Friday, September 26, 2008

Garcia, Nash - when young

An early look at the new Grateful Dead DVD

I received an advance version of the new Rocking The Cradle CD and DVD set and am a little mystified by what I have seen and heard. I am well familiar with these shows, having listened and watched unofficial versions for years. I was hopeful for a massive upgrade in quality, or a complete version, or something. What I have says “Not Final Mixes” which is good because I had a few problems with the audio side of things. The quality was sub-par and the editing hard to understand. To me, the most interesting moments of these shows were the few numbers where Nubian musician Hamza El Din shared the stage with the band. There is one of these moments, but it cuts in just as El Din is about to leave the stage. Otherwise the audio portion confirms the Egypt shows’ reputation for being…ok. The video portion promises a much more compelling experience. The band looked great at this point (with the exception of Keith Godchaux who seems really out of it). Garcia is animated and wearing his hair in pigtails. Weir is deep in his L.A. phase and he looks like a movie star. Billy Kreutzman has one arm in a cast thus explaining some of the musical sluggishness. Donna Godchaux provides a wonderful visual counterpoint to the rest of the band which is something that is often forgotten about her tenure with the band - it kind of felt like a family. Unfortunately, the video sample I have is only four songs long, so it just gives a tantalizing glimpse into what looks like the ultimate vacation home-movie of the Grateful Dead. The visuals of the Sphinx in the distance while the band plays in front of a pyramid is pretty enticing stuff. Hopefully the full version will live up to the promise.

Graham Nash - Songs For Beginners Deluxe Edition

This album, released in the spring of 1971 really deserves the attention that Nash’s counterparts received in this heady era. Like Crosby’s If I Could Only Remember My Name the album is loaded with the cream of players from the scene; Jerry Garcia, Phil Lesh, David Crosby, Dave Mason, David Lindley, Rita Coolidge and many others deliver warm and memorable performances on a great batch of songs. Many of them stand up today as some of Nash’s best. “Military Madness,” “Chicago,” and “We Can Change The World” seem weirdly relevant to our current political situation, while “Better Days,” “Simple Man,” “There’s Only One” and especially the magnificent “I Used To Be A King” with a soaring pedal steel solo by Garcia are classic hippie fare.
The thing that really excited me about this reissue is the addition of a DVD with the entire album in a three-dimensional 5.1 mix. It is a completely different experience to step inside this album and have all the instruments cascading around in a circle. This technology has improved greatly and albums that have been properly produced for the medium are a rewarding experience indeed. I would suggest this album and Crosby’s Only Remember My Name… discs as the perfect albums to explore the world of surround sound. It truly is a step forward.


Anonymous said...

I presume the 5.1 remix of Nash's album can be replayed on "any" CD player and receiver, but to experience the upgrade in quality/improved instrumental seperation you mention is some sort of equipment with Dolby 5.1 replay capability necessary?

Nash's first solo album truly is a gem, as is Crosby's first. C, S, N and Y were at their collective and individual peaks! Have the Gold disc of IICORMN but probably should upgrade to the new version.

Bummer to hear that the GD DVD may not live up to expectations. I always found the Egypt shows to be an uneven yet still enjoyable listen if not as blistering as many of the shows from the year before and figured DVD quality visuals would ensure the purchase would be worth the cost to upgrade the fuzzy video tapes I have.

Sporkmeister said...

The set has two discs-one is a lovely NEW stereo mix playable on any CD player, the other is a DVD and indeed will require a 5.1 system. If you haven't listened to the Crosby record in 5.1 you are really missing a great experience. When Garcia comes in with that cascading pedal steel on "Laughing" it will take your breath away.I'm unaware of a gold disc of iicormn-I have the 45 rpm pressing though. Truly one of the great albums of the era.
The Dead-we'll see if the video is good.Like I said the audio portion was iffy. The "From Egypt WIth Love "road trips should be amazing. Also-wouldn't you love to get july 7 and 8 1978 from Red ROcks out there. Those shows sound better and better every listen.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the clarification Paul...

Faulty synaptic connections on my part- I have the Gold disc version of the CSN debut, not Croz' solo debut. Gonna have to stop in for the 5.1 versions of Nash's and Croz' albums then... (and maybe look into getting a 5.1 receiver!)

Must agree that Laughing is a highlight from the album. Gives me shivers every time I listen to it. Joni's vocals melt me on that one...

Stephen Barncard's website has (or used to have) great stories about the recording of the album. Goldmine magazine also had a great article on the album probably 10-15 years ago...