David Gans (tnf) Wed 18 May 05 11:34
This idea arose in a discussion elsewhere in the WELL. Given the massive availablility of Grateful Dead music online, and the everincreasing wealth of official releases, this seems like a good time to start a discussion of the Grateful Dead canon with a look toward making a list of the most important, definitive performances. People who have never heard the Grateful Dead and wonder what the fuss is about would have a hard time knowing where to start listening, given the un- differentiated heap of shows on archive.org and in the GD Store. The Deadheads' Taping Compendium offers reviews of a vast number of shows, but that's not a document that is going to be too helpful to the novice. Elsewhere, <mz> proposed the creation of a canonical three-show run of three-set shows that would demonstrate the range of GD music through their styles and over time. That seems like one of several good approaches; work- ing from that structure, we could eventually derive a list of peak perfor- mances of individual songs, jams that represent the unique improvisational spirit of the band, and sequences that demonstrate the idea of the set as composition.
some sort of twisted Ellen James Society running around lopping off their fingers in homage to Jerry (jberger) Wed 18 May 05 15:50
For sheer vocal harmony beauty, I'd nominate "To Lay Me Down", from 10/13/80. This is not just lay me down, it's lay me down on a soft bed of feathers topped by a down comforter, with a soft cushion of fog softening the edges as they disappear off into the evening, all with the light gravity of a full moon. This is the song to play for those who say that the Dead can't sing harmonies.
David Gans (tnf) Wed 18 May 05 15:54
Nice! That's acoustic, I presume?
drugs, underaged chicks and dirty funtimes (noah) Thu 19 May 05 06:25
Yeah. That's the one that got used for "Reckoning" I think.
Robin Russell (rrussell8) Thu 19 May 05 09:53
Why not reserve this thread for the set lists discussion and get the performance nominations (including studio versions, I should think) posted against each individual tune in the .vue list? Otherwise this could get freakishly unweildy.
neil (nlg) Thu 19 May 05 14:32
I would think that approach to have its own facets of unwieldiness. I kind of think that choosing either three paradigmatic shows, or nine sets, three each from three key eras, might be a way to start. Then, each setlist could be deconstructed, and if agreed upon, reconstructed with better versions of some songs and jams. That is, if I'm understanding the overall goal correctly, which is to put out there three, three-set compilations that show novitiates just what made the Dead so compelling, and so important in the evolution of musical performance (and songwriting) as the band itself evolved. SMR was one truly excellent stab at that, and it is what I tell every curious seeker to seek out and listen to from front to back if they want to understand. This is another approach, and I think it is a cool concept.
Robin Russell (rrussell8) Fri 20 May 05 08:35
I'm not sure on what points we disagree. I am trying to suggest a structure to collect the data to enable the result. In my view, unless there is a clear methodology, we won't get too far. Bascically, build the set lists and then identify the best representative performances for each tune. As for the set lists, one angle might be to use post GD to try to get a full sweep across the repertoire - eg Red Rocks '03, with no repeated tunes over the five night run. Then pare that down to the essentials.
David Gans (tnf) Fri 20 May 05 11:08
I think MZ's idea of three three-set shows is a great way to organize the beginnings of the discussion, but eventually I'd like to see a more thorough document than that, taking any number of paths through the heap of music.
Robin Russell (rrussell8) Thu 26 May 05 06:08
Right on, David. It is probably best to define an initial scope that can be realised relatively easily, while bearing in mind future upgrades.
Robin Russell (rrussell8) Fri 24 Jun 05 10:23
Is anyone working on the set lists?
bound to cover (mossman) Tue 28 Jun 05 09:45
As I recall, there was an historic run at Madison Square Garden, something like 10 sold out shows in 2 weeks, in which only a handful of songs were played more than once. It was from the period just prior to thier "mainstreaming" and might typify an example of the "Canon" to which we aspire.
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