I'll get you the 3/18 and 3/19 shows. Sorry for the delay. We can postpone for now. I'm gonna offer up some thoughts on a show that I absolutely love the 4/3/77 Palladium shows. It reaks of the east coast Dead. I'll also contribute to 4/23.

I am going to repost my comment to your year-in-review here, since I like the give-and-take format better. If anyone else would like to 'post' as opposed to 'comment' let us know. We'll be happy to oblige.

Just a few thoughts in perhaps a too random order:

1) Lily Allen -- I enjoy her songs enough but I don't think anyone will be listening to her in a year or so. That may not diminish this effort but coupled with a truly wooden performance on SNL I don't think her future is bright.

2) Bobby didn't give credit to his forebears in 1967 why expect him to do so in 2007?!?

3) I think you're spot on with The Hold Steady. This release simply isn't different enough from Seperation Sunday. While I enjoy aspects of it I won't be pulling it out in the future and it isn't novel to anyone with an ear for classic rock. Also, you rag on some of the artwork on this years list but this has to be, hands-down, the worst cover art of 2006.


Non-Dead Content: The Year in Music 2006

Here at Live Blogging Dead HQ East, we're busy listening to 4/23/77 Springfield Civic Center and taking notes for a review to be posted soon. (None of our loyal readers has hooked me up with 3/18 or 3/19, so I'll have to skip those for now).

In the meantime, here's a little Non-Dead content: my annual Year in Music list. Bob has already posted his here, but since I have nowhere else to park mine, here it is. These lists give a little insight into what we listen to when we're not scouring the Dead's vaults in service to our loyal readers.

Top Fifteen Albums

1. Lily Allen – Alright, Still

A Britpop masterpiece whose sunny sound is belied by its cutting lyrics -- never before has an album of put-downs and cut-ups sounded like such a party. Allen's tough-girl posturing gets all the press, but the fact that she is able to lay bare her vulnerabilities so movingly in "Littlest Things" is what clinches this as album of the year.

One to download: LDN

2. Art Brut – Bang Bang Rock and Roll

Another brilliant debut from the
UK. Catchy, ironic punk that will have your head bobbing along as you laugh out loud.

One to download: Emily Kane

3. M. Ward – Post-War

This indie folkster delivers the goods in his follow-up to "
Transistor Radio." This one sounds like a shoo-in for album of the year for the first nine tracks, but it loses a little steam at the end.

One to download: To Go Home

4. Mates of State – Bring It Back

This duo's surging pop sound, featuring a nice he/she vocal balance, is vaguely reminiscent of The New Pornographers. The first of two albums on this list with this caveat: ignore the bizarre album cover.

One to download: For the Actor

5. Bruce Springsteen – We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions

A project that sounds like a snoozer -- an album of folk songs associated with civil rights-era icon Pete Seeger -- turns out to be a delightful hootenanny of the highest order with some brassy New Orleans style swagger thrown in for good measure. Arguably, no album in Springsteen's back catalog is more fun.

One to download: Jacob's Ladder

6. The Sounds – Dying to Say This to You

In a perfect non-Clear Channel, non-payola world, this blast of Blondie-meets-Avril Lavigne retro Swedish pop would be a Top 40 hit. The second of two albums on this list with this caveat: ignore the bizarre album cover.

One to download: Painted By Numbers

7. Belle & Sebastian – The Life Pursuit

If you think you know this Scottish band from their previous efforts (generally marked by their delicacy and introspection) this album will certainly surprise you. It's track after track of exuberant catchy pop.

One to download: Another Sunny Day

8. The Flaming Lips – At War With the Mystics

It's a testament to just how good
"Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots" was that an album this strong could be considered a letdown. It's a more raw, organic sound than that 2002 classic, but if you're patient with it, it'll grow on you.

One to download: My Cosmic Autumn Rebellion

9. Cat Power – The Greatest

Chan Marshall (aka Cat Power) turns in a lovely set of typically low-key soul and pop. It's not exactly "poppy" in the traditional radio-ready sense, but it's the most accessible album of her career.

One to download: Living Proof

10. Ray LaMontagne – Til the Sun Turns Black

A far more subdued and atmospheric affair than his excellent debut
"Trouble," and an even better showcase for his "not-since-Van Morrison" voice. Nearly every song after the take-it-or-leave-it opener is a real keeper.

One to download: Barfly

11. Neko Case – Fox Confessor Brings the Flood

Speaking of incredible voices, Neko Case could sing the phone book and I'd listen raptly. Actually, listen to some of the gibberish on this album and it may as well be the phone book. But regardless of what she's singing about on this one, she's in top form vocally and her band sounds great.

One to download: Hold On, Hold On

12. Jenny Lewis & The Watson Twins – Rabbit Fur Coat

The five best tracks on this release stack up very well with the five best on any other album from 2006 – but unfortunately there is also a lot of filler. Lewis’ voice recalls that of Neko Case, but whereas Case’s lyrics are sometimes too obtuse for her own good, Lewis’ are occasionally too transparent.

One to download: You Are What You Love

13. Tom Petty – Highway Companion

A great collection of songs from the consummate professional. This batch of tunes (delivered sans Heartbreakers) sounds both fresh and familiar.

One to download: Down South

14. The Raconteurs – Broken Boy Soldiers

Jack White's on quite a roll: first his excellent contributions to the
"Cold Mountain" soundtrack, then producing Loretta Lynn's much-ballyhooed comeback "Van Lear Rose," and 2005's triumphant return from the White Stripes, "Get Behind Me Satan." He’s earned the benefit of the doubt and his winning streak continues with this infectious garage rock side project.

One to download: Steady As She Goes

15. Los Lobos – The Town and the City

A reliably solid effort that touches on immigration issues without being heavy-handed.

One to download: Little Things

Also Recommended (In this Exact Particular Order)

Bob Dylan – Modern Times

Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy listening to this one very much, but come on, it’s a little overrated. Only Dylan can get away with so much blatant “borrowing.” (How can he claim exclusive songwriting credits for “Rollin and Tumblin’,” “Someday Baby,” and “The Levee’s Gonna Break,” without acknowledging these songs’ origins in the folk domain?) And I don’t ever need to hear Dylan record another awkward lounge shuffle along the lines of “Beyond the Horizon.” But it's recommended listening nonetheless.

The Strokes – First Impressions of Earth

A little bloated and overambitious, but cut out the fat, and you’ve got ten or eleven songs that stack up pretty well with “Is This It” and “Room On Fire.”

Arctic Monkeys – Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not

Not quite the rock saviors that the British press would have you believe, but it's certainly worth checking out nonetheless.

Chris Smither – Leave the Light On

Although the sound is timeless on this smart folk-blues album, some of the lyrics are quite topical, as on the Bush-bashing “Diplomacy” and the intelligent design send-up “Origin of Species.”

Built to Spill – You in Reverse

Doug Martsch’s guitar wizardry is as impressive as ever, but the quality of the songwriting isn’t up to the standard set on “Keep It Like a Secret.”

Johnny Cash – American V: A Hundred Highways

A downer of a listen, and some of the covers are downright corny – but it’s Johnny Cash and in the twilight of his life he’s got the gravitas that's required to validate these tracks. Listen to "Rose of My Heart" three or four times and you'll go from finding it too cheesy for words to memorizing the lyrics in order to sing it to your spouse as you slow dance to it.

Gnarls Barkley – St. Elsewhere

Features the single of the year, “Crazy.” None of the other songs quite matches that gem, but there’s plenty of highly enjoyable bizarro hip-hop on this release from Cee-Lo and Danger Mouse.

Solomon Burke – Nashville

The 60’s soul legend pays homage to classic country with help from Dolly Parton, Gillian Welch, and Emmylou Harris. Good, but not quite as strong as his brilliant 2002 comeback “Don’t Give Up On Me.”

Gomez – How We Operate

A nice low-key effort from the British blues rockers who have settled into a nice mature groove at this point in their careers.

Secret Machines – Ten Silver Drops

Strong noisy charging psychedelic rock that isn’t quite the equal of these Texans’ debut, "Now Here is Nowhere."

Slightly Disappointing

Beck – The Information

You'll enjoy it when it's playing, but twenty minutes after it ends you'll be hard pressed to recall a single memorable melody or lyric.

Beth Orton – Comfort of Strangers

It's certainly not bad, but after repeated listens, it just doesn't match up with "Central Reservation" or "Trailer Park." She doesn't seem to be evolving much as an artist.

Golden Smog – Another Fine Day

An enjoyable effort from the alt-country supergroup featuring members of Wilco and the Jayhawks, but it fails to reach the heights scaled on "Down By the Old Mainstream" or "Weird Tales."

Rhett Miller – The Believer

It seems like he's desperate to become a solo pop star, but these songs certainly won't do it for him. Confirms once and for all that Miller is at his best with his Old 97's bandmates.

Hugely Disappointing

Nelly Furtado – Loose

Calculated sellout of the year. It seems like it worked, so good for her. But none of these mindlessly sexed-up songs is anywhere near as good as "I'm Like a Bird," which now seems destined to eternally remain her best song.

Slightly Overrated

Neil Young – Living With War

Don't get me wrong, I agree with the sentiment of this Bush-bashing release, but many of these songs consist solely of ham-fisted slogans, particularly on the more lyrically topical songs like "Looking For a Leader" (complete with cringe-inducing lines like, "Maybe it's Obama!"). The more subtle songs, like "After the Garden" and "Families," are the ones that won't sound silly in ten years.

The Hold Steady – Boys and Girls in America

There are some great songs on here like "First Night," "You Can Make Him Like You," and "Southtown Girls," but what it comes down to is that I don't find Craig Finn's debauched-salvation-in-a-cocktail-napkin lyrics to be all that revelatory. And I don't really care for his speak-slash-singing voice.


Swing Auditorium

The Dead's first full show of 1977 took place at Swing Auditorium in San Bernardino, California on February 26. The band hadn't played a show in nearly two months -- since New Year's Eve 1976/1977. So you could reasonably expect them to sound a little rusty on this night. But this is certainly not a show to be overlooked. Aside from a little roughness around the edges, the first show of the year proved to be a great harbinger for things to come.

The night opened with quite the declaration of confidence: the first-ever version of "Terrapin Station." It's a well-played version, although it's a little less precise than the truly great versions that would come later. The buildup to the "Inspiration moves me brightly" lyric does not contain the sense of anticipation and power that would come later and the concluding jam seems to end abruptly, but it's nonetheless a nice version for a debut.

Solid, if unspectacular, versions of "New Minglewood Blues" and "They Love Each Other" follow. The former would become quite a dependable first set barn-burner in 1977. The latter is a tune that I far prefer in its original up-tempo version. The fact that the band slowed it and "Friend of the Devil" down to much sleepier tempos after the 1975 hiatus has always suggested to me that certain members of the band were not up to the challenges that may have been presented by performing the up-tempo versions. Just rank speculation on my part, but it's well-known that Jerry's heroin addiction was worsening during this era, and this had to have had an effect on the music.

Another debut follows -- the first-ever "Estimated Prophet," a signature tune for the year. This is a strong, concise version which is heavy on some nice synth work from Keith. This performance makes you wish he had turned to the synth (rather than his favored piano) more often. At approximately seven minutes long, this version features considerably less jamming than later versions would, but hey, it's a debut, so I'm not complaining.

This was followed by a top notch "Sugaree," which unfolds with great Jerry soloing between the verses. Short, solid versions of "Mama Tried" and "Deal" were next, with the latter featuring some particularly fiery playing by Garcia.

The highlight of the first set is undoubtedly the set-closing "Playing in the Band" --> "The Wheel" --> "Playing in the Band" jam. Here the band abandoned whatever sense of restraint had been hovering over them for the rest of the first set and tackled this jam with abandon. The "Playin'" jam is spacey from the outset in a way that is reminiscent of classic '73 and '74 versions, and the slow jam into "The Wheel" is a beauty. "The Wheel" itself is very well-played. This is a great tune that often suffers from being played a little too slow, but this one is almost perfectly paced, and it features some nice ensemble singing. The jam out of "The Wheel" is wonderfully trippy and dissolves back into a charging "Playin'" reprise that closes the set in fine fashion.

The second set starts off with a rousing version of "Samson & Delilah" that showcases how well Bobby's, Jerry's and Donna's voices could work together on a good night. This version also features some nice jangly rhythm guitar work from Bobby that is a great counterpoint to Jerry's sharp leads. Whatever momentum had been generated is unfortunately squandered by the "Tennessee Jed" that comes next. It's not that it's played badly, it's just that, as a somewhat slight composition, it's the sort of tune that I'd prefer to hear in the first set.

[An aside: This is the era in which the dichotomy between first set and second set songs became more pronounced, with the first set featuring more concise versions of simpler, less open-ended songs. The opening set was more or less a warm-up for the second set, which typically featured more intense jamming -- and starting later in 1977, an extended drums segment in the middle of the second set. In 1978, the band introduced the extended space jam following drums, and from then until Garcia's death in 1995, virtually every setlist included "Drums --> Space" in the middle of the second set. Some Heads looked forward to this portion of the show as an opportunity for the band to test the outer limits of sound, while others were bored, confused, or pleased to have a built-in restroom break. I tend to lean toward the bored category, but I do occasionally find a Drums --> Space segment compelling].

The band begins to regain its footing with a version of "The Music Never Stopped" that's a little ragged, but that nonetheless features some hot licks from Jerry and some strong piano work from Keith during the closing jam. "Help on the Way" is a tune that is generally greeted with considerable enthusiasm by Deadheads as it usually signals the beginning of the much-beloved "Help --> Slip --> Frank" trio. But the versions of "Help on the Way" and "Slipknot!" from this night are somewhat timid and underwhelming. "Franklin's Tower" starts off the same way, and features several botched verses from Jerry, but thankfully it picks up considerable fire by the end.

I'm a sucker for the Dead's covers of Chuck Berry's "The Promised Land," and the rollicking version that follows "Franklin's" doesn't disappoint, as it features typically great guitar runs and piano work. The hands-down highlight of the second set has to be the lively "Eyes of the World" that comes next. This is a mammoth "Eyes," with some intense jamming that eventually gives way to a Phil Lesh bass solo of sorts (he's accompanied by the drummers so I guess it's not really a solo). Before long, the all-too-familiar strains of "Dancing in the Streets" start up. Although the disco arrangement is the same as the embarrassing Terrapin Station album version, the excellent three to four minute wah-wah jam in the middle of the tune illustrates why this was a such welcome addition to setlists during the late seventies. Another Chuck Berry cover closes out the second set: "Around and Around." I'm not wild about this tune, but it's an energetic, well-played version that features some over-the-top Bobby vocals. "U.S. Blues" is always appreciated in the encore slot, and the fine version that concludes this show must have sent those in attendance out the doors with smiles on their faces.

In short, I definitely recommend checking this show out. Although there are spots where you can sense the band is regaining its footing after a couple months off, these are fewer and farther between than you might expect. Generally speaking, the band sounds energetic and the excellent setlist doesn't have many holes. In particular, be sure to check out the first-ever “Terrapin,” the "Playing --> Wheel --> Playing" jam that closes the first set and the outstanding "Eyes of the World" from the second set.