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Columns > Dan Alford - Audio Files

Published: 2003/01/23
by Dan Alford

Audio Files: 90s Dead

This month it’s another installment of the ongoing series about 90s era Dead. The suite described below is remarkable not for the big, lush sounds so common in the later years, although it certainly has those, but for the great traditional style playing from Jerry and Phil. Both are in prime from throughout.
As always keep in touch with comments or contributions, be they full reviews or some Quick Picks.
Also, keep an eye open for Audio Files B&P offers on the Tape Trade Board. An offer for Garaj Mahal FLACs was made last month and a new offer will be up soon.
Quick Picks From the Disc Changer:
AGP, Wicked Live 2
moe., L 3.1
SKB, 12-5-02, Disc 1- In Osaka, Thing One
Garaj Mahal, 12-20-02- Fantastic Gentlemen opener and Poddle Factory closer
Phish, 12-31-02, Disc 3
Discman: SKB, 4-26-02, Disc 1- Really nice 5B4 Funk opener
From 3-24-93 Chapel Hill, NC
Playin > Box > Crazy > Playin > Drumz > Space > Spanish Jam
Just into the second set and an organ laden Playing starts up. Phil is particularly clear in the mix, chugging along at a good clip through the opening verses. As it’s a Healy mix, the drummers frame the sound (it’s especially clear if you listen with headphones) giving the music a sense fluid focus by forming the banks of a stream. The music dislocates almost immediately after the vocals, each person playing seemingly independent, yet hauntingly complimentary lines. Phil is still on top, churning and grinding as Garcia twirls and spins with fast, fluid fingers. Both Vince and Bob eventually go with softer MIDI sounds, pressing the music low. A Crazy Fingers intro starts but falls apart in just moments, leaving a Box of Rain standing tall. Phil and Jerry roll in with a short, weird, Foolish Heart vibe before the tune actually takes off, but when it does, Phil dominates both in terms of instrumentation and vocals. Jerry’s solo is super sweet, resting right in the middle of! the mix, and peaking just as Phil begins to sing again.
As Phil belts out a big, growling "THERE," he also thumps out Crazy Fingers and Garcia hops right in. The vocals are strong and there is really splendid interaction between Jerry and Vince in the first jam. Garcia is working the star-shot effects, his notes lingering and crackling out as Vince spreads a misty, gossamer atmosphere- stardust on stardust. While Jerry heads for a triumphant climb to begin the jam out, he stops after a few bars as Phil slows and adjusts. Ultimately undaunted, the guitarist leaps back in with a Spanish style flavor, although the drummers and Vince are still clinging to Crazy Fingers. Just a Billy begins to alter his playing, Jerry slides back to Crazy Fingers, and from there shifts back to Playin. Bob suddenly pops up again, and Vince shifts from cosmic blushes, to organ, and finally to piano. Jerry has moved to a MIDI flute, climaxing with one sharp note before switching back to a descending guitar line. The progression bottoms out and the drummers take over, quiet for a moment before an attack of the rhythm devils.
The beat is solid and pretty focused, Billy staying on the kit as Mickey plays a series of talking drums. The groove separates into distinct parts, and the two begin to wander separate paths, sticking with the same instruments. Mickey eventually goes nuts, chanting along as he pounds the skin, and they crash to a halt. The spacier work now begins. Bralove sends separate sounds spinning slowly around the room to a light, jingly rhythm decorated with a nice keyboard line. (Again, it’s best appreciated with headphones.) Now big Beam notes disrupt the bouncy rhythm, now the talking drum is back, now the oscillating sounds are moving too fast, finally shaking themselves out of existence.
A strange, but beautiful alien world materializes. The air is again misty, and random sounds spin, sometimes drums, sometimes organs, sometimes indecipherably distorted sounds, in clockwise movements. In one final attack, the landscape shudders and ruptures, Garcia retaking the stage and spouting out of the center of the madness. He goes with a wild, throaty bass sound, unleashing a barrage of notes, and Bob plays along next to him, seemingly speaking another language. Garcia switches to the French horn, peeling out a beautifully played paragraph or two. Phil returns and Bob and Jerry go with more tradition tones, trying to cut through thick surges of cosmic debris for quite a while, some delicate bells from Vince actually ending the passage.
But the boys are slow to leave space tonight, and another passage begins, this one with the farty oboe effect. Phil is still pretty loose, playing around Jerry. Both Vince and Bob jab in with squirrelly squiggles here and there, but Garcia is clearly in charge, playing yet another deluge of nimble notes- he’s just on fire. He’s so far gone that no one can catch up. Finally he calms, allowing Phil to overtake him, then Bobby, who starts right in with a hazy Spanish theme. Phil picks it up right away and Jerry goes to the trumpet, Vince rattling on piano and high synth. Billy and Mickey now roll in and the Spanish jam is in full effect. It becomes very thick and starts to lose itself, but in an easy Grateful Dead moment, comes out clean. Phil even busts out a lead line, and the jam just keeps going, eventually easing and pausing briefly before GDTRFB. This is really a fantastic suite from a very fine show. Give a listen and you’ll be impressed with the musicianship of the b! and, and the ferociousness of Jerry’s playing in particular.

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