Test of the Boomerang: Soundchecks, Rehearsals and Outtakes, Part Three

Written by Music, Test of the Boomerang

The 2009 Dead made their last stand on July 4th at Rothbury. The second year of the Michigan festival was a rousing success and the Dead’s solid show was a definite highlight. While the band got off to a shaky start on their spring tour, they proved their mettle beneath the Independence Day sky rockets.

Now if there was only a fall tour to start getting fired up about.

You can get the boards of the Rothbury show at dead.net and you find several excellent audience recordings on Etree.

Today we’re looking at some rehearsals and soundchecks from the ’90s, but I do have some pretty remarkable recordings of Jerry Garcia in the studio from 1969 for your downloading pleasure. Enjoy.

Sherman, set the wayback machine for September 1990.

Club Front Rehearsal with Bruce Hornsby, September 28, 1990

Bruce Hornsby made his live debut with the Grateful Dead on September 15th, 1990 at Madison Square Garden. He and Vince Welnick gave the band a multi-layered four-handed keyboard attack that was sometimes chaotic, but always sublime. Hornsby’s piano glissandos were the perfect counterpoint to Jerry Garcia’s crystalline leads.  The MSG September run was a solid showcase for the new players, and it helped ease the pain of Brent Mydland’s passing.

Before heading off to Europe in October, the band took some time off to rehearse with Bruce and Vince. This recording comes from a rehearsal session at the band’s San Rafael studio – Club Front.

They take on three songs – Bob Weir’s vigorous “Saint of Circumstance” and two of Bruce Hornsby’s songs, “Stander on the Mountain” and “The Valley Road.” The two Bruce songs were performed a few times before the end of the year, but unfortunately vanished from sight.

Listening to this intricate breakdown of “Saint” gets a whole new appreciation for it from me. “I need to write some easier songs,” Bob complains as he illustrates the myriad chord changes. There’s whole lot of fun going down as Bruce leads the boys through his tunes. The harmonies on “Valley Road” are pretty ragged, but great. Unfortunately the chatter in the studio is very low in the mix, but Bruce would “like one of those turkey sandwiches, you know, like Phil had yesterday.”

(Check out the killer version of “Valley Road” from October 30th, 1990 at Wembley Arena. It’s comes out of a Bruce-driven jam out of a killer “Let It Grow.”)

Miami Arena Soundcheck, April 6, 1994

The sound quality of this recording starts very hissy, but soon cleans up beautifully. The band rehearses “Comes a Time” – a rarely played gem of a tune, and “Easy Answers,” a much derided Bob Weir tune. The version of “Comes a Time” is gorgeous, but all too brief. The Florida weather must have been good for Jerry, he sounds great here. But what’s really intriguing about this recording comes at the end of “Comes a Time” – Jerry attempts to find a way to bridge the song with his newer composition, the darkly majestic “Days Between.”

“There might be something there!” Jerry says excitedly. “It’s an awful lot of that mood. It might be too much of a good thing.” He muses on the conjoining of the reflective “Comes a Time” with the shadowy landscape of  “Days Between.”

Even rarer than “Dark Star” or “Morning Dew,” “Comes a Time” would be played once or twice a year, sometimes missing for years at a time. In 1994, the band only performed it once outside of rehearsal. On a crisp October night in Landover, Maryland, “Comes a Time” appeared in the second set for the last time.

Jerry Garcia 1969 Studio Session

Last up, here is a recording from 1969 of Jerry Garcia working out his songs for Workingman’s Dead. There’s a second guitar present and I’m not sure if its just another track of Jerry or if Robert Hunter is present. I haven’t heard these sessions before and I’d like to thank whoever put these into circulation. I got them as a set of mp3s, but I’m sure a lossless version will surface. Check out Jer’s sweet falsetto on some of those early takes of “High Time.”

1. Dire Wolf I (2:15)
2. Dire Wolf II (5:30)
3. Casey Jones (2:58)
4. High Time I (4:17)
5. High Time II (5:17)
6. Untitled Blues (8:29)
7. “That’s probably what’s causing all the rumble” (0:09)
8. Dire Wolf III (fast) (2:20)
9. Dire Wolf IV (slower version) (1:18)
10. Dire Wolf V (1:18)
11. Dire Wolf VI (11:22)
12. High Time III (0:39)
13. High Time IV (0:10)
14. High Time V (3:56)

That’s all for this week, kids. Thanks for reading, enjoy the tunes and stay in touch…