Mar 15, 2018

1965: The Warlocks (Massachusetts)

Cash Box ad, June 5, 1965

NEW YORK - The Warlocks, the group that introduced the Temper Tantrum dance in a Boston night club, has recorded a single, "Temper Tantrum," for Decca.
The dance, introduced May 12 at the Forum, a Hub discotheque, was shown in film clip form on "The Tonight Show." It has received exposure on Boston radio and TV stations and in the local press.
Dick Jacobs, Decca a&r man, recorded the disk in Boston. Charlotte Holicker, one of the dance's inventors, explained the dance on "The Mike Douglas Show" Friday (28).

(from Billboard, 5 June 1965)

* * * 

BOSTON - Alan Ross of Decca Records may be responsible for a new dance known as the Temper Tantrum, by the Warlocks, ready for release on Decca. It grew out of a session at Boston's Forum with most of the record distributors present. Alan secured tape of music and film of the dance and sent it to New York. Presto! a new record and perhaps a new dance. Hub dancer Charlotte Hollicker will show it to Mike Douglas and Patrice Munsel on the Douglas Show soon.

(from Billboard, 12 June 1965)

* * *


NEW YORK — Decca Records has rushed into release a single record based on the new dance, “Temper Tantrum.” The dance was introduced last month at The Forum, a Boston discotheque, that had invited the Hub press, radio, television and the general public to the first public demonstration of this new “tension relieving” dance conceived by Charlotte and Joe Holicker. The room was jammed to capacity as the dancers stamped their feet and gyrated, as a small child in a fit of temper, in time to the music, as the patrons joined in and a new dance craze was born.
The next day the Boston press and radio-TV carried the message that this was the dance to do in Boston and the surrounding areas. “The Tonight Show” heard about the excitement generated by the dance and showed a film clip of the steps of the “tantrum” to a national viewing audience. At the same time it was brought to the attention of A&R staffer Dick Jacobs, who immediately flew to Boston to record “Temper Tantrum” with The Warlocks, the musical group that first introduced the dance.
The Decca record was cut, mastered and shipped all in the period of three days to keep pace with the national excitement being generated by the fad. Charlotte Holicker made a guest appearance on “The Mike Douglas Show” this past Friday (28) to tell the story of the dance to the show’s vast syndicated audience. Many national publications are now planning spreads on the dance.
Decca’s full promo forces are going all-out to garner similar reaction in all areas to “Temper Tantrum” as happened when first introduced in Boston.

(from Cash Box, 5 June 1965) 

from the Record Reviews:

WARLOCKS (Decca 31806)
THE TEMPER TANTRUM (2:25) - Easy driving beat behind smooth vocals on this outing make for possible clicking with  dance crowds. The free moving rhythm could connect with good sales and spins resulting.
I’LL GO CRAZY (2:46) - Pounding beat on this rock number.

The Temper Tantrum (by Joseph & Charlotte Holicker; A-side)
I'll Go Crazy (by James Brown; B-side)

October 1965...

Phil Lesh: "I was browsing in a record store and found a single by a band called the Warlocks, on Columbia. I brought the bad news to the guys, and we started to bandy new names about...but nothing really sounded right, and we just couldn't decide. Meanwhile, we were recording some demo songs for a local record label, and we needed not to be the Warlocks anymore. So we agreed on a temporary name - the Emergency Crew - for our first recording sessions. What on earth to call ourselves?..."

Jerry Garcia: "Our name was originally the Warlocks, [but] we discovered that there was a band back east or something like that recording under that name, and we decided, 'Oh, no, we can't have that. We can't be confused with somebody else.' So we were trying to think up names..."

Mar 8, 2018

1967: Album Review


Rating: *****

This album is possibly the finest yet by a group in the general area of white blues-rock. Those who prefer another sort of rock may disagree with the Grateful Dead's predilection for the blues, but no one could deny after hearing the record that the band is superb.
Jazz fans should find this LP a good introduction to some of the better rock music.
The Dead began, three men strong, as a jug band, and Minglewood and Viola Lee are from the repertoire of the old Gus Cannon Memphis Jug Stompers, best known for their Walk Right In. However, the Dead's versions of these tunes are a far cry from the Cannon sound.
Viola Lee is a 10-minute track with an unusual accelerando middle section. Toward the end McKernan's organ is flying, and the whole band is in such an orbit that the return to the initial tempo for the final vocal choruses is a shock.
Most vocals on the album are by Garcia, with a couple of significant exceptions: McKernan sings and plays harmonica on the chestnut Little Schoolgirl, and rhythm guitarist Weir sings lead on Jesse Fuller's Down the Line.
The rest of the material is in a more modern vein. In Tim Rose's superbly ominous Morning Dew, an excellent vocal is backed by lovely instrumental figures. The arranged nature of the instrumental breaks and leads for this and Cold Rain and Snow, while retaining the spontaneity of the usual blues band, demonstrates a way out of some ruts. Most of the originals on the album are collaborations, with Lesh doing much of the catalytic work; Garcia said that Cream Puff is the only song used by the group that he wrote by himself.
Sometimes the Dead's lyrics are written strictly for simplicity, avoiding "significance."
"The lyrics are nonsensical and banal," one of the group told a Ramparts reporter. The hit tune The Golden Road is noteworthy in this respect. Although performance is always predominant with this group, lyrics like those for Cold Rain and Snow certainly tell a story.
Instrumentally, Garcia's unusually round-sounding guitar lead, the full-toned organ of McKernan, and the very active bass lines of Lesh produce a powerful effect. Weir and Sommers are also excellent musicians, but greater than anything else is the unity of effect these men produce. In many rock bands the listener is tempted to imagine how much better the band would sound if only he could substitute some personal favorite of his. This feeling never occurs regarding this group, nor do people talk much about its stars or its outstanding members; it's just the Grateful Dead.
When the band first was approached about recording, Garcia and the others felt that the Dead was simply not a recording group.
"I don't believe the live sound, the live excitement, can be recorded," Garcia told Newsweek. In spite of these doubts, a superb record has been created. Engineer Dave Hassinger traveled to San Francisco to hear the group live several times before planning the date, and he has captured the sound of the band wonderfully well.
There are all sorts of rock or electric bands. Some emphasize melody, some stress poetic lyrics, some are more like jazz groups with a little singing added. Some are folk-derived, some are 90 per cent Negro blues influenced. Indian music, Nashville c&w, and countless other forms have their effect.
You simply find your way to the bands that derive from what you're used to and go on from there. But along with the recent Beatles albums, the Byrds, the Lovin' Spoonful, Paul Butterfield, and Bob Dylan, I find the Grateful Dead outstanding, and I especially recommend them to jazz fans.

(by Edward Spring, from Down Beat, 21 September 1967)

See also:

Mar 7, 2018

Cream / Jefferson Airplane: Brandeis University, Waltham, MA 1968

Impressions of Cream and Jefferson Airplane

The Jefferson Airplane and Cream appeared not long ago at Brandeis University in concerts a month apart. The concerts will be discussed here conjointly because they afford interesting and natural comparisons and because the rock of these two groups is representative of much currently important popular music. (My opening remarks are directed primarily at the jazz listener trying to ease his way into rock; those who have been digging it right along won't find much that is startling or revelatory.)
[ . . . ]
Maybe it wise to start with what won't be heard in contemporary rock - rhythmic complexity, for one thing. This has always been one of the salient ingredients of jazz, and it is lacking in rock, which for the most part is in 4/4 or free time, usually the former. Another generally missing factor is dynamic shading: rock is either loud or soft, usually the former, and until on-the-spot engineering techniques get a good deal more sophisticated - which they better had in the near future - the subtleties of rock have to be conveyed by the harmonics and voicings employed.
This brings up another point. By "loud," I do not mean Roy Eldridge loud or Count Basie loud. I mean you-have-never-heard-such-sounds-in-your-life loud, an effect that most of the recording studios minimize and that can only be apprehended in live performances. The rock musicians are into total, environmental sound in a way that players like Archie Shepp or Pharaoh Sanders can only approximate; this means that a first-time listener will not pick up on most of what he heard, because he is not used to differentiating sounds at that volume. It means that even the habitual listener may be partially deafened after a performance, sometimes for hours. Whether or not to subject yourself to such temporary or permanent discomfort is an individual decision. It is too easy to say, however, that rock is so loud that nothing of beauty or worth can be produced. That was said about certain other forms of music familiar to most Down Beat readers.
[ . . . ]
Cream and Jefferson are comparable in several ways . . . The first similarity is that both are composed of fine musicians - and are instrumentally perhaps the two most together outfits now playing.
The comparisons of virtuosity extend further.
Casady and Bruce are the only two interesting electric bassists I have ever heard. Likewise, few rock drummers, however dextrous, extend their rhythmic conceptions much beyond symmetrically divided 4/4; Baker and Dryden are exceptions. (Terry Clarke, John Handy's former drummer, now with the Fifth Dimension, and the Rolling Stones' Charlie Watts are others; significantly, all these percussionists have jazz roots.) Kaukonen and Clapton are among the handful of gifted guitarists, technically and conceptually.
Clapton in particular has few or no technical equals, in jazz or rock. He has to be heard to be believed. Kaukonen's chops are a cut below, although I wouldn't want to have to live on the difference, but he more than compensates for this - he has advanced harmonic understanding; a pronounced lyrical bent unusual among hard rock players; willingness to take improvisational chances; and, most important, the wit not only to know where he is going with a phrase but also how he got there.
Even Clapton, good as he is, could profit from studying Kaukonen's phrasing. Too often, rock guitarists concentrate on climaxing a sequence, building up to it with staccato bursts that the culmination echoes and expands upon. Kaukonen's lines, like those of a first-rate jazz soloist, make sense in and of themselves. For sheer power and impact, Clapton is close to nonpareil; he overwhelms. For sustained musical interest, Kaukonen is the most compelling; he fascinates.

A final note on the Airplane, before proceeding to the Brandeis concerts: their last album, After Bathing at Baxter's, seems to me the most unified and cohesive record yet produced by an American group - indeed, it demonstrates the kind of thematic and musical oneness spuriously attributed to the last two Beatles efforts. The latter are sides with brilliant songs on them; Baxter's is One Thing. The Airplane is currently out of favor, for the sock-it-to-me approach is in and the insinuate-it-to-me approach is out, for the moment anyway, and for this reason, and a couple of others, the Airplane concert was a disappointment. Its members did their songs (White Rabbit, Somebody to Love, etc.), but they didn't do their thing.
There was little collective improvisation, and except for some fine Kaukonen, little individual improvisation. Except, too, for Gracie Slick, who never seems to do a song the same way twice. There was a further problem in that the voice mikes could not compete with the amps, and much of her and Balin's work was lost. She has great range, firm tone, presence, emotional commitment.
Miss Slick is also a fine improvisor of counterpoint, as, to a lesser extent, are Balin and Kantner. Consequently, the Airplane employs more complex vocal harmonies than probably any American rock group I know of.
A good example in the Brandeis concert was Won't You Try/Saturday Afternoon, two separate songs with the same chords (except for a couple of substitutions), sung together. It started with Balin and Miss Slick on Won't and Kantner sliding in with part of Saturday. When Saturday became dominant, Balin and Kantner duetting on it, Miss Slick began running some astonishing changes on Won't. It ended very free, with the words of both songs being interchanged by the three, so that the listener had trouble knowing which was which - which, of course, was the intention.
So that was nice. And Miss Slick did White Rabbit, a beautiful, bolero-rhythm exercise in crescendo that should never stop because it hurts so good. Miss Slick strayed profitably from the recorded version: the first four bars were sung on the afterbeat, providing a nice pulsation when contrasted with the bolero rhythm by Dryden, and she finished with a bluesy trail-off instead of the final held note on the record.
Kaukonen sang an unnamed, funky blues (he should have more vocal space; he's a fine blues singer) on which he made good use of his wawa pedal in accompaniment. His solos throughout the concert were consistently rewarding, but they and Miss Slick's vocal work were about the only things that were.
The Airplane group at its best is an improvisational group, though in an artfully controlled way; when it does not improvise, it is merely good. Somebody to Love, It's No Secret, Funny Cars. Yeah, nice. But we've heard them.

The Cream concert hardly could have begun less fortunately than it did. Orpheus, a group highly touted by a recording industry flack as representative of the "Bosstown Sound" (which, FYI, does not exist), was uninteresting and offensive. (I figured out about halfway through their set that they were really a plugged-in - but hardly switched-on - version of the Kingston Trio. Same dull harmony, same bad jokes, same pseudo-hipness. Feh.)
It was then announced that Cream had had airplane trouble (no pun intended) and would be "a little late." Another backup group was hurriedly imported. It did a set. Another announcement - "They're on the way." Another set.
Cream began its set at 2:15 a.m. The incredible thing was that of a sell-out crowd of 3,000 present from 8 p.m., fully 2,500 remained, for the most part placidly, until Cream arrived. Quite a tribute.
It was deserved. If anything was worth the five-hour wait, its set was. There are some groups that really should not perform live; they are displayed better in the electronic shelter of a studio. The Beatles, and maybe the Airplane at this point, are examples. For some groups, the opposite is the case, and Cream is one of these. In the first place there is the matter of volume. A trio - right? Wrong. Seven orchestras. Each of the two guitars has four amplifiers - big, five-foot-tall amplifiers. Ginger Baker's drums had to be miked very loud to compete. Cream's sound is just this side of physically tangible. It assaults, drowns, lifts, transports, and when it stops, one feels alone, insufficient somehow.
In the second place, Cream's records - which are quite good - present the group as predominantly vocal; there are very few instrumental breaks of longer than a chorus. In person, it gets the singing out of the way in a hurry and then gets down to business. This is just as well; some of the group's songs (Tales of Brave Ulysses, which it performed this night, and SWLABR, which it didn't) have memorable lyrics, but most don't, and as vocalists, Bruce is only good and Clapton adequate. As musicians, they are superb.
The group began with Ulysses, and Clapton put the gymnasium under pulsating currents of warm water with his unerringly sensitive use of the wawa pedal. Baker, here as throughout, laid down an unyielding beat, and the three got together on an accelerating coda, which is not on the album version. They followed with NSU, a deceptively simple tune . . . [The metrical reversal in the intro] was fascinating.
So was Clapton's guitar break: whines, cat meowing, other fragmentary sounds. (He owes something of his bottom-fret climaxes to B.B. King.) The solo alternated between legato runs, usually ascending, and hard-nosed chord work. Baker, who is the baddest-looking English cat I have ever seen, reminiscent of one of Dickens' innumerable low-life villains, performed an extended solo, showing strong, strong chops, and he never misses. But the solo was strangely dull. Someone sitting next to me said, "My God. It's Sing, Sing, Sing." He wasn't far off. Baker stayed almost exclusively with 16th-note divisions, done mostly on tom-toms. He plays much more complexly on records.
They did two instrumentals, a slow blues with another fine Clapton solo that switched from double-time to the original tempo a couple of times, and then an up-tempo, 16-bar blues, with Baker doing some good brush work behind a Clapton solo. I would like to describe that solo, but I can't. My notes say, "God!" That's all. I can only say that for the two minutes or 12 hours (I have no idea exactly how long it was) that Clapton soloed, I got as high up and far out as I ever have on jazz.
Then, with Clapton laying out, a freight-train blues featuring some Bruce pyrotechnics on harmonica, including a vocal-harmonica duet with himself that at its apogee found him singing an eighth-note, blowing an eighth, and so on for two or three choruses, a la Sonny Terry. It was a remarkable display, though musically not altogether rewarding. They finished the long set with Toad, an 18-bar line divided into repeated six-bar phrases, all based on one chord. A short Clapton solo and a long Baker exercise - again, mainly with 16ths - received a standing ovation.
Cream owes its repertoire to a number of sources. It does Skip James, Muddy Waters, and Robert Johnson songs. Some of its instrumentalism comes from contemporary r&b players, like Muddy Waters and B.B. King. It probably would not have been able to assimilate the blues concept without the pioneer imitative work of the Rolling Stones and Beatles. But the resulting amalgam is all Cream, and it is a moving, powerful, original sound.

(by Alan Heineman, from Down Beat, 25 July 1968)

Mar 5, 2018

September 19, 1970: Fillmore East, NYC


Fillmore East, New York City
This was the fifth engagement by the Grateful Dead at Fillmore East since the first of the year, yet every show was sold out. That's the way Grateful Dead fans are - they can't ever get enough. Even after five hours of music, they were still hollering for encores.
Recent performances by the Dead have been like a three-act play. First on the program is a rather quiet set of Marin County (where they live these days) acoustic/electric folk music. During this set, the Dead, minus one of their two drummers and plus such added friends as Dave Torbert, Marmaduke Dawson, and Dave Nelson, go through such standards as Deep Elm Blues and such contemporary material as Juggin', a Dead biography-itinerary-diary, and To Lay Me Down, a journey into the black soul-gospel where so much of today's music originated.
Act Two presents the New Riders Of The Purple Sage, with Jerry Garcia switching from acoustic guitar to pedal steel guitar and Mickey Hart replacing Bill Kreutzman on drums. The rest of the New Riders are Marmaduke Dawson, vocal and rhythm guitar; Dave Torbert, bass; and David Nelson, lead guitar and mandolin. The sound is more or less Nashville and revolves around Nelson's mandolin playing and Garcia's steel guitar. Garcia is not a traditional steel guitar man. You can forget all the country slides that have been heard so often they've become musical cliches; Garcia has made the steel guitar a creative instrument. At one point in the finale, the Rolling Stones' Honky Tonk Woman, I was looking around for the horn section only to discover that what I had heard was Jerry's steel guitar.
It should be just about time for the New Riders of The Purple Sage to do an album. They have some really fine material, especially Somebody Robbed The Glendale Train and Henry (who turns out to be a pusher spreading joy and destruction). I still find Marmaduke not as communicative a lead singer as I'd like to hear, but then I guess it's in the Nashville style to be detached from the music, and he is warmer than he was when I heard him here two months ago.

There is nothing uncommunicative about the Grateful Dead, by which I mean the original San Francisco band that closed this evening. Garcia has long been acknowledged and accepted as the founder of the San Francisco style of rock guitar playing. Sure, Jorma Kaukonen of the Airplane and some others may have taken it further, and it is also true that Jerry learned a lot from King Hendrix the First, but Hendrix is dead, long live Garcia - and if Jorma's done something good with it, at least he remembers where he got it.
Bob Weir is officially listed as rhythm guitar, but there's a lot more to Bob than that. Especially in the first act he does a lot of the singing, and there are moments of double guitar lead when it is questionable whether Garcia is leading Weir or vice-versa.
There are a great many good bassists in the business. Phil Lesh has been around longer than most, and plays as well as just about any. A bass player forms a foundation for a band that should be both a bottom layer of sound and a rhythmic assist to the drums. Bass players can get their solo breaks too, but for most of the time they belong in the background driving the band...pushing up from underneath and forward from Jimmy Blanton, Charlie Haden, and Phil Lesh.
Ron McKernan, the beloved and loveable "Pigpen," can usually be found at the piano or organ - though he's been known to assist on drums - and his harmonica work is an important fixture in today's Dead. Mainly Pigpen is a singer, a catalyst, a performer who can be counted on to get an audience in motion and emotion.
Bill Kreutzman and Mickey Hart are the drummers (individually in acts 1 & 2; in tandem for act 3). Together or separately, they are always driving and always swinging. That's the Grateful Dead. They started as Mother McCree's Uptown Jug Champions and worked as The Warlocks before they got where they're at today...and where they're at today is very together.

From the opening Morning Dew, it was obvious that this was to be one of those nights when the magnificence of the performance was to be surpassed only by the excitement of the audience. The Dead freak in front of me was on her feet with the first sound from her favorite band. From then on, for anything I wanted to see I would have to rise to the occasion as well.
For more than another hour, San Francisco's finest went through a whole history lesson of the music. From their folk (or neo-folk) repertoire came Bonnie Dobson's Morning Dew, Me And My Brother, and Cold Rain And Snow. From the new Workingman's Dead album came Easy Wind. From their rock and roll repertoire came Good Morning Little Schoolgirl and Not Fade Away. From Live Dead, which many consider their best album, came the whole first couple of sides: Dark Star, St. Stephen, Turn On Your Lovelight, and a couple of snatches of Feedback.
It was on Turn On Your Lovelight that Pigpen really took charge. Before he finished doing his thing the entire audience is caught up in it...clapping, dancing, singing along, screaming, shouting, involved - yes, involved. Involved with the apex of street bands that can get it together on stage at the Fillmore, at a street dance in Berkeley, at a be-in in Central Park or Golden Gate Park...just so long as the crowd is simpatico and the vibes and the drugs are right.
So after they had played for five hours (a few short breaks to attend to necessities) the crowd still screamed for more and booed when they were told they weren't getting more, only to be admonished by Pigpen: "Why don't you go home and ____?"
We finally did.

(by Joe Klee, from Down Beat, 26 November 1970)  

Mar 4, 2018

1969: Live/Dead Review


LIVE/DEAD - Rating: 2-1/2 stars
VOLUNTEERS - Rating: 4 stars

In a way, the Dead's double album is a valuable document: it's a typical set. A few moments of inspiration scattered amid more than 70 minutes of aimlessness. These are seven musicians who know their axes and know what all the others are likely to do, and can go with them. That's half the battle for an improvisation group; the other half is to improvise something of merit, and there's damn little of that here.
One has to like them - is obliged to. They were there are the beginning. Kesey, Trips Festival, Acid Test, the San Francisco Sound. (If there is one, theirs is it.) And the word on the Dead is always that they're erratic, but when they get it on, they're the best band in the world.
Damned if I've ever heard them get it on. Certainly not on record, where they've either been too hung up with electronic diddling to make music, or, as here, just not together.
From the opening seconds, it's clearly The Dead: rhythm setting up a static pattern while Garcia wanders with short, single-note, on-beat figures gradually expanding into longer lines emphasizing triplets, and creating a climax. If only those climaxes weren't so inevitable. And the first three sides of the album melt into each other, the separate tunes distinguished only by the tempo changes and the lyrics, which aren't notable. Until Lovelight, The Dead's standby, which is a gas - the only fully realized group performance on the records, everybody helping everybody else. Garcia playing his best guitar solo of the set, tough, hard drumming by Hart and Kreutzmann, insinuating bass lines by Lesh, funky vocal. Yes, yes, yes.
The last side is tighter than the first three. Nothing mindblowing, but Rev. Gary Davis' Death is effective, and the electronic play on Feedback makes some sense in spots.
I don't know; maybe this is the best band in the world. But they sure can keep a secret.

The Airplane, on the other hand, is at the very least the best band in America, and so it's difficult to rate this set. By any other standards, it's four stars and maybe more, but it's less good than Crown of Creation, and of course nothing can touch Baxter's.
Some of the songs are sensational, but there are too many throwaways: Shepherd, Farm, Turn My Life, Seasons. And the two revolutionary pieces, Together and Volunteers, while musically beautiful, are too self-congratulatory and facile. (The latter was originally titled Volunteers of America; RCA had the Airplane delete the last words from the title and the printed lyrics, though the line is sung intact at the end of the song. The printed lyrics for Together have been bowdlerized. And although the Airplane has done wonders for itself, RCA's recording techniques are still terrrible.)
But the good songs...oh my God. Frederick, in the same mood as Rejoyce, has gorgeously dense lyrics by Gracie, and she sings it brilliantly. The vocal is followed by an exciting Kaukonen guitar solo that builds to a long climax, then diminishes into a light, even 4/4 with a fine complementary piano line by Hopkins, and slides into a heavier 4/4 signaled by Casady. Crescendo and out and incredible.
Turn My Life is said, and Kaukonen's vocal is effective, but it's not a great song. Wooden Ships, conversely, is. Written by Kantner with Stills and David Crosby, it's a mournful, uncertain leave-taking of the silent dehumanized majority by the loud, musical minority. Kantner, Miss Slick, and Balin alternate the vocals, and each section slides inevitably, logically, breathtakingly into the next. At one point during some harmony, Gracie sustains the end of a verse, knifing into the next. Tear your guts out, Jim. The counterpoint at the end is typical Airplane, which is to say marvelous.
The last Slick song is perhaps the best, in terms of lyrics. Eskimo compares the vast natural forces to man's smallness; the middle verse suggests music as a possible bridge. The refrain, "But the human crowd/Doesn't mean shit to a tree" carries a double sense; the obvious, colloquial meaning, naturally, but also, "shit" makes trees grow, and why don't we acknowledge our links with nature instead of priding ourselves on our machines and sound-proofing and euphemizing our bathrooms? Another clean, sharp Slick vocal.

One of the points of reviewing these two sessions together, apart from the fact that these are the two longest-lived San Francisco bands, is that both started in more or less the same place. Kaukonen has freely admitted that his guitar style owes a great deal to Garcia's. But Miles Davis said the same thing about Ahmad Jamal, and while the Dead may have been, may even remain, a greater social presence than the Airplane, the latter has grown into a musical force that has long since outstripped its roots.

(by Alan Heineman, from Down Beat, 5 February 1970)

See also:

Mar 2, 2018

March 15-17, 1968: Carousel Ballroom

The Carousel, San Francisco

The cream of San Francisco rock - the Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead - got together here for the first time in many months. Following a three-month Pacific Northwest tour, the Dead and the Airplane had returned as partners to open their own ballroom, the Carousel, in competition with Bill Graham's Fillmore Auditorium and Chet Helms' Avalon Ballroom.
The Dead had not played for either Graham or Helms in nearly a year, because they opposed the way most dance-concerts are conducted.
Both bands did two sets, each lasting more than an hour. Though the Airplane has by far the biggest national reputation, the Dead proved to be the stronger musicians.

Balin, in the group's early days, nearly carried the Airplane on the strength of his powerful vocals. And though the repertoire now is structured around the exceptionally versatile voice of Miss Slick, there are signs that this approach is wearing a bit thin.
Solos are longer than ever before, limiting the role of the lyrics, but the quality of playing has improved markedly. Casady is one of the finest bass players in rock - perhaps the finest - and his solos will surely wake up other groups to the fact that the bass can be more than just decoration for the lead guitar.
On one song, Casady played acoustic guitar and Balin played bass, an indication that the group is going in for more versatility.

But it was the Dead's second set that made the evening particularly important. It was one of the best sets the group has ever done in this city, and the light show, by underground filmmaker Ben Van Meter, caught the rhythm perfectly, turning the event into a total sensory experience.
In the first set, the Dead had indicated it was into something quite different from what it was doing even six months ago. At that time it was, like the Airplane, still dependent on lyrics as the basic ingredients of its songs.
Now it is the music that is important. It's more jazz than rock and aims at a peak experience instead of just a good time. On one song, McKernan, who also does fine vocals on Junior Wells' Good Mornin', Little Schoolgirl, launched into a kind of formless Joycean chant. As another forceful sound, it complemented the instruments.
The Dead has added a second drummer, Micky Hart, son of drummer Roy Hart, and new worlds of dynamics have opened up. Hart joined several months ago in New York. Sommers still seems to carry the weight in the drum solos, but Hart has excellent control.
Garcia is one of the unacknowledged greats of the rock guitar. He can make it sound like a horn and always plays as if entranced, his shaggy head wagging, his fingers fretting and picking as if they had a life of their own.
The set ended with fireworks and smoke-bombs that, in the hands of most groups, usually come off as a cheap gimmick. Not this time. Solos had built crescendo upon crescendo like layers in a foundation; each note had been wrung of the last drop of emotion. Something had to explode, and it did - literally. There followed a brief and incongruous bidding of goodnight, sung by the whole group in choir-boy fashion.
The Dead again proved that it is probably the tightest band in rock, despite the fact that there is now more improvising in its playing than ever before.

(by Geoffrey Link, from Down Beat, 27 June 1968)

Mar 1, 2018

June 13, 1969: Selland Arena, Fresno CA


At Selland Arena last night while the Grateful Dead was blowing everyone's mind with hard-driving acid rock, a teenage girl behind the stage was dancing.
This hippie chick, if you will, was twirling, pirouetting and carving great arches with her arms, and it was beautiful. She was simply grooving, doing her own thing, and everyone understood.
Her reaction to the primordial quality of one of San Francisco's best-known bands was simultaneously compulsive and spontaneous, old and new.
The Grateful Dead, after all, produces a sound that is simple and ancient. The Old Testament speaks of making a "joyful noise unto the Lord." Dancing out one's emotions is an impulse older perhaps even than the Bible.
Twang, twang, twang, ker-chunk. Leap, twirl, trist, ker-plop.
Nothing new or complicated about that.
Yet the sound of San Francisco rock is, of course, as new as tomorrow. And if you listen to it carefully - never an easy exercise and impossible in Selland Arena - it includes much more than a simple one-two-three pulse-beat rhythm.

The Grateful Dead sound is an outgrowth of Negro blues of the funkiest sort, standard rock-'n-roll, country-western of the type Gene Autry never knew, and finally the mind-expanding influence of ragas from India.
Ragas foster psychedelic improvisation, and this is where The Grateful Dead excel. Particularly good were leader Jerry Garcia's rapid runs on the guitar and a couple of numbers which featured Pig Pen, also known as Ron McKernan, on the organ and bongos.
Phil Leash, who sometimes goes by the name of "Reddy Kilowatt," was good on the bass, and Bob Weir played a mean rhythm guitar. Organist Tom Constanten and drummers Micky Hart and Bill Kruetzman at times expended more energy than PG&E.
The Grateful Dead is an outgrowth of Ken Kesey's Hashbury experiments and of the Jefferson Airplane. Thus there is a strong imitation of Negro blues, perhaps more than any other component of the sound.
The singing is guttural and the lyrics most often come out as "Ah luhv you, babuh."

It was clear last night that that love was not unreciprocated. The crowd of teeny-boppers and college students was appropriately grateful in their response.
Contributing to the trip-ish effect was the Brotherhood of Fillmore West who provided great swirling blobs of color and design projected behind the stage.
Sometimes the light show suggested messy brain surgery; other times it looked like St. Vitus dance with the yin and yang symbol clashing creepy blue blobs. It was, as they say, out of sight.
The Grateful Dead were preceded by two crowd-warming groups, Aum and Sanpaku, neither of whom seemed wildly original.

(by Gordon Young, from the Fresno Bee, 14 June 1969)

Feb 28, 2018

March 17, 1970: Kleinhans Music Hall, Buffalo, NY


For many years there was a strong debate as to the musical veracity of rock music. Now with the rockophile's mind overflowing with the rhythm and texture of such groups as The Mothers of Invention, Capt. Beefheart and his Magic Band, etc., the debate is decidedly over.
Rock is solid, musically and intellectually.
Standing in a paramount position among the vast pantheon of rock gods and goddesses is one group. An American group whose musical virtuosity and tenacity has won them respect and fame.
The group calls itself The Grateful Dead. Their musical capabilities extend from highly progressive, and aggressive, rock to Cageian electronics.
Music is a way of life for many and when an occasion arises when two forms come together and form one "new" musical entity, a certain amount of apprehension fills the air of the music community.
"The Grateful Dead with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, Oh, Wow!!!"
Why not? But it's true The Grateful Dead will scamper across the breadth of the United States to meet with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra under the direction of Lukas Foss and do what comes natural to most musicians - jam.
Tuesday, March 17 at Kleinhans Music Hall, a musical marathon shall commence. First on the evening's agenda will be the Buffalo Philharmonic under Lukas Foss doing the music of John Cage.
Next, onto the stage will step The Grateful Dead. They, too, will do an entire set.
Finally, the merging of two musical forms, the Dead and the Philharmonic in an old-time jam session. Also on the program will be a new concept in light shows. Laser beams!
They shoot conductors, don't they?

(by Joe Fernbacher, from the Spectrum, University at Buffalo, 13 March 1970)

* * *


The Grateful Dead, a rock group from the West Coast, will appear with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra on the Marathon concert from 7 pm. to 11 p.m. Tuesday in Kleinhans Music Hall.
The group will replace two rock groups that had been scheduled originally - The Byrds and Raven.

It is the first appearance here by the Dead. Members of the rock group are Jerry Garcia, lead guitar; Phil Lesh, bass guitar; Bob Weir, rhythm guitar; Mike Constanten, piano and organ; Billy Kreutzman and Mickey Hart, drums; and Pigpen, conga drums.
The group with the "San Francisco Sound" has recently released a live double album, "Live Dead." The group's songs include "Dark Star" and "St. Stephen."
The Marathon program will begin with Lukas Foss and the Grateful Dead performing "Non-Improvisation," a Bach Destruction with the music of Bach played against and within a wall of rock sound.

The Grateful Dead will perform two 45-minute sets - before and after Foss's "Geod," scheduled at 8:30 p.m.
John Cage's Variations III and IV will be played simultaneously, possibly involving the Grateful Dead along with the symphony orchestra.
Rock band and symphony orchestra will conclude the program with a confrontation beginning at 10:15 p.m.
The program will benefit the orchestra. Tickets are $4.50.

(from the Buffalo Courier Express, March 14 1970)

* * *


The Grateful Dead, hard rock’s national headliners in festivals and top-selling albums, will join the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra and Lukas Foss in the Philharmonic Rock Marathon, this evening at 7 in Kleinhans Music Hall.
The Road, area rock group, also will appear.
Confirmation of the Grateful Dead followed an earlier cancellation of The Byrds. “The Dead” are accepting expenses but waiving their usual huge fee, to help the Philharmonic benefit and for the “privilege and delight,” as they put it, “of working with Lukas Foss.”
It will be a four-hour concert in six parts, any one of them a major event. The whole program, in fact, is history-making as the first fully-shared concert by a rock group and symphony orchestra.
Also, a far-out light-show outfit from Michigan called Sonovision is bringing in about $4000 worth of equipment including a laser beam and prism, for the latest thing in lighting effects on the music hall walls.

The program will open with conductor Foss as guest pianist with the Grateful Dead in a non-improvisation – pianist Foss playing the Bach Concerto in F Minor and the rock artists surrounding him with a rhythmic and electronic counterpoint.
At 7:30 PM “The Dead” will orbit on their own - two drummers, organ, guitars, trumpet, congas - for an hour of their album settings in whatever version inspires them at the time.
At 8:30 PM Mr. Foss and a battery of sub-conductors will lead the orchestra in the American premiere of the Foss “Geod,” complete with laser show.
At 9 PM “The Dead” will take over again. At 9:40 PM Mr. Foss will conduct Variations II and III by avant-gardist John Cage.
Then, 10:15 PM to closing, the Philharmonic and “The Dead” will jam in a musical challenge session. This part of it isn’t exactly clear at the moment, but both groups will be playing, perhaps with some kind of underlying principle in mind.
Unreserved seats throughout the house at $4.50 (there was a previous quotation of $3.50 but that was before the present setup) are available in the Philharmonic box office in the music hall, Buffalo Festival ticket office in the Statler Hilton Lobby, Denton, Cottier & Daniels, and Norton Hall, UB Campus.

(from the Buffalo Evening News, 17 March 1970)

* * *


The exact moment the Grateful Dead got their sound together physically sent a sublime shock through Kleinhans Music Hall Tuesday evening.
The shock had a positive impact. It was a happy realization by both the audience and the Dead that the first few amorphous moments of sound-searching had suddenly found a vehicle to ride to inventive heights.
From this metamorphic instance in the Philharmonic Rock Marathon, conceived by Lukas Foss, one could feel the extraordinary rapport between the Dead’s rock and the orchestral prose, and also between both of these and the highly responsive young audience.

For 2200 in Kleinhans Music Hall, the Dead offered some of their best material in their set's limited time. After each member analyzed what his fellow Dead were feeling this particular night, the creative improvisation began.
The Dead uses two drummers, Mickey Hart and Billy Kruetzman, to form a “figure 8” of sound around the guitars and organ. This duo broke from the set rhythm of “Dark Star” into a ping-pong drumming contest, adding a new beat with each volley.
They closed the match with a duet synchronizing move for move. Lynn Harbold, Philharmonic percussionist, joined in this number on Hart’s drums doing a fine job.
Jerry Garcia's lead guitar had some really sharp and sweet phrases. He is very contented looking and you’re sure he just has to have dimples under his bushy beard and smile.
Another exciting team is Phil Lesh's bass and Bob Weir's rhythm guitar. Like a scholar reading his notes, Lesh in wire-rimmed glasses sets down perspicacious bass lines. Weir is constantly moving, with flourishes interweaving around the bass and lead guitars.
Pigpen, the Dead’s organist, brought the clapping crowd to its feet with his “Love Night.” He is the individualistic loner in denim jacket and cowboy hat.

The Road, a group from Buffalo, performed in another section of the marathon. Lead singer Nick DiStephano has a good voice with the rest of the group harmonizing closely in Feelin’ Allright, What a Breakdown, and Delta Lady.
As conductor Foss played his Bach non-improvisation, the Road came in around him with their wall of sound, providing a bit too much rhythm and shout and not enough free-form experimentation.
The Grateful Dead worked their wave of music more adeptly around this free-form style with a lot more adroit ramifications.

At the end of the program, the Dead showed more experience when two conductors standing back to back divided the orchestra for a battle. On one half stood Jan Williams with the Road and on the other Lukas Foss and the Grateful Dead.
The closing rock-Philharmonic challenge is the most exciting new concept of contemporary music. As the groups and orchestras jammed, the atmosphere was intensified with a laser-beam light show. Rapid patterns and curves of pure light chased along the walls in time with the music like frantic balls of yarn. During this experimental work, a really exciting thing happened – a rock audience finally listening to a symphony group on its own terms suddenly took the initiative and began making music themselves by imitating the instruments and calls of the musicians.
As an evening of rock and symphony avant-garde it was not only entertaining and often exciting, but carved new territory for players and listeners in both styles.

(by James Brennan, from the Buffalo Evening News, 18 March 1970)

* * *


The marathon concert which brought together the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra and two rock bands – the Grateful Dead and the Road – was a strange imbalance of ecstasy and cool. The program Tuesday night in Kleinhans Music Hall drew a good house – about 2,300 – for a benefit of the orchestra.
People came to hear the Grateful Dead, and indeed, when that group got warmed up it seemed the audience would not be content with anything less than having the Dead finish the concert by themselves.
Speaker fuzziness spoiled the first vocal number, but after the sound system was improved the group went through several numbers with good effect, including a long performance in which the beat had most of the audience clapping and, as space permitted, dancing.
The soundscape of the Grateful Dead is an interesting blend of organ, percussion (drums and resonant gongs) and guitars. Two firecrackers were set off on stage, increasing the excitement. During one number, Philharmonic percussionist Lynn Harbold sat in with the Dead on drums.

Following intermission Foss led a performance of his “Geod” for orchestra. This entailed the use of four additional conductors, and laser-beam light projections created by Sonovision.
If Foss couldn’t give the rock audience the music it wanted, he could try to pass with a light show. But even the light show was soon pale once the few effects had been comprehended.
The idea behind the laser-beams is that they are realizations in color and design of the music sounds. The four colors are green, blue, yellow and red. Starting from a point of color, a design blossoms in nervous lines that squiggle and dart over walls and ceiling.
The play of lines made the light show something of an animated game. But soon the agitated patterns were not very interesting. (Circular forms, used during the final part of the program, were quite beautiful to see.)
The music of “Geod” requires five conductors to give cues to play audibly and inaudibly. Most of the music is very quiet, familiar tunes played against a soft curtain of sustained tones, with snippets of wind phrases for gentle agitation. “Taps,” “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” “Going Home” and a very slow “Merrily We Go Along” were some tunes heard.
Sounds included gentle singing from the orchestra, organ, harmonica, accordion and mandolin. The audience joined in clapping at one point, and by the end of the performance was making knocking, popping mouth sounds that seemed to fit quite well.

The program ended with an attempt to merge symphony orchestra and rock bands in an improvised jam. It didn’t work very well. Jan Williams and Foss issued spoken directions (“Attention: Attack...Gliss downward...Vibrato”) which made the performance rather unspontaneous. Only when a rock band came alive did the jam work.
The program began with Foss at the piano, playing Bach in the “Non-Improvisation” with three groups – The Road, members of the orchestra, and the Dead. Road played a set, and then there was a piece by John Cage, which included a lecture by Cage from loud speakers and live performers strolling through the concert hall.

(by Thomas Putnam, from the Buffalo Courier Express, 18 March 1970)

Alas, no tape! 

Thanks to Dave Davis and Jay Gerland:

See also:  

Feb 27, 2018

January 2-3, 1970: Fillmore East, NYC


FILLMORE EAST, N.Y. - This rock emporium hosted one of its less spectacular shows last weekend. On the bill were Grateful Dead, fresh from a non-playing engagement at the bad scene Rolling Stones concert in California; Cold Blood, a new group from San Francisco; and the Canadian-based Lighthouse, making its Fillmore debut.
Drummer Skip Prokop and his 13 man Lighthouse group got the proceedings under way. These RCA Victor artists are obviously talented musicians, yet somehow their set failed to catch fire. A curiously atypical Fillmore audience, with a sizeable proportion of tourists, didn't exactly help matters, nor did a medley of Beatle songs employing what was basically the original arrangements, which worked fine for the renowned foursome but were hardly designed for this baker's dozen.
The real excitement of the evening was the appearance of Lydia Pense, lead singer of Cold Blood. Much will be written in days to come of Lydia's resemblance, both physically and vocally, to Janis Joplin. It would be unfortunate if this similarity were to distract audiences from this girl's clear and dynamic talent. She is no imitator; she brings her individual approach to each song and the results are explosive. At the Fillmore, she transcended an instrumental back-up which was disjointed and lacking in real enthusiasm. She was especially memorable on the current charter "You Got Me Hummin'" and the eloquent "I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free."
Grateful Dead showed up to offer an undistinguished set, plagued by faulty amps, a malady which is getting to be the rule rather than the exception at their appearances. Except for their "Alligator" which was loose and occasionally imaginative, they merely played their instruments and left at the appointed time.

(by e.k., from Cashbox, 17 January 1970)

Thanks to Dave Davis. (early show)


NEW YORK - The triple header program of Lighthouse, Cold Blood, and Grateful Dead, at Fillmore East Jan. 2-3, kicked the '70's off to a groovy start at this New York mecca of rock music. The three bands, rich in talent and coordination, individual in style, turned in a three-hour concert which can easily be rated among the best ever staged for discerning Fillmore audiences.
Setting the pace was Lighthouse, a 13-member group, which utilizes strings, brass, and percussion instruments, to produce a unique and thoroughly enjoyable rock sound with distinct baroque undertones not often found in underground music.
The group, on RCA records, is comprised of talented and very professional musicians who, one suspects, would be as much at home playing in a symphony orchestra as they were on the Fillmore stage. The only weak spot of their very successful Fillmore debut was the excessive length of some of their solo pieces, which detracted somewhat from their overall performance.
Lighthouse was followed by Cold Blood, on San Francisco Records. This nine-member outfit with a blues/rock beat, featured a big brass sound and a diminutive lead singer that is a combination of Aretha Franklin, Janis Joplin, and Ten Wheel Drive's Genya Raven.
She stole the spotlight with a very well-rehearsed act which included the old gospel standard, "I Wish I Knew How It Feels To Be Free," and the Rolling Stones hit, "I Want to Make Love to You."
The evening's piece de resistance came from Grateful Dead. No strangers to New York audiences, the Warner Bros. artists were their usual professional selves, serving up a dish of cool and groovy fare that was in sharp contrast to their forerunners. Basically a folk-rock outfit, the seven-member band, with Ron McKernan on vocals, is versatile and original without being theatrical. Its evening's repertoire included many tunes from its recently released album, "Live/Dead."

(from Billboard, 17 January 1970) (late show)

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Feb 24, 2018

January 10, 1970: Community Concourse, San Diego


The Greatful Dead, heroes of countless tales from the underground, players of many free gigs all over the country, and the best goddamn rocknroll band in the land, is coming to good ole San Diego by the sea. They will be playing a concert at the Community Concourse, January 10th. The Dead probably has the most devoted following of any of the bands that have been around for a time. When the Dead are in town, all the freaks suddenly appear out of nowhere to dance and laugh and enjoy the good long sets. Of all the bands in San Francisco that started out so promising before succumbing to the tasteless type of the mass media, only the Greatful Dead has remained to remind us of what Free music is all about. They are the band that cut a couple records only because they were badly in debt from playing free gigs and helping others out.
The list of events that they have participated in is endless: the Trips Festival, the 67 Peace March, Monterey, People's Park benefits, outside San Quentin walls while the abortive strike was going on, the Great Be-In, inside the Fillmore for bail money for Street Fighters, outside the building of Columbia University when it was occupied by our brothers, inside the Family Dog to help Chet Helms try and salvage something from the remains of the hip community in San Francisco, in parks in San Francisco, New York, Denver, and other cities. These are a few of the more memorable happenings that come to mind.
They tried to start a dance hall for the People that didn't have the bread to get into Graham's Place. They were in on most of what has been going down in San Francisco for the past five years or so. Their house has been the scene of innumerable parties and at times the hub for many of the musicians in the bay area. They are coming here just after the release of their latest record. Live Dead (Warner Bros.) is a two-record set that captures the intensity and feeling of their music. As on their previous album, Aoxomoxoa, Owsley is one of the consulting engineers.
Jerry Garcia is perhaps the most underrated guitarist playing today. He is ignored by all those 'hip' rock critics that seem to abound everywhere; the same guys that tell us what rock music is all [about].
The two percussionists, Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann, are rarely mentioned but their sense of timing puts many prominent rock drummers to shame. Phil Lesh and Bob Weir compliment Garcia to make a formidable threesome on guitars. Tom Constanten is on keyboard and of course Pigpen is there on organ and congas. I suggest that you stick a speaker in each ear and sit back and enjoy a couple hours with Live Dead. The concourse is not the best place to listen to music, especially the Dead, but until we can support a place where we can listen and dance to music, it will have to suffice. Try to scrape the bread together and go hear the Grateful Dead; you won't be sorry.

(from the San Diego Street Journal, 2 January 1970)


Rock music from San Francisco has grown less important in recent months as many of the good bands have fallen apart and acid rock, the music form peculiarly San Francisco's since 1965, has faded away.
The Grateful Dead, who are generally credited with being the first of the city's popular underground bands, have, however, played it smart and explored other musical territories.
Saturday night in concert at the Convention Hall, the Dead proved themselves a spunky cowboy band instead of specialists in acid rock. The group image has changed. Everybody has shorter hair and wears a lot of woodsy, Marlboro-looking costumes. They have that same sort of free-for-all atmosphere on stage as always and the new music goes down very well indeed.

The Dead appeared about 11 p.m. and the set did not break up until almost 12:30 a.m. One of the first things we heard was an old country song, "I Know You're Gonna Miss Me When I'm Gone," delivered with lots of down home plunkety-plunk. Throughout the set there were songs about bandits and card games, Santa Fe and West Texas County and holdups. "Drive That Train" and "Don't Murder Me" were especially fun.
But the Dead saved the best for last - Ron (Pig Pen) McKernan's "Lovelight." The tune [has] been a part of the Dead repertoire for almost as long as they have been alive, but it comes out differently at each performance, lasting anywhere from two minutes to two hours.
Saturday night's "Lovelight" ran for about 45 minutes. McKernan, who usually plays conga drums and harp with the Dead, built things up and let them fall and did it all over again and again singing "Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine." The set broke up joyfully with the audience clapping and dancing and stomping.

The Sons of Champlin, who preceded the Dead, tried the same sort of audience participation, but didn't do it nearly so well. The Sons' problem of the evening seemed to be deciding whether or not to play. The band took 30 minutes to arrange equipment on stage and spent another 30 minutes clunking about through fragmentary repertoire before getting into anything solid. Once, the whole set dissolved while the lead guitarist went over to play the piano, which he then decided didn't work. He tried the organ instead. That did work, in fact it worked very well through the rest of the set. The band sailed with him at the keyboard.
Before the Sons we heard Aum: A guitarist and vocalist who breathes mothy sighs into the mike while a drummer and bass player make powdery noises that sometimes go rough and angry. The vocalist screams then - but not very well.

(by Carol Olten, from the San Diego Union, 12 January 1970)

Thanks to Dave Davis.