Saturday, April 9, 2016

GRATEFUL DEAD – Live-Dead (2LP-1969)

Label: Warner Bros. Records – WS 1830
Format: 2 × Vinyl, LP, Album, Gatefold / Country: UK / Released: 1969
Style: Psychedelic Rock, Free Improvisation
Recorded live on Jan. 26 show at San Francisco’s Avalon Ballroom and Feb. 27 and March 2 1969, shows from the same city’s at the Fillmore West.
Art Direction – Ed Thrasher
Cover – R.D. Thomas
Engineer [Consulting] – Owsley “Bear” Stanley, Ron Wickersham
Photography By [Liner Photos] – Florence Nathan, Herb Greene, Jim Marshall (3)
Producer – The Grateful Dead
Producer, Engineer – Betty Cantor
Producer, Engineer [Executive] – Bob Matthews
Technician [Sound] – Bear

A  -  Dark Star ................................................................................... 23:15
B1 - St. Stephen ................................................................................. 6:45
B2 - The Eleven .................................................................................. 9:39
C  -  Turn On Your Love Light ........................................................... 15:30
D1 - Death Don't Have No Mercy ..................................................... 10:30
D2 - Feedback .................................................................................... 8:52
D3 - And We Bid You Goodnight ........................................................ 0:36

Jerry Garcia – guitar, vocals
Bob Weir – guitar, vocals
Tom Constanten – organ
Phil Lesh – electric bass, vocals
Mickey Hart – drums, percussion
Bill Kreutzmann – drums, percussion
Ron "Pigpen" McKernan – vocals, congas, organ on "Death Don't Have No Mercy"

Live/Dead is the first official live album released by the San Francisco-based band Grateful Dead. Three concerts were recorded for the double album: a Jan. 26 show at San Francisco’s Avalon Ballroom and Feb. 27 and March 2 shows from the same city’s Fillmore West and released later in the year on November 10. Seven songs ended up on the 75-minute LP, and one of them — the closing ‘And We Bid You Goodnight’ — clocks in at 35 seconds. Doing the math, that leaves some really long songs, which would become an integral part of the band’s history. At the time of its release, Robert Christgau wrote that side two of the double album "contains the finest rock improvisation ever recorded."

The Grateful Dead legend begins here.

This double live album capped off The Dead’s initial phase of their career, characterised by their electric acid jugband blues as it curled at the corners into freaky experimentation. And at this point, the band’s live performances began to mutate into sinewy effortlessness incarnate. And on a good night such as this, their vibing skills were honed to such a point it enabled them to subsume themselves into ‘group brain’ telepathy: producing music that would roll on powered only by the highest, reflective and ever-striving improvisation they ever got down on record. The first three-quarters of the album was a single, massive, run-on jam of four songs’ duration, interrupted only by fade outs and fade ins as dictated by the strictures of album length...

“Dark Star” takes up side one in its entirety with a slow fade-in into its quiet paces. It’s an interplanetary, interplaying synaptic ZAP; one that doesn’t meander so much as ebb and flow within the locked multi-tiered levels of consciousness of the players -- who all improvise responsibly as an ensemble giving each other tremendous tracts of open space to demarcate their individual rhythms while absorbing the always becoming-ness of where they were, and where they were going. The lyrics enter sung sweetly and strongly by Jerry Garcia, his yearning inflections casting through the nether reaches of emotional shadow-land as he reigns and regroups the piece time and time again, but it’s by no means his exploration alone. The kicking of Bill Kreutzmann’s bass drums (remarkably picked up by the expert ambient miking of Betty Cantor and Bob Matthews) and hand held percussion devices are shaken, stirred and struck as snatches of keyboards, bass extrapolations and skinny Bob Weir rhythm guitar are all constantly manifesting into what the song already is -- a deep and wordless joy that reawakens shades of existence that go passing by in a mindscape where nothing is preordained and flow is all. The drums cease completely at one point, but it’s not noticeable in the least as the group extends a track originally cut as a single A-side into an album side’s worth of consciousness mapping penetrations. You can listen to this track a thousand times and still hear something previously unrevealed. It’s beautiful.

The side ends into a fade, catching the first chords of “St. Stephen” which gently awakens side 2; a place where things start to get far more raucous and complex. The lyrics are cryptic as hell, yet evoke a “Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam”-type life and death cycle, as hints of the strictest gnosis blossom and start to fragment into mythic imagery and suggestion in a waking dream that soon gets even more raucous and complex for, oh about eight minutes, and it’s about as precariously balanced as an overloaded chicken truck you see in old-tymey movies about to collide at a train crossing. The collision never occurs, but it’s running over everything: a stop sign, a cop, upsets a grocery-carrying grandmother, straddles half the sidewalk but it never, ever slows for any twist or turn. Before anyone can feel it, they’re already home free and well into “The Eleven” as they only brake lightly for Bob Weir’s out of tune vocals singing more oblique lyrics. But the rolling double drumming re-ensues and Lesh’s bass parts are busy distilling an intuitive beaker of alchemical rhythms as the music sallies through life as the group consciousness gets poured through into eternal grokking and bopping through life with a grinning soul, thumbing a ride on the great cosmic wheel. They realign rhythms to the less complex and far more traditional and loose as hell R&B framework of “Turn On Your Love Light” where Pigpen steps up to the mike with hollering, badgering and generally hell-bent-for-mojo pleading. The Spartan latticework of Kreutzmann and Hart’s double drumming breaks down to expertly handled snare rattlings from Kreutzmann as the stomping continues to rapturous psychedelic ballroom audience response. Pigpen starts rapping up a storm, cajoling everybody and yet the music continues all bouncy and teasing, with many stops and starts along the way -- for an entire album’s side, no less. They bring it on home with all guitarists backing on vocals and Weir’s shrieking background vocals are plain hair curling cracking...

The final side sees The Reverend Gary Davis honoured with a cover of his blues, “Death Don’t Have No Mercy.” Garcia regains the spotlight vocal while all other lights are down for this mournful, subdued and heartfelt rendition, turning in a pure Sam Andrews/Quicksilver solo accented with soaring feedback controls, but instilled with the eccentric lyricism of Celtic arabesques that could only emanate from his nine-fingered dexterity in the prime of his fabulous Gibson SG phase. “Feedback” sees the Grateful Dead re-emerge as the seven-headed feedback monster of improvised noise and overall gong abuse, but in a far more refined manner than their deafening live ’67 freak-outs from “Anthem Of The Sun”: Which is not to say it doesn’t get discordant as hell with the volume pedal fucking around but Tom Constanten’s near-invisible spookoid organ lightly sweetens it all with graceful hovering. The piece treads many times into ultimate fried-out freeform when tones start to sway and undulate and threaten to swoop and collect both band and audience and banish them to bad trip land forever until it simmers to a halt until all falls away but soft and lyrical passages. It finally hushes and spills directly into an excerpt of the traditional vocal, “And We Bid You Goodnight,” a sweetened lullaby in the dark as the final lingering wisps of smoldering hash vanish...

The band would release several live albums during their run, most notably 1971’s self-titled LP, better known as ‘Skull & Roses’ among fans. By the early ’90s, with their reputation as one of the planet’s most popular live groups now firmly set, the Dead began releasing vintage concert recordings from their expansive archives. Of course, Deadheads were long on to all this, recording, collecting and trading tapes over a vast network of likeminded fans, a practice the group fully supported. But none of these recordings — bootlegs or otherwise — match ‘Live/Dead”s significance and thrills. They played better shows, and they found new, more exciting ways to spread out the songs onstage. But they never sounded more together than they do on this record.

The text is taken from the "Julian Cope Presents Head Heritage" and adapted for this post:

If you find it, buy this album!


  1. GRATEFUL DEAD – Live-Dead (2LP-1969)
    Vinyl Rip/FLAC+Artwork


    1. I forgot to jot down:

      Record 1 contains "Side 1" and "Side 4"
      Record 2 contains "Side 2" and "Side 3"

      Matrix / Runout (Stamped): WS 1830A-2 *T STEREO
      Matrix / Runout (Stamped): WS 1830B-1 *T STEREO
      Matrix / Runout (Stamped): WS 1830C-1 *T STEREO
      Matrix / Runout (Stamped): WS 1830D-1 *T STEREO

    2. Thank you so much for this in flac.

  2. This album changed my life! There ain't Nothing for the Head like the Good Ol' Grateful Dead.

  3. Great album. Thanks!

  4. Despite a few attempts, I've never been able to see anything in the Grateful Dead. Just goes over, under or around my head and completely fails to touch me. I'll try again with this, thanks vitko.

    1. Bventure describes exactly my very personal feelings. Raised with british sixties blues and seventies prog I never really get into the Deads musics. I will try again with this one. Thank you Vitko as always for widen my musical horizon.


  5. This blog offers a lot of really fantastic music.

    If you are in soccer, they say "FC Barcelona is more than a Club" and so the GD ist "more than a band". More than the pure music.

    I feel like nicos - this album changed my life. But I understand if someone couldn't catch it.

    Like Tom Wolfe said: Either you're on the bus or not.

    Happy trails everybody!

  6. time to play Grateful Dead again...thanks...

  7. The greatest recorded performance of Dark Star of the hundreds I have heard.... (well maybe 30 or more)...All other performances of Dark Star seem to me like variations on this Dark Star, the masterpiece of Garcia's guitar, with high proficiency of all the rest of the band.

  8. A milestone! Great opportunity to have it in e-file form, too. Thank you!