Jobygoob's Retro Reviews

This blog will post reviews of some of the live concerts I've attended, downloaded, or otherwise obtained through the years I've been collecting music. If available online I'll post links to where you can find the recording yourself.

Friday, June 30, 2006

Grateful Dead: 07/29/1988, Laguna Seca Raceway, Monterey California

Set 1
Iko Iko, Walkin' Blues, Candyman, Queen Jane Approximately, Althea, Blow Away, Cassidy > Deal
China Cat Sunflower > Crazy Fingers > I Know You Rider > Playing In The Band > Drums > Space > The Wheel > Gimme Some Lovin' > Believe It Or Not > Sugar Magnolia
Black Muddy River

Welcome back to Jobygoob's Retro Reviews. Today's review is a show readily available for download at the Live Music Archive, 7/29/88, at the Laguna Seca Raceway in Monterey California. This was the first of a three show run at Laguna Seca, and in my opinion the best of the three. I chose this show mainly because of the extremely high quality of the recording currently available at the LMA. It sounds to me to be a mislabelled soundboard or soundboard/audience matrix recording, but I suppose it's possible that its just a phenomenal audience recording. If this is the case, it's one of the best sounding audience recordings I have ever heard. I'll definitely be sending this over to Born Again Ben because he somehow missed this clearly worthy addition to his great list of best auds at the archive.

One small note about the LMA: If you haven't been over there recently, you'll notice next time you visit that they have undertaken a major overhaul of their site. All the Grateful Dead has been moved over to its own section, and they have altered the way that you search and access shows. You can still search by year, but it's not as intuitive as before, and each search results in a long list of shows that is nowhere nearly as easy to navigate as it was before. There's a new forum just for discussion of the Dead, which I'm sure is a great relief to all the other posters at the LMA that have no interest in GD. The coolest addition is a little java jukebox on the page of every show that lets you easily stream from any song in the show. This is very cool, and while it doesn't exactly lessen the blow of losing download access to all the great soundboard recordings, it is a real nice feature none the less. It also allows me to easily listen to the show while I write these reviews, a nice way to record my impressions on the fly. I'm not a big fan of these changes overall, but I get the feeling this is a work in progress and hopefully the interface will continue to improve as time goes on. Now on to the review:

This was one of only five times the Dead played at Laguna Seca Raceway. This must have been a fantastic place to see a show, because of the gorgeous surroundings and the campgrounds right on site at the venue. According to a post on the LMA, several Deadheads camped on the grounds of a U.S. Army rifle range nearby the venue, resulting in the Dead being banned from playing there ever again. Definitely a great loss.

This show was in the middle of an extremely prolific period for the Dead. Jerry was healthy and strong, and Brent was really coming into his own, adding so much to each and every show. The first set opened with a nice, laid back Iko Iko, featuring some interesting sound effects on Jerry's vocals and great organ fills and solos from Brent. This is a nice, always unexpected opener and is a good indicator of some unusual song selection for the show ahead.

Bobby gives us a Walkin' Blues next, nothing too special here.

Jerry picks up the mike again for Candyman, always a treat. He mixes up some lyrics in the first verse but recovers nicely. Nice harmonies on the refrain. The first lead break is really nice. Jerry's vocals are strong here early in the show. The song builds up to a pretty powerful crescendo at the last verse, overall a great version.

Next song is Bob Dylan's Queen Jane Approximately, one of my favorites in this position from Bobby Weir. I was always so happy so see this instead of those cowboy double shots we get so often here. Nice harmonies from Jerry and Brent, and some great support solos from those two as well.

Jerry's up again next with Althea. A few more confused lyrics in the first verse, and a flaw in the recording cuts out a bit here, not too bad though. Great soloing after the bridge is the highlight here.

Brent takes over with an early version of one of my favorites of his original tunes, Blow Away. This is definitely an early version, only the fourth time played, with none of the backup vocals from the rest of the band that really added alot to this song. It's interesting to hear, though, and shows how this song evolved and really improved over the next couple of years. Phil comments after this song how the band seems to take longer in between songs than they used to and gets a rise out of the crowd.

Cassidy is next, pretty standard version here. This is just a great song, and I really never got tired of hearing it. Always a nice opportunity for Phil and Jerry to take off after the "faring thee well now" verse, and it never gets old listening to the whole band come back from the outer reaches to join together in unison for "flight of the seabirds." Probably in my top five favorite Bob Weir tunes of all time.

Deal closes the first set, which was always a crowd pleaser. Nice long high energy jam after the verses to end the set. Overall, while not a killer first set, definitely nothing to complain about.

Set two picks things up significantly. It opens up with a nice leisurely paced China Cat Sunflower. Jerry sounds good vocally and as usual for this song, there's some real fine interplay between his and Bobby's guitar work. There's a nice long jam at the end of verse three that sounds like a leisurely jaunt into the standard Rider, but tonight Jerry has other plans. He noodles for a bit before blowing everyones mind and smoothly transitioning into Crazy Fingers! The band is right with him and its a really nice version. The vocals are very strong, and while there's really no jamming, it's still really sweet considering what a surprise it is for everyone. After this great diversion from tradition the band transitions right back into the I Know You Rider jam and into the song. It's such a refreshing change and it really is a shame that the boys didn't mix up this classic pairing more often. This kind of surprise is a great example of why seeing the Grateful Dead was always such a fantastic experience for me. There always was the potential for some crazy magic flying in out of left field at any given show, and for me, more often than not, the boys would deliver.

The set doesn't slow down as they go right from Rider into one of the best versions of Playin' In the Band since the truly amazing versions from 1972. This Playin' is so good it is featured on the Grateful Dead box set retrospective "So Many Roads." Brent and Bobby sing together and their interplay is really wonderful here. The instrumental is superb, with creative and imaginative soloing from Phil and Jerry following the verses. The fun continues as the jam takes off into some serious weirdness, before coalescing back into the reprise and transitioning into Drums>Space, which contains some nice easy going jamming along with the usual explosive moments of terror.

Jerry brings us out of space with one of my all time favorites, The Wheel. Something unusual about this tune: The Wheel, in my opinion, is one of the few songs I think that Jerry did better in the recording studio than in most live versions. The intro to this song, on Jerry's first solo album "Garcia," is probably my favorite guitar work ever done on any recording. Just hauntingly beautiful and melodic. It's also featured during the animation sequence of the Grateful Dead Movie. The version from this show is practically flawless, but I've yet to hear a live version that captures the magic of that studio release. There's a couple from 1976 that come close...

Phil and Brent take control of the mike with a pretty rocking Gimmie Some Lovin'. Great guitar jams, organ music, and some serious Phil bombs highlight this tune.

Jerry graces us with a rarity for the next tune, Believe It Or Not. This was played only seven times by the Dead. I was lucky enough to catch two of them live, in Hamilton Ontario 3/22/90 (a phenominal show, a classic, deserving of its own review sometime soon), and in my hometown of Philly on 9/9/88. This song always reminds me of the JGB tune Gomorrah, I guess because of the signature little guitar run after each verse that is pretty similar. I think Gomorrah's a better song, in general. This version is as good as any of the few we saw, flawless but just not alot to this tune in my opinion.

Sugar Magnolia ends the second set. Bobby sounds tentative and a bit off here. He actually stops singing during verse two and has Jerry and Brent's harmonies finish the verse. Maybe he was having equipment or mike problems. Jerry and Brent are all over this tune tonight, but this is not one of the better Sugar Mags. Nothing really wrong with it, just doesn't take off the way this song sometimes does. The jam at the end is fine, and maybe I'd get a better feel of how the crowd was into this tune on a recording that featured the audience a bit more, but what we have here is basically a routine performance of the tune to close the set.

The band encores with Jerry's Black Muddy River. Nice version, not much different than any other one. Jerry sounds a bit tired here, but it's been a long, hot night. This was a great song, consistently effective and evocative. Not my favorite encore, I agree with Phil when he expressed the sentiment in his autobiography that this tune was kind of a bummer to end a show with.

And that's all for now, another Retroreview comes to a close. Check out the link at the beginning of the review to head to the Live Music Archive for a downloadable copy of this great show. I'll be back soon and let you know my impression of the Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young show tomorrow night in Camden.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

My Father's Day present

For Father's Day this year my dad got me a new Ipod. It's a 30gb video Ipod, which is a pretty nice upgrade from the one I currently have, which is a 20gb model without video capabilities. The first thing I did was to figure out how to rip DVDs I own, convert them to a format the Ipod can read, and then get them on there so I can watch in bed while my wife is sleeping ;) This entailed using a program to bypass the copy protection on most DVDs, which is breaking federal laws, which in my opinion is a bunch of BS. I spent good money on these things and should be able to watch them on any piece of equipment I want to, including my new Ipod video. Anyway, it's easy enough to get around the copy protection and any feds reading this can kiss my big white ass.

My next project is transferring the Dead shows I downloaded from the LMA off my old Ipod onto my new one. This is such a pain in the ass you wouldn't believe it. I have to use another program called Ephpod in order to access the music on my old Ipod, transfer it to my hard drive, then plug in my new Ipod and add the files. I tried to do it all in one big batch and for some goddamn reason it only decided to copy some files and not all of them, which left me with a bunch of incomplete shows, which is totally unacceptable to my OCD. So now I am doing each show individually and doublechecking to ensure everything is copied properly, which is taking me a crazy amount of time. All this is exacerbated by my super slow dinosaur computer that only has about 2gb of memory free, so I am having to do this all about 1.5 gb at a time. A huge hassle. It will be worth it in the end, and all this attention I am paying to my GD collection should result in at least one or two new Retroreviews for you all to enjoy in the near future.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Amazon.Com offers 50% off all Grateful Dead DVD movies

I thought I'd post another quick note to let you know that is offering 50% off all Grateful Dead DVD movies for a limited time. Now would be an opportune moment to pick up any of the ones you might be missing from your movie library. For example, the newest release, Truckin' Up to Buffalo, is going for the ridiculously low price of $12.47. Dead Ahead, recently released on DVD, is also offered at $12.47. The Grateful Dead Movie and the Closing of Winterland are both going for fifteen bucks each. The best deal is on the collections, of which there are two. View From the Vault 1-3 are offered of a total price of 34.97, a great deal. Or you can pick up Downhill From Here, Ticket to New Year's, and View From the Vault 1 for the same low price of 34.97. These sets usually go for over seventy bucks. Normally you won't find me shilling for or any other huge conglomerate on this site, but these deals are too good to pass up and I wouldn't wan't anyone in the blogging community to miss out on these bargains.

Neil Young movie Heart Of Gold released on DVD

Tuesday June 13th marked the release of Jonathan Demme's documentary/concert film of Neil Young's Heart Of Gold on DVD for purchase and rental. This is a fantastic movie, one that should appeal to everyone, not just fans of Neil Young.

The movie documents Neil's concert at the Ryman Auditorium, a famous theatre in Nashville Tennessee, where he previously recorded his recent album Prairie Wind. The album is a return to the style of music Neil made famous with the International Harvesters, and some of his musicians including Ben Keith on steel guitar and Spooner Oldham on piano/keyboards have been playing with Neil since the days of this band lineup. The album is very similar in tone to the 1993 release Harvest Moon, and fans of that release will definitely enjoy this album. The songs are extremely personal, dealing with his relationships with his recently deceased father, his wife of many years Pegi, his daughter Amber Jean leaving home, and his recent brush with mortality as he was diagnosed with a brain aneurism a week before the filming of this movie. The concert features every song on the new album, and about eight classic songs at the end of the set. Some of these classics take on all new meanings in the context of Neil's illness. Look in his eyes when he sings "I want to live, I want to give" at the begining of the song Heart of Gold, and you'll know what I mean. Other highlights of the set include Comes A Time, Four Strong Winds, I Am A Child, Old King, One Of These Days, Old Man, and Needle and the Damage Done.

The DVD comes in a two disc set, with six or seven mini documentaries on disc two about the making of the film and the recording of the album. There is also a short clip of the Johnny Cash show from 1971 where a much younger Neil plays Needle & the Damage Done for one of the first times.

I can't recommend this DVD enough. It's a heartbreakingly raw and emotional performance. I was moved almost to tears several times just by looking at Neil as he smiles at his wife singing behind him. Definitely pick this one up and check it out as soon as you can.