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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Lost Your Voice? Play a Monster "Don't Let Go" (8/27/84)

LN jg1984-08-27.jgb.all.aud-corley.15029.shn2flac

I have sometimes joked, half-seriously, that 8/26/84 may be Garcia's most wasted performance, but I just do that to embody a feeling about the period as a whole. At some point I'll bring myself to revisit it.

I like listening around such things, as much as listening directly to them. Hence the JGB #21b gig from Monday, August 27, 1984 down at the Keystone Palo Alto entered the listening queue. Why hear the show itself when you can hear the next night? This could also provide a check against a listen last year to 8/24/84, which I probably unfairly shorthand with "It's not that bad, given how much Persian he was doing"; take my own temperature on this period. Seeing taper John Corley's name, I know it will be a great upfront tape, with the deconstructed Nak 700s nestled inside the obscuring, silly hat.

This show has all of the hallmarks of this down-and-dirty period in Garcia's life, some stellar, grungy loud guitar playing, occasionally brilliant, contrasts with some slightly slippery arrangements and, it must be said, objectively horrifying vocal limitations dictated by a set of badly shredded chords.

I don't say much about the guitar work (about anything, really) - it struck me as sometimes very good. Deal might be hot enough to merit a note, but for whatever reason I wasn't moved quite enough to take up the cause. There are a few but not an inordinate number of vocal flubs, the arrangement slips out of sync a time or two, some of the tempos (e.g., RFTR) strike me as sluggish. Mostly, nothing to write home about, maybe a lit below average (maybe slightly below 8/12/84 at Club Casino, maybe around the same level as 8/11/84 at the Nunnery, better than 8/24/84).

But the real jewel here is "Don't Let Go", as it almost always was. DLG was a weathervane tune, one that Garcia had to play as if he meant it, and so would only play on a relatively "good" night. Don't Let Go made a Garcia Band show special.

I was not in much of a note-taking mood in this listening session, but I recall a number of very interesting passages during which Garcia picks up and elaborates distinctive themes with all due care, taking the time to work through each one. Many of them just echo around a hundred sounds that you've heard Garcia make, that sound like something you've heard before but that you can't quite put your finger in, as elusive as a dialect. I note a point about 13 minutes in where they had setup a little landing pad, had Jerry wanted to wind it down, he sets it up and then gamely runs away from it to explore some of these ideas. It's nice.

This version of "Don't Let Go" puts me in mind of what I call the compensation hypothesis - when one particular performative aspect was hamstrung, he compensated this weakness with extra effort in other areas. It doesn't always hold, of course, but it might account for a few observations. In spring 1978, when his voice was shot with laryngitis, Garcia employed much crisper articulations, often early-Dylanesque. As the voice gets regularly bad starting in 1980 --to such an extent that, at some point, it's not really the same voice at all-- Garcia starts playing louder guitar, using lots more feedback than he had previously. This is especially characteristic of his 1983-1984 style, before, based on the sound of very little tape because there were relatively few shows, just running out of gas for a few years leading up to his descent into a diabetic coma on July 10, 1986.

It feels for all the world here like Jerry steps from a long "Harder They Come" to an ambitious, expressive, and even longer "Don't Let Go" to make up for not being able to sing, which had become painfully apparent as the evening progressed. He could have mailed in a few relatively easy vocal numbers - mumbling is not that hard on the chords. He didn't have to go 65 minutes in the second set, as he'd demonstrate more and more consistently over the next few years - 50 wouldn't have been a total embarrassment. But on this night, he took the road less traveled and reached a little further for the gold ring, and I respect that.

Listening Notes below the fold. (update: see also listening notes for the previous night, 8/26/84)

Jerry Garcia Band
Keystone Palo Alto
260 South California Avenue
Palo Alto, CA 94301

August 27, 1984 (Monday)
Corley shnid-15029 shn2flac

--set I (5 tracks, 55:57)-- 
s1t01. tuning [0:10], Cats Under The Stars [10:21] [0:21]
s1t02. Catfish John [13:59] [0:05] % [0:02]
s1t03. Simple Twist Of Fate [14:23] -//>
s1t04. Run For The Roses [5:33] ->
s1t05. Deal [10:49] [0:14] %

--set II (5 tracks, 4 songs, 65:17)--
s2t01. crowd and tuning [0:35]
s2t02. I'll Take A Melody [17:21] [0:13] % [0:12]
s2t03. Harder They Come [18:10] ->
s2t04. Don't Let Go [22:55] ->
s2t05. Midnight Moonlight ... [5:52#]

! ACT1: Jerry Garcia Band #21b
! lineup: Jerry Garcia - el-g, vocals;
! lineup: John Kahn - el-b;
! lineup: Melvin Seals - organ;
! lineup: David Kemper - drums;
! lineup: Jacklyn LaBranch - vocals;
! lineup: Gloria Jones - vocals.

! 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: (this fileset)

! JGC:

! venue:

! map:

! R: field recordist: John Corley

! R: field recording gear: 2x disassembled Nakamich 700, clipped to the brim of a silly hat for stealth > Sony TCD5M;

! R: field recording location: 20' from stage, first row of tables, dead center

! R: lineage: MAC > CDR > EAC > CDWave (retracked) > Shn: EAC'ed/retracked/Shn'ed by Charlie Connor, correct sector boundaries verified with Shntool, Seeded to fungus, tol and abgd 2/5/03. "Special thanks to Bob Menke for the audio discs". jgmf shn2flac 12/30/2014.

! P: overall: horrific vocals, overall a little sluggish, but a hellacious Don't Let Go, by way of compensation. Why the Monday night gig? Maybe it was Labor Day or something, I don't know. What else you gonna do? Non-ripoff hour long sets, wih the set II DLG really going the extra mile, a refusal, still, to rip his audience off. I had feared worse, but this is passably good.

! P: s1t01 CUTS there is nothing wrong with Garcia's guitar playing in the 5 minute mark, still stacking some stuff up 6:22. I don't like the unamanaged ending.

! P: s1t02 CJ John is pulling some nice fat notes to start this off. Love that Nak 700 sound, too. Clocking in at 14 minutes, this might be the longest CJ ever played, by anyone.

! P: s1t03 STOFF JK bass feature late 6 ff, and it goes on for several minutes.

! R: s1t03 STUF guzinta RFTR clips briefly, probable tape flip.

! P: s1t04 RFTR sluggish

! P: s2t02 ITAM JK again some nice big pulls, 5-6.

! P: s2t03 HTC Garcia is absolutely croaking. He can no longer sing.

! P: s2t04 DLG Jerry still can't sing, and I don't guess that will improve before Mid Moon, so consider it said under that heading, as well. The voice-guitar pairing happens late 4 over 5. Interesting, "go-for-it" continuation early in 13 by Jerry. Very long and interesting DLG. Compensation hypothesis.

! R: s2t05 Mid Moon fades out, not too much missing.

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