Grateful Dead [ 02/22/74, apparently mislabeled 02/24/74 ]
Winterland Arena San Francisco, CA
80+ PERCENT OF THE SOUNDCHECK
A-SBD OPEN REEL RECORDING
SSSB Audio Rating: AR1a
LINEAGE: SBD > RTR @ 7.5 i.p.s. > D > SSSB
This is the majority of the soundcheck for that evening's show; due to this being a version which does NOT have the PCM tape in it's lineage, it is released as a NEW SHOW "Let It Grow" is missing 02:18 from it's beginning, "Instrumental Jam is missing approx. first 2 minutes and last 1:38 seconds (both of these verified by my Marin County source) due to RTR tape decks being patched in and out; any/all editing, fades, NR, hiss elimination, phase shifting/"time smear" correction, jitter elimination, EQ, and quantization noise elimination (when down-converting audio to 16-bit / 44.1kHz for CD-R mastering), were all performed using 24-bit / 96 kHz digital realm processing at Serafin Station Studio B [this show was released 08/01]
DISC I (ONLY DISC)
Track 01: Let It Grow (04:51.789)
Track 02: They Love Each Other (06:56.092)
Track 03: U. S. Blues #1 (06:03.467) ->
Track 04: U. S. Blues #2 (05:50.149)
Track 05: Attics Of My Life (03:47.289)
Track 06: It Must Have Been The Roses (13:34.552) ->
Track 07: Instrumental Jam (song unknown) (02:36.380)
TOTAL RUNNING TIME: 0:43:39.718
Uploaded exclusively to GDLive.com by:
John "Jay" Serafin, owner/audio engineer @ Serafin Station Studio B
"Making Kindness Dubs For Everyone!"
No Profits Or Copyright Infringements EVER!
Web Info: http://members.home.com/kinddubs
E-Mail: [email protected]
JAY'S PERSONAL COMMENTS:
To begin with, this recording has been listed as a NEW RELEASE (rather than a re-release), due to the fact that this version was put onto the DAT master directly from the 2-track RTR tape, bypassing the PCM archive tape. By not having the 8-bit PCM media in the lineage can make a big difference in the amount of overall hiss, sound quality, etc.
Many of the sound check recordings from the 70's were never kept (unless they were Betty Board shows). This particular one was (as were most of the early 1974 shows), as new equipment was being tried out during the late Winter/early Spring tour. It is my understanding that a new monitor mixing console, updated outboard effects, and newer microphones for Jerry and Phil were being used for this run. By having these tapes on hand, the band and the audio engineers would be able to use this recording for comparison and reference purposes, hearing how the new gear worked when compared against their older equipment.
While not "really stellar" in overall quality (if you compare this to my version of 7/16/66 for example), this sound check is still VERY CLEAN, crisp, and unusual (but very easy) to listen to. This is why I gave it the highest possible analog media-originated rating. I mentioned "unusual" in the fact that this wasn't the mix which would have been used at the show, but was just to "isolate" Jerry's guitar (he's only in the LEFT channel). The keyboards don't get put into the mix until part way into U.S. Blues #1 (Keith was late getting there), etc. You can hear the engineers making small (and sometimes overly "compensated") adjustments to the mix. Phil's bass is sometimes louder and softer, Keith's piano gets distorted (but not louder) in the mix, due to the compression/limiting used, etc.
You'll notice, right from the first few notes of "Let It Grow", that the right channel is LOWER in overall volume by an average of 4.2 dB. This is because of how the mix was made. You will hear the vocals, Phil, and the percussion "dead center" (which is pretty much a clear indication that neither channel is loudest than the other). Jerry's guitar (left channel) is MUCH louder than Keith's piano (right channel), and this accounts for the appearance of the mix being out of balance. But it's not, if you go by the "standards" that the Dead used... vocals, bass, and (when they had only one drummer) the snare drum in the percussion mix were equal in the left and right channel, this giving the "illusion" of those items being "right in the middle of the mix". So, if you turn your balance control more to the right channel, you're going to lose the "stereo center" effect.
Phil really starts to get pissed off when the stage monitors and the overall venue aren't loud enough (track 5), and he let's the responsible person know this in no uncertain terms! Jerry even questions how the stage monitors are being utilized, which is pretty unusual for Jerry. The Dead almost always relied on Phil's excellent knowledge of mixing techniques, what works at any given venue or situation (and what doesn't!). Phil was very adamant a lot of times during setup and sound checks on letting the audio engineers know what he expected of them and what was not acceptable. The only person he never really gave any lip to was Betty Cantor-Jackson. Phil knew that Betty had a great "ear" for mixing at venues, and he almost never questioned her techniques.
During track 3, and in several other short sections during this recording, you can hear where the compression and limiting is pushed too far on Keith's piano, giving it almost a digital keyboard sound. Slightly annoying, but since he's not really loud on the mix, it's 100% bearable. These are things which MUST be worked out at a sound check, and only fine-tuning should ever be needed for the actual show. The Watkins Glen sound check (which turned into a complete show!) was a great example of how a sound check should be once everything was "in place" and 90% balanced.
Bobby is in his Country & Western mode for his rhythm chops. To me, the early and mid-70's were a very much a C&W time for Weir. And, to me, it's better than hearing his late 80's until the end of the Dead "angular" style of playing, and being less in the mix. Bobby added so much to the overall sound, even though you can't always hear what he's playing. But if he was very quiet in a show's mix on any given night, one could sense that the band's "balance" was off. The vocals are great, as they were already balanced. Billy was just playing "mildly", as there was no need for any type of showing off... he just was needed to keep the tempo steady for the session. "It Must Have Been The Roses" was played much faster than normal, and it sounds quite unusual to listen to this faster tempo. Both versions of "U.S. Blues" had a "New Orleans jazz / honky-tonk feeling to them... it's subtle but it's there. Just goes to show that the Dead were quite versatile with their musical stylings. This has always been a trademark which I've enjoyed, and when I hear an unusual styling, I will always make mention of it, either in the "Detailed List" objective comments as well as my "Personal Comments".
While this is not a "show", per se, it's very nice to sit back and listen to, just to hear how things were done. If you want to really hear Jerry's playing (as he's always "center of the mix"), this is an excellent selection to get. You really hear how he never stops playing for a moment, once the song starts! Even when you hear him "noodling" during regular shows, there's this feeling you get that if he stopped playing or paused for any reason, he wouldn't start again! To just listen to his hammer-ons, pull-offs, and slides are a work of art for the years. And you can really get to hear every note he plays on this sound check.
I think this recording is worth having just to be able to hear the Fat Man playing on his own, to hear Donna in very good harmony vocals, Billy just performing "basic drumming", Weir's C&W noticeable chord progressions, and a number of "Phil Bombs", as they had him pretty high in the mix.
Because this was just a rehearsal, the RTR deck wasn't using the high quality grade of open reel tape they would normally use, so there was quite a bit of hiss. Thanks to the digital editing system, I was able to drop the total level of hiss by almost 60% (which is VERY noticeable) and yet keep the high frequencies of Jerry's guitar and Billy's cymbals from being affected. It took 8 noise reduction passes to get the hiss down to a very low level and not introduce any unwanted musical distortion. This is something a lot of people who try to reduce hiss do not try. Rather than attempting to reduce this hiss "all at once", which can lead to phasing and "flanging" (the metallic-sounding result of overly ambitious hiss reduction), try doing a MINIMUM of TWO passes, reducing the hiss slowly. You know when you've hit the limit of noise reduction when those audio anomalies I mentioned begin to occur. Yes, it takes more time, and requires more work. But you'll be happier with the end result (as will anyone who gets dubs from you!) by trying it the way it's done in professional studios.