Saturday, March 3, 2012

Dark Stars...

In the mid-seventies, The NME Book of Rock tersely stated that by 1972 the Grateful Dead "had become rather an embarrassment to all but their most dedicated following". The Rolling Stone Record Guide described them as "a sporadically successful big-time jam band [with a] reputation for great length and relatively little musical precision". Thankfully, the advent of the CD, and a mindbogglingly large back catalogue of live CDs and bootlegs (the Dead encouraged, rather than decried, their fans' enthusiasm for taping their shows) has rehabilitated their reputation. I haven't listened to a whole lot of their work, but recently I've been putting on various versions of their magnum opus 'Dark Star', a short song that was usually the launching pad for immensely long and abstract improvisations. The Deadlists Project lists nearly 230 versions of the piece that are known to exist as recordings, along with partial versions, and their own recommendations. It seems generally agreed that the most crucial recordings are from September 21st, 1972, in Philadelphia (available on Dick's Picks Vol. 36) and November 11th, 1973, in Winterland (only available on a 7-CD set of the complete Winterland concerts; in size, though, this collection pales before the 73-disc (!) Europe 1972 box set, which includes, I believe, every concert from the tour, retailing on Amazon US for a mere $835!) There are many others, though, and every Deadhead has there own favourite. So here, culled from the wonderful YouTube, are a few of the complete versions that are floating around, arranged in chronological order for your convenience. I haven't listened to them all yet, but I will be doing so as the week goes on. I've noted ones that tend to turn up on a lot of Top Ten lists (of which many exist online). Enjoy! 

Fillmore East, NY: 2/27/69 (Highly Recommended)

Fillmore West: 6/7/69

Winterland: 10/25/69

Family Dog: 11/2/69

St Louis: 2/2/70

Rotterdam: 5/11/72 (Recommended: this is noted as being the longest version ever recorded, but does include that most tiresome of 1970s' musical devices, the lengthy drum solo. For those, like me, who like to skip over them, it starts at around 13.30 and finishes around 19.30)

Veneto, Oregon: 8/27/72 (Recommended)

Long Beach, CA: 12/15/72

Chicago: 2/22/73

Cleveland: 12/6/73 (Highly Recommended)

Winterland: 2/24/74 (Recommended)

Minnesota: 5/14/74

Florida: 6/23/74

Miami: 10/26/89 (Highly Recommended)