Monday, May 28, 2018

Dylan & The Dead (Jerry Garcia's original mix)

Bob Dylan & The Grateful Dead – Dylan & The Dead

(Jerry Garcia’s original mix – soniclovenoize reconstruction)

Disc 1:  Jerry Garcia’s Original Album Compilation
1.  John Brown (live in Foxborough, 7/4/87)
2.  The Ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest (live in Eugene, 7/19/87)
3.  Chimes of Freedom (live in Anaheim, 7/26/87)
4.  Slow Train (live in Foxborough, 7/4/87)
5.  Rainy Day Women #12 & 35 (live in Eugene, 7/19/87)
6.  Queen Jane Approximately (live in Eugene, 7/19/87)
7.  Joey (live in Foxborough, 7/4/87)
8.  The Wicked Messenger (live in East Rutherford, 7/12/87)
9.  It's All Over Now, Baby Blue (live in Eugene, 7/19/87)

Disc 2:  Soniclovenoize’s Bonus Disc of Tour Highlights
1.  The Times They Are a-Changing (live in East Rutherford, 7/12/87)
2.  I'll Be Your Baby Tonight (live in Oakland, 7/24/87)
3.  Heart of Mine (live in Eugene, 7/19/87)
4.  Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again (live in Philadelphia, 7/10/87)
5.  Ballad of a Thin Man (live in Philadelphia, 7/10/87)
6.  Shelter From The Storm (live in Oakland, 7/24/87)
7.  Simple Twist of Fate (live in Philadelphia, 7/10/87)
8.  All Along The Watchtower (live in Anaheim, 7/26/87)
9.  Knockin' On Heaven's Door (live in Oakland, 7/24/87)

In need of some Memorial Day Weekend Jams?  This is a reconstruction of the original version of the live album Dylan & The Dead.  While the brief, dismal 1987 tour of The Grateful Dead backing Bob Dylan birthed an even more dismal live album Dylan & The Dead in 1989, its original incarnation—personally compiled by Jerry Garcia—was a more consistent release that showed the idiosyncratic tour in its best light.  That mix—which was rejected by Bob Dylan—is reconstructed here using (mostly) bootleg soundboard tapes from the tour, remastered for coherency.  Also included is a bonus disc compilation of my remaining favorite performances of the tour that was not originally included on Jerry Garcia’s mix of the album. 

The 1980s certainly had its ups and downs for Bob Dylan.  Starting the decade with a trilogy of derided Born-Again albums, Dylan released what was touted as his comeback album Infidels in 1983 (also a subjectof reconstruction on my blog).  He followed it up with the increasingly mediocre mainstream MOR rock albums Empire Burlesque in 1985 and Knocked Out Loaded in 1986, with the worst of the batch Down in the Groove mostly in the can.  While his studio work failed expectations, his live material seemed to be consistent: the live shows for the Born-Again albums were, although preachy, intense and rejuvenating thanks to his massive band; a sample of the Infidels tour was captured on 1984’s Real Live, which gave the material its much needed grit thanks to Mick Taylor and Ian McLagan; and Dylan harnessed Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers' youthful edge for their joint 1986 tour. 

Continuing this precedent, the idea somehow came about that none other than The Grateful Dead could act as Dylan’s backing band in 1987!  The Dead themselves were no strangers to Dylan’s material, having covered a great number of his songs, from greatest hits to deepest album tracks.  But they too had their own ups and downs in the 80s—after a creative drought, Jerry Garcia had just succumbed to a diabetic coma in July of 1986 and had to relearn to play the guitar entirely.  On the other hand, the band was just gearing up to release their first and only Top 40 single, “Touch of Grey”.  Could the pair of aging musical icons of the 60s pull off a powerhouse tour? 

The answer was unfortunately ‘no’; the idea of The Dead backing Dylan was much better than the reality.  This tour ushered in Dylan’s “Cookie Monster” era in which much of his lyrics were indecipherably mumbled in a vague melody escalating upward, rather than the actual vocal melody of any given song.  He also seemed to lack the motivation to really rehearse well enough for the tour itself, being satisfied to run through about 100 different songs once or twice (the actual bootlegged rehearsal tapes prove this!)—not to mention Dylan’s fascination with spontaneously changing a song’s arrangement, on-stage, without giving advance warning to his band.  Also, Dylan always played best with a strong backbeat—from Jim Keltner to Stan Lynch—to guide his vocal and scrub-a-dub rhythm guitar, something that The Dead’s pair of busy percussionists Bill Kreutzmann and Micky Hart could not provide.  No fault should necessarily be given to The Grateful Dead for this, as their very nature of meandering stoner jazz simply could not work with the rolling thunder of Dylan.  The thin, wild mercury sound was replaced with a thick, schmellow haze of lysergic acid.  While sometimes interesting, it was most often a disaster. 

After six dates in the July of 1987—Foxboro, Philadelphia, East Rutherford, Eugene, Oakland and Anaheim—it was all over (baby blue) and the aging superstars went their separate ways, but not without talk of a live document of the tour on wax and the brand new compact disc.  Credit must be given to Jerry Garcia for plowing through the tapes and finding the gems amongst the dreck—for surprisingly, there were some great moments on the tour.  Enough for an album, at least! 

Garcia’s lineup for this album included a number of Dylan deep cuts, such as the long-lost 1962 Dylan original “John Brown” from Foxboro; played three times on the tour to varying success, this performance was driving and mysterious.  Next was the John Wesley Harding deep cut “The Ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest”; played only once, in Eugene, the band miraculously clicked and gave a performance that gains momentum to an explosive rollick.  The majestic “Chimes of Freedom” from Anaheim was chosen next; played dismally on three other dates, the band played it gracefully on their final show.  The basic blues vamp of “Slow Train” from Foxboro followed; not spectacular, but not terrible.  Eugene’s “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35” was next; its sole performance had a raw energy captured only by a band who must have jammed to the classic on numerous occasions, this time behind its actual author.  An exquisite “Queen Jane Approximately” from Eugene also followed; although attempted four times on the tour, only Eugene’s had a such a sombre longing to it... as well as guitars in tune.  Garcia’s inclusion of Foxboro’s “Joey” was curious indeed; Garcia himself must have been the song’s only fan, as its performance was passable at best. Next was the biting “The Wicked Messenger” from East Rutherford, another fantastic performance of a deep cut from John Wesley Harding.  Garcia’s 50-minute tape concluded with Eugene’s “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue”, another song that seemed to benefit from The Dead’s jazzy interplay. 

After previewing Garcia’s guitar-heavy mix on a $40 boombox in a large, empty den in Dylan’s mansion, Dylan rejected it, requesting a remix to reduce the vocals and add more bass!  The eventual album, mixed tamely for the MOR crowds, also cut all of the most staggering, energetic or beautiful performances from Garcia’s mix: “John Brown”, “The Ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest”, “The Wicked Messenger”, “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue”, “Chimes of Freedom” and “Rainy Day Women” were left on the cutting room floor.  They were replaced with a mediocre run through of “I Want You” from Oakland and the most obvious, robotic takes of “Gotta Serve Somebody”, “All Along The Watch Tower” and “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” from Anaheim.  Mind-mindbogglingly the dirge of “Joey” remained, but at least the exquisite “Queen Jane Approximately” was also spared.  The resulting live album, released in February 1989, was so dismal, lifeless and uninspired, it was hailed has possibly the very worse album by both Bob Dylan and The Grateful Dead.

Luckily, a slightly crusty copy of Garcia’s original mix survives, forever preserving an album that could have been, or at least serving as a reminder that there was gold in them thar hills.  Even better, soundboard tapes exist of all six shows, although they are all of varying quality (with Eugene & Foxboro being release-quality and Anaheim & East Rutherford being muddy, poor-quality board taps).  While the bootleg of Garcia’s cassette is a bit beyond repair itself, we are certainly able to reassemble its track sequence, remastering the tracks (as much as possible, anyways) to match the albums's official release.  Additionally, I have compiled a second disc of further selections from the tour, personal favorites from a fascinating moment in history that could have been amazing, but… wasn’t quite there. 

My bonus disc begins with “The Times They Are a-Changing”; performed only three times in a similar arrangement to “Chimes of Freedom”, East Rutherford’s was the least sloppy and was quite an interesting listen.  “I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight” always had the best of intentions but its performance was generally a disaster; luckily Oakland’s performance was charming and made my cut.  Likewise, the sole performance of the Shot of Love track “Heart of Mine”, while not fantastic, warms this heart of mine.  “Stuck Inside of Mobile” was one that held the most promise, but proved difficult for Kreutzmann & Hart to find a footing on; all four performances have dropped beats in the first verse, as they struggle to keep up with Dylan and find the downbeat.  Once they do find their groove however, the song propels and becomes a highlight of the entire set, for all four shows. Here I’ve chosen Philadelphia’s “Stuck Inside”, as the mistake is the least-noticeable of the four.  A convincing take of “Ballad of a Thin Man” also from Philadelphia follows, the best of the five performances from the tour.  The sole performance of “Shelter From The Storm” from Oakland is presented; although featuring a similar arrangement as “The Ballad Frankie Lee and Judas Priest” it’s another case of when this band could be ‘on’, they were really on!  Philadelphia’s “Simple Twist of Fate” is the best of its three tour appearances, another that seems to fit The Dead’s style.  Nearing the end, I’ve chosen the official album mix of Anaheim’s “All Along The Watchtower” because, well, it's the best of the batch  Concluding my bonus disc is the very longest performance of “Knockin On Heaven’s Door” from Oakland, which dissolves into an appropriate a capella hymnal. 

Sources Used:
Bob Dylan & The Grateful Dead - John F. Kennedy Stadium (Dolphinsmile remaster)
Bob Dylan & The Grateful Dead - Alameda County Coliseum (Dolphinsmile remaster)
Bob Dylan & The Grateful Dead - Autzen Stadium (Dolphinsmile remaster)
Bob Dylan & The Grateful Dead – Anaheim Stadium (unknown soundboard source)
Bob Dylan & The Grateful Dead – Giants Stadium (unknown soundboard source)
Bob Dylan & The Grateful Dead – Orbiting Uvula (1992 Turtle Records)
Dylan & The Dead (2013 remaster from The Complete Album Collection)

Flac/shn --> wav --> mixing & editing in SONAR & Goldwave --> flac encoding via TLH lv8
*md5, artwork and tracknotes included