#Phil Lesh Tumblr posts

  • Song Review(s): Grateful Dead - “Help on the Way”->“Slipknot!”->“Franklin’s Tower” (Live, Oct. 1, 1994)

    Though it’s become fashionable to say the Grateful Dead lost its mojo for good after 1992, that’s fake news. Freshly released, fan-shot video of the band’s Oct. 1, 1994, performance of “Help on the Way”->“Slipknot!”->“Franklin’s Tower” is just one proverbial fact-check.

    Bassist Phil Lesh and the instrumental “Slipknot!” are the stars of this 20-minute romp through the revered triptych; however, everyone is in good form, even Jerry Garcia, who recovers nicely after a few vocal flubs in “Help on the Way.”

    The audio is superior to the single-camera video and allows Lesh’s rubbery bass, Bob Weir’s slashing interpretation of rhythm guitar and each of the other players to be discernible as they navigate “Slipknot!”’s tricky rhythmic shifts.

    “Franklin’s,” meanwhile, eats up half the triad and finds Garcia singing enthusiastically - tossing in asides like, I want you to … - and taking care on the jams as he speaks to his bandmates through the group’s in-ear communication setup. They stumble a tad on the resolving “Slip” reprise, bringing a grin to the shorts-sporting Garcia.

    This ain’t 1977. But neither is it summer 1986.

    Grade card: Grateful Dead - “Help on the Way”->“Slipknot!”->“Franklin’s Tower” (Live - 10/1/94) - B/A/A-

    10/19/20

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  • Song Review: Grateful Dead - “Scarlet Begonias” (Live, Oct. 19, 1974)

    Donna Jean Godchaux freaks, unite!

    The only Dead woman in Grateful history gets her chance to improvise, singing wordlessly - off and on - over eight minutes of jamming on the tail end of “Scarlet Begonias” from Oct. 19, 1974, freshly re-released as part of the band’s “All the Years Live” video series.

    The song proper is only five minutes and is relatively well-done, considering how new it was at the time.

    The jam is interesting, particularly when Jerry Garcia briefly fiddles with a slide around the nine-minute mark, and illustrates the group was already thinking about “Fire on the Mountain,” which was yet to be written. Godchaux, who stays quite busy throughout, means well, but only super-fans will dig it, man.

    Grade card: Grateful Dead - “Scarlet Begonias” (Live - 10/19/74) - B-

    Read Sound Bites’ previous “All the Years Live” coverage here.

    10/15/20

    #Youtube #the grateful dead #all the years live #jerry garcia#bob weir#phil lesh#bill kreutzmann #donna jean godchaux #keith godchaux#scarlet begonias
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  • Song Review: Joe Russo’s Almost Dead - “Eyes of the World” (Live, Oct. 9, 2020)

    Joe Russo’s Almost Dead emphasized the almost on their recent performance of “Eyes of the World.”

    While JRAD often tries to sound as little like the Grateful Dead as possible, this Oct. 9, 2020, performance inside an empty Capitol Theatre in New York state is, literally, almost Dead. In fact, if Tom Hamilton’s vocals were erased, it’d be easy to mistake this JRAD performance for the late-1970s GD.

    Keyboardist Marco Benevento, bassist Dave Dreiwitz and the rhythm guitar of Hamilton are mostly responsible as they are almost Keith Godchaux, Phil Lesh and Bob Weir, respectively.

    Spanning nearly 17 minutes, this “Eyes” is heavy on the jazzy jamming. It’s a shame no one was there to witness it, because this is JRAD in top flight.

    Grade card: Joe Russo’s Almost Dead - “Eyes of the World” (Live - 10/9/20)

    10/15/20

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  • Song Review: Phil Lesh & Friends - “Casey Jones” (Democracy Comes Alive)

    Jason Crosby drove the train when Phil Lesh & Friends got together (kinda) to perform a socially distanced version of “Casey Jones” for Democracy Comes Alive.

    Masked and on an outdoor deck, the five-piece band - it ain’t the Q - play a relatively straightforward version of the relatively straightforward song about cocaine and trains. Crosby, however, remains crazy-busy on keys, adding a jazzy element to the otherwise sing-songy tune with Stu Allen on vocals and the namesake bassist mixed too low.

    And that sing-songy nature is the weak point as nearly half the seven-minute runtime is devoted to a long coda in which the refrain comes ’round again and again and again as the band watches - and ramps up - its speed.

    Grade card: Phil Lesh & Friends - “Casey Jones” (Democracy Comes Alive) - B-

    10/12/20

    #Youtube #phil lesh and friends #the grateful dead #democracy comes alive #phil lesh#grahame lesh#stu allen#jason crosby#alex koford#casey jones
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  • Jerry Garcia and Phil Lesh in the building the Grateful Dead shared at 710 Ashbury in the Haight Ashbury neighborhood of San Francisco 

    Photo by Steve Schapiro

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  • The Grateful Dead - Jerry Garcia

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  • Song Review: Bill Nershi, Keith Moseley, Kyle Hollingsworth and Jason Hann - “U.S. Blues” (Democracy Comes Alive)

    Charlie Chan is now Jackie. And instead of asking, What’s to lose?, Keith Moseley declares, There’s lots to lose!

    But it’s still the ol’ “U.S. Blues.”

    Bassist Moseley teamed with his String Cheese Incident bandmates Bill Nershi (guitar), Kyle Hollingsworth (keys) and Jason Hann (drums) to perform the Grateful Dead’s quasi-patriotic anthem for HeadCount’s “Democracy Comes Alive” online festival. Sticking close to the Dead’s take, the four-piece adds some SCI groove to the GD bop as Hollingsworth channels Keith Godchaux and Nershi does not channel Jerry Garcia.

    “Get out and vote for the change that you want to see,” Moseley says as the live-in-studio performance concludes.

    Grade card: Bill Nershi, Keith Moseley, Kyle Hollingsworth and Jason Hann - “U.S. Blues” (Democracy Comes Alive) - B

    10/7/20

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    Album Review: Grateful Dead - American Beauty: The Angel’s Share (Demos)

    They’re called demos, but the 10 acoustic tracks that make up the Grateful Dead’s American Beauty: The Angel’s Share (Demos) sound more like alternate takes.

    Featuring nine of the 1970 album’s 10 tracks - with “To Lay Me Down” subbing for the MIA “Box of Rain” - this collection of fully formed, unplugged, studio performances foreshadows the 56-track Angel’s Share that arrives digitally Oct. 15 and the American Beauty 50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition, to be released in multiple formats Oct. 30.

    Only “Truckin’” is incomplete, cutting in after the song is in progress. But to hear this and electric numbers such as “Sugar Magnolia” played acoustically is a pleasant jolt.

    Although the lyrics aren’t quite finished, “Candyman” proves the Dead could sing when they set their minds to it; “Brokedown Palace” proves they didn’t always set their mind to it; and “Ripple” - called “Hand Me Down” - is a delight.

    Acoustic guitars, electric bass and light drums propel the music and someone - presumably Ned Lagin - adds occasional piano. This leaves Pigpen to appear only on “Operator,” which shines with this instrumentation.

    Grade card: Grateful Dead - American Beauty: The Angel’s Share (Demos) - A

    10/6/20

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  • Song Review: Holly Bowling - “St. Stephen”

    Holly Bowling doesn’t take any liberties with “St. Stephen” - besides turning the Grateful Dead’s psychedelic rocker into a piece for solo classical piano.

    Eschewing the lyrics, Bowling nevertheless sticks to the script in a musical sense and even tacks the “William Tell Bridge” on to the end of the 11-minute track.

    The song heralds the Nov. 20 arrival of Seeking All That’s Still Unsung, Bowling’s second collection of instrumental Grateful Dead covers, after 2016’s Better Left Unsung.

    “St. Stephen,” which finds Bowling using overdubs for the first time, is among her best studio performances to date.

    Grade card: Holly Bowling - “St. Stephen” - A+

    10/2/20

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  • Song Review: Grateful Dead - “China Cat Sunflower->I Know You Rider” (Live, Oct. 2, 1987)

    Never trust a Prankster - particularly if he’s your sound guy.

    Grateful Dead board master Dan Healy mixed Bob Weir’s guitar so low on Oct. 2, 1987, his essential licks on “China Cat Sunflower” were virtually inaudible. Throughout the song, Weir - sporting his beloved Madonna T - is working it, but his axe doesn’t love him back until the band gets to the short “->” that leads to “I Know You Rider.”

    The famous couplet from almost exactly 33 years hence is the subject of the band’s latest “All the Years Live” video release. The significance of the date and Phil Lesh’s playing notwithstanding, this performance is no standout, owing to Weir’s poor mix, Jerry Garcia’s seeming impatience during jams, general sloppiness and a vocal performance that doesn’t come near to the band’s potential at this stage of the game.

    Grade card: Grateful Dead - “China Cat Sunflower->I Know You Rider” (Live - 10/2/87) - B-

    Read Sound Bites’ previous “All the Years Live” coverage here.

    10/1/20

    #Youtube #the grateful dead #all the years live #dan healy#madonna#jerry garcia#bob weir#phil lesh#bill kreutzmann#mickey hart#brent mydland #china cat sunflower #I know you rider
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  • John Mayer, Buddy Guy, Phil Lesh and Questlove - “Hoochie Coochie Man” L…

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  • Song Review: Grateful Dead - “Playing in the Band” (Live, June 9, 1991)

    Bruce Hornsby was a veritable firecracker on piano during the vocal portion of “Playing in the Band” on June 9, 1991, but laid low during the subsequent jam.

    This left Jerry Garcia to experiment, not terribly successfully, with an envelope filter, plain-old noodling and MIDI flute, making the Grateful Dead’s latest “All the Years Live” video release - previously unissued though it may be - a lukewarm affair.

    Nine minutes in, the screen image fades away as the band stumbles toward “He’s Gone.” Sound Bites remembers this as a high-quality show; but this “Playing” is no great shakes.

    Grade card: Grateful Dead - “Playing in the Band” (Live - 6/9/91) B-

    Read Sound Bites’ previous “All the Years Live” coverage here.

    9/24/20

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  • Song Review: Midnight North - “Dark Hollow” (Daze Between)

    Think of all the music we’d have missed if this stupid fucking pandemic had hit a few decades ago.

    For one thing among many, Midnight North’s string-band - two guitars, banjo and mandolin - rendition of “Dark Hollow,” recorded in California and Pennsylvania for the Rex Foundation’s Daze Between virtual festival, never would’ve happened.

    Of course, virtual festivals also wouldn’t have existed in 1990.

    Though it’s far from spectacular, it’s also a joy to see a second-generation Dead guy - Grahame Lesh - leading a group and trading verses with Elliott Peck and Nathan Graham on a song that occasionally graced Grateful setlists.

    Peck is by far this band’s strongest voice and the case can be made she should’ve sung if alone. But Midnight North is a band and this is a band effort that the band says “hints of (the) instrumentation on our upcoming new album.”

    Grade card: Midnight North - “Dark Hollow” (Daze Between) - C+

    9/24/20

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  • Song Review(s): Grateful Dead - “Sugar Magnolia”->”Scarlet Begonias” (Live, July 16, 1990)

    The only thing that comes close to listening to the Grateful Dead when they’re on is watching them have a real good time on stage.

    The Dead were on and having fun when they opened their July 16, 1990, second set with “Sugar Magnolia”->”Scarlet Begonias.” The proof is just out as part of the Dead’s “All the Years Live” video series.

    The combo runs just nine minutes, but the strength is not in the length. It’s in the ensemble playing, the flawless “->,” the vocal harmonies, Phil Lesh’s darting-fish bass and the interplay - musical and otherwise - between Jerry Garcia and Brent Mydland.

    It ain’t perfect - the Dead rarely were. Yet, it’s damn near perfection.

    Grade card: Grateful Dead - “Sugar Magnolia”->”Scarlet Begonias” (Live - 7/16/90) - A-/A

    Read Sound Bites’ previous “All the Years Live” coverage here.

    9/17/90

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  • GRATEFUL DEAD - TOUCH OF GREY

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    Album Review: Grateful Dead - Dave’s Picks Volume 35

    There are two kinds of druggy, mid-’80s Grateful Dead concerts: ones where the chemical enhancements resulted in super-charged, inspired playing - think 6/24/85 - and others that were simply sloppy.

    April 20, 1984, in Philadelphia - out as Dave’s Picks Volume 35 - is among the latter. It’s a show where Jerry Garcia sounds like he might die singing “It Must Have Been the Roses;” where harmony vocals aren’t present in the bridge of “Scarlet Begonias;” where Mickey Hart employs a distracting percussive effect during the front half of set two; where jams go off the rails; and the transition between “Morning Dew” - rife with musical and vocal flubs - and “Around and Around” could charitably be described as a train wreck.

    Highlights include “Space” - not a good sign - the pairing of “Around” with “Johnny B. Goode,” featuring scat vocals from Brent Mydland, and an adventurous “Let it Grow.”

    But that’s not enough to merit an official release of 4/20/84.

    The concert was also quite short and the three-disc set is padded with seven songs from the previous evening including an unusual “Estimated Prophet” with a lengthy outro that continually reverts back to the main theme. This seems the superior show and should have been the main attraction.

    Grade card: Grateful Dead - Dave’s Picks Volume 35 - B-

    9/15/20

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