty year old rejected Who material.  It was just a cool idea.  The theater nerd in me loved the dialogue and I was willing to overlook what even I could tell were the album’s musical shortcomings because I thought the whole presentation of Psychoderelict was amazing.

Hearing Psychoderelict again now, it just seems like a mess musically, lyrically and conceptually.  Townshend should have quit this particular line of inspiration back in the 70’s while he was still ahead.  But the album does sit out there as a warning for anyone who things that no idea is too grandiose to be made into a rock opera.

Today in Grateful Dead History: May 27, 1989 – Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Stadium, Oakland, CA

stealieOn this day in 1989, the Dead headlined an AIDS benefit at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Stadium that also featured Tower of Power, Joe Satriani, Los Lobos, Tracy Chapman and John Fogerty.

I first discovered this show because Jerry and Bob played guitar for the John Fogerty set along with future American Idol judge Randy Jackson on bass, Steve Jordan on drums and Clarence Clemons on sax for Susie Q and Long Tall Sally.  Although the Dead members just play backup for Fogerty, he’s in great voice and everyone is having a really good time.

The Dead’s show, which is actually two full sets, is a little bit of a comedown, energy wise, but what wouldn’t be compared to Fogerty?  Clarence Clemons joins the band for a significant portion of this show, and while it’s interesting stuff, Clemons doesn’t come close to what Branford Marsalis pulled off the following year.  Still, as a long-time Springsteen fan, it’s awesome to hear, and this collaboration is made all the better since Bill Kreutzmann revealed that Jerry, Bob and Clemons considered buying a place together around this time.  To be a fly on the wall . . .

The second set of the show is made notable by a Fire on the Mountain sans Scarlet Begonias, a good version of I Will Take You Home and a sentimental Brokedown Palace encore.  Listening to the band here, you get the feeling that they are getting ready to explode, but they’re not quite there yet.  It will come soon enough as spring turns to summer.

UPDATE:  I was distracted the first time through the end of this show, so here are some additional thoughts upon further review.  The Wharf Rat, while sloppy, is a forceful version with the whole band really getting after it prior to the final verse.  It’s a pretty cool take on the song.  In addition, the Lovelight with Clarence is fun too, and his solo in place of Jerry on Brokedown Palace adds another layer of emotion to the song.

You can hear the Dead’s complete show here:  https://archive.org/details/gd1989-05-27.sbd.walker-scotton.miller.87604.sbeok.flac16

Today in Grateful Dead History: May 26, 1973 – Kezar Stadium, San Francisco, CA

stealieThis show is a great example of wonderful instrument separation on a recording.  Bob is on the left, Jerry is on the right, and everyone else is spaced around the middle.  The levels are well-balanced and you can hear each instrument very clearly.

Because of this, you get a good picture of what exactly Bob Weir meant to the band, which is not always easy to appreciate because 1. he’s usually buried in the mix; 2. a lot of his songs are just played to death and many of them are kinda cheesy; and 3. those shorts (although not in this era).  Here, every crazy note he plays is discernible and you’ll hear him do some totally bonkers and amazing things.

I think this show is probably overrated because it was in circulation for a while and because the song quality is so good.  The Playing in the Band is wonderful (and shows off the Bob moves I’m talking about, especially at the end) and the 3rd set is good but not as transcendent as others from this time period.  Still, it’s definitely worth hearing, especially as a clear example of a band that’s obviously listening intently to what its members have to play.

You can hear the soundboard here:  https://archive.org/details/gd1973-05-26.sbd.miller.patched.83535.flac16

Today in Grateful Dead History: May 22, 1993 – Shoreline Amphitheater, Mountain View, CA

stealieAfter saying yesterday that I usually pick 90’s shows based on their setlists, I go and choose this 1993 performance, with a very strange second set, as my next show.

Honestly, I got sidetracked by the first Supplication since 1984 and I didn’t notice what was or wasn’t happening later on.  Check this out:  Foolish Heart, Women Are Smarter, Ship of Fools, Corinna>Drums>Jam>The Last Time, Stella Blue, One More Saturday Night, E: I Fought The Law.  I don’t know if I’ve listened to a full show with so little opportunity for extended playing.  There’s a little noodling at the end of Foolish Heart and again after the heart of Corinna (this is the only “jammy” part of the whole show), but otherwise the second set just breezes by.  Even the Mississippi Half Step that opens the show is truncated.

When this happens, I would hope that the songs would be well played, but there are lyrical flubs all over.  Musically, things aren’t horrible here, and the strange bongo/toms intro to Foolish Heart made me take notice, but there’s nothing else of note going on.

Get the soundboard here:  https://archive.org/details/gd1993-05-22.127320.nak300.bowen.flac16

Today in Grateful Dead History: May 21, 1992 – Cal Expo Amphitheater, Sacramento, CA

stealieI try to pick shows from the later 90’s based on their setlists and this show, from the Cal Expo Amphitheater in 1992, doesn’t have any songs that I dislike.  (The same can’t be said for today’s 1993 show from Shoreline featuring Eternity, Liberty AND Way To Go Home.  Yikes.)

So, about this show . . . The first set is fine, but nothing to write about.  The second set actually has a neat Scarlet Begonias>Fire on the Mountain>Estimated Prophet>He’s Gone with a cool transition between Scarlet & Fire and a tinkly little jam into He’s Gone (the actual moment of transition, however, is quite abrupt). Standing on the Moon is one of my favorite Jerry ballads from this era, but he forgets the lyrics of the first verse and never really recovers.  The show ends with Lovelight and a Gloria encore to get your feet tapping.

I think that when it comes to the later shows, we’re clearly spoiled by the quality of what came before.  If I handed this show to an open minded person who knew nothing of the Dead, I think that they would enjoy it without trying to compare it to the shows from this day in ’74 or ’77 or even ’82 that they were missing.  I certainly didn’t want to shut it off.

Here’s the Charlie Miller soundboard transfer:  https://archive.org/details/gd1992-05-21.sbd.miller.92355.sbeok.flac16