Friday, December 02, 2011

A review of May 3 Olympia ,Paris Show by Steve Seachrist,

Part 1
Steve Seachrist is a Deadhead, musician and a very good reviewer of Dead music, He writes in Musicians and Deadheads language, He has reviewed every Live CD that the Dead have released, Which is quite alot. I am priviledged to have Steve share his review of one of the concerts from the new Europe 72 Box Set. This is a show that I have ordered. Enjoy.

Europe ’72: The Complete Recordings – Paris, France 5/3/72
Thus begins a two-night stay at the venerated Olympia Theatre in Paris. Please do read
the liner notes to this one, again written by the highly enlightened Steve Silberman. And again his insight gives me license to just let him provide all of the context. That makes me very happy. But here’s a bit about the music played this night: first and foremost, no fewer than four songs were selected from this very gig for the original

Europe ’72 album: “China
 Cat Sunflower”, “I Know You Rider”, “Tennessee Jed”, and “Jack Straw”. These are
centerpieces of that album and became the definitive versions for the vast majority of
Dead fans for a long time. Am I overstating this? I don’t think so. Taping became a
huge phenomenon later, but for a while, these were the ultimate in live versions. In my
mind, this is still pretty much true. I love other versions, but these are to me the pinnacle of what was possible. There are good reasons these were selected for overdubbing and subsequent release. They’re just incredibly hot, even next to versions played either side of this date. Go ahead, argue with me. I want to debate it.
The sound quality has taken a noticeable turn for the better over the past couple of shows, although it is still perhaps one notch inferior to earlier releases from the tour, like

the Rhein 
or Steppin’ Out. Here’s hoping whatever was plaguing the sound has been
 improved from this show on out.
Disc One
1. Bertha
The Paris crowd is already rowdy at the top, clapping in rhythm and cheering loudly.
The band warms up only for a second, then lights into this contender for tightest “Bertha” of the tour. This song had recently (in 1971) been released as a live version so there was little chance it would appear on the live album being recorded on this tour. Maybe that allowed them to loosen up a bit and just pummel it. Pigpen adds nice organ colors, Keith is a god of piano fills, and Jerry hits this out of the park in terms of singing and playing. Oh, sure, the other guys are all over it too. When the guitar solo hits, it is fantastic. I thought the one on  
Skull and Roses was the monster (and it is) but this one is every bit as
 hot and I never thought I’d say that.

2. Me and My Uncle
Another refugee from 
Skull and Roses comes up here. Before it does, a woman speaks
 some French to the audience. Weir chimes in in German. Prankster! The song comes to
life full of the same flavors that “Bertha” enjoyed only moments before. It is a very hot
version from the top to the tail. The solo is completely without peer. I do not know how
a band can get lit up to this extent, I really don’t. But here they are supernaturally great.
Every single note and nuance is as good (probably better) than you have ever heard it.
3. Mr. Charlie
This grooves so deeply I am having a hard time understanding how any version could
beat it. Jerry’s solo is certainly better than the official version. It is scary and thrilling in
ways that cannot be explained. The return to the verses is full of electricity and I rate this absolutely essential in the annals of “Mr. Charlie”. Wow!!
4. Sugaree
This easily could have been a contender for the original album. It is so solid and confidently played that it must have been on the short list. It is interesting that this tune
and the next one appeared on the live album from two years later, the universally-reviled
Steal Your Face

 I don’t hate that album as much as most folks, and I do see it as another
noble attempt to present previously-unreleased live songs, a lot like
Europe ’72. But
 back to this: the song is so completely full of the vibrancy you want that it is utterly
undeniable in its ascendancy to the top of the Europe heap. It’s the best so far.
5. Black Throated Wind There are so many great versions of this on the tour already, I didn’t know if this one could possibly beat them. Sound quality alone could give this an edge. It is played magically, too. Typically, Jerry’s lines make the biggest impact, but Bob’s singing and Phil’s contributions are killer and Keith and Billy nail their respective parts. Just when you thought you’d heard the best one, here comes this! Dig it. It is superlative, and I don’t use that term loosely.
6. Chinatown Shuffle
This version is perfect in its context here. The sound rocks, the playing is hot, and
Pigpen has never been in better form. If I had to nit-pick with a gun to my head, I’d say
Jerry may have nailed the guitar parts a little better on other versions but I am certainly
not going to complain. This is worthy of all the love you could invest in it. It is also a
necessary Pigpen interlude to the next tunes, which happen to be the ones selected for the

Europe ’72   

7. China Cat Sunflower
I’m really excited to hear this, since every nuance of the official version is burned deeply into my brain. Jerry gets the riff straight quietly then snaps to for real. That groove is undeniable – it is the one. To my ears, the vocal we are hearing here is the original one and the more familiar one was overdubbed. They are so close, I could be wrong. When “diamond eye jack” is sung, I know I am right. The instruments do precisely what you remember but they sound huge here. The instrumental bridge is like a Technicolor version of what you know. The last verse is again just different enough that you know there was a later revision. As the jam develops, it is that totally familiar sequence of  sublime playing. And, yes, there are very good reasons why this concise little version was the one selected. It gives me chills to hear it like this. Jerry comes to the fore more so than other versions before the quick set-up to…
8. I Know You Rider
This sounds exactly like the vocals we know. Either they got it perfect live, or we are
now hearing overdubs. I’m going to guess the latter – it is too good. After the “wild
geese” verse, Jerry plays that exact solo we have imprinted in our brains. The next
chorus is that sweetened stuff you’ve heard so many times. Ditto the Jerry “train” verse
and the following chorus. Then the solo blows the roof off. Is it overdubbed? We don’t
know for sure but it sure is inspired. This is what Grateful Dead dreams are made of.
Whether live or contrived, it is pure magic. The crowd goes for it.
9. Beat It On Down The Line
“How many?” someone, probably Jerry, asks. Answer: nine. The version is as hot as
anything preceding it at this show. Every nuance is in place and the full-on Grateful
Dead X-Factor is on display. I don’t want to disparage the earlier shows but we have
serious lift-off here. There is no contest, even though earlier versions were great. This
one is better. We have finally reached our happy, happy home.
Weir mumbles some faux Francais at the end.
10. He's Gone
You’ll notice right away that the opening riff is that static one from earlier versions but it switches halfway through to the one we all know and love. That aside, there are tuning issues and the song is oddly grooveless. I can’t explain this any better than anyone else could. The air has somehow escaped the balloon. The efforts here all sound less than half-hearted. How did this band suddenly become nonchalant after so much magic? That is the eternal Grateful Dead quandary, and the reason we keep digging for the gems. This is certainly not one of them. As of the previous show the arrangement includes an instrumental bridge, a guitar solo that is only the verse part, and then the vocal bridge. That’s what we have here. The final verses are still undercooked and the ending just self fades unceremoniously. This version is easily my least favorite on the tour so far, even given the unfinished arrangements of some earlier ones. A lot of crowd cacophony and tuning precede the next number, but no one in the band says anything.
11. Next Time You See Me
Pig to the rescue again. There is no way to play this song without some level of commitment. The band comes back to life and pushes the blues buttons. After the first
quick verses the harp solo takes over for two rounds and Jerry is then given the stage.
He plays a couple of verses of moderately hot blues licks and hands it back off to Mr.
McKernan for more harmonica blowing. It’s fine and all, but not the definitive version
you may have been hoping for. It does include two verses at the end instead one, which I think is one too many.
12. Playing in the Band
No introduction of Donna precedes this but she is there on the first chorus, mixed
pleasantly low. The verses are powerful and relatively in-tune. When the time comes,
a reasonable bellow emits from Ms. Godchaux. One more chorus gets us to the jammy
zone and it goes to the watery depths immediately. After a minute, the heat is up there
with the best of these short versions and redemption is nigh. It is hard to deny the powers of any of these versions of this song. The X-Factor is on tap at all times. Before 7:00, strains of the return theme can already be heard, but do not let that get you down. Jerry works on the tease a bit more and then does get to it more explicitly. As concise as it is, this version satisfies. The drop to the actual theme is less dramatic than some on the tour, but once it arrives, the fanfare into the chorus is pretty big. Donna screams us in well and the final rounds are full of hot energy. Overall, not my favorite, but most of the many versions on the tour are very solid, including this one.

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