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John "Jay" Serafin, owner/audio engineer
Serafin Station Studio B
"Making Kindness Dubs For Everyone!"
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PERSONAL "DISCLAIMER": When it come to what is said about parts of Set I and ALL of Set II, let me assure you I am trying to "preach religion" to anyone. I never have, and never will. I'm religious to a point, believing in a "higher power", but I never religion with people, nor do I try to tell anyone about my own spiritual beliefs in life. I just "see all, accept all, and make the most of it". There is nothing "spiritual or religious" in my comments here tonight, so please don't try to interpret anything like this into what you're about to read later on.
You have to really know the origins how how I made the review of this show. I'm laying on an air matress (because I cannot sit in a chair for more than 30 minnutes or so), in my almost darkened studio... the indicator lights of all of the equipment providing the only illumination, one of two cats sleeping next to me. Just a hint of an occasional purr when I had to move to ease my back.
I'm reviewing the MASTER copies of the three CD-R discs, which will be the ones used to make all of the Kindness dubbing copies for everyone. I'm positioned right in the Studio's "sweet spot"... an almost perfect 6 foot per side triangle of the monitor speakers and my ears, lying back in a real comfortable posotion. I'm tired but not sleepy... my back is really acting up, and just with the heating pad for therapy, I'm all set to audtion the show.
This is how most of the people who wrote to me about how this show seemed to "envelope and overwhelm them" were pototioned in their room where their aduo equipment's located. They were just lying around and put all the discs into their players just to listen to the show for the first time.
Set I, the first 3 songs, Healy has the mix "reversed" (Brent in the left channel, etc.)... that changed with the flick of a switch, and just a slight bit of editing was needed to take away the "blip" when he did this. For the remainder of Set I, the left channel was close to -1.58 dB too low in the mix, so the mix was "off-center". This was corrected, and now the mix is where it should be. All of Set II was correct in the mix levels for both channels, and needed no correction.
FOR STARTERS: For the life of me, I don't know why this show isn't out there on a lot of people's lists! Everyone to date (it's June 28th right now) has wondered the same thing. This particular show is BEGGING to be out there for EVERYONE to enjoy, and hopefully experience what I felt tonight (as well as the more than 20 others who experienced almost the identical "feelings").
You had to know, and try to imitate, and the ambient settings I was in to understand how and why these Personal Comments were written the way they were. You've seen a lot of my "Personal Reviews" for other shows, and I have NEVER gone into such detail or felt this way about ANY Dead show in my life before! And believe me, with my collection of over 300 shows I've heard many times over (when I make the Kindness dubs for people), or when I initialy quickly listened to little "snippets" of the shows in the ever-growing queue waiting to be worked on (over 230 shows!), I have made my subjective observations about the quality of the shows as a whole, and sometimes commenting on a particular song... this particular show's Comments are totally "out of the norm" for me. Here's the "setup" of my review of this release:
It's 9:30 at night... just the glow from the panel lights from the pre-amp and the power amps, the volume indicator LED bargraphs moving in time to the music from the digital mixer, the flourescent tube blusih glow from all the eight rack mounted DAT decks, the CD-R transports, the Mini Disc deck, the Dolby encoder/decoder, and some rarely-used outboard processing equipment (just to see the frequency spectrum's curve... all these little soources of list providing sort of a "mystical" and ever changing combination of the various indicator liights' coloros. The cat, Edina, who prefers using me as a "bed", is curled up and sleeping next to me. She loves the Dead!
I hit the PLAY button for the first of the Marantz CD transports, ready to listen to what I think is going to be "just another good show" I worked on. I've only listened to this show in bits and pieces until now, working on each song individually, as I normally would. Rarely would I ever go for more than 1 or 2 songs before stopping to write down info on the editing sheets, get up and move around, and so forth. I only hear an entire show, the majority of the time, when I make sure that the MASTER and SAFETY copies have no errors on them.
On the "surface", if you were just looking at the song titles, exact order they were played in, it would just seem like a typical "late 1980's" set list. No real surprises to speak of. So you wouldn't think that this show had anything speial to offer to you. But once I got to the middle of Set I, there was something magical happening, and I knew I could not keep stopping the show to jot down notes and comments. I found my little hand-held tape recorder I used for taping classes and lectures, threw in a 1 hour cassette, and was ready to just verbalize my comments. I was NOT ready for this entire show to "affect" me the way it did... the comments just came flowing out, without thinking of what I was saying into the recorder.
What you're reading from here on in are the almost verbatim verbal comments I found myself spewing out almost non-stop at times. But I could simply not write down anything about this show fast enough. I ASK THAT YOU READ ALL THE SENTENCES AND MY COMMENTS, NOT SKIMMING THROUGH ANYTHING ANYTHING, EVEN IF IT SOME OF THE SENTENCES MAY BE "REPETITIOUS" AT TIMES... dim the lights way down or just light a few candles, don't get drunk or high. Just read through these comments, lie back and relax, close your eyes, and enjoy the ride!
The first few songs on Disc 1 are "setting us up", but we just didn't know it yet! No one, not the Dead, the audience, (or anyone fortunate enough to hear this show afterward from dubs like this one), had any idea of the night's events to come! The band opened up with a (moan, sigh, not again) Jack Straw... but the first thing that caught my ear was that it was erformed with almost NONE of the always used delay and reverb to Bob's voice! It's just there, glaring, almost snarling, yet very "focused", and you just begin to hear it in the second verse. There's a caged tiger in this show, but will it pounce on us? The song selection up to "A Little Light" have been pretty random, nothing out of the ordinary in their choices. But there's an emotion in each song, there's a true feeling to every note played and word sung, and it's being held back by this invisible fence. Everyone's trying to release it, but the key isn't there yet.
It begins with, oddly enough, with Brent's frustration when he blows the lyrics to "Little Light". The unleashing begins when he just goes into a long "ARGH" noise like "DAMN! Did I screw this up!"... and when you're waiting for the last chorus to this song, and it not coming... we're waiting! Still nothing, but it's building. And Brent slowly unleashes his inner rage with himself and the song's lyrics into the mic and his keyboards. But it's still "tempered", this fence is still holding back... the key's now there, now what door or gate to unlock?
Queen Jane comes from Weir's guitar, but there's some hesitancy by Jerry... there's some notes there which aren't part of Queen Jane, but to Let It Grow. But Jerry backs off, tries it a little again, but Weir's held his ground. This is going to be HIS choice! It's always time for something out of the ordinary to happen when Jerry and Bobby, even playfully, fight for the song with the opening chords. And, damned if it didn't happen! Jerry goes and pulls of a brilliant China > Rider. Not their finest, but it's hard to beat what follows in Set II. But Bobby's now "GOT IT" during Rider when he bellows, and almost DEMANDS "the sun's gonna shine in my back door someday". Now it's up to Jerry... he knows it's there, but he's not ready to "face it"... he holds back just a hair, when he gets up to speed. But the BAND is rocking as an entity and as individuals. This show, of any I have heard (and we're talking HUNDREDS!!), has never shown the diversity of the band with Brent in there. This show is the ultimate of "All For One, One For All". Everyone has their parts, their little niches, turns in both the background and the spotlight, their harmonies and their solos, their "togetherness" and their "tangents".
Set II's songs, albeit not "orchestrated", nevertheless turned out to be the PERFECT flow of songs, like the ticking of a well-oiled watch that know what time it REALLY is, like the tides themselves. They tease each other, interact, and yet have their own separate meanings and purposes.
Experience the lushness of low tides, where you can see more expansiveness, like the landscapes of the shoreline. Then the high tides come in, sometimes with fury, sometimes with grace, but always with a purpose.
I'll just set the stage and let the set list and the songs speak for themselves...
LET THE GOOD TIMES ROLL: Let's play this show with emotion, electricity, like there will never be another show... Brent TELLS you what's going to happen! You're going to get the good times, your soul WILL be "soothed", and it's all going to happen THIS ONE NIGHT ONLY!
HEY POCKY WAY: One hell of just a fun song. What does it really mean? Who knows and who cares! It's meant to get your tired-ass feet moving and your toes a-tappin'. THIS GOT EVERYBODY'S ATTENTION NOW! HERE WE GO... The Journey Never To Be Repeated...
SAMSON AND DELILAH: You listen to Jerry, and you're "pretty sure" the song's going to be S&D, but the little riffs of I Fought The Law are there, subtle and yet blatant at the same time, like the sun when you've got your best Ray-Ban's on. Then Jerry lets the "one riff" go, ALL HELL BREAKS LOOSE, and Bobby gets right into it. THE KEY WAS FOUND TO UNLOCK THE RIGHT DOOR FOR TONIGHT! The power and the glory bouncing off each other so well in this version. Bobby's giving it his all, and Jerry and Brent's not resting on their laurels, either. Micky and Billy are starting the "Tribal Beat" that will become very important later on...
SHIP OF FOOLS: Let's reel ourselves back in for some reflection and inflection (looking both at the outside and in at the same time like the "cosmic mirror"). Are our lives going to be a waste, or are we going to fight against it, rise up against the "machine", and take control of our lives, taking our merry band of brothers and sisters with us. The emotions of the words, and the way every note is played from this point on tells you that this has been, and will continue to be, a "learning show". The lecture was given here, tonight, only once... either you got it, or you didn't.
PLAYIN' IN THE BAND: Begin to follow your own path now... but you know you're part of a grander scheme. You begin to see your destiny, but which road do you take to get there? What pitfalls and happiness will greet you on this wonderful journey. This version, which I feel is one of the most powerful versions ever to be recorded, is borne out when Bobby comes in, and with the PERFECT accent on the PERFECT words at the PERFECT times, you hear "Standing on a tower, world at <> command... <> just keep a turnin' while <> playin' in the band" You're in control now, you see what the world is opening before you through this version... but if you decide you're not strong enough, like Samson, you're just going to keep going around in your little squirrel cage of an existence ("You just keep a-turnin'")... "Day break on the land...", finishes up and Jerry begins to take us on a lush journey through the little nooks and crannies of our lives with his melodies, contrasting solos, coming back into the fold, then going off again on the tangents, weaving a great musical tapestry.
Phil is no stranger to this, he senses what's going on tonight, and he goes off into his world, focused on the song and yet letting his subconscious mind do the playing for his. Bobby drifts in and out, along with Brent, little accents here and there, like little puffs of cooling wind on a perfect summer's day...
PLAYIN' IN THE BAND JAM: BUT THEN a stronger breeze comes up, the music becomes a little more complex, yet still retaining it's infrastructure... and it grows and ebbs ever so slightly, drifting in and out of what used to be a "root song", holding on for dear life at times, while this storms of playing emotional fury is unleashed on us... and when you think the chaos is coming in for Round Two...
EYES OF THE WORLD: ...the same small minor to major chord pattern emerges, and you're bought hand-in-hand into a brightly colored world of sound that is so in tune and so in sync with every thing else on Earth... there's no words that can describe the sound. Bobby puts a set of chords and a melody which will haunt you forever, and you'll never hear it the same in any show ever again. Then comes the eye opening words of Jerry and the rest, as they tell you all about life's beauty, wonderfulness, openness, begging to be explored (if you dare!)... now you think, even with all this beauty of words and music surrounding you, is this all about watching your life flash before you in an instant? Are you going to die? Why is someone telling you "the night comes so quiet, it's close on the heels of the day"... No, you were asleep (physically or mentally) "Wake up to find out that you are the eyes of the world", and you're given this wonderfully lyricaly serene opening of the world before you... what you own heart can is capable of, what you can do if you try... there's no way to let this show not be said that "something" didn't have it's hand in it's making. There is no way this could have been staged so far (and we still have a long way to go!), and it's TOO PERFECT, too emotional. This show, the songs, the emotions and accents, all were spontaneous, but yet gently and purposely guided in some cosmic way.
DRUMS: Ah, you knew it was too good to be true... Jay's going to complain about something. Yes, but no. Disc 3 opens up where Disc 2 left you, with the haunting chords of Bobby's letting go of Eyes.
Billy and Mickey want to keep this show going, as again these entwined pair of percussionists realize all along there's SOMETHING about this evening that has never been done before or since. There's nothing you can place your finger on, but there's SOMETHING about this night that has everybody just so in tune with everything else. They both follow their instincts, and like with Phil before, they're just letting the conscious mind go away and begin to play from their hearts and sould.
Billy's VERY flat kick drum is my complaint! There's no "life" to it, not like all of the other percussion going on... was this a blatant oversight on the part of the sound people, or just another part of this unusual night? Why is there nothing more than this "dull thud". Then you may think that this was "planned", to show us stark contrasts? EVERY OTHER drum and cymbal was given a life through effects that night. but why was the kick drum left out? HEALY!?!?!?
SPACE (PROPER): Space starts comes wafting in over you like a fog... you hear voices of people in the audience because of Healy's Ultra-Matrix Mix (what made him choose this night to do this???), but you can't quite make the conversations out... Billy is still at it, Mikey's gone into the ozone already, and the tribal drums begin to come back... they begin to work off of each other, mimicking, almost mocking the other... the synchronicity starts to become a little more "separate but equal"... in comes the MIDI again, then Mickey brings us back into his little world. Then the swirls and pans begin, but Billy pretty much "stays put" in the left channel, in his own "part of the universe", just briefly daring to take a couple of steps into Mikey's world... Mikey's tribal drums come back, like the natives warning of an attack or impending danger... then the fog rolls back in again... the mood's darkened by the sounds of an ancient pipe organ telling it's own mystery tale.
Jerry's out there, but where? Bobby's got his little trick bag of riffs, darting in and out, wide open for all it's insides to spill out. Then comes a trumpet in the fog... still somewhat discordant because of the distance, but it's a heralding trumpet! (Could those native drum beats have been bearing GOOD NEWS, of glad tidings?) It keeps getting lost in the distance... now hear the old English castle's creepy pipe organ bellowing out with it's might again... the trumpeter comes into our hearing again.
I WILL TAKE YOU HOME: I have caught a LOT of flak because of the point I chose to start this track from the moment it was released. You would THINK that it should begin with Brent's own music, but it HAS to, it MUST, start with Jerry's trumpet, proclaiming a birth! At least for this show!
This was Brent's song for his child, which again all seems to be part of this most unusual evening. There's SOMETHING ABOUT THIS SHOW... it keeps coming back to it... the show is almost medieval in away: picture this in your mind of the time when the Great Kings ruled Europe, when wars were fought over sometimes a square foot of earth as a boundary... you have the Sorcerer foretelling of your future paths, going all the way back to Samson early on. You've been told of what power right has over wrong, and how goodness overcomes evil eventually, ONLY IF that is the path you want to take! But the haunting medieval pipe organs, the heralding trumpet... but what is the trumpeter heralding?
THE BIRTH! This King, this mighty and powerful man, ruler over all, also knows the pleasure and beauty of looking at a single petal on a flower as well as the horrors of people enslaved. But this great and noble man, who also realizes that he's a very vulnerable single human entity, vows to his little child, possibly the heir to this Kingdom someday, that he will always be there to show her right from wrong, to give her strength and yet tenderness, to always shelter her. Is he saying this as a way of comforting her in her future years on this planet, or subtly saying "Goodbye" (and that he will always be there, in spirit form, to guide her) before this mighty man goes out to battle his own demons?
I had to let the opening herald trumpet be the beginning of this track, as it haunts and stays with us all through this song. The opening "swirls", like dark ominous clouds gathering overhead, are of the father's own creating (yes, it was Brent's MIDI performing that in this song's opening). It is the telling of the birth, of the beginning... and so it became the beginning of the track itself. Jerry remained triumphant with the heralding, even to the point of a chorus of trumpets for a short time. And the one haunting line again in this song "Ain't no fog that can lurk to hide you". It's at this point that Jerry let's his trumpet "go" for a short time", worn and weary from all of his bring the news to the people. But the trumpeter knows the King needs the kingdom (and the King himself) to hear these heralding notes... he picks up his trumpet, this "horn of plenty", and continues to play...
THE WHEEL: Probably the most unmistakable Jerry opening of all. It begins the way it was meant to, with a lot of depth and reverberations. Those notes came flowing and rolling so easily from this man this night... and why does he bring back the "Trumpet" during the song? Birth is over, it's the time for growing and going into the world. He's now telling us that of what we already know, or should have known by this point in the show (time?)... of what's ahead of us in our lives. Do we stand still, get trampled by the oncoming of the future... or do we forge ahead, fight the better battle in life and all around us...
I NEED A MIRACLE: One of the roads shown to us in this show, when we saw how life can be what we make of it tonight, is the road to decadence, gluttony, wanton ravishing of everything in sight and then more! We get almost a ragtime beat, reminiscent of the "Big Band era". Flamboyance and outrageous immoral behavior And what more fitting way to find the man who flaunts the world than...
WHARF RAT: "way down on the docks of the City", blaming the world for his own failures. Damn, how the mighty have fallen! But he finds someone to listen to his "version" of his life.
Hey, we're all suckers for a hard luck story.... and Jerry tells it beautifully tonight. The emotion, and sometimes the lack of it, is there for all of the audience (and us!) to hear. Jerry's personal demons as well being spilled out to us all? We will never know. But by the end of the song, there's a slight glimmer of hope in this fallen mans' eyes. Jerry's laying it out before the world, the story of this man, who wants to better himself, but can he? Does he have the fighting power left in him that ravished him like he ravished the world around him one song before! Jerry's solo, right before the almost staccato notes of a military march, almost has that slight heralding feel to it, for just those brief 3 or so seconds... sometimes that's all it takes for someone to REALLY open their eyes. Jerry's got this huge, triumphant-feeling solo, and it sucks all within earshot into it. And then it lulls, it begins to fade, almost like the glimmer of hope in this mans eyes that night on the dock...
AROUND AND AROUND: I spoke of the "Big Band" sound earlier on at the end of Miracle, and that era came right before the '50's rock and roll. If you took the "right road" in life, and you treated people the way you wanted to be treated, you got your reward. This comes out in Bobby's vocals of this Berry classic. It still talks of gluttony, but tempered with knowledge "When he police knocked, them old doors flew back". The person who knows right from wrong, where to draw the line, is shown that there is celebration in the music of tonight. Brent puts a honky-tonk piano in there (and damn, isn't that a trumpet with it's mute in I hear?). They nailed down the Big Beat, swing, Top 40, the 60's, everything into this song's ending!
NOT FADE AWAY: The man who chose the correct path in life is shown that everyone around him that love is everywhere. Jerry takes off with a solo that defies description. It's got sassiness, brash and filled with defiant emotion, and there's literally nothing holding him back except for the end of his guitar's neck! Jerry backs off a little, and EVERYONE GET IN THE ACT! The entire song, with Jerry's little "YEAH" (listen for it!), Bobby's emphasis and emotion, Brent gets in his few licks of Hey Pocky Way and Hey Bo Diddley before they hit the last verse. And even though they're trying to "fade away" with their volume, they won't let go!
ENCORE: BLACK MUDDY RIVER: I think back when I sat with my wife in the 8th row center stage on the aisle, surrounded by friends of the band and family members, when I heard this song on July 9th, 1995 and on that day something inside me actually knew for a fact it would be Jerry's last song he sang to us. Did he know it when he sang "Last Muddy River" for the one chorus? This show's version is such a haunting version of the last song we got from this great, but troubled man, it's uncanny. Jerry begins this version, singing proud, knowing his fate, that his time is over, and he has to be "movin' on". For this show, as he forgets the words in verse 2, he's lost his strength and courage for this song. NOW, the emotions begin to come out in his voice, Bobby trying to "hold him up" with his solid vocals, but the end is near. At least for this show... but Jerry knew very well that something was not ORDINARY tonight, and his soaring solo with Bobby near the end caps it all for this show. It's subtle, there's nuances you need to listen for, but it's there. Once Jerry says "When it seems this night will last forever", his voice cracked, he was literally near tears, but he mustered himself up to finish "with his head held high", a proud man.
I would be remiss if I didn't say something about Phil in this review. I simply cannot say that there was any single thing about his performance tonight that took precedence over everything else. HE WAS IN THE ZONE FROM THE MOMENT THEY TOOK THE STAGE. Somehow, Phil's almost mystical ways about him, his philosophies which he's revealed over the years, his gripes and his grins, guided this show. He never led with a note to denote a change in temp or style, he flowed with the tides throughout the show, never trying to alter the course of what was to be. But both he and "someone/something else" guided Phil for this show. Micky and Billy... I don't think I've heard them playing off of each other's mental vibrations on any other show as "easily" as this one. I've heard them and seen them at their best, but tonight, there were so many things that were "too perfect", subtle riffs, Micky's tribal beats on his tom-tom's, and so forth.
This is a show that is a story unto itself. A "one off", as it were. I've listened to HUNDREDS of shows in my Kindness library, as well as sampling the shows in my queue which will be released in the future, but I (as well as everyone else who has ever listened to this show in a serene setting) have never been drawn into a show like this to a point where you can actually see a story being told, chapter by chapter, unfolding like a well-written novel. I will always enjoy and savor every moment of every show the Dead have ever performed, but this show, from my own feelings to those who have agreed with me 100%, has to lead the pack as the >> overall << best performance ever. There have seen and heard many great shows which have had "best Wharf Rat", "best Morning Dew", etc., but I have yet to hear an ENTIRE that can beat this one.
PERSONAL RATINGS: (on a 1 to 10 scale with 10 being excellent)
Audio Mix: 9.4 for Set I until the 5th song... 10.0 after that.
Audio Quality: 10.0
Energy Level: 10.0 +
Show "Completeness": 10.0
Song Selection: ENTIRE SHOW 10.0
Surprises: the show itself
Frost Amphitheatre, Stanford University Palo Alto, CA
gd890506d1t01 06:03.667 Jack Straw
gd890506d1t02 07:09.923 Peggy-O
gd890506d1t03 08:23.931 Walkin' Blues
gd890506d1t04 08:19.106 They Love Each Other
gd890506d1t05 03:35.601 The Race Is On
gd890506d1t06 08:25.915 West L.A. Fadeaway
gd890506d1t07 05:44.992 Just A Little Light
gd890506d1t08 07:01.597 Queen Jane Approximately
gd890506d1t09 06:16.432 China Cat Sunflower ->
gd890506d1t10 06:11.723 -> I Know You Rider
Total time: 1:07:12.887
gd890506d2t01 05:34.264 Let The Good Times Roll
gd890506d2t02 06:22.955 Hey Pocky Way
gd890506d2t03 06:45.050 Samson & Delilah ->
gd890506d2t04 07:36.542 -> Ship Of Fools
gd890506d2t05 04:06.495 Playin' In The Band ->
gd890506d2t06 03:49.259 -> Playin' In The Band Jam ->
gd890506d2t07 08:05.425 -> Eyes Of The World
Total time: 0:42:19.990
Disc 3 IN PROGRESS
Set 2 cont'd
gd890506d3t01 07:56.629 Drums ->
gd890506d3t02 06:06.844 -> Space ->
gd890506d3t03 03:27.058 -> I Will Take You Home
gd890506d3t04 04:08.059 The Wheel ->
gd890506d3t05 04:20.863 -> I Need A Miracle ->
gd890506d3t06 10:08.866 -> Wharf Rat ->
gd890506d3t07 03:49.498 -> Around & Around ->
gd890506d3t08 07:50.911 -> Not Fade Away
gd890506d3t09 07:05.881 ENCORE: Black Muddy River
Total time: 0:54:54.609