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Wednesday, July 04, 2012

LN jg1973-01-25.jgms.early-late.sbd.7670.shn2flac1644


Introduction

Not long ago I posted a set of notes on JGMS 1/15/73 at the Inn of the Beginning, the second known date (and the earliest circulating tape) of the Garcia-Saunders-Kahn-Vitt group to include singer Sarah Fulcher. The Sarah Era, as I’ll call it, holds lots of appeal: she’s a mysterious figure about whom little is known; she is a totally distinctive vocalist; she was only around Garcia for nine months or so (1973); she came from Memphis (though she’s a Texan), providing a direct vein to a vast American musical tradition that surely interested Jerry Garcia, even if he hadn’t done much around it; and during her time with The Group they played lots of numbers that they had never played before and would never play again, among them a couple of presumed Fulcher originals (“Go Climb A Mountain” [Allan | TJS] and “Find A Rainbow” [Allan | TJS]).

1/15/73 had left me a little mixed. I enjoyed it, but it didn’t spark much for me. It’s always possible that this is determined to some (possibly large) degree by the particularities of any given listen. But it’s also possible that I was hearing a band that is trying to integrate a new player, trying to figure itself out. And that can be a little bit like work (for the band, if not the listener!). And that’s why one goes up to Cotati to start breaking in a new thing. Having now listened to a show that I confuse in my mind with that one, because of the numeric similarities –1/25/73, Boarding House—I feel more inclined to buy the latter scenario. What I hear on 1/25/73 suggests a unit that is getting itself together. There are many really nice moments, but it still feels like everyone is sort of feeling things out a little bit. One wonders the extent to which album economics are on Jerry’s, and everyone’s mind, as they try to get a vinyl-ready band and repertoire together.

Metadata

There seems little doubt but that the date/location attributions are correct. Merl Saunders, Jr. has shared a handbill image listing Garcia-Saunders-Fogerty at the Boarding House (960 Bush Street, San Francisco, 94109) for special, three-night, midweek engagement. Neither that source nor the other materials I have seen (Scenedrome listing in Berkeley Barb, January 19-25, 1973, p. 28; ad in San Francisco Examiner Datebook, January 21, 1973, p. 25; calendar listing in Hayward Daily Review, January 19, 1973, p. 23) list early-late shows. But two separately-ticketed shows seems perfectly plausible. What’s more, of course, they are supported by these tapes, which have Garcia giving two separate show-closing announcements ("see y'all later").

While I am in this neck of the woods, let me say again that there is absolutely no evidence for a 1/26/73 listing of JGMS at Boarding House. Old, mislabeled copies of 1/24/73 shouldn't outweigh the absence of JGMS listings and the presence of listings (newspaper and poster) for Harry Chapin on these nights.

Performance

I’d say this is considerably better than 1/15/73, Jerry especially. He is doing a lot of very thoughtful, inventive playing here. There are a number of quite delicate passages and loud, dissonant, wildly-fanning moments. John Kahn plays quite forward, with a number of longish soli/interludes. He doesn’t have a ton of pure string force here, but he’s right on the melody and plays effectively. He  may be out a little more because I find Merl struggling a little bit, leaving some holes where, to my ears, he should have been dropping some heavy swirl. This seems especially true during the early show (@ 7:20 of Summertime, and during I Second That Emotion). I find Vitt to be right on the ball, though again there is a time or two where Jerry had soloed, John had taken a few runs around, and someone needed to step up. Sarah is pretty lowkey and effective this night.

Personnel

Tom Fogerty appeared on the promotional materials, but did not play. In fact, he may never have played with The Group in 1973. We just don’t know.

Sarah Fulcher had been singing at these guys’ gigs for about two weeks at this point. We don’t actually know the precise date on which she first appeared live with The Group. I doubt it was the weekend (Friday-Saturday, January 12-13, 1973) shows in Berkeley. She *could* have sung a number or two, of course. But I find it much more plausible that her first gig would have been a nice, low-key Sunday evening in little Cotati (1/14), than a hot, sweaty run at a packed house of regulars.
On this Thursday night in the city (1/25), Sarah either hasn’t arrived or in any case sits out almost the whole early show, not making her entrance until midway through the last number, and then just singing a few bars. In the late show she first appears singing what I presume to be one of her originals, "Go Climb A Mountain". I’d want to go back and compare with other versions, but the song sounds compositionally fragmentary here, both musically and lyrically. Sounds like she’s workshopping it, you know? She doesn't back or alternate with JG on “That’s Alright Mama”, as she often did. She only comes into “Georgia On My Mind” about six minutes in. She throws a few lyrics into the show-closing “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)”. What’s striking is how subdued she sounds, and how sparingly she steps out. It’s not a bad vibe at all, I have to say.

Setlist

The main historical interest here (insofar as deviance is more interesting than conformity) lies in the setlist. I summarize it in Table 1, which gives the “official” JGMF title, the number of times played as documented at the Jerry Site as of this writing (N), the song timing on the tape under review, the song credits, and any notes I might have, especially about N.



This is a tremendous setlist from a rarity perspective. If we use a rough-and-ready indicator of song rarity as "fewer than ten known appearances", 6 of the 15 tunes here qualify (40%). Of course, we know very little about these early setlists. It could be that they played "Save Mother Earth" -> "Summertime" every night in 1970 and 1971. Who knows? Dylan's "When I Paint My Masterpiece" appears here for the second-to-last (known) time in the 1970s. "I Know It's A Sin" is a real rarity—Jerry just didn’t play that many blues as straight as this. “Biloxi” is only known to have been played three times, though I have a sneaking suspicion that they played it a lot in the early days.

I judge all of this in the context of January 1973. Whether or not they (or any subset of them) were thinking ahead to a group that could sell records (e.g., on Fantasy, à la Live at the Keystone [F-79002, 1973]), they pretty clearly seemed to be feeling each other out as players and as a potential Group. Tom Fogerty appears to have just left, and Sarah Fulcher appears to have just arrived. Recall that Merl didn’t sing in 1973. It seems plausible to think that Jerry was interested in someone who might shoulder some of the vocal chores, at least a number or two: Tom had done a little and that was clearly what Sarah was all about. A second guitar was another apparent desideratum, witness George Tickner, who would be around for a couple of weeks in April-May. Corry persuades me that this must have been a period strongly colored by album economics (see also my post on JGMS 5/4/73 Homers Warehouse, especially under heading III, “May 1973 and the Commercialization of Garcia On The Side”), i.e., that the choices being made were consequential, far from the structural spontaneity that is portrayed in canonical (and even PR-fueled contemporary) accounts.

We can think of each player as embodying a distinct musical bundle as well, in terms of taste, inclination, knowledge, background, experience, goals for the future, etc. Beyond personality and talent, then, stands a musical repertoire. For a band, or a Group, to work, repertoires need to be made to fit together. That’s practically the definition of society itself, the space in which people conjugate repertoires. So, while January 1973’s setlist variations look striking from the perspective of 25+ years of Garcia On The Side, I think once I listen to everything I can I’ll find that the Sarah Era hangs together, on its own musical terms, pretty well. And while it varies in the specifics of the individual titles, it is perfectly consistent in terms of the basic American musical wellspring from which everything is drawn.

So, what are these repertoires?

Let me start with a few words on the Merl Saunders compositions. Who are these writing partners of his? Does it seem likely that Fantasy had a “stable” and that these compositions were written, arranged, etc., at Fantasy (in the “House That Creedence Built”, at Tenth and Parker in Berkeley [wiki]), by Fantasy, and presumably (at least in Saul Zaentz and Ralph Gleason’s minds), for Fantasy’s benefit? The idea has been floated that, in JGMS (“The Group”), Fantasy might have thought it had a kind of supergroup. That’d be worth investing some songwriters’ time. Anyway, I find both “Save Mother Earth” and “The System” to be first-rate, right up there with Merl’s other compositions played as instrumentals by JGMS, including “Little Bit Of Righteousness”, “She’s Got Charisma” and “Merl’s Tune”. I am not a big fan of “Soul Roach”, generally speaking, so I exclude it from that laundry list. It lacks the dark underbelly that makes the others so deliciously ambivalent.

Lots of R&B hits appear in this setlist, as well. “That’s A Touch I Like” shares some of the steppin’ out vibe of “Hi-Heel Sneakers”, a little more earnest and without the bloodlust, while the other Jessie Winchester number, “Biloxi”, hides a quasi-psychedelic New Orleans voodoo vision (“The air is filled with vapors from the sea / The boy will dig a pool beside the ocean / He sees creatures from his dreams underwater”) inside a sultry tempo, with a real straight vocal delivery. “Summertime”, the Gershwins’ aria from Porgy and Bess, can also make you lose sense, perhaps even memory, of January in San Francisco. Steamy. “How Sweet It Is”, by contrast, is a confection. A couple rockabillies (“Mystery Train”, “That’s Alright Mama”), a couple Dylans, another standard (“Georgia On My Mind”), a straight blues (“I Know It’s A Sin”) and a presumed (by me) Sarah Fulcher original (a protean “Go Climb A Mountain”) mix things up nicely.

Is there a black American musical form unrepresented here? Funk, I suppose. And church music. But, blending various flavors of jazz, blues, soul, R&B and other forms, Garcia and his compatriots grazed over an awful lot of terrain, with Vitt’s Sacramento R&B and Sarah’s Memphis (if only via) contributing influences which would wane in future years.

Summary

Some really nice tape with which to spend a few hours!

Listening Notes

Jerry Garcia and Merl Saunders
Boarding House
January 25, 1973 (Thursday)
161 min Betty Cantor-Jackson sbd of early and late shows

--Early Show (6 tracks, 67:44)--
a-t01. That's A Touch I Like [9:30] [0:28]
a-t02. Save Mother Earth [15:11] ->
a-t03. Summertime [13:50] [0:15]
a-t04. Mystery Train [6:59] [0:18]
a-t05. Biloxi [7:48] [0:03]
a-t06. I Second That Emotion [13:10] (1) [0:10]

--Late Show (9 tracks, 93:25)--
l-t01. It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry [5:45] [0:06] %
l-t02. //Soul Roach [#7:22] [0:19]
l-t03. Go Climb A Mountain [12:25] [0:21]
l-t04. That's Alright Mama [7:44] [0:15]
l-t05. The System [19:12] ->
l-t06. Georgia On My Mind [15:28] [0:03]
l-t07. When I Paint My Masterpiece [6:02] [1:01]
l-t08. I Know It's //A Sin [8:#49] [0:04]
l-t09. How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You) [8:25] (2) [0:03]

Lineup:
Jerry Garcia - el-g, vocals;
Merl Saunders - keyboards;
John Kahn - el-bass;
Bill Vitt - drums;
Sarah Fulcher - vocals.

JGMF:
! Recording: symbols: % = recording discontinuity; / = clipped song; // = cut song; ... = fade in/out; # = truncated timing; [ ] = recorded event time. The recorded event time immediately after the song or item name is an attempt at getting the "real" time of the event. So, a timing of [x:xx] right after a song title is an attempt to say how long the song really was, as represented on this recording.
! db: http://db.etree.org/shn/7670 (this fileset).
! R: Lineage per seeder: "S:R>C>D>CD. Slightly re-tracked using WaveMerge and CDWave,.shn encoding using mkwACT, and proper sector boundaries verified using shntool by jupillej@mediaone.net." Seeded approximately January 15, 2002. This fileset retracked by show, files tagged by jgmf, 7/4/2012. I believe that this came out of the Third Betty Batch, and maybe that these tapes specifically were caked in mud and filth when RE restored them. But it might also be Second Betty Batch, which would seem to me more consistent with the stated sequence of a reel straight to a cassette (for whatever the statement is worth). The back of my mind tells me that this may have come from Katy Miller way back when (ca. 2001).
! date/location: Merl Saunders, Jr. has shared a handbill image listing Garcia-Saunders-Fogerty at the Boarding House (960 Bush Street, San Francisco, 94109) for special, three-night, midweek engagement. Neither that source nor the other materials I have seen (Scenedrome listing in Berkeley Barb, January 19-25, 1973, p. 28; ad in San Francisco Examiner Datebook, January 21, 1973, p. 25) list early-late shows. But two separately-ticketed shows seems perfectly plausible. Of course they are supported by these tapes, which have Garcia giving two separate show-closing announcements ("see y'all later"). While I am at it, there is absolutely no evidence for a 1/26/73 listing of JGMS at Boarding House. Old, mislabeled copies of 1/24/73 shouldn't outweigh the absence of JGMS listings and the presence of listings (newspaper and poster) for Harry Chapin on these nights.
! personnel: Sarah Fulcher doesn't show up until 2 minutes into ISTE, i.e., at the very end of the early show. In the late show she first appears singing what I presume to be one of her originals, which we denote "Go Climb A Mountain". She doesn't back or alternate with JG on TAM, as she often did. She only comes into GOMM about six minutes in. She throws a few lyrics into the show-closing HSII, and it's all good.
! personnel: Tom Fogerty appears on the poster, but he is not present here.
! setlist: This is a tremendous setlist from a rarity perspective. If we use a rough-and-ready indicator of rarity as "fewer than ten known appearances", 6 of the 15 tunes here qualify (40%). Of course, we know very little about these early setlists. It could be that they played "Save Mother Earth" -> "Summertime" every night in 1970 and 1971. Who knows? Dylan's "When I Paint My Masterpiece" appears here for the second-to-last (known) time in the 1970s. "I Know It's A Sin" is a real rarity, as is “Biloxi”. All of that said, it certainly feels like, in January 1973, they are feeling out a repertoire well-suited to the talents and interests of those "in the band", including, apparently, Sarah Fulcher. So we should certainly think of this show in the context of the Sarah Era.
! R: CD splits typically between Biloxi/ISTE and between TAM and The System.
! R: Lots of warts on this, as a result presumably of the deteriorated state of the tapes. "A variety of mostly harmless light snaps, crackles, and pops".
! song: a-t01 That's A Touch I Like. This is commonly referred to in Garcia-world with the definite article ("The" instead of "A)", but I follow Allan and Scofield with this usage (see also TJS).
! R: a-t02 Save Mother Earth two ticks @ 0:01
! R: a-t02 SME lots of static and crackles through ca. 3:00
! P: a-t02 SME ten minutes in, Garcia drops it beautifully into some high register 1, 2-3, 4-5, 6-7, 8 stuff, and they slide very effectively into deep space. Tasty.
! P: a-t03 Summertime interesting that Sarah does not sing here. Summertime is unbelievable at the start. Jerry is playing as delicately, pluckily as you can possibly imagine at the start. Merl setting in deep, too. Two minutes in, Garcia is penning long paragraphs, mournful love letters. High soaring peak at three minutes in. He just surveyed that terrain and proceeded to tear it up. The solo he runs right over the 4-minute mark leaves me breathless. Maybe him, too, because Merl steps in real tasty and Jerry comps behind him. Jerry is running around, ready for bear, and things kind of fall apart in the 7:20 mark, no-one soloing, no-one going anywhere. Ouch! JK does some nice fluttering, symphonic bass in the late 7-minute mark. But there's no reason that giant hole should have opened up in the song. Now, late 8-min mark, Jerry is comping for John, soundfeels like he's nodding and strumming demonstratively and engaging John directly. As they take the descent again first half of 9-min mark, Jerry leads and Merl fills really nicely. JG comping for Merl again, who is doing lots of nice electric piano through 9 and into 10-minute mark. @ 10:34 JG, having seemingly mounted a set of stairs in silence, comes swooping down with some much more aggressive play, Vitt answers with a quick tempo dig, as in "I am on that horse." Every now and then, as in the 12-minute mark, the JGMS version of this song puts me in mind of Pink Floyd's "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" (which I don't think was written yet). Garcia wisely takes the lead in winding them down. It was an interesting take, for sure.
! song: a-t05 "Biloxi". This is commonly referred to in Garcia-world as "Down Around Biloxi", but I follow Allan and Scofield in using "Biloxi".Scofield: “One of three Jesse Winchester songs covered by Jerry Garcia. The others being That's A Touch I Like and Every Word You Say”). This is the last of three known Garcia versions of this song (9/24/71 and 6/30/72 being the other two known instances) (TJS).
! R: a-t05 Biloxi static buzz @ 1:00
! P: a-t06 I don't generally have a lot great to say about any iteration of "I Second That Emotion" other than Smokey Robinson's canonical version. This version is consistent with that general pattern. Merl just never cuts loose with it. Jerry comps behind him a lot, gives him lots of room, and he just doesn't take the bull by the horns. As SteveSw says, "I'm not sure whether the muse gets lost, or something is supposed to happen that doesn't, but it's strange, a bus with no driver." That said, Jerry's playing here is very expressive and measured. He's in complete control. I think Garcia sounds more "on" than Saunders, on this night.
! a-t06 (1) JG: "Thanks a lot. We'll see y'all later."
! P: l-t01 ITALTL, ITATTC is running at an absolutely somnambulant tempo.
! R: l-t02 Soul Roach cuts in, not much missing
! P: l-to3 GCAM early in the 11-minute mark, Jerry and John step forward for a little bit, Kahn doing some unusual percussive stuff.
! P: l-t05 The System starts off a little bit like "My Problems Got Problems". Deep, heavy funk. Merl bringing some synth in the 11-minute mark. Some nice spaceout weirdness in the 14-minute mark, where Jerry goes really clangy and dissonant, a little like what I remember as "Claire de Lune". Really wailing @ 15:23, an ascending run. Nice quiet space @ 15:50. They really let this get out there. It's an exceptionally wide-open space for this band, I'd say.
! R: l-t05 System some skipping/fuckoyage @ 1:36-1:41, 1:51.
! P: l-t06 GOMM John Kahn takes a nice bass lead in the 9-10 minute mark, though I confess the tone here sounds just a little fluttery, not unlike what he'd really do in the 1980s and beyond. He is still leading nicely into the 11-minute mark, and things pick up a little swing for a second, John still thunk-thunking, but with a real nice GOMM melody in the late 11-minute mark. Here's where he was so much better in the 1970s: unlike his soli in the 1980s during Simple Twist of Fate, etc., which often seemed to be orthogonal to the song, here he's not only technically faster and more precise, he's also able to work directly with the melody. 12-min mark Jerry steps in, but things are a little lost without the bass, as John appears to have stepped out, and Merl is not particularly audible. They hold it for a bit and Sarah comes back in for some singing in the second half of the 13-minute mark. She hits the windup to the song absolutely orgasmically, ends with a straightforward "thank ya". Nice!
! P: l-t07 WIPMM: It's great how simple Jerry's playing and singing is here. His guitar is so straightforward, nicely twangy, really stripped down. He doesn't try to guild the lily with his voice. Straight ahead. Nice.
! song: l-t07 WIPMM: NB that there is one more early appearance of this tune, on October 11, 1973 (presumably also with Sarah ... not sure the connection, but there it is). It would then disappear until 1980 before being shelved for good (by Garcia, even as it was appropriated as a Weir vocal into GD setlists) in 1987 (TJS).
! song: l-t08 "I Know It's A Sin": Usually referred to as "It's a Sin" in Garcia-related setlists, I follow Allan and Scofield. This tune appears to be an extreme rarity. As of this writing, only entries at TJS are 10/10/68 (Hartbeats), three shows in the window under examination (1/19/73, 1/23/73 [not in circ] and 1/25/73b), and a one-off reappearance on 3/14/74 (with E.W. Wainwright drumming, not in circulation). It would pop up in a Grateful Dead jam on 6/18/74 at Freedom Hall in Louisville. Anyway, I guess they wanted to try it on with this band, given the concentration in January 1973.
! R: l-t08 IKIAS It's a Sin cut/splice @ 3:03, 6:35.
! P: l-t08 IKIAS JG some pretty wild fanning in the late 4-minute mark, and some significant arcing, stretching, bending in the five minute mark. After a seemingly brief drop-splice @ 6:35, things come in swinging a little harder, Jerry digging in nicely and everyone bringing a little more juice, then back down into slow blues.
! l-t09 HSII does exactly what it's supposed to do, bring things to a tight close.
! l-t09 (2) JG: "See ya later."

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