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| posted on 1/22/2017 at 03:03 PM|
Steel Cut Oats, Volume #12 - Regarding Cornell
May 5th, 1977, Veterans Memorial Coliseum, New Haven, CT
May 7th, 1977, Boston Garden, Boston, MA
May 8th, 1977, Barton Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY
May 9th, 1977, War Memorial Auditorium, Buffalo, NY
Set I: Bertha (5.7), Cassidy (5.9), Sugaree (5.5), Lazy Lightning > Supplication (5.8), Mississippi Half Step > Big River (5.7), Brown Eyed Women (5.8), Row Jimmy (5.8), The Music Never Stopped (5.7)
Set II: Terrapin Station, Samson and Delilah, Friend of The Devil, Estimated Prophet, Eyes of The World > Drums > The Wheel > Wharf Rat > Around and Around (all 5.7)
Encore: Uncle John's Band (5.9), Johnny B. Goode (5.5)
Set III: Help On The Way > Slipknot!! > Franklin's Tower (5.9), Looks Like Rain (5.5), Deal (5.7), Big River (5.9), Tennessee Jed (5.7), Mama Tried (5.8), Peggy-O (5.9), The Music Never Stopped (5.9)
Set IV: Take A Step Back, Scarlet Begonias > Fire on The Mountain, Estimated Prophet, St. Stephen > Not Fade Away > St. Stephen > Morning Dew (all 5.8)
Encore: One More Saturday Night (5.8)
If you were part of the Grateful Dead tape trading community in the late 1980s and beyond, then you probably got a quick sense that whatever a Betty Board was, you needed to trade for as many as you could. The storage locker stories are legendary, and rightfully so – they conjure up the Holy Grail of tape collecting – personally mixed/high quality Dead shows for your listening pleasure. Owning low-generation copies of these shows gave you leverage in the hierarchy of tape trading. Betty Cantor-Jackson’s reels were distinctive because they were made to her specifications - how she would want to hear the playback of a show afterwards on tape. In early 2016, we had learned that several Betty Boards were returned to the Vault, as a portion of that batch had been issued as the exceptional “July ‘78” box set in May 2016. “July ’78: The Complete Recordings” features a five-show stretch as they steamroll to their first visit to Red Rocks Amphitheatre (July 7th and 8th). The first three shows (7/1 - Kansas City, 7/3 - St. Paul, 7/5 - Omaha) had only previously circulated as audience recordings, and can now stand next to Red Rocks as some of the most powerful performances of 1978.
Purportedly, another group of Betty Boards have also made it back to the Vault – some of the most revered shows of all-time – May 5th, 7th, 8th, and 9th from 1977. There’s never a shortage of opinion when these concerts find their way into the conversation. Many collectors can wax nostalgic about their first reel or cassette copies, and the set and setting in which they first heard these tunes. May 1977 sets itself apart from most eras because several of the nights circulated in high quality and were easily accessible via trade. Even if you only had one show of the Grateful Dead’s, it was probably May 8th, 1977 – Barton Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York. ‘70s tape collector Dick Latvala professed Cornell to be the greatest show from the year. Many years later, Vault archivist Dick Latvala went out of his way to spell out 20 shows from ’77 that were better than Cornell.
Opinions change and differ dramatically as time passes, which is a just another strange occurrence that is tied to this era of shows. Why is that? Some highly circulated shows (or shows that make up most people’s initial collection) often do not hold up through the test of time – the complete Port Chester ’71 run and Halloween ’70 are examples. Fillmore East '70 and Veneta ’72 are on the opposite side of the spectrum – those shows were often found in newbie collections, but they also deliver the goods in every possible way. It’s difficult sometimes to be objective about shows you grew up with – they are your first kisses, and will always be held up. This is why Cornell constantly stands at the crossroads (or the crosshairs) of what constitutes an awesome Dead show. Is it the best show of the year? Doubtful. Is it the best of the month? Perhaps. Is it the best show of the week? Maybe. Does it have one of the greatest transitional jams of all-time? Yes, it does.
1977 provided us with three classic tracks all represented here – Terrapin Station, Estimated Prophet, and Fire on The Mountain - none left the repertoire for the next two decades. Boston's impeccable Terrapin Station showcases Keith and Jerry's later-year's cohesiveness (a similar partnership can be found on Cornell's Row Jimmy). Estimated Prophet (Boston and Cornell) debuted at the first show of the year, and was played at 39 consecutive up through the first Portland show in October – afterwards, it was only skipped a handful of times in 1977. Beginning with its first performance, Fire On The Mountain was paired on the back-end of Scarlet Begonias; this was usually the case with surprising exceptions sprinkled through time. Cornell's Scarlet > Fire combo is an exceptional 25 minutes in which the rhythm section does not let down for a second. To my ears, compared to other versions that surround this one, Phil, Billy, and Mickey are the primary reason why the jams are allowed to remain at such a bubbling consistency from beginning to end. The transition jams work to massive results because there's no stutter in their steps – this is the secret spice behind 5/8/77.
The biggest knock against these shows is - quite frankly - they have absolutely zero flow when listened to as complete concerts. Each show has an extreme amount of gaps and dead air, the Boston show might be the biggest offender of any show ever played. Once on stage, there's over thirty minutes of musical interruption that evening - and it's quite amazing that after those blank rifts, the tunes are all played with plenty of thunder juice.
Although performed on back-to-back nights, the second sets of Boston and Cornell could not be any more different from each other. Boston's closing frame and set list could easily fit in your DeadBase any time after 1977. It represents a foreshadowing of the formula the Dead would permanently incorporate beginning at the Spring Tour of 1978 - a fairly rigid division of two halves of all future second sets. Cornell mixes new material with classic tracks - and gives us the one-time only combination of St. Stephen > NFA > St. Stephen > Morning Dew. I struggled to find one version of St. Stephen > Morning Dew even from the 60s, so on top of standout playing, this rare blend illustrates just how special Cornell's second set really is. Of course, it doesn't hurt that it culminates into one of the best renditions of Morning Dew ever! It would not take a marketing wizard to figure out that releasing this group of shows could be the biggest cash grab this side of ‘Fare Thee Well’. They would tie perfectly as 2017’s Vault box release as we're fast approaching the 40th anniversary of these legendary shows.
In conjunction with the complete second sets from Boston and Cornell, Steel Cut Oats #12 fashions two "First Sets" that pull material from all four shows. Tracks include raging versions of Mississippi 1/2 Step, Sugaree (New Haven's standout number), and the Help on The Way > Slipknot!! > Franklin’s Tower trifecta - all Top 5 renditions from 1977. Along with two smoking versions of Big River, it was a simple decision to also include both readings of The Music Never Stopped from Boston and Buffalo - each are awesome set closers. For continuity's sake, Keith was restored to the left channel on all performances - it's also interesting to note his use of both piano and the Yamaha CP-70 (electric piano) over the course of the shows.
It had been many years since revisiting this run of classic concerts, and I must say, it brought back fond memories of the first times I had heard each of these shows. How this batch stacks up against other classic runs can be argued until the end of time, but just as Jerry closes out the Cornell Morning Dew to complete the historic second set..….."I guess it doesn't matter anyway"……play all of this loud. Enjoy.
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| posted on 1/22/2017 at 05:46 PM|
Run Gypsy Run roll on down the high way
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| posted on 1/22/2017 at 09:47 PM|
|Good read. Thanks for the download links.|
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