Source: Dead.net (pinterest.com)
Source: Dead.net (pinterest.com)
Song Review: Grateful Dead - “Ripple” (Live, Oct. 31, 1980)
The wordless coda of “Ripple” is so packed with joy, the song so revered, the Grateful Dead could’ve played it in every city on every tour and no one would’ve complained. In fact, they’d have celebrated.
So, in true Prankster fashion, the band performed it only some three dozen times - in 1970, ’71 and 1980 plus a single take in ’88 - giving fans something to complain about.
The famous Halloween ’80 version - memorialized in “Dead Ahead” - is out again as part of “All the Years Live” and goes a long way toward explaining the fascination.
Played acoustically - with Brent Mydland on piano, Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart playing with brushes and hands, respectively, and Phil Lesh on electric bass - this “Ripple” is a doozy. Jerry Garcia is in sweet, fragile voice and Bob Weir and Mydland harmonize nearly perfectly with him.
As Garcia adds little flourishes of acoustic guitar, it’s clear he’s having a good time. And when Garcia had a good time, everyone had a good time.
Grade card: Grateful Dead - “Ripple” (Live - 10/31/80) - A+
Read Sound Bites previous “All the Years Live” coverage here.
Lecture 13: One of the best music documentaries of the last 20 years is Sweet Blues: A Film About Mike Bloomfield (2013), directed by Bob Sarles, an outstanding film that chronicles the life and times of Blues guitarist Mike Bloomfield (1943-1981). This trailer does a splendid job of capturing the film’s essence. Bloomfield, like his hero, B.B. King, specialized in Blues guitar music, but he – also like King (and Muddy Waters) played a vital role in bridging the electrified Blues of the 1950s and 1960s with the coming of Classic Rock in the mid-1960s. It’s no surprise, then, that a number of important musicians, such as Carlos Santana, Bob Dylan, and Jerry Garcia revered Bloomfield. While most Rock ‘n’ Roll histories tend to omit or downplay his contributions, I believe he’s worth spotlighting for his innovative Blues guitar style and his enormous influence on an entire generation of rock musicians.
John Perry Barlow “Enantiodromia”
John Perry Barlow could have died a proud man had he only been known as a writer and lyricist for The Grateful Dead, but was also a co-founder both Electronic Frontier Foundation/Freedon of the Press foundations, and a Fellow Emeritus at Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society, where he had maintained an affiliation since 1998. #wokeaf
“Hieroclitus proposed that the fundamental underlying principle of the universe was something that he called enantiodrama, which was the process by which everything is becoming it’s opposite, at all times - which is the best argument for moderation I’ve ever heard. That is to say, that if something manifests something else that is highly caricatured by itself, it will engage eventually in the opposite caricature.That which is peaceful becomes warlike, that which is rich becomes poor, that which is northern becomes southern.
And we are in an age where in enantiodrama is becoming increasingly evident in practically everything we look at, but before I get into that I want to give you a parallel back in the middle 17th century. There were couple guys who surprisingly, Newton and Liebniz, oddly enough came up with calculus in the same two week period - and this is not an easy thing to imagine happen since the calculus, at least when I studied it didn’t seem particularly intuitive. But they both managed it and reached that point where the human mind collectively was ready to produce it, and they did.
Now a couple things happened at that point, Newton spent the rest of his life trying to produce that Liebniz had ripped him off and had stolen his intellectual property, and actually didn’t do very much important work after that because he was so bit bittered at this theft of his idea and insights (*John Maynard Keynes, for one, would take exception to this*)…
…Liebniz on the other hand thought there were plenty of other interesting things to think about…and he went and invented the "bit”…He invented binary math, or *discovered*, and being a creature of his time, what he did then, and it’s a lovely thing that one could do such a thing or would think to do such a thing, he felt that was proof that the Eastern notion of oneness (the monad) was wrong - because the fact that he could create the entire universe out of once and zeros meant that, of course, there had to be duality. There was the sacred number for profane, there was heaven there was hell, there was God, there was man, there was this, there was that.
Leibniz was so pleased with what he considered to be the ultimate proof of the western way of looking at things, that he actually sent a letter to the emperor of China, whom, he assumed would be the representative to defend the monad against his revelation. And those were the days it took a couple of years for the letter to get there, and then there was a digestive process that I can only imagine that took another 45 years, and finally he got a letter back which was the Tao Te Ching which was translated, in other words - the Emperor wrote back, I see your point but here’s how we look at it:
It’s not either/or.
I think had that been understood at the time would have been a real turning point in Western history, but because we then Decartes and a number of other people that were really pretty welded to the either/or school which we’re now stuck with. And now I think we have finally having proceeded into the golden age of irony, and believe me that’s what this is.
Song Reviews: David Nelson Band - “Klondike Blues” and “Man Overboard”
More than a year after his death, Robert Hunter keeps cranking out new songs with the help of his music-writing friends.
The latest are from longtime Hunter and Jerry Garcia collaborator/pal David Nelson and his eponymous band, whose “Klondike Blues” and “Man Overboard” are essentially rewrites of the Grateful Dead’s “Alabama Getaway” and any number of Chuck Berry tracks, respectively.
The former is the stronger of the two with Hunter’s wordplay in stark relief as Nelson sings in a voice reminiscent of early-’80s Bob Dylan:
Klondike, Alaska, you can stand a fork in the wine/you can hack it with an axe blade/cold enough outside to drop you blind
“Man Overboard” is a tossed-off rocker that, like “Klondike Blues,” is buoyed by guitarist Barry Sless and keyboardist Mookie Siegel who channel Berry and Johnny Johnson in their playing.
With Hunter having died in 2019 and Nelson surviving a host of health problems and the death of his New Riders of the Purple Sage bandmate Buddy Cage earlier this year, these welcome surprises follow “Movin’ Right Along” and represent the likely finale of the Hunter-Nelson songwriting team.
But there’s likely still more to come from DNB.
“We love and miss you … and hope to see you before too long,” the band said in a hopeful, post-pandemic-return-to-touring statement.
Grade card: David Nelson Band - “Klondike Blues” and “Man Overboard” - B+/C+
DYLAN AND THE DEAD - “JOEY” - JULY 12, 1987 - GIANT’S STADIUM
Song Review: Grateful Dead - “Dear Mr. Fantasy->Hey Jude Coda” (Live, July 2, 1989)
Brent Mydland’s eyes are squeezed tightly closed. He’s red-faced and wailing into the microphone.
Jerry Garcia is lost in his solo - arms flying above his head as he fans his strings in response to Mydland.
Bob Weir screams falsettos. Phil Lesh sings low. And Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart beat the living shit out of their drums, as they’ve done for the preceding 10 minutes.
It’s July 2, 1989 - thanks to “All the Years Live” - and most of the Grateful Dead are vamping furiously on the “Hey Jude” coda. Mydland, meanwhile, sings lines from the “Dear Mr. Fantasy” that came before.
Like many Grateful Dead performances, this one gets sloppy in its exuberance. But people who like licorice are really going to love it.
Getting to this point is a journey in itself as Garcia yells wordlessly into the mic after he and Mydland finish their “Fantasy” duet. He cues the band with his right hand and leads the transition from Traffic to the Beatles.
It all begins with Mydland singing solo, eyes wide and focused on a smiling Garcia, who looks on like a proud musical father. It starts slow and bluesy; and ends wildly with Weir screaming bloody murder.
Grade card: Grateful Dead - “Dear Mr. Fantasy->Hey Jude Coda” (Live 7/2/89) - A
Read Sound Bites’ previous “All the Years Live” coverage here.
Jerry Garcia & Merl Saunders - “Lonely Avenue” - GarciaLive Volume 12
I GOT TO MEET MERL SAUNDERS IN 1994 !!!!! REST IN PEACES, MERL <3
Song Review: Jerry Garcia and Merl Saunders feat. Martin Fierro - “The Wall Song” (Live, May 21, 1971)
As rarities go, Jerry Garcia and Merl Saunders’ performance of “The Wall Song” is so rare as to be unique. And while that makes it interesting, that doesn’t make it essential.
The single announces the Dec. 4 arrival of GarciaLive Volume 15, capturing Garcia and Saunders’ May 21, 1971, gig at Keystone Korner.
Garcia obviously can’t - and does not - sing it as well as its author, David Crosby, did. In fact, the vocal section is quite poor, though Garcia, who played on the studio version, has the music down.
But guest saxophonist Martin Fierro, who comes on board at the five-minute mark and leads the bass-less band - guitarist Garcia, keyboardist Saunders and drummer Bill Vitt - through the remaining seven instrumental minutes does take “The Wall Song” to other spaces.
And out-therein lies the magic as Fierro turns Garcia’s wobbly Crosby and Nash cover into a free-range bit of jazzy exploration that exists only because of Garcia and the Grateful Dead’s habit of recording everything. It’s worth hearing. But it isn’t something fan’ll be putting on repeat for years to come.
Grade card: Jerry Garcia and Merl Saunders feat. Martin Fierro - “The Wall Song” (Live - 5/21/71) - C+