Music

Grateful Dead: Dick’s Picks 32 and 33

The Grateful Dead's most exciting stuff is born of some pretty daring work on the high wire. They certainly fall from time to time, but not nearly as often as they might.


Grateful Dead

Dick's Picks 32

US Release: 2012-01-24
Label: Real Gone Music
Amazon
iTunes

Grateful Dead

Dick's Picks 33

US Release: 2012-01-24
Label: Real Gone Music
Amazon
iTunes

As an avid and decades-long and clearly incorrigible Grateful Dead fan, I have spent a great deal of money (but significantly more time, if we’re thinking in terms of overall expenditures) on this band’s music. Does that make me more or less qualified to come up with an objective opinion on these two releases (re-releases, actually, put out by the commendable troupe at Real Gone Music)? I dunno. Sorry.

But since I sort of have to assume that anyone who has clicked on the link to this review is either A) like me, already afflicted or B) looking for a place to start listening to this band’s fairly daunting catalogue of hundreds of commercial releases, this review will try to place these two concert albums into some kind of framework that’ll help you decide whether to buy them or not. Because as the folks in the A) camp already understand, and the folks in the B) camp are soon to discover, there is so much amazing stuff already available, one needs a bit of a roadmap to make decisions about what to pick up and what to leave out. But, let’s face it, most of the ensnared folks in that A) camp are going to buy these anyway, no matter what I say, because this is their lot in life it would seem. So, B) people, take some heed, I guess?

Anyway. As the Grateful Dead’s merchandising arm embarks on its new series of concert releases from its voluminous vaults – now named Dave’s Picks after Dave Lemieux, chief musical archivist for the band since the 1999 death of Dick Latvala, namesake of the first series of such releases – Real Gone Music has dug up and repackaged two excellent volumes from that first run.

Both #s 32 and 33 went out of print very quickly despite the fact that they contain between them some pretty extraordinary stuff from two very popular and famous shows in the Dead’s touring history. As with any Dead concert, there are moments of utter calamity – flubbed lyrics, weak vocals, Donna Jean Godchaux, and weird experiments gone awry – but also as with any Dead concert, there are moments of pretty thrilling musical synchronicity. The mark of a great, rather than a simply good, Dead show is in the ratio of these mishaps to these thrillers; it is my contention (and was certainly theirs as well) that the band needed to risk the fall in order to climb to the highest heights. Working “without a net” is how they often put it. It isn’t for everyone (obviously), but listening to these three performances spread across six discs, it is clear that their most exciting stuff is born of some pretty daring work on the high wire. They certainly fall from time to time, but not nearly as often as they might.

Dick's Picks #33 captures two of the most famous shows in the Dead’s career, and it's basically a must-own for any serious fan of the band. Sharing a weekend double bill with The Who (of all bands!) in early October 1976, energized following a lengthy one-and-a-half-year retirement from the stage and buoyed by the return of second drummer Mickey Hart after his five-year absence, the band put together four lengthy and vibrant sets featuring a trove of their best and most enduring songs. While both shows feature strong, hard-rocking first sets with little overlap (There are two tries at “Promised Land” and “Cassidy”), in both cases, it is the bravura second sets which will attract the most attention. The Saturday show – They opened for The Who and, by all accounts, blew Pete Townsend away, since he demanded that his band open for the Dead the following day so they wouldn’t have to follow them again – features a lengthy suite (“St-Stephen / Not Fade Away / St-Stephen / Help on the Way / Slipknot! / Drums / Samson & Delilah / Slipknot! / Franklin’s Tower / One More Saturday Night”) that ranks among their greatest ever uninterrupted runs of music. The Sunday show’s suite is based on “Playing in the Band” and “The Other One”; it's shorter but more experimental, culminating in a show-stoppingly beautiful take on “Stella Blue”, perhaps the band’s most gorgeous ballad, before finding its way back to “Playing in the Band” and a “Sugar Magnolia” rave-up to close the set. Pretty magical stuff.

Dick’s Picks #32 is good, but it is a significantly less essential show for fans and certainly not the place to start for neophytes. Though among the very best performances from 1982, the early 1980s were not a great period for the group as members battled a variety of addictions, sets often listed between uninspired covers and some weak newer material, and much of the improvisational spark seemed to have faded. But none of the typical early-'80s Dead problems are apparent in this show. In fact, Jerry Garcia’s guitar is in excellent form on this night at Alpine Valley Amphitheatre (though his voice is truly ragged and choked, another common problem for the band in the 1980s and beyond), and there are some truly surprising moments from time to time (such as the odd suite of “Music Never Stopped / Sugaree / Music Never Stopped” which, though it doesn’t quite work, at least shows some daring). But overall, the concert has to be considered for fans or completists only when put into the broader context of the band’s monstrously capacious available oeuvre.

So, verdict: buy #33, and borrow #32. Or, what the hell, buy them both -- because you’re going to do it anyway, you big dumb Grateful-Dead-loving fool.

6

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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Music

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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