Friday, May 31, 2013

Daily Double

 Grateful Dead

First up, a kind show from 1970. It starts off with an acoustic set, featuring a number of rarities, particularly outside the acoustic setting, including Ripple, Rosalie McFall, Dark Hollow, and Wake Up Little Susie. A nice take on the Pigpen tune Operator, which to my mind is musically a rip-off of Fishin' Blues, made famous by Taj Mahal. Also, an acoustic version of Uncle John's Band, one of the Dead's many additions to the great American songbook.  

They turn up the heat in the second set, and continue to roll out the rarities. The first version of Around and Around, only versions of Mystery Train and My Babe, and other rarities like New Orleans and Searchin' find the Dead in rock n' roll bar band mode. But probably the most exciting part is a Dark Star that goes way out there, leading into a Main Ten Jam, eventually finding its way to Dancin' in the Streets. The Main Ten Jam would become the basis for Playing in the Band, but here it is slowed down and simmering. Another rarity for the time is the Dylan cover of Baby Blue, much different from how they would play it later in their career. Things close out in more typical Dead style with Not Fade Away, Goin' Down the Road, and a Pigpen lead Good Lovin'. Also of note, the Grateful Dead's fondness for leaving the letter g off the end of their song titles. This occurs on 4 different songs in the show. The 60's were a weird time, real casual, g's were optional, man.

Acoustic: Dire Wolf, I Know You Rider, Dark Hollow, Rosalie McFall, El Paso, Operator, Ripple, FOTD, Wake Up Little Susie, Uncle John
Electric: Morning Dew, Me & My Uncle, Mystery Train> My Babe, Around, New Orleans> Searchin, Baby Blue, Casey Jones, Truckin> Dark Star> The Main Ten> Dancin, NFA> GDTRFB> NFA> Good Lovin
"Dark Star" is first verse only - first "Around" - only "My Babe" - only "Mystery Train" - final "Operator" - last "Searchin": 08-29-69 [170] - final "The Main Ten" - final "Wake Up Little Susie"- also: NRPS

Added bonus, here's nice version of Iko Iko, also known as Aiko Aiko, or the traditional title Jack-a-Mo for those in the know.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Kind Tune of the Moment

Don't Want You No More

This bluesy instrumental was made famous by the Allman Brothers Band, but turns out was originally written and recorded by the Spencer Davis Group. The Spencer Davis Group of course featured Steve Winwood on organ and vocals. Their version of the tune has more of a Booker T & the MG's Green Onions feel to it. It also includes some vocals. But as the Allmans did with Donovan's tune First There is a Mountain, transforming it into the instrumental monster Mountain Jam, they would strip this song of its lyrics as well. Naturally, they also added their Southern blues stylings, turning up the intensity and drama. 

Lots of great versions over the years. First up is Spencer Davis Group's original:

Next, the first know Allman Brother's performance of the tune, recorded live before Greg had joined the band. You can see that even at their inception, Duane knew what he was going for and had the classic Allman's sound in place.

Here it is as the first track on their debut album, paired with It's Not My Cross to Bear, as it would be from then on:

A rocking live version from the beginning of the 2nd peak of the Allman's career, featuring an outstanding lineup with Warren Haynes on guitar and Allan Woody on bass:

And this is likely the most recent version of the tune. Another excellent Allman's lineup, with virtuosos Derek Trucks on guitar and Oteil Burbridge on bass.

Still kicking ass after all these years, and true to their original vision.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Kind Youtube of the Moment

Bob Dylan, Toronto 1980

A pro-shot video from Dylan's gospel tour in 1980. The albums from this era are hit and miss, some great tunes, others that are forgettable. But the concerts were phenomenal if you can handle the religious content. Not sure which show this is exactly, but all setlists from this tour were pretty similar, give or take a song or two at each show.  

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Underestimated Prophet

Bob Weir

Even among the most ardent Deadheads, Bob Weir is the source of much controversy. Beloved by some, reviled by others, and frustrating to pretty much everyone. At his best, his energy could make an arena explode. At his worst, momentum killing cheese. 

Part of Bobby's problem is that he had to play second fiddle to Jerry, and just about anyone would look uncool in comparison to Captain Trips. His guitar playing was not as good, his songwriting inconsistent, vocals not as emotive, and his choice of attire not as groovy, sporting the short shorts, pink guitars, wool socks in sneakers look, in comparison to Garcia's classic black on black t-shirt and slacks ensemble. 

But it seems that Weir has often been misunderstood, particularly in light of recent onstage troubles he's experienced, and a more balanced assessment is in order.

When the Dead started in 1965, Bob was only 18 years old. He had completely dropped out of school about 2 years prior, having been kicked out of a half dozen or so schools already at that point, running away from home, spending time as a cowboy on a cattle ranch, and playing folk music around the bay area. He was a professional delinquent, so he fit right in with the Dead even though he was considerably younger than much of the rest of the band. While many 18 year old's have dabbled in a bit of drugs, they have not done Grateful Dead level drugs, including performing at the Acid Tests. Hard to imagine. For Bob, he was so overwhelmed that he became a space cadet, started hearing voices, and stopped intentionally doing LSD just a few years later. Did I mention he was quite the heartthrob and beloved by the ladies? All while still going through puberty.

He's been on the road, writing, and performing since then, for almost half a century. When the Grateful Dead ended in 1995, he was only 48 years old. Bob has continued at a steady pace in this his 65th year, when most Americans are thinking about taking it easy and moving to Florida.

Weir never tried to be like Jerry, and whether it was intentional or not, a good thing, because he would've failed in trying, and never set out on the unique path he chose. A typical rhythm guitar player would never have fit in the Dead. Grateful Dead music was based primarily on bluegrass, with each player simultaneously soloing, rather than blues based pop/rock with a rhythm section playing a repeating pattern for a soloist to play over. Bobby certainly didn't often play traditional strumming type rhythm guitar, more often using angular chords to create atmospherics for the rest to weave webs around. Check his playing from the Morning Dew on Europe 72. 

But when it suited the song, Bobby could play more traditional rhythm guitar, as he often did in his country-rock tunes. New Minglewood Blues is a tune the Dead played throughout their entire career, and as far as I'm concerned is a rather forgettable song, but could have some pretty ripping jams, with Bobby building up the intensity pushing Jerry to rip it up: Stealing women from their men.

And while Bobby certainly didn't have the technical ability, instincts, or dexterity of Garcia, he wasn't a shabby guitar player either. He could be quite inventive, as in the opening trills of China Cat Sunflower, and exploratory and expressive, pushing the band past the boundaries of country rock during the transition into Rider:

In many ways, Weir was Garcia's foil in the Grateful Dead, the Jekyll to his Hyde. Weir had the youthful energy to Garcia's stoned cool. Weir had the dashing looks to Garcia's rolled out of bed approach to life. Weir had the rock star persona that was lacking in Garcia and the rest of the Dead, able to light an arena on fire when needed. Having been the youngest in the Dead, he likely felt like the low man on the totem pole for much of his life. In addition, he had extreme dyslexia that wasn't diagnosed until his 40's. Not only did he have difficulty reading, but objects on the horizon often appeared to move, even when sober. Not sure how that went undiagnosed for so long, but I guess he just accepted that he was weirder than everyone else.

Bobby's unique perspective on reality and life likely fed his songwriting, which was also in great contrast to Garcia's. While Garcia wrote many timeless American beauties, they relied on familiar folk, blues, and ballad song structures. Bob's songs incorporated odd time signatures, jazz influences, unique chord changes, and other peculiarities. Today, you're much more likely to hear one of Garcia's songs covered by another artist. And while this is somewhat due to the superiority of Garcia's songwriting, there is a simplicity to Garcia's songs that make them more accessible. Weir's tunes are so unique that it is hard to imagine anyone else covering them. For example, what a weirdo fucking song Saint of Circumstance is, but it rocks, and only Bobby can pull it off.

And consider Estimated Prophet. There is no song like it that I've ever heard, combining spacey reggae grooves with rock star histrionics. Another part of the genius of Weir tunes are they allow Garcia to focus on guitar playing, and in Estimated you get the classic murky Garcia groove.  Who else could sing this song?

Bob also got a lot of crap for cutting jams short in, forcing things to happen rather than letting them meander along. And while there were undoubtedly a few times Bob fumbled the ball, he doesn't get credit often enough for the times he made a left turn in a jam and it worked. Without Weir, there would've been a lot more endless meandering. Take for example this excellent clip of the transition from The Other One into Dark Star. The Dead are in outer space, and likely could've stayed there for a while. Garcia lets out a familiar flurry of notes, Weir picks up on it, and hits the perfect chord at the perfect time to steer the band back into Dark Star. An absolutely seamless transition. After listening to the passage in question, rewind this video to the beginning and watch what I believe is the finest video of the Dead: Closing of Winterland.

Garcia and Weir, rock's ultimate odd couple. Garcia, ancient and haggard externally, charismatic, intellectual, and cool internally. Bob was more youthful, the ball of energy waiting to explode. Externally, the ultimate California Boomer: a weird hippie-jock-rich-rock star hybrid. Internally, his wires were a bit crossed. Sometimes that unique perspective lead to genius, other times it crashed and burned.

On of my favorite Garcia quotes on playing music with Weir was something along the lines of "I don't know what the hell Weir is doing over there, but I'm just hanging out here in A and it seems to be working." They certainly did love each other.

This all seems to be turning into a rather convoluted way of saying that Weir was a peculiar freak, but he was not without his positive attributes, and his guitar playing, singing, song-writing, and rock star persona certainly contributed to the Grateful Dead's, er, greatness.  Some furthur proof:

80's rock psychedelia show opener:


A fantasy-autobiographical number, that opens up into an instrumental passage that has it's origins in the Mind Left Body Jam:

Weir was a great interpreter of other people's music as well, particularly Dylan. Here he is putting more of a ballad feel to Masterpiece, letting it build up. Another great thing about Bob's tunes are Jerry's backing vocals, Garcia's haggard whine the perfect balance to Weir's overbite:

Yes, Weir is undoubtedly a space cadet. Here he is a bit out of sorts, under the influence, overwhelmed, or something or other, on Letterman:

And here's classic rock star Bobby, singing of his often reciprocated love of the ladies:

Update: Somehow I forgot to include this 80's gem, which sums up every negative thing anyone has ever said about Bob Weir. I take back all the nice things I wrote. Sorry Bobby.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Giant of the Week


Norm MacDonald

Great comedian, greatest talk show guest ever. Everyone has seen the Carrot Top clip from Conan. Once you watch one Norm Youtube, it leads you down a never ending worm hole of Norm insanity, each clip funnier than the next. Here's my favorite, remember seeing this on TV years ago, unfortunately just audio.

And here's a great story about Norm:

Tonight's the Night

Tonight's the Night


Thursday, May 9, 2013


Clapton & The Allman Bro's

Eric Clapton has always been a disappointing cheese dick as a solo artist, much better suited to the context of a group to rein in his terrible taste. But with the right material and band, his playing and singing are undeniable. Clapton's peak was arguably the Duane Allman inspired Layla, and the tour he did with the Dominoes which featured extended improv on classic tunes. Here he is reprising that role with the Allman Brothers in 2009.

1. Key To The Highway - Allman Brothers Band with guest Eric Clapton (lead vocal / guitar)
2. Dreams - Allman Brothers Band with guest Eric Clapton (guitar)
3. Why Does Love Got To Be So Sad - Allman Brothers Band with guest Eric Clapton (lead vocal / guitar)
4. Little Wing - Allman Brothers Band with guest Eric Clapton (lead vocal / guitar)
5. Anyday - Allman Brothers Band with guests Eric Clapton (vocals / guitar) and Susan Tedeschi (vocals)
6. Layla - Allman Brothers Band with guests Eric Clapton (lead vocal / guitar) and Danny Louis (piano)

There are gems throughout, kicking off with Clapton and Greg Allman trading verses on Key to the Highway. Dreams features some unique soloing from Clapton on the classic Allman's tune. Little Wing and Layla are guitar workouts. Anyday has that classic build-up and transition into the chorus. But the absolute gem has toe be the ending to Why Does Love... with a Duane inspired duet between Derek and Clapton. Eventually Warren establishes himself as well, turning it into a guitar trio of dripping insanity. This goes on for several minutes, in pure Allman's outro style.

Update to include Liz Reed w/Clapton:

Friday, May 3, 2013

Kind Youtube of the Moment

Ben E. King, Stand By Me

One of the deepest, most beautiful, profound, and enduring songs ever recorded, performed by and for a bunch of retarded fucking teenagers. Before irony was invented.