Monday, December 11, 2017

Jerry Garcia and Merl Saunders - Jan. 17, 1974

One of the things that never ceases to amaze me is all the mystery around Grateful Dead and Jerry Garcia tapes. Unlike, say, Frank Zappa bootlegs, there's a great number of Garcia ones where the date and location are uncertain. This is one of them, and its also a real doozy.

This one came to me titled "Dick's Gifts" and had something like three different dates attached to it. After some searching online, I found another date - Jan. 17, 1974 - which smarter people than I suggest is the real date. I don't know, especially since the last track here is almost certainly from something else and the second disc doesn't really match up to the setlist. But I do know it's about two hours of the Garcia-Saunders band, featuring noted bad influence John Kahn on bass, and mainstays Bill Kreutzmann on drums (maybe?) and Martin Fierro on reeds. The grooves are long and the band's loose, with everything coming together in a loose swirl.

I read once that when Garcia grew more dependent on drugs and hangers on, he dropped Saunders and started playing in his more famous Jerry Garcia Band, where nobody was there to really push him from night to night and he could do whatever he wanted. It's a harsh assessment, but I think there's some merit to it. On nights like this, Saunders - who was a pretty damn good keyboardist - pushes the band deeper into grooves, taking Garcia's soloing into an extra chorus or two. There isn't exactly a tension between them, but it's as much Saunders' band as it is Garcia's, and it shows on recordings like this. (Or on the Keystones Companions box set, which is real great and any serious Garcia fan should own).

Anyway, what I'm trying to say is that I like this recording a lot, and I hope you will too.


M.D. Milner said...

Click Here

Pig Street! said...

Nice post milner, thanks also for giving credit where it is deserved, the "good influence" of Merl. This show is a fine example of Merl getting Jerry in fine form. A fine recording and performance!

jim said...

Thanks, for anther good one. Are you possibly, the guy who used to do the infinitefool? If not, I still like where you're headed. Have a nice night. Please keep up the good work. jimg.

Nick said...

I dunno that I’d agree about unlabeled tapes. I don’t know much about Zappa recordings, but I do know that the Dead/Garcia taping subculture is pretty thorough, and there’s not very much that has yet to be concretely identified: maybe some stuff from the 60’s, but not much. Check out the Etree database for circulating Garcia recordings:

Anyway, this is a great pick! It’s a great G/S show, one of the better ones from the year imho. Yes, it’s Billy Kreutzmann on drums (he released one track from this on a CD of his own). However, this file isn’t the complete show. In the late 90’s, the Dead’s archivist Dick Latvala “released” a collection of unlabeled Garcia tapes to his friends, which came to be traded widely as “Dick’s Gift,” but all that material has since been identified. The first 5 cuts in this file are from 1/17/74 at the Keystone in Berkeley. The next 4 cuts are from 5/5/73 (also circulated as part of “Dick’s Gift”) which have a slightly different lineup (Bill Vitt on drums + George Tickner on 2nd guitar). The next three tracks (Tore Up Over You, CC Rider, and I’m a Roadrunner) are from 12/31/75, and the last cut (Silver Threads) sounds like acoustic Grateful Dead from 1970 (not sure which show).

The complete show is even better than this, imho - there’s some amazing material that wasn’t included in Dick’s Gift.

Nick said...

Also, while I'm on a roll, I'd argue with the idea that drugs are what caused the split between Garcia & Saunders -- Garcia's heroin addiction hadn't taken hold at that point. I think part of it, unfortunately, was money: the Dead had "broken up" in 1975 and I think one reason he started The Jerry Garcia Band was in order to make some bread. But I also think that good ol' "creative differences" played a big part, too: he was writing material that wasn't a fit for this group, he was looking for a new sound, and he seems to have been less satisfied with playing as a soloist on long jazz jams.

M.D. Milner said...

JIm: No I'm not, but I got a lot of stuff from there back in the day.

Nick: thanks for the info! I've been interested in this set since I got it since it's so mysterious (I guess was, anyway) and because the jamming is on point. And as to your second point, I had this essay in mind (and which I misquoted a little bit):