Road Trips Vol. 4 No. 2

April Fools '88

Released: 2011

Tracks

Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo > [10:10]
Jack Straw > [5:19]
To Lay Me Down [8:29]
Ballad of a Thin Man [6:52]
When Push Comes to Shove [4:50]
New Minglewood Blues [7:48]
Cumberland Blues [5:51]
Deal [7:07]
When I Paint My Masterpiece [5:00]
Let It Grow [12:06]
Brokedown Palace [5:21]

Scarlet Begonias > [8:05]
Fire On the Mountain [11:35]
Samson and Delilah [6:40]
Terrapin Station > [11:41]
Rhythm Devils > [5:52]
Space > [6:22]
Goin' Down the Road Feelin' Bad > [6:17]
I Need A Miracle > [3:21]
Dear Mr. Fantasy > [4:20]
Hey Jude > [1:41]
All Along the Watchtower [4:45]
Knockin' On Heaven's Door [8:30]

China Cat Sunflower > [6:19]
I Know You Rider [5:17]
Estimated Prophet > [12:36]
Eyes of the World > [8:55]
Rhythm Devils > [7:00]
Space > [8:33]
The Other One > [7:19]
Wharf Rat > [7:55]
Throwing Stones > [9:05]
Not Fade Away [5:57]

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Liner Notes:

Somewhere In The Swamps of Jersey

Let’s face it: the great State of New Jersey often gets a bum rap. It’s long served as the butt of comedians’ jokes and the target of unflattering media portrayals, written off as a place of urban and industrial blight, its air tainted with the fumes of oil refineries. Even the state’s great rock ‘n’ roll bard, Bruce Springsteen, wrote some of his best and most beloved songs about jumping into a car and getting the hell out of New Jersey. And speaking of towns full of losers...the televised misbehavior of the self-styled “Guidos” and “Guidettes” on the reality series Jersey Shore doesn’t help any in the public perception department, either. But in truth, New Jersey is, it should be known, a place rich in history and natural splendor--from the unspoiled beauty of the Pine Barrens to the gently undulating hills of horse country; from the immaculate Victorians of Ocean Grove to the banks of the Delaware, where Washington made his famous crossing. Yes, a more thorough and balanced look at New Jersey might surprise, if not silence, even the state’s most acerbic detractors.

On the other hand...the area around and including the patch of New Jersey real estate known as the Meadowlands Sports Complex tends to reinforce negative stereotype about the state. The use of the title “Meadowlands” is not entirely without basis in reality: there is, in fact, a nearby ecosystem of wetlands, some portions of which have been preserved and protected. But much more has been replaced with landfill, and other parts degraded if not outright destroyed by toxic waste. The pastoral-sounding name is given further bitter irony by the surrounding jumble of strip malls, fast-food joints, and other assaults on the senses, including that acrid refinery aroma. And yes, the Meadowlands was where Christopher Moltisanti and Big Pussy dumped that garbage contractor’s body in the very first episode of The Sopranos, as if the neighborhood needed any more blows to its reputation. The Sports Complex itself hasn’t exactly been the happiest place on Earth of late, either. One of its major tenants, the New Jersey Devils hockey team, abandoned the Meadowlands for a new home in Newark, and the local NBA representatives, the Nets, were as of this writing scheduled to depart as well, whenever their new area in Brooklyn in finished. On the brighter side, there is a state-of-the-art new football stadium at the complex, being shared by the New York Giants and Jets. But even there, it speaks volumes about New Jersey’s enduring image problems that both teams choose to retain “New York” in their names, despite having left the Big Apple for the Garden State decades ago.

And yet...there were moments that the Meadowlands lived up to the paradisiacal promise implied in the name, especially on those occasions when the Grateful Dead and the Dead Heads took up temporary residence. The Dead played a total of 30 shows at the Sports Complex between 1978 and 1995--14 at the now-demolished Giants Stadium and 16 at the indoor facility that began life in 1981 as the Brendan Byrne Arena (which the then-sitting Governor of New Jersey managed to get named after himself, only to be unceremoniously stripped of that honor some years later, when the building was entered in the now-standard game of corporate naming-rights roulette).

For those keeping track, it was still the Brendan Byrne when the Dead and accompanying caravan rolled into Jersey for three nights during the Spring tour of 1988. Two of those shows are represented herein: the complete performance from April 1st, plus first-half highlights and the entire second set from the previous evening. Oddly enough, this is the first-ever official CD release of live Grateful Dead material from that fine musical year, which found the band riding an unprecedented wave of momentum after the great career breakthrough of 1987, which included the Dead’s one and only Top Ten single, “Touch of Grey,” the multiplatinum album In The Dark, and an ascent into the ranks of the most popular live performers in music history.

Having started ’88 in style, with the traditional New Year’s Eve festivities and a pair of excellent multi-night stands in Oakland (during which they managed to fit in celebrations of Valentine’s Day, Mardi Gras, Chinese New Year, and St. Patrick’s Day), the band took to the road in March in fine form (and with Jerry Garcia still displaying vestiges of the uncharacteristically deep tan he’d picked up during an extended vacation and scuba diving trip to Hawaii.

Given the date of the show that produced the majority of the material heard on this release, it was only right that the Dead, pranksters to the core, would kick things off with a nice quick hit of April Foolery--we’ll let you discover it for yourself--before launching into a spirited performance featuring many of the cornerstone works from the band’s repertoire of original songs, as well as some well-chosen covers, with an especially generous sampling from the songbook of the Dead’s touring partner from the previous summer, Bob Dylan. Four Dylan songs from the two nights are heard here, including only the band’s second (and last) performance of “Ballad of a Thin Man.” Bob Weir has always tackled the Zimmerman canon with great relish, putting his own idiosyncratic mark on the songs, and his three Dylan interpretations here are no exception.

The stylistic diversity of the song selections and the adventurousness and energy of the playing are representative of the high standard the Dead set during this rich period in the band’s performing history. Especially gripping here are several of the sequences stressing ensemble improvisation; for example, a particularly thunderous “Rhythm Devils” workout giving way to a beautifully/scarily dissonant “Space” segment and then a deeply twisted “The Other One.” The “Drums”>”Space” interludes from the previous night are no less exquisitely bizarre--it’s interesting to note that 1988 represents the twilight of the Dead’s pre-MIDI days. By the following spring all the players would be able, with the tap of a footswitch, to digitally emulate a saxophone, a marimba, or something that sounded like a Venusian bassoon. Here they have to come by their weirdness old-school style, and do just that. Equally as striking in an entirely different way are some of the quieter moments, including gorgeous versions of Garcia and Hunter’s “To Lay Me Down” and Dylan’s “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door.”

It’s unlikely that anyone would ever deem the Brendan Byrne/Meadowlands/Continental Airlines/Izod/Your-Name-Here Arena the equal of such revered Grateful Dead venues as Madison Square Garden or the Spectrum, in terms of acoustics, atmosphere, or historical resonance. The building just never seemed to be an active collaborator in the creation of magic that those other great rock shrines were. And still, the magic managed to happen there, through the combined effort of the band and those great, devoted East Coast Dead Heads. If the music heard here has a message, perhaps it’s that transcendent beauty and life-affirming joy can sometimes be found in the most seemingly uninviting and unlovely places--indeed, on these enchanting evenings of 1988, it could even be found somewhere in the swamps of Jersey.

--Gary Lambert

 

Credits:

Grateful Dead

JERRY GARCIA: Lead Guitar, Vocals
MICKEY HART: Drums
BILL KREUTZMANN: Drums
PHIL LESH: Electric Bass, Vocals
BRENT MYDLAND: Keyboards, Vocals
BOB WEIR: Rhythm Guitar, Vocals

Produced for Release by DAVID LEMIEUX & BLAIR JACKSON
CD Mastering by JEFFREY NORMAN at MOCKINGBIRD MASTERING, Petaluma, CA
Recorded by DAN HEALY
Cover Art: SCOTT McDOUGALL
Package Design: STEVE VANCE

 

 



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This album was released in February 2011.



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