More notes on Winterland 1973

This post contains some language cribbed from an earlier post on this blog, but there’s some new information, too. It was sent out to the press along with a digital sampler of the Winterland 1973 boxed set.

Dear music lovers:

My friends at Rhino asked me for some notes on the new boxed set Winterland 1973: The Complete Recordings. I am very happy to oblige, because in my opinion this is a magnificent document of the Grateful Dead at one of many creative peaks. (And because I was in the audience for the Friday and Sunday shows, this release has a special place in my musical heart.)

For starters, I am really impressed with the audio restoration and mastering. The stereo master recordings were digitized at the highest possible resolution and sent to Plangent Processes, where Jamie Howarth and his team used a brand-new technique to completely eliminate the variations in speed (known as “flutter and wow”) that plague every analog recording ever made due to the nature of motor-driven recording machines. The Dead’s in-house engineering ace, Jeffrey Norman, then mastered the restored audio in HDCD, bringing out every bit of the magic enshrined on those tracks.

None of that would matter if the music weren’t first-rate. This is a terrific run of shows, the groupmind in its prime and new songs happening all over the place.

The early-’70s Grateful Dead, following the untimely death of founding front man Ron “Pigpen” McKernan,” is marked by the ascendancy of Bob Weir as a songwriter and lead singer. At the time of these performances, both Weir and Jerry Garcia were in the middle of songwriting binges with their respective lyricists that lasted several years (from Workingman’s Dead through Mars Hotel). The fruits of that work are abundant on Winterland 1973, and in the selections we present to you here: aside from Johnny Cash’s “Big River,” every one of these compositions is a Weir-Barlow or Hunter-Garcia original introduced in the two years leading up to this run of shows.

This sampler includes a pair of rare and different treasures: the fast “They Love Each Other” and the slow “Loose Lucy,” both of which underwent significant changes before they were taken into the studio (on Jerry’s Reflections and Grateful Dead from the Mars Hotel, respectively). You get one of three complete performances of “Weather Report Suite,” which had been in the repertoire for two months and was maturing into a major exemplar of the Dead’s collective 1970s voice both compositionally and improvisationally.

And the sound! Kidd Candelario’s recording mix gives us unobstructed access to every element of the band’s intricate instrumental interplay. We get that classic warm Bob Weir Gibson rhythm guitar tone and technique and Jerry Garcia’s crystal-clear guitar, as soulful and melodic as his singing voice most of the time and devastatingly powerful on the rockers; Keith Godchaux’s piano playing is magnificent, two years into his tenure with the band; drummer Bill Kreutzmann swings like nobody’s business; and Phil Lesh’s absolutely unique bass style is brilliantly represented here as well. And the vocals, so attentively delivered onstage and sweetly blended on the tape, transmitted lovingly to your ears.

All hands are on deck, fully engaged with the music they’re making, and you can feel the musical tree shooting new growth.

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4 Responses to “More notes on Winterland 1973”

  1. Jerry Moore says:

    ESTABLISHMENT TOOL!

    —(Kidding…..best regards)—

  2. dudes says:

    was jerry playing a strat at these shows?

  3. […] been pointed out by several astute observers that, contrary to what I wrote (since corrected) in a previous post, Jerry Garcia was playing his “Wolf” guitar and not a Stratocaster at Winterland in […]

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