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Download Series Vol. 2: 1/18/70 (Springer's Inn, Portland, OR)

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Album Review

Another previously uncirculated gig from the Grateful Dead's tape vault — a good, not exceptional, show from January 17, 1970 at Springer's Inn in Portland, OR — marks the Dead's second digital-only release. The third show in a quick jaunt to the Pacific Northwest, including a gig two nights earlier at the same Portland bar, the Dead were in the process of introducing the LSD C&W that would define the two albums they recorded later that year, Workingman's Dead and American Beauty. The Dead are clearly comfy on the (presumably) tiny bar stage. Indeed, six of the nine tunes the band perform — in front of a virtual hometown audience of Merry Prankster diaspora — are covers. Only one tune from either of the band's soon-to-be-recorded classics gets played here, the stunning, month-old "Black Peter" — more bar-bandy and less dirge-like than usual — though they also charge through a six-minute take of the new (and rare) "Mason's Children." The short-lived garage psych number was written (along with Workingman's "New Speedway Boogie") as a response to the Altamont festival still only a month in the past, "Mason's" would be abandoned by February's end, but here manages to touch on a short psychedelic solo from Garcia. Though the set has no real centerpiece — minus the perennial "China Cat Sunflower"/"I Know You Rider," there are no segues, odd by the Dead's standards — the highlight is unquestionably a 13-plus minute version of Martha & the Vandellas' "Dancing in the Street." Garcia, Bob Weir, and Phil Lesh's harmonies are big and enthused, the San Francisco ballroom scene encapsulated in one vocal arrangement. The jam makes its way into deeply spaced jazz, Garcia especially wearing his John Coltrane love (and his study, like Coltrane, of Nicolas Slonimsky's "Thesaurus of Scales and Melodic Patterns") on his sleeve. A cover of the Young Rascals' "Good Lovin'" gets into similarly breathless Garcia territory, though the band doesn't push it as far. In general, the jams stay compact, including a run through the standard pairing of "China Cat Sunflower" into "I Know You Rider" (only four months old at that point) and a set-closing "Turn on Your Lovelight." The Bobby "Blue" Bland rave-up had been the band's set-closer for several years, often verging on the 40-minute mark, and here doesn't even break the 20-minute barrier. Positively minimal!

Biography

Formed: 1965 in San Francisco, CA

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s

Rock's longest, strangest trip, the Grateful Dead were the psychedelic era's most beloved musical ambassadors as well as its most enduring survivors, spreading their message of peace, love, and mind expansion across the globe throughout the better part of three decades. The object of adoration for popular music's most fervent and celebrated fan following -- the Deadheads, their numbers and devotion legendary in their own right -- they were the ultimate cult band, creating a self-styled universe all...
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