November 27 - December 3, 2006
Welcome to the first installment of the weekly feature, the Taper Section. In this space, every Monday, you will find information on the recorded history of the Grateful Dead’s music as it pertains to that week, specifically focusing on the shows for that week, through the band’s 30 year performing history, that reside in the Grateful Dead’s storied tape vault. Although not everything is in there, with more than 1,600 of the band’s 2,400-odd shows represented, there is plenty about which to talk. Check back weekly for new entries and insight into the vault, as well as exclusive audio clips relating to that week in the Grateful Dead’s recorded history.
The late Fall has always been a great time for the Grateful Dead, and outstanding shows from the week of November 27 to December 3 come to mind readily. Of course, the first example that comes to mind is the exquisite music that was played at the Boston Music Hall November 30 and December 2, 1973, the highlights of which make up Dick's Picks Vol. 14. It’s often been said that the two-month period October 19-December 19, 1973 is the most consistently great period in Grateful Dead history, and these shows fall smack-dab in the middle of that run. Although justifiably overshadowed by the nights before and after, there was some good music played on 12/1/73, the night not represented by Dick’s Picks 14, as evidenced by a strong jam featuring "Playing In The Band". This show resides in the vault on 7” reel-to-reel tapes running at 7.5 IPS recorded by Kidd, as was Dick’s Picks 14.
Another exceptional end-of-November, early-December tour was that which took place in 1979, residing in the vault as PA cassette master tapes. Most of us are very familiar with the 12/1/79 Pittsburgh show, filled with great moments, but the preceding night, 11/30/79, offers some great material as well. Brent had been in the band for more than six months, and his contributions were really showing, both vocally and instrumentally. Check out the stellar version of "Passenger" from this show. Fortunately, the entirety of this tour is in the vault, and although cassette masters aren’t the ideal format from which to create an album, these have held up remarkably well.
Fast-forward a year, and we get to the monster southern shows in 1980, three in Florida and one in Atlanta. Unfortunately, only 11/26/80 and 11/30/80 are completely represented in the vault, but what a couple of shows they are, particularly the Atlanta show on 11/30. Although not without several standout moments, the occasionally lackluster shows at the Warfield and Radio City in September-October are overshadowed by this masterful performance in Atlanta, which includes the first electric version of "Bird Song" in more than seven years. Like the 1979 tour, the 1980 tours are mostly on cassette masters, but ones that are in remarkably good shape.
One super-cool show in the vault from this week in GD recording history is the bulk of the 12/1/66 performance. Although most of the material from 1966 in the vault has been released as part of the Rare Cuts and Oddities 1966 compilation, the show from 12/1/66 has some interesting material, including several very rare Grateful Dead songs, as well as exceptional performances of some of the classics from this era, including this mighty version of "Viola Lee Blues". It certainly gets going as that song always did.
Check back next week when we’ll explore shows from 1969, 1971, 1990 and others from the week of December 4. Feel free to get in touch with questions or comments, or if there is any particular show about which you’re curious about the vault source (if any), don’t hesitate to ask. We’ll try to address your curiosity in future entries, date-appropriate, of course.
David Lemieux vault [at] dead.net
The version of Passenger is pretty good. Bob and Brent always seemed to be enthusiastic on vocals for this tune, and this version is no exception. Jerry's first solo is very slide-laden, and pretty good. However, his second solo, is extremely well played and much faster.
Next up is the first "modern" version of Bird Song. Jerry's first solo at four minutes seems to hit all the right notes, and alternates between intense and mellow moments. The solo slows down from 5 to 7 minutes and gets slightly more spacey before going back into the chorus. A shorter version than versions later, but the boys had to start somewhere with this soon to be end of first set monster, and this version does finely.
Lastly, there's a very early Viola Lee Blues. The one thing I always notice about the Dead's performances from the 1966-1967 era is their incredible energy. This performance is no exception, especially with Jerry's shredding between verses. The beginning of the solo doesn't have much focus, but at the 7:45 mark things start to cook. These early Viola Lee Blues are not only a novelty, they are unique compared to the jams the Dead would play over the next 25+ years, that is, less intense (at times), more focused, less ball-to-the-walls. That being said, I actually prefer those kind of jams, but nothing can beat versions like this for pure intensity. The insanity comes to an end at the 14 minute mark and wraps up nicely.
Where can someone find a recording of these Atlanta shows?
Wow, Your not kidding. That show in Atlanta (11-30-80) was my 4th show and it changed me for ever along with everyone I know who was there. The Dolphins were swimming that night for sure. I recommend that if you haven't listened to this show, you check the whole thing out, Especially the Scarlet Fire. The best transition from Scarlet to Fire ever, the Space into the Wheel is so beautiful and is totally unique, and from this point on the rest will steal your face. Finally a huge UJB encore. Long. Ripping. I ended up seeing over 300 shows and this one was never topped. Many that came close, but this is my ACME.