Review # 2: by Ramble
On Joe ©
Wow! I thought I'd had enough of this era, based on a show
I'd heard from this same month. But this is a different animal --
admittedly helped by generous (and well-placed) additions from the
night before. Since I don't consult setlists when first listening to
a show (or, this case, release), some of my surprise was due to the
placement of the filler, but why should that matter? It's good
music, well-performed, and there's a lot of it. Those three facts
pretty much cover my requirements ;-)
The "Touch >
Greatest" opener is pleasantly energetic, even above average; I
dig the way Phil doles out chunky basslines like a chugging train.
Vince gives GSET a comically bluesy ending that Jerry follows,
making at least one listener smile [me!]. Jerry is a little
tentative at first, as he was wont to be, but you'd never know it by
the way Phil throbs and pulses.
But it's the
"Peggy-o" that follows which set my ears buzzing; Jerry
patiently plucks the intro until Bruce's accordion is properly in
the mix, and off they go. Too often this song suffers too fast a
tempo; sometimes the attempt to be heartfelt just comes across flat.
Here it is neither; Bruce is alternately pushing forward or settling
back; Vince sparkles on the piano (and a dash of bell-toned synth),
and Jerry rides the Rolls-Royce of rock bands with joyful ease. Boy,
there's a lot going on; we just might be on notice for an unusual
As it turns out, we are;
even "Mexicali" sounds fresh, appropriately lit by Bruce
and Vince (it's hard to tell who does what!), firing Jerry into an
even more joyful solo; in fact, the solo section goes on for several
choruses between them. "Maggie's Farm" follows immediately
to give each singer a verse; again, it feels fresh, and not at all
too long at eight minutes. A fourteen-minute "Bird Song"
closes this short set, and surpasses words; no one could possibly
find it unsatisfying. There's clearly a lot of fuel in the band's
This still leaves a lot of
room on the first disc, which is filled with a "Scarlet >
Fire" from the night before. -- but not right away; first,
there's almost three minutes of boiling mystery, a surprisingly
intense drop into the primordial straight out of a "Space"
segment. This would have been a surprising start to a set in any
era, but was in fact the coda from 6/19's second-set "Victim or
the Crime" opener. That song wasn't otherwise included, but
there's really no reason to complain: the mysterious postscript and
the "Scarlet > Fire" constitute 28 minutes of
-- Well, mostly; first,
Jerry has to lapse on "Scarlet's" first verse, reminding
us that he's merely mortal. Interestingly, the drums put a steady
4/4 beat under the "Scarlet" coda -- I guess if Mickey
wanted to rap there, he could have done so ... Meanwhile, the band
takes off, letting Vince take a synth solo. As if preserving some
internal structure, they return to the post-"Scarlet"
riff, and then head out for four minutes of sublime group
consciousness. Listen on headphones, and you can dimly hear a fan
way over to the right scream "Oh yeahhh!" at the outset; I
can't improve on that for description.
with a subtly sly decision on Phil's part: as the vamp begins, he
spends eight bars playing sixths instead of root notes, transforming
into relative minors the simple major chords used in this song.
Before you can say "What the --?!", he thumps his way back
to the correct tones, but not without first sitting on a Bb, an even
more bizarre choice for a bass note. No, he's not lost, nor
forgetful; it's just Phil having a bit of fun. After that, of
course, we can't really be sure what he might do next; Jerry must
have shaken his head and smiled. And then, of course, they take off
on one leisurely exploration after another, for the next thirteen
minutes. Mighty fine!
I haven't commented much on
Bobby's contributions, but they are clearly audible in the left
channel. There's just so much going on that it probably takes
several listens to hear it all!
Disc #2 is where 6/20's
second set really begins, but sounds like a perfectly logical
follow-up to 6/19's "Scarlet > Fire" excerpt. Is that
cheating -- expanding the show, as it were, beyond what actually
occurred on a given date? We could, if necessary, skip "Scarlet
> Fire" for purity's sake and begin here; on the other hand,
it was a good addition. As it is, we have the option of hearing it
either way; that should satisfy everyone.
is a surprise in this early placement, and all the more welcome for
being a short version -- halfway through, the band cuts away to an
"Iko-Iko" that I found myself comparing it to the strong
rendition from 9/16/90 DICKS PICK #9, and I just might like
this one better.
Afterward, there's some
hazy musical stabs, and "Watchtower" emerges -- and
"Standing on the Moon" follows after that. By this point,
I'd say that any newbie would be less confused than an old-timer --
"Watchtower" and "Standing" BEFORE the
Drum/Space break? But enough with jaded expectations; it's
performance that counts, and this set is building like it should.
"Watchtower" is suitably brooding (and perhaps more
enjoyable for being in the first part of the set), and
"Standing" is entirely successful, as Jerry reaches into
the very limits of his vocal passion. "He's Gone" gives us
even more with an extended coda, but it's time for the mid-set
break, and the drummers take over.
This is one of the longer
Drum segments, and not a disappointment -- meditative, rather than
exciting, but still entirely absorbing. "Space" brings on
another lengthy discursion; in all, half an hour separates
"He's Gone" from "The Wheel" (the next real song
in the set), and none of it had me wanting to change the disc or hit
Wheel" is only our first step in the transformative awakening
that we've come to expect at the end of a show. There is only one
flaw to come: "Wharf Rat" finds Jerry lapsing into the
ending lyrics prematurely, almost derailing the band in the process.
The fact that they get back in the saddle says something for how
strong a mojo they had going this evening!
energetic and appropriate, with clearly audible audience
participation on the chorus; "Throwing Stones" is reprised
and finished for the "Not Fade Away" segue and final
blowout. Splitting "Stones" like this worked well, but
DEADBASE lists no other instance of such a split. "Not Fade
Away" isn't any longer than we'd expect from this era, but it
is nicely played, with Jerry giving a frenzied farewell solo before
the sing-out ending.
"Brokedown" ends the show, and we would have been
satisfied with that; it's The End and it sounds like The end. But
Download #11's third disc adds the "Stella > Other > J.
B. Goode" finale from 6/19 -- nice additions, though not really
necessary. The most notable moments here seem to be the endings; I
guess Phil was in a definitive mood ...
In summary: strong
performances (minus that weak moment in "Wharf Rat") --
and, with disc times at 75, 75 and 65 minutes, there's a lot of it.
If there had actually been such a show on a single night, everyone
would have been exhausted. As it is, most of it did indeed occur on
one night, and nobody could have left disappointed.
Sound notes: I accept a
less-than-ideal mix as part of the package (I don't remember anyone
complaining about the mix on DICKS
PICK #12, and that has a fairly mushy sound). I'm not
certain what the Download series intends regarding sound quality,
but the DICKS PICKS series seems a fair guide. FWIW, at least
Vince's synth isn't as overly prominent as it was on DICKS PICK
#9. For another comparison, Phil is more audible here than on
the 1971 Download.
Last word? DD #11
looks (and sounds) like a mighty good value for the money, and I'm
sorry I ever thought it might be otherwise. More like this would be
just fine with me :-)