Monday 6 July 2015

Grateful Dead: A Guide To The CD Bonus Tracks 1967-1989

'High Time - The Alan's Album Archives Guide To The Music Of The Grateful Dead' is available to buy now by clicking here!

 'Grateful Dead' CD Bonus Tracks:

Alice D Millionaire/Overseas Stomp (The Lindy)/Tastebud/Death Don't Have No Mercy (First Version)/Viola Lee Blues (Single Edit)/Viola Lee Blues

Of all the AAA CD re-issue series the Grateful Dead's must be about the best. Admittedly it too rather a long time to get them right (I still remember the 'vanilla' releases without bonus tracks in the 1990s) and the Dead arguably have access to more material than any band of their generation, thanks to various concerts taped by the band, their engineers or often by their fans. There are so many of them that we've decided that rather than include them in our usual 'non-album songs list' we'd simply tag a paragraph or so onto each relevant review. The  re-release of the first CD is particularly good, with more studio outtakes than normal, though most feature live recordings - the plan being to include versions from as close to the released albums as possible.

First up is [36] 'Alice D Millionaire', a wittily titled group original sung by Pigpen that was probably a little too subversive for Warner Brothers to release this early on in the band's career. Musically this is pure mid-60s pop and as mainstream as Pig ever got, with Pig ticking off a girl for always bursting into tears ('School Girl' a few years on?) Musically this is fun but sloppy, the band messing up their 'tah-dah!' music hall ending and suggesting this was an early take. Like many pre-Hunter/Barlow songs the lyrics are a little over-written but do include the occasional spot-on couplet: 'When the season of the magic lantern is transformed into a funny pattern and the wheel of fortune has a flat tyre...'

Jerry's up next for the truly oddball [24b] 'Overseas Stomp (The Lindy)', singing in a very bad impression of a blues singer with Bob adding the punchline 'now look here sugarbaby' at the end of each verse. Originally performed by the Dead in rather better form in their 'Scorpion/Birth Of The Dead' days, this was clearly meant to be the 'novelty' song on the record - a role ultimately filled by 'Sittin' On Top Of The World' and shows just how much 'variety' and jugband was still in the Dead's DNA as late as the summer of love. The song was mercifully shelved, although Pigpen plays some fine harmonica throughout the track.

Pig's [310b] 'Tastebud' is another song repeated from the 'Scorpion' days and is a tad overblown for the first record, the purest blues the band will get until the 'Bear's Choice' record. Pig is on sizzling form and Jerry adds some nice smoky guitar but for once in his life session musician extraordinaire Nicky Hopkins gets the piano part hopelessly wrong and Phil and Billy sound rather mis-cast too. Again the band performed this better in 1966, with perhaps the scariness of their first days in a professional studio getting to everyone.

There's additionally an early thrilling take of [38a ] 'Death Don't Have No Mercy', the cruel and vicious Reverend Gary Davis (yes, he really was a vicar in his spare time - fellow San Francisco band Hot Tuna cover loads of his songs) song most famous from the slowed down and creepy version on 'Live/Dead'. This upfront version is much better though, Jerry making the most of the song's riff and going for drama as well as fright. It's still a strange song to choose, though, a reflection on how death can strike at any time that seems particularly out of place on this comparatively bright and sunny debut album. Seemingly abandoned midway through the sessions, this five minute version is merely an instrumental, one that makes the most of the rises and falls and is arguably the most 'together' performance on the album outside 'Viola Lee' so it's a shame it wasn't finished.

In addition the album features two alternate versions of  that very song. Goodness knows who thought that releasing ten minute opus [ 35b]  'Viola Lee Blues' as a single was a good idea - especially as it means cutting it to shreds (turning 10:23 into a still pretty lengthy for the day 3:05). The result clearly isn't going to compare to the power of the full version and sounds like playing the track on fast forward, with giant chunks taken out of the instrumental sections so that the song gets mad really quickly and then falls back again. However you have to say the edits are well handled and this version of the song is certainly striking. The other version is a lengthy and rather rambling live version taped live in California in September 1967. Not many tapes from this era exist so it's a welcome version of a great cover that didn't last in the band's setlist for very long, although sadly it's missing the opening couple of verses (even so it still tops in at an impressive 23:13!) What's more of a pity is that the audience member missed what may well have been the first ever 'Dark Star' played at the same gig...

Overall, then, the CD re-issue of 'Grateful Dead' makes a promising album seem even more interesting, adding a lot more Pigpen and handful more originals, whilst simultaneously showing that live the band were already light years ahead of their studio selves.

'Anthem Of The Sun' CD Bonus Tracks:

Alligator (Live) > Caution (Do Not Step On The Tracks) (Live) > Feedback (Live)/Born Cross-Eyed (Single Mix; Unlisted Bonus Track)

Here's a full 37 minutes of what one of those Dead concerts used in the 'Anthem' collage might have sounded like, recorded live at The Shrine in August 1968, a month after release. Many fans rate this version of Pigpen's earliest jam as the best and it's certainly highly welcome although not quite possessing the wild abandon and excitement of the overdubbed live version on the record. There seems to be more 'space' about this one, with the deliberately 'weird' ending sounding rather forced and rather less involving, although on the plus side you do get to hear Jerry and Bob's backing vocals a lot clearer ('Alligator on a windy day...') and 'Caution' displays a lot more of it's original 'blues' DNA in this version, ending up as a fierce jam. However the surprise is how polite it all sounds, with even Pig sounding gentlemanly for most of the performance.

Additionally the CD adds the B-side mix of  [40b] 'Born Cross-Eyed' originally included on the back of the 1968 single of 'Dark Star' (the A-side being kept fore the 'Live/Dead' set in case you were wondering. There aren't too many differences but this mono mix does sound slightly less unhinged, with a different and clearer vocal from Bobby, some additional phasing effects on both his voice and Jerry's guitar and a few Garcia solo howls over the trumpet part in the bridge. The song just ends hanging in mid-air too with an even more sudden cut, the CD compilers cross-fading this into yet another version of 'Feedback' (specifically the bit the Dead recorded in the studio to overdub on top of their live performance for the album).

Overall, then, 'Anthem' as a CD isn't quite the inviting proposal as the first album is and I'd rather have heard one of the many 'That's It For The Other One > New Poitato Caboose' or the actual concerts from which this album was compiled. I still dream that one day my favourite Dead album from the 60s will get the deluxe treatment it deserves with as many of the surviving concerts and studio session overdubs as possible (hint hint)...

'Aoxomoxoa' CD Bonus Tracks:

Clementine Jam/Nobody's Spoonful Jam/The Eleven Jam/Cosmic Charlie (Live)

Apparently the CD re-release of this album was all set to go with rare live versions of some of this album's most obscure songs and a classic period 'China Rider' (the name fans have given to the live medley of this album's China Cat Sunflower' with t5raditional song 'I Know You Rider') when the band's archivists had a late discovery of a 'warming up' tape that saw the band rehearsing some of their beloved twisty time signature exercises. None were meant as serious inclusions for the album, although 'The Eleven' was recorded with vocals during the sessions and to be honest you can see why. These jams don't really have the drama of the Dead at their best and while they're well worth releasing and fascinating just to hear how wuickly the band have progressed to thinking of the studio as a creative tool rather than a problem, alas they're a little bit rambling and repetitive and no substitute for the songs we might have got.

[ 50] 'Clementine' was a bit of an oddball, rarely heard in it's true 'lyrical' version and a one-off collaboration between Phil Lesh and Robert Hunter that neither was particularly happy with. The lines for the song should start 'Chocolate sandwiches, roses of wine, red ripe persimmons my sweet Clementine, I go on I can't fill my cup, there's a hole in the bottom - the well has dried up'. The song has a nice groove to it though which the two drummers especially exploit nicely during this eleven minute jam and Garcia has lots of space for some golden finger-warming runs. However if the noodling Dead makes you want to run for the hills you might want to skip this one.

[ 51] 'Nobody's Spoonful' jam is similar, despite being based around the licks of two bluesy songs the band also covered whole occasionally ('Nobody's Fault But Mine' and 'Spoonful'). AS the jam never quite decides which of the pair it's going to be, the song is credited as a jam and credited to the whole band. This ten minute jam is even more pointless than the last, although it's nice to hear Pigpen's organ so prominent in the mix and to hear Jerry right on the edge of feedback throughout, staying just the right side of being in control.

[52a] 'The Eleven Jam' is more familiar territory, though it's a very lopsided version of the band's famous irregular time metre jam that takes a while to get going. To be honest the song sounds wrong both without lyrics and starting cold without beginning in 'St Stephen' and is also rather slow. The same usual rules about the Dead playing everything with gusto in 1969 still apply though and Jerry is clearly having fun!

Additionally one of the planned live versions of 'Aoxomoxoa' tracks appears and it's [49b] 'Cosmic Charlie' taped at the Avalon Ballroom in January 1969. I'm intrigued as to why this version was used - there are far better versions around from the same year or even earlier and this version is a bit of a mess, Jerry's voice hard to hear and slightly out of tune. The guitars have headed past distortion and gone the other side by the end, ending with a piercing cry of 'calling yoooooo' that goes on and on. For all that, though, this is a fun song that didn't hang around in the setlists for long (despite a surprise revival in 1976) and usually suits the stage very well.
Overall, then, the bonus tracks on 'Aoxomoxoa' aren't among the best in the series, being of more historical significance than musical, but on the plus side at least they're in good sound (well, all but 'Charlie') and at least they're more interesting than outtakes of 'What's Become Of The Baby'!

'Live/Dead' CD Bonus Tracks:

Dark Star (Single Version) (Uncredited Bonus Track)/Radio Promo (Uncredited Bonus Track)

Given that 'Live/Dead' was originally a double album which only just squeezes onto a single CD there isn't much room for bonus tracks. All we get this time is the single mix of [53b] 'Dark Star', a fascinating compact three-minute beast that sounds like a spew of cosmic ray rather than the supernova of half an hour the song will usually become. This is essentially the song pared back to it's bare essentials, with just those classy lyrics, that half-lift up to the sky over ascending chords at the end and a sudden surprise banjo part added by Garcia as a substitute for the maelstrom of noise that should be there for the next twenty minutes. In a way it's like a trailer for what the band were playing live at the times and a tease for fans before they could buy one version of the full beast on this album. The result is like seeing a sketch of the 'Mona Lisa' or a model of the Empire State Building - the whole reason for what impressed you on the original is gone and yet there's still something fascinating about an object you know so well in miniature with the essence already intact. Additionally there's the first of many daft radio promos made by an increasingly desperate Warner Brothers who didn't understand why the band's records weren't selling and who they could market them too. This one is comparatively straightforward - they'll get weirder as this book goes on...

'Workingman's Dead' CD Bonus Tracks:

New Speedway Boogie (Alternate Mix)/Dire Wolf (Live)/Black Peter (Live)/Easy Wind (Live)/Cumberland Blues (Live)/Mason's Children (Live)/Uncle John's Band (Live)/Radio Promo (Un-credited Bonus Track)

'It's not you guys, it's Mickey and Billy and me' says Phil. 'I'm not going to jail!' Bob scoffs' before the song's eerie opening bars of [ 65b] 'New Speedway Boogie' start. I'd love to know what this half-captured conversation was all about for sure, but it seems likely that it's about the band's continual drug busts in this business (even Pigpen, who only took them once by accident!) It's the perfect opener for Garcia's song of trouble brewing written for 'Altamont' which sounds even eerier in this 'harmony' version. I much prefer this mix of the song actually, with Bob and Phil adding some nice but scary falsetto harmonies that add some real drama to the song, like an intoning choir of angels (ok maybe not quite that pure - this is the Dead after all!) A fascinating alternate peek at the band in the studio that's one of the highlights of the whole CD re-issue series.

Alas before you get too excited the plentiful live versions used to pad out the rest of this CD aren't that great (this was the era when Dead songs were shot, even played live, so we get a lot more than normal!) An early  [64b ] 'Dire Wolf', taped in Santa Rose in June 1969 for instance is of most interest because it's Bob singing not Jerry (he's busy with a pedal steel part). However both are pretty awful and were wisely dropped before the album version.

A torturous nine-minute [ 67b ]  'Black Peter' taped in San Diego in January (four months before release) is even worse - when the Dead are on form this song is sensational live, the whole crowd hanging on Jerry's dying breaths as he gets into character - but alas here everything is so slow you're just waiting for the poor old man to snuff it. The band do hold the 'peak' of the end for a full two screaming minutes, though, which is terrific - you just wish it had come a bit sooner.

Pig's [ 68b ] 'Easy Wind' is in ruder health, with a playful strut that's hard and loose. However Pig's a little too far from his microphone stand and the band come in a little too slow, which means that this Portland January 1970 version pales against some of the best out there, including the studio version. It's also impossible for Pig to sing and play harmonica at the same time the way he does on the record, so we get one or the other which isn't quite so enticing.

A five minute [66b ] 'Cumberland Blues' from Oregon in January 1970 in truth isn't that different to the version recorded later in 'Europe '72' albeit with Phil singing even more out of tune on the high harmonies! Pig adds a nice Hammond organ part that really swings but the rest of the band haven't 'got' this strange traditional-sounding coalmining song yet.

The CD's biggest draw was the then-unreleased [70] 'Mason's Children', one of the band's most famous outtakes although it's sadly heard here in an inferior live versions where everyone keeps messing up the words (the excellent studio take was featured on the 'So Many Roads' set instead). We'll deal with this song later on in our 'non-album recordings list' - all you need to know for now is that it cagily refers to Altamont again and this version features a storming Garcia solo that seems to be flying, dragging the song out to six minutes. What a shame the band didn't learn the words and this could have really been something! This version was recorded in Honolulu in January 1970 - in total the Dead played it 18 times, a lot for a song they never released in their lifetime.

The live version of  [ 62b ] 'Uncle John's Band' dates from later in April, just before the album's release. As a result it's a little tighter than most of the others, albeit still rougher than it will become in years to come. Given that this is the Dead's 'acoustic' era they don't have play a heavy, clunky version of it here and while it's never been my favourite song of the Dead's this version must count as one of the worst, being all over the place until the final electric howls over the past couple of minutes, Lesh's busy bass pushing the song over the edge.
Unbilled, we then get another radio promo featuring extracts from 'New Speedway Boogie' as a bored sounding announcer tries to play it cool with the kids, man. Unintentionally hilarious.

So ends an album that to be honest sounded better without these extras - the alternate 'New Speedway Boogie' aside. Still, those rough edges just make this album sound more like it's been carved out of the sweat and stain of the soil I suppose!

'America Beauty' CD Bonus Tracks:

Truckin' (Single Version)/Friend Of The Devil (Live)/Candyman (Live)/Till The Morning Comes (Live)/Attics Of My Life (Live)/Truckin' (Live)/Ripple (Single Mix)/Radio Promo

Once again, the extras don't really make a classic LP anymore classic. The shorter running time of the songs as a whole and the album in general means that we get a lot more songs but it's quality not quantity that matters and there's not much to get excited about.

First up is the mono single mix of [80b ]  'Truckin', mainly notable for the exactly two minutes that have been shaved off the running time (the second verse about 'Most of the cast you meet...' , the 'busted, Bourbon' bit and the first of the two middle eights 'Sometimes the light...') Additionally a curious echo has been placed on Bob's voice that makes him sound as if he's singing in the shower and there are also some extra peals of Jerry Garcia guitar over everything, with a very different solo going into the last verse. I wouldn't say it's any better, but it's nice to have.

Many live versions of [73b] 'Friend Of The Devil' fall flat for some reason. The song sounds like it should be perfect for live performance, able to go in several different ways but the only live versions I've heard that I've liked have treated the song like the record. This is the fast, purely acoustic version from a show at the Fillmore East in May 1970 long before the album came out. The song is already a firm favourite though, Garcia adding that although they've sung it once already they've had a request and are singing it again, Bob adding 'thus breaking a long-standing tradition -n we love to break traditions!' This version is better than some, but with just Jerry, Bobby and Billy playing loses some of the effects and additionally adds an uncomfortable pause before the middle eight (was someone not ready?)

The gorgeous [ 75b ]  'Candyman' sounds utterly wretched in a live version from The Winterland in April 1970 and while that's perfectly in keeping with a song about the dangers of addiction it's a bit of a shame none of the better period versions were used. This version is presumably here because, being so early, the song sounds so different - not the lyrics which are already complete but the way Jerry sings it, pausing awkwardly on every line, as if he's reciting them not singing them.

[78b ] 'Till The Morning Comes', far from the greatest song on the album, is an utter mess live which might be why the Dead played it so few times. Phil's harmony is high in the mix but the Dead aren't build for retro misogynist 60s pop like this and don't seem to know what to do, ending up in a truly uncomfortable collapse at the song's end. This version was recorded at the Winterland in October 1970.

The live performances of the wistful [79b  ] 'Attics Of My Life' can go either way - it'll either be the best thing in the whole set on the worst, depending on if the band get that opening line in tune or not. sadly on this June 1970 Fillmore West version only Jerry comes in at the right time and only Phil sounds anywhere close to the note. The whole thing is also painfully slow and to be honest rather ugly - this beautiful pice deserves better. Surely there were more suitable live songs from 1970 around than these?

Thankfully an extract of a lengthy nine minute [80b ] 'Truckin' from California in December 1970 is more interesting, sounding fascinatingly different to most of the ways the Dead will go on to arrange one of their biggest classics. This version is slower and jazzier, with a curious dum *gap* squeal! riff that Jerry is having fun with, while Bob already sounds more committed to this song than any of his previous numbers. The harmony vocals are also terribly wayward, though,  and the full ending (this song nearly always segues into something else) just doesn't sound right at all!

Following that we get the mono single mix of [76b ] 'Ripple' (B-side of 'Truckin') that loses a minute of the song and has a completely different feel: rather than an overlapping whole the song sounds like everyone is playing separately, surrounded by their own echo. The effect is rather nice, though, giving more space to Phil's busy bass and Jerry's ever lovely guitar.

Finally, we get the best of all the bonus tracks and the best of the radio promos. Bookended with a very modern skit of Nixon contradicting himself ('I've not had experience...I have had some experience' - youtube are full of videos of George Bush doing this) the speech then uses Warner Brothers' best attempt yet at appealing to the misfit fans of the band, worth repeating in full: 'Now Trisha loved the Turtles and feared long hair, she wasn't schizophrenic just senile at 23,  she had no fun, she didn't neck, only short kinky-haired boys ever called her, they were ashamed of their bodies...Now I'd like to tell you Trisha heard the Grateful Dead, left home and joined Fanny and can now be seen skinny-dipping at the Tropicana Motorpool Hotel in your town. But you're no fool, you'd complain, we'd get arrested, Jerry Garcia probably would get busted again. So if you don't have the Dead's 'American Beauty' album we can say you're missing 42 minutes of pleasure in a world that's owned by thousands of little Trishas!' 'American Beauty' did indeed sell very well, outselling any other Dead record to date - most fans assume it's the gorgeous music but I reckon this radio advert had something to do with it too! Oh and remember, make your duck a grateful duck!

Overall, then, we've laughed sighed and cried over these bonus tracks - sadly more of the last two. Almost anything could have been added to make an album this brilliant shine even more - but this isn't it. You wouldn't know from these recordings that 1970 was a great year for the band live as well as in the studio...

'Skulls and Roses' CD Bonus Tracks:

Oh Boy!/I'm A Hog For You/Radio Promo (Uncredited Bonus Track)

Like 'Live/Dead' this double-disc live set just about fitted onto a single CD with only eight minutes' space. Rather than add something epic to an album already full of lengthy jams the compilers took the sensible set of adding two brief songs from the past revived on the 1971 tour and only ever performed a handful of times. The band's fun but inconsequential cover of [106 ] 'Oh Boy!' marks the only time the band attempted a second Buddy Holly song alongside mainstay 'Not Fade Away'. Enjoying a 50s twang, Jerry and Bobby gel on the harmony, but the rest of the band seem unsure of the song and turn in a rather chaotic performance (the band only ever performed this song four times and never did get any better at it!)

Leiber/Stoller's novelty song [107 ] 'I'm A Hog For You' is a little better, played really slow and snakey to give Pig the room to do what he does best. However this recording is surely unique in Dead terms in that Jerry sings co-lead alongside him all the way through, sounding a little out of place to be honest - this is Pigpen territory, with the blues singer howling out his obsessions. While the band only ever performed this song three times other versions have Pig stretching the song out into one of his usual raps ('Well this little piggy went up to your sweet house...') - this version is cut short after an excellent solo and a comedy verse about eating potato chips and 'nibblin' on your sweet lips!' Both of these recordings were taped at the Manhattan Centre, New York on the same date as this album's extended 'Playin' In The Band' jam.
The album ends with yet another radio promo, not as interesting as the last. A suave voice tells us that 'everyone knows the best Dead is live' and talks about 'the late lamented Fillmore East' while the band play 'Bertha', 'Johnny B Goode' and 'Me and Bobby McGee'.

'Europe '72' CD Bonus Tracks:

CD One: The Stranger (Two Souls In Communion)/CD Two: Looks Like Rain/Good Lovin' > Caution (Do Not Step On The Tracks) > Who Do You Love? > Caution (Do Not Step On The Tracks > Good Lovin'/Bob's Little Yeller Dog Story (Un-credited Hidden Track)

Splitting a triple vinyl set onto two CDs means that there's about another forty minutes' worth between the two discs, which are split sides 1-4 and then 5-6 on the CD. The compilers could have done all sorts of things - there's a whole flipping 73 CDs out of the complete Europe shows so there's no shortage of material going spare. Thankfully everyone involved does the decent thing and adds one last great burst of unreleased Pigpen, on this his last completed album with the band. Disc one now ends with possibly Pigpen's greatest song, the truly sublime  [ ] 'The Stranger (Two Souls In Communion)' which deserves to be far better known. A sensitive song by a secretly sensitive soul, this is Pigpen realising he's nearing the end of his life and wishing he could turn back time. Appealing to the powers that be to 'show me the right way to go' before it's to late, the sad and sorrowful ambience of the song suggests Pig already knows his time is running short (jerry seems to sense that too, with a gorgeous guitar solo full of such passion and longing). Pigpen looks on at others in love, wondering why they got a 'happy' life instead of him ('What is their secret?' before debating whether he ever knew what love was ('Is it an emotion I've outgrown?') He expands his thoughts to wonder about the holiness of 'two souls in communion', tied in 'body and mind', equating it to 'magic' or a 'part of nature' that he's never been lucky enough to feel. Pig's vocal is perhaps a little too gruff and Keith Godchaux's faux vamping on the piano is unfortunate so you can see perhaps why this performance was left to languish in the vaults. But this is a frar more suitable farewell for Pig than either 'Mr Charlie' or 'Big Boss Man' and should have been released at the time even so. Good on ya, Pig. This track was taped on April 26th 1972 in Frankfurt - no other recordings were taped on this date.

Meanwhile on disc two things calm down from the 35-minute 'Truckin' > 'Morning Dew' jam, thanks to Bob Weir's lovely [124] 'Looks Like Rain' (introduced as a 'cryin' song'). A favourite from his just-released solo album 'Ace', this version of the song is far from the best but is probably here because of the unusual arrangement which has Jerry on pedal steel and Keith prominent on piano. It's a nice find, if a little rough. This one was taped on April 8th 1972, the same day as 'Cumberland Blues'.

Following this we get one last great jam from Pig, whose off on an extended medley that veers from [125a]  'Good Lovin' (better known from Bob's revival of the song in 1978 for 'Shakedown Street') into his own 'Caution' and - briefly - Bo Diddley's 'Who Do You Love?' In total this mammoth jam session lasts 31 minutes and features the band really nailing this song's subtle Rolling Stones-style rock groove. The opening lick alone is extended to some thirty seconds (instead of the three it lasts on the original Rudy Clark 50s record) and is both slower and rockier than the later re-make. Pig is on good form, screaming at his ol' lady to turn on her love light one last time and encorauges the band to 'keep on runnin'. The band seem to finish, only to peal off again and end up back where they started in an exhausted heap. Phew! This medley was taped in Copenhagen on April 14th, the same night as 'Brown-Eyed Women'.

Unusually there was no radio promo for 'Europe '72'. Instead we get three minutes of Bob Weir filling in time while Jerry changes a broken string by telling a shaggy yeller dog story. In total Bob told this story three times to different audiences - this one is the best, with Bob backed by a funky comedy piano part from Keith and some drumming from Billy. I won't spoil the punchline but - didn't anyone notice that the squat ugly yeller dog had rather big teeth and beady eyes?! If only tuning was always this fun!

'Wake Of The Flood' CD Bonus Tracks:

Eyes Of The World (Live)/Weather Report Suite (Demo)/China Doll (Outtake)

By 1973 the band's songs were becoming so long that the compilers could only fit three of them onto this disc! Alas these selections aren't the best out there and make an otherwise perfect CD sound a little anti-climactic to be honest. Things start with a seventeen minute version of [134b] 'Eyes Of The World' - despite being just shy of half the speed of the gusto with which it's usually played, this isn't actually that long (the song regularly topped half an hour). Taped live in September 1973, the band clearly don't know the song that well yet (it was, strangely, the last song from the album to be played live - despite lasting in the setlists longer than everything else!)

Next up is a full thirteen minute demo of the as yet un-named [135b] 'Weather Report Suite'. This demo is of interest more for historical purposes, showing that Bob already had the final 'Let It grow' part of his song intact as well as the acoustic pre-amble and jamming session at the end - all he's lacking is the lyrics to part one (later provided by folksinger Eric Andersen) and the horn parts. The song still so8unds lovely, with Weir wordlessly la-la-ing along and this track demonstrates for once and for all what a fine guitarist he was (in any other band he'd have been the lead player!) However a full thirteen minutes of this, including a final five minutes with nothing but the same guitar riff over and over is a stretch for even those who like me consider this one of Bob's greatest songs.

Finally, we get an outtake of [136a] 'China Doll', which finally explains why that song always sounded so out of place on next album 'From The Mars Hotel'. That version is a re-recording made later but this song has always sounded at one with the 'Flood' songs to me - an emotional Garcia-Hunter song about finding the best in troubled circumstances. The band don't quite understand the song yet which is played very slowly and with a regular beat and lots of heavy wah-wah guitar that's all rather distracting - this song should be a fragile beauty, reluctantly contemplating suicide rather than throwing herself into it as here. Still, it's fascinating to hear this song in its early form.

 'From The Mars Hotel' CD Bonus Tracks:

Loose Lucy (Outtake)/Scarlet Begonias (Live)/Money Money (Live)/Wave That Flag aka US Blues (Live)/Let It Rock (Live)/Pride Of Cucamonga (Demo)/Unbroken Chain (Demo)

While 'Mars Hotel' is far from the best Dead album out there, a case can be made that this is the best CD. There's a whole host of delights on this set, which was unusually almost all heard live before the album came out and the band were also working for their own record label now and more likely to keep interesting demos and alternate versions. First up is a horrifyingly early [140b] 'Loose Lucy' taped in the studio where the cute bounce of the finished article sounds more like a wounded animal going to it's death. This is clearly just a warm-up exercise with some tired 12 bar blues stylings and some lyrics still missing, arguably the weakest thing here.

A thrilling version of [141b] 'Scarlet Begonias' taped at the Winterland in October 1974 reveals this song in better health with the two drummers really nailing this song's comlicated time signature. Jerry's vocal is full of life and the extended jam at the end, stretching the song out to nine minutes, is excellent even if you miss the segue into 'Fire On The Mountain' from most live performances (a song that won't be written for a couple of years yet!) Even Donna's squawking can't ruin this one!

Bon's much maligned [143b] 'Money Money' was barely ever played live, so this is a nice souvenir of a rarity - I guess. To be honest, though the song sounds even wobblier live, with Donna very shrill on the shared vocals and the whole band sounding half-asleep.

[138b] 'Wave That Flag' is much more important, a rare case of the band re-writing a song that they'd already premiered live. This is one of the first versions of what will become 'US Blues' with the same nagging rhythm but slightly different lyrics, Garcia sarcastically telling the audience to 'wave that flag' if they want to find freedom and telling them to 'shoot the breeze if you please' and 'pull the tooth, stretch the truth'. Alas he then wanders off mike so we don't get hear all of the lyrics.

Chuck Berry special [145] 'Let It Rock' is something of a rarity too: the Dead only played this roaring rocker (best known as a Rolling Stones song) this once. To be honest they don't seem to have really 'got' this song, which noodles and cruises rather than pounce and give bruises. Jerry sings lead and also plays the duck-walking solo.

The rest of the disc is a Phil Lesh special, as the bassist premieres two new songs he's just written. [142b] 'Pride of Cucamonga' is first up and sounds even better than it did on record, stripped of the country settings that pushed his vocal to their limits and sounding all the better for being just Phil and a guitar. Most interesting is the fact that the sudden jagged guitar riff isn't there yet, being replaced by some sighing folky strumming.

A full six minutes of [139b] 'Unbroken Chain' treated the same way is a treat too. Phil sings deeper even than the record and the chance to hear the song without overdubs shows off what a lovely and unusual chordal structure this song has. Lesh even tries his version of a Dead jam, with some frenetic guitar-playing in the song's second half while he calls out what the chords will be. A welcome end to a nicely generous selection of bonus cuts.

'Blues For Allah' CD Bonus Tracks:

Groove #1/Groove #2/Distorto/A To E Flat Jam/Proto 18 Proper/Hollywood Cantata

Like 'Aoxomoxoa', the bonus selections on 'Blues For Allah' are made up of studio jams. Like 'Aoxomoxoa' most of them are heavy going for even the biggest of fans, being five, six, seven, eight minute jams that don't really go anywhere  except around and around in circles. However if you know the 'Allah' album really well it's an interesting and hypnotic listen as you strain to hear where particular riffs that the band will go to turn into full songs on the record began and which bits will be replicated by future live jam sessions. 'Allah' was unusual in being started in the studio, long before any of the songs were played live and it's nice to hear the band so happy in the environment - and with each other after so much uncharacteristic time off. [156] 'Groove #1' has the lose rhythm of 'Fire On The Mountain' but features too many individual jams going on and not enough meshing into a full sound. [157] 'Groove #2' is quicker and could potentially be the starting point for the jazzy 'Slipknot' instrumental, although for now it's rather aimless and repetitive, without 'Franklin's Tower' to segue into. [158] 'Distorto' is the best, full of some fascinating synth and guitar effects, with Jerry having great fun pushing his guitar to the limit. This jam could have been turned into a really fine song (well better than the one that ended up becoming the title track anyway!) and even sounds tailor-made for the addition of lyrics in it somewhere, complete with verse and chorus. [159] 'A To E Flat Jam' is a cute little 'hopping' jam that skips from the two chords mentioned in the title over and over, never quite landing on each. Musically it's most similar to the already-released 'Loose Lucy'.[160] 'Proto 18 Proper' is almost 'Sage and Spirit', with the same old timey feel and laidback persona even though everyone is playing really fast. Finally [152b] 'Hollywood Cantata' is an early version of 'The Music Never Stopped' with completely different lyrics, all about staying true to yourself in a world full of glitz and glamour: 'Hollywood is everywhere now don't you know, you don't have to change your life to see the show...' There's even a singalong chorus of 'swing low, swing right, swing low, swing right, none of us here ever sleep at night...' Clearly not as good as the finished version, but a fascinatingly different take all the same, with the rest of the band struggling to keep up with Bobby. The lovely instrumental break is already in place too!

'Terrapin Station' CD Bonus Tracks:

Peggy-O/The Ascent/Catfish John/Equinox/Fire On The Mountain (Live)/Dancin' In The Street (Live)

Although only six songs were released on 'Terrapin' - the lowest of any official Dead release - the band brought in more or less their usual number to the sessions, with far more studio outtakes than normal for these sets. In common with 'Mars Hotel' this set has arguably the best collection of Dead bonus tracks of any of their CDs - six additional songs, only one of them totally disposable.  First up is an abandoned version of Jerry's beloved folk ballad [167] 'Peggy-O' (first introduced to the band's set lists somewhere around 1973 and performed by the band live a generous 265 times). Performed by all sorts of folk lovers, from Simon and Garfunkel (who never released their version at the time either) to Bob Dylan, this sweet tale of a man marching off to war in the fictional land of Fennario (the same setting heard in Jerry's 'Dire Wolf'!), an army captain asks for the hand in marriage of a local girl, promising to return if he's still alive at war's end. This version, however, is an instrumental with Jerry using the same over-cooked guitar sound heard on the 'Distortio' jam and the rest of the band gamely trying to keep up.

The two minute [168] 'Ascent' is interesting, a jam session credited to the whole band which as the title suggests is just a bunch of ascending chords, climbed at speed by Jerry and Keith. There's a little bit of 'Victim Or The Crime' about this song, especially Jerry's peal of guitar notes, but without a song to attach itself to this fragment is just a curio rather than an important addition to the band's canon.

Country song [169] 'Catfish John', strangely never played live by the band, is another Jerry folk-tune revival that seems an odd choice given that Garcia had already included it on his 'Reflections' album the year before. Had it been released this track would have sounded awfully out of place, even on an album filled with traditional material, although with a few overdubs this song could have been nice (Donna's harmonies would have gone particularly well on this one).

Phil Lesh is one of those writers who tends to either write a lot or nothing at all. 'Terrapin' already included his first song for the band in three years - [170] 'Equinox' (a track also known as 'Mercy Of A Fool') is his second and his last until the 1990s. With Phil still having vocal troubles he gave this sweet little track to Jerry to sing, even though he seem to be having trouble with it (the band admitted later that they never gave this song the time and energy it needed., intending to come back to it on the next album although they never did). Interestingly this tale of an 'Equinox' was written the year before Phil pushed the band on their 'solar eclipse' adventure in Egypt. A famous song amongst fans thanks to a bootleg leak of the session reel, it's a shame that the band didn't give this catchy song another go. The lyrics are sweet the closest Phil ever came to writing a love story (and his first ever lyric published for the band!): 'She reclines, closing her eyes, the sun is about to rise, night birds and fire flies settle around her, days grow long - Spring is here...'

Next up there's a slightly damp outtake of [171a] 'Fire On The Mountain' that never quite sizzles, lasting merely six minutes (a fade up suggests that it may have been intended to segue from another song).  The highlights of this song are Jerry playing around with a MIDI setting on his digital guitar enhancer, coming up with almost a vocoder sound. Alas though his vocal is breathy and struggling and everyone else seems to be playing in slow motion.

The album's one token live song is the really dodgy addition however. A wobbly sixteen minute discofied version of  [22c] 'Dancin' On The Street', this version is hopeless: the vocalists come and go, clashing with each other, the song noodles on with just the beat as the band try and work out what to do and the drummers actually slow down - a very rare lapse of concentration though I can't say I blame them - my ears switched off long before the end too. Why on earth was this painful version used rather than one of the truly magical versions from later in the same month? (This one was taped on May 8th at Barton Hall, Ithica). A sad end to one of the band's better CDs, taking bonus tracks and original material into account. To think - they could have released an early 'Terrapin' in it's place!

'Shakedown Street' CD Bonus Tracks:

Good Lovin' (Alternate Version)/Ollin Arrageed (Live)/Fire On The Mountain (Live)/Stagger-Lee (Live)/New New Minglewood Blues (Live)

Alas one of the Dead's worst albums can't be rescued by one of the least appetising sets of bonus tracks. It speaks volumes that the best thing here is an alternate version of [125b] 'Good Lovin' with not Bob singing but producer Lowell George (of the band Little Feat in case you've skipped the review above!) He does a good job , showing Bob how he things he should sing - but this becomes 'his' track and is less about the Dead, with only some rare Garcia pedal steel (cut from the finished version) catching the ear.

The other tracks all come from the live concerts at Egypt, intended to be the Dead's big blockbuster release of 1978 right up until the first note when they realised how badly they were playing. The whole of this concert is now out under the name 'Rockin' The Cradle' and is far from the best live Dead set out there, although to be fair this is a particularly dismal selection of songs taken from it.

 [180] 'Olin Arageed' is the band introduction by local drummer Hamzar El-Adin composed specially to welcome the Dead and performed by him as a special guest at a further two Dead shows back in the States. It must have been quite something if you were there, all pounding rhythms and rattled percussion, but heard on tape without the sights it rather lacks something (the performances in America are rather better too - is this the Egyptian curse striking again?!) That's followed by three pretty poor recordings (by Dead standards) - a rambling near-fourteen minute 'Fire On The Mountain' that's played at OAP speed, a seemingly endless though it's actually six minutes of a slowed down and tiresome 'Stagger Lee' and a powerful but unfocused 'New New Minglewood Blues'. Not one of the band's better CDs.

'Go To Heaven' CD Bonus Tracks:

Peggy-O/What'll You Raise?/Jack-A-Roe/Althea (Live)/Lost Sailor (Live)/Saint Of Circumstance (Live)

A slight improvement, none of the three studio and three live takes quite matches what made the album but nothing exactly disgraces the band either. Jerry's still got a bee in his bonnet over [167b] 'Peggy-O' but it was never going to make the record like this, in slowed down form (even with him singing a guide vocal this time around!)

[191] 'What'll You Raise?' would have been a nice addition to the album, a rare case of a song fully written by Robert Hunter ('Easy Wind' is the only other one the band ever recorded). A sweet tune not un-like 'Stagger Lee' or 'Ruebin and Chrise' - the solo Garcia song from 'Cats Under The Stars' - it also sports a typically fascinating set of lyrics about a card game. The narraror is a 'dusty spoke on the wheels of fate', working out what cards to play and realising that his best bet is to wait and see what life throws at him first, it's a shame that Jerry wasn't paying more attention in his quite awful guide vocal which is all over the place (not that Hunter's won is much better on his slightly altered version, recorded for 1985's 'Rock Columbia' album).

Traditional song [192] 'Jack-A-Roe' was performed by the Dead often - 116 times in total - so it's a surprise that they never released it on a proper release. That was clearly the plan for 'Heaven', an album which is arguably a song short of a proper running time, instrumentals about plumbing notwithstanding. Jerry sings the lead vocal, as he did on all live performances, and this song has a nicer, bouncier rhythm that's more in keeping with the Dead style than many of his traditional covers.

Onto the live versions now, all recorded in October 1980. [185b] 'Athea' is a particularly good version, played much slower than the record and placing even more emphasis on Jerry's defensively grumpy vocals. A lengthy medley of Bob's [187/188] 'Lost Sailor > Saint Of Circumstance' is up next, with some extra keyboard playing from Brent that sets the scene nicely and a real explosion into the 'I don't know what I'm going for...' chorus. Alas Bob isn't quite as on the ball as his bandmates and struggles rather with his vocal, making it odd that this version should be used, rather than the many period versions where he's right on the money. Overall though, a rather nice crop of bonus songs for 'Go To Heaven'.

'In The Dark' CD Bonus Tracks:

My Brother Esau/West L A Fadeaway (Alternate Version)/Black Muddy River (Alternate Version)/When Push Comes To Shove (Alternate Version)/Touch Of Grey (Alternate Version)/Throwing Stones (Live)

A mixed set of bonus tracks for the band's 'comeback' album which range from the frivolous to the genius. Seeing as this album spent longer being made than most others (with some aborted sessions in 1985, abandoned when Jerry fell ill), there are some nice early alternate versions of songs that were re-recorded later as well as a rare exaple of a Dead B-side.

We'll cope with that B-side first, also added to the album as a bonus tradk on the CD version. 'My Brother Esau', which does indeed stick out like an E-sore thumb on this album, presumably the reason why both vinyl and CD copies of 'In The Dark' missed it out altogether. Weir's analysis of the Vietnam War (and by association what was happening in 1987, the early mutterings that became the Gulf War in 1990) is far too good to remain unloved on a B-side, however, even one as popular and best-selling as 'Touch Of Grey', so I've always counted it as a 'proper' track despite never owning the cassette copy of the album (where it was added to balance the gulf between the two sides' running times). Fearing for the new 'warlike' mentality in the youth of the day (which both the early Gulf War and Falklands War had temporarily  resurrected), Weir and Barlow try and remind us of what war was really like. The Vietnam War was already very much a 'past historical event' in 1987, despite only coming to a chaotic conclusion in 1975, forgotten as a military disaster to the younger generation, so the writers try and re-tell it as currently as they can with all its open wounds and violence. However, they also have fun turning it into a biblical parallel (the title alone sounds like a Bible entry) with the poor farmer's boy thrust into becoming a warlike machine and then abandoned when America pulls out of the war a clear parallel for Esau - twin of Jacob - in the bible (who, too, was a farmer before turning into a 'hunter' despite his shy, bookish nature). Nice, ordinary people being transformed by war into something uncontrollable  by war is not a new theme for music, but it is quite a new strand of song for the Dead and the lyrics are among Barlow's best for the group, from the why-are-we-fighting? polemic when Esau finally meets his feared enemy face-to-face ('The more my brother looks like me, the less I understand') and the idea of mankind in general 'shadow-boxing the apocalypse', all sides caught in a stalemate whatever war is being fought, is a strong one. Interestingly, the song is quite short by this album's standards (running 4:20), with a whole verse (originally the second) cut from the song following early live appearances (one of the few times this happens with the Dead as opposed to, say, Paul Simon whose always changing his lyrics): this should have read 'My Brother Esau tried to build a world, a marvellous disguise, where everything is easy and there's nothing to deny, although he gave me all his cards I could not play his hand, so I made a choice that soon became a stand'.   Weir's music is mainly there to keep the lyrics rolling onwards but it does stand out for its complexity on an album chock-full of lighter, simpler songs. Less immediate than any other song on 'In The Dark', you can see why it's a bit of an un-loved orphan, the first release since the heavily trimmed studio single version of 'Dark Star' in 1969 not to appear on a proper Dead album. Ironically, it ended up being performed more often live than some songs on the album (like 'Black Muddy River' and 'Tons Of Steel'). Like the character at the heart of the song, 'My Brother Esau' deserves a much better break in life. Live Performances: a credible 104

Next up comes a run of four alternate versions. 'West L A 
Fadeaway' features a rather sleepy sounding Garcia  in 1984, struggling with what's quite a difficult song to sing. The song is slightly too slow and lacks the purr of the finished version, dragged out needlessly to seven minutes. A slightly better 'Black Muddy River' from 1986 is nearly there: it just needs tightening a bit, while Jerry's vocal is best described as 'eccentric'. 'When Push Comes To Shove' in contrast sounds a lot better than the record, the band nailing it's cute Chuck Berry styled riff and Jerry singing happily without stopping to think about wrong notes. The end is particularly fun - Jerry getting the band to groove on the chorus for the first time, making them sing a capella to get it right (Brent is particularly into the song, so similar to his own sighing songs of mean spirited love!) Better yet is a version of 'Touch Of Grey' stretching back all the way to 1982. The band are still learning what will become one of their most famous songs (Jerry has to tell the band when they get to the bridge) and this version is less poppy and more 'Dead', with Jerry gabbling at his words and  singing 'I will get by' over not a catchy chorus but a typical Dead extended run of clashing chords.

Finally, the CD ends with its lone live recording, an epic nine minute version of 'Throwing Stones', perhaps the album song that responded best to the live arena. This isn't the best version around but is still rather good, with Weir getting crosser and crosser as the song progresses, pushing Jerry into a screaming guitar solo.  The CD then ends with a final chanted cry of 'ashes ashes all fall down', the bonus tracks nicely enhancing the original album.

'Built To Last' CD Bonus Tracks:
Foolish Heart (Live)/Blow Away (Live)/California Earthquake (Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On!)

This time around, the final Dead studio CD only has space for four songs - all but one lengthy live versions and all comparatively rare (as a rule it was 'Victim Or The Crime' and 'Standing On The Moon' that were performed most often).
'We Can Run' is a fourth Mydland song from the 'Built To Last' sessions and while perhaps the weakest of the set it's more than worthy enough of making the longer-running CD release. A pained ecological plea, this is another song that borders on saccharine ('...The sound of one child crying!') and skirts dangerously close to the banality of most charity records, but Barlow's lyric has some excellent moments in it. Reflecting that mankind are rather badly behaved tenants on a world where they live rent free, the pair of writers compare the pain-comes-later with the current fashion for 'paying everything with plastic' and Visa cards. Fearing the 'amber hole in the sky where the light gets in', the narrator despairs at the complacency of his race, figuring that as we've only got one planet to live on we have to make this one work. More eloquent than most similar songs and a sweet sing-songy melody, this song is like the others from the album sessions let down by a clattering banging performance that's big on noise and low on subtlety. The track deserved better, weaker than the intensity of 'Blow Away' and 'I Will Take You Home' perhaps but still proof of Brent's growing confidence as a writer. Live Performances: 22. (Note, though not included on the vinyl release, the CD release of 'Built To last' features this track between 'Victim Or The Crime' and 'Standing On The Moon'  rather than with the other bonus tracks).

 Elsewhere, Jerry's hit single that never was 'Foolish Heart' sounds very tentative and he really strains at the vocal. The band however nail the song's tricky jazzy runs well and the extended instrumental section points to what a thrilling addition to the live set this song could have been with more years to perfect it. Brent's 'Blow Away' is, hands down, the single best thing on any of these bonus tracks (well since the 60s at least): usually Brent just sang the song straight, but he's clearly in an emotional mood and hits straight back into an extended 'rap' coda. Footage of the band performing this song exists and you can see the band looking over at him nervously as their normally shy and self-effacing keyboardist pours his heart out to the crowd, telling them all that 'you can't take love in your heart like that', holding it tight to your chest in a possession-like way and gets the crowd to open their hearts out and let their emotion 'blow away'. It's a thrilling ,moment and possibly Brent's best with the band. However, it's typical of the CD bonus tracks' up-and-down affair that the very last track included is both an oddity and a little disappointing. Rodney Crowell's ballad 'California Earthquake'  isn't the best for Jerry's fading voice and you can see why the band only ever sang this painfully slow song twice. While the younger, punkier Dead of the 60s or 70s might have handled this song brilliantly, the 1989 Dead are beyond creating earthquakes, making this a sorry end to the series (for the record why weren't outtake 'Believe It Or Not' and 'Gentleman Start Your Engines' included? Both are far more suitable than this!)

‘Live/Dead’ (1969)

'Workingman's Dead' (1970)

'American Beauty' (1970)
'Blues For Allah' (1975)

'Terrapin Station' (1977)
'Shakedown Street' (1978)
'Go To Heaven' (1980)
'In The Dark' (1987)

'Built To Last' (1989)
Surviving TV Clips 1966-1994
The Best Unreleased Recordings 1966-1993
The Last Unfinished Album 1990-1995
Live/Solo/Compilations Part One 1966-1976
Live/Solo/Compilations Part Two 1978-2011
A Guide To The CD Bonus Tracks
Dick's Picks/Dave's Picks
Road Trips/Download Series/Miscellaneous Archive Releases

Essay: Why The ‘Dead’ Made Fans Feel So ‘Alive’
Five Landmark Concerts and Three Key Cover Versions

No comments:

Post a Comment