Download Series 12
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Download Series Volume 12 Download Series Volume 12 - Grateful Dead
April 17, 1969
St. Louis, MO.
 
 
 
 
 
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Grateful Dead Download Series review

Download Series 12
April 17, 1969, performance in St. Louis, MO.

Not all shows are created equally, nor are they recorded equally. Being a separate issue from the actual performance, this is often not remarked upon when someone recommends this or that show, but it's not like it doesn't make a difference -- often, outstanding sound quality can catapult one date above the rest, causing some debate as to whether it is overrated or not.

In this case, we're talking April 1969, so the benchmark is bound to be the Boston Ark shows -- full, warm-sounding recordings in wide circulation. Here we find a similar product, if not so successfully preserved; signs of tape wear are heard, and the hiss level is certainly noticeable during quiet passages. This is entirely tolerable, and I'm keen to hear how the performance matches up.

First off is a long introduction with some comments to Bear and even the audience from some unnamed announcer, after which the band jumps straight into a "Hard to Handle" unlikely to be confused with any other, as somebody seems to have discovered the joys of slide distortion just moments before the gig began. It must be Jerry; for once, he makes Bobby look like the restrained professional, unleashing a sound not unlike that made by pinching off the air released from a balloon. Pig sings like the consummate bluesman, and the band overall is confident and ebullient.

Bobby comments on the weather, and it's time for "Morning Dew" -- a winner in any era. Especially interesting here is the interplay between the guitars behind Jerry's tortured singing [Bobby really shines], and TC's periodic organ flourishes. This "Dew" is fairly fast, and headphones make quite plain the hot interaction between the drummers. Mickey seems particularly fond of something that sounds like a cymbal crash in reverse [?!!]. The conclusion builds and builds, passing over the opportunity to end at least half a dozen times.

"Schoolgirl" begins with a unique intro, as if taken from another song entirely, then sorta haltingly played -- as if they were dropping half the riff to fool us a bit. This marks them as a band so comfortable with the material that they can play with it without losing the groove, and it isn't clearly "Schoolgirl" until Pig comes in with the harmonica. As on H2H, Pig proves himself immediately in full command, and the band fires up behind him -- notching even more so on Jerry's solo. Pig comes back on the harmonica, far too loud to consider this for regular release but certainly not ruining our pleasure. Billy shows his skills at sensitive backing, and Phil & Bobby play a bit with the arrangement behind Pig's return vocal. The slowdown & ending isn't so sharp, but so what ;-) a little tuning between guitars, and Phil warns us with a riff what the next song is going to be.

"Dark Star" proves as brisk as "Dew" was before it, but a little feedback in the first minute prevents us from being too hasty in our comparisons. In overall mood, of course, this is not far removed from our beloved 2/27 -- just as it isn't far in time. But the differences are also striking: different pauses, different thoughts, different gives & takes. At times, it's even a bit comical, though never straying too far; meditation is still the main stream here. In some ways, it's a bit easier to hear how the band works together here, where 2/27 is almost too magical: we here Garcia's decisive move out of exploration and back to the riff, and the band perfectly falls in behind him. Out of the jam, back to the song, as it were; in some ways , this might just as easily have been the performance that became the "record" version. A few different things are tried, as well we might expect; some of them might be seen as expansions. After all, "Dark Star" is about ongoing dialogue as much as anything else, and that dialogue is bound to change. Probably what I enjoy most is hearing Mickey's inventive additions, which naturally weren't a part of the 1972 - 74 performances; in the latter half of the song, this often contributes to an increasing tension that just doesn't quite seem to resolve so much as transmute into a different tension, and then again to another one. Again and again, I find myself thinking they're on the verge of returning for the second verse. Eventually, of course, I am right :-)

"St. Stephen" likewise appears very much as it did on LIVE DEAD -- and then surprises us by breaking without warning to a full hearted rendition of "It's A Sin" instead of the "Lady finger" portion -- sounding as if we had changed stations mid-song. Truly bizarre, and yet of course completely Dead. Jerry breaks out of the final chord to put us back to the "Stephen" conclusion, making a rather different answer to the question "What would be the answer to the answer man" ...

"William Tell" brings us not to "The Eleven" but "Lovelight" -- leaving even experienced Heads to wonder what the heck is going on. Pigpen harbors no such doubt, and commands the mike like a captain bent on winning the America's Cup. The band is no less determined, though they ebb and flow with rather less direction. No wonder Jerry was distraught at Pigpen's death four years later; however far they went, he would reign them back in. Which, of course, he does: stretching and exhorting, then taking down the band for a little one-and-one time with a roomful of friends or strangers. This is done perfectly -- they'd done it too many times to mess it up. And obviously they could hear themselves well, so there's none of the flat singing that mars several of the Ark performances (and others). This might be why Pig feels confident to trot out most of his standard "Lovelight" tropes: box-black knitties, reaching over the left shoulder, etc. Nothing can really go wrong. And the band is right behind him, ready to pounce on whatever inspiration may come. This is true of performance in general, of course, but Pig is so strong here; it's so natural. Finally the band returns to the "Lovelight" theme, and Pig similarly turns his rap the same way; from there, it's all uphill to the big blastoff finale -- Jerry and Billy trading machine-gun bursts, Phil providing counterpoint, and Bobby egging them on the whole way. When it's all over, the audience chants "More!", and we don't have to wonder why.

Unfortunately for me, the track containing "The Other One" didn't download right, so I don't have that to comment on at the present time. Tantalizingly, it runs into a very brief "Caution" where the band actually stops itself, announcing that if they play further their road manager will end up in jail. Clearly they were ready to go on much longer :-)

The next track fades in on a rehearsal of "The Eleven" in progress. We also experience some tape trouble in the first two minutes but it's smooth sailing after that, despite some occasional listing to the right channel. "The Eleven" has always been mainly about sheer energy, and this has lots of that. Once they shift to the minor key, we see why Duane Allman decided that two drummers was the right move for his new band -- in fact, it sounds more than a little like "Whipping Post." No wonder the two bands got along so well ;-)

Bringing it to an end, Phil actually invokes the "Dark Star" riff, then asks if they've gotten any of it on tape [!!]. The answer is obviously "Yes," and a run-through of "Dupree's Diamond Blues" proves also fun. Nothing like a night with the good ol GD, even during rehearsal :-)
Review by Ramble On Joe

 
Grateful Dead Download Series review
Track List

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Grateful Dead
4/17/69
Washington University - St. Louis, MO

Disc One

1 Hard To Handle 7:19 (Redding, Jones, Isbell)
2 Morning Dew 10:22 (Dobson, Rose)
3 Good Morning Little Schoolgirl 9:17 (Williamson)
4 Dark Star > 21:36 (Garcia, Hart, Kreutzmann, Lesh, McKernan, Weir, Hunter)
5 St. Stephen > 2:35 (Garcia, Lesh, Hunter)
6 I Know It's A Sin > 3:46 (J. & M. Reed)
7 St. Stephen > 3:01 (Garcia, Lesh, Hunter)
8 Turn On Your Lovelight 19:13 (Malone, Scott)

Disc Two
1 That's It For The Other One > 22:44
Cryptical Envelopment (Garcia)
The Other One (Weir, Kreutzmann)
Cryptical Envelopment (Garcia)
2 Caution (Do Not Stop On Tracks) 1:53 (Grateful Dead)

Bonus tracks from Avalon Ballroom, January 23, 1969 Rehearsal

3 The Eleven 13:57 (Lesh, Hunter)
4 Dupree's Diamond Blues 5:06 (Garcia, Hunter)

Grateful Dead Download Series review
Musicians:       

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Grateful Dead
Tom Constanten: Keyboards
Jerry Garcia: Lead Guitar, Vocals
Mickey Hart: Drums
Bill Kreutzmann: Drums
Phil Lesh: Electric Bass, Vocals
Ron "Pigpen" McKernan: Vocals, Harmonica, Percussion
Bob Weir: Rhythm Guitar, Vocals

Grateful Dead Download Series review
Notes:

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Released - April, 2006
Grateful Dead Download Series

Recording by Bear
Mastered by Jeffrey Norman

From the Grateful Dead website
Recorded just seven weeks after the legendary "Fillmore West 1969" shows, Download Vol. 12 presents the entirety of the Grateful Dead's April 17, 1969, performance in St. Louis, MO.

Drawing on much of the material performed at the Fillmore West shows and included on "Live/Dead," the band threw in some major surprises on this evening. Starting with a slide guitar-driven "Hard To Handle" followed by "Morning Dew" and "Good Morning Little Schoolgirl," the band then heads into another classic, inspired early-1969 jam. Beginning with a "Dark Star" that rivals the best versions performed at this time, they then head into "St. Stephen." It's here that the show breaks with expectations, and in the middle of the song, Jerry leads the band through a rare "I Know It's A Sin," followed by the final verse and jam of "St. Stephen." Then comes the "William Tell" bridge, but rather than heading into "The Eleven," as was standard after "William Tell," they end their jam with a massive "Lovelight." Returning for an encore, the band performs one of the most powerful "That's It For The Other One" suites ever played, segueing into "Caution (Do Not Stop On Tracks)," which was rudely cut short by The Man. To cap off this stellar release, we have included a couple of songs from the January 23, 1969 rehearsal at the Avalon Ballroom recorded prior to the three night 1/24-26/69 run. Included is a version of "The Eleven" as strong as any live performance of the song, and the earliest recorded version off "Dupree's Diamond Blues."

A minor technical note to Download Vol. 12: because the first 10 minutes of 4/17/69 was not recorded to reel-to-reel tape, we have lovingly restored the first 10 minutes of the cassette master of the show in order to present the entire concert. The rest of the show is drawn from the reel-to-reel master tapes.

Grateful Dead Download Series review