In the spring of 1971, Grateful Dead keyboardist Tom Constanten, along with the band Touchstone, produced and performed the music for an off-broadway show at the Circle in the Square in New York City.
The performance was called Tarot and the music was later recorded and released in 1972 on United Artists. The performance and resulting album both fell into obscurity and is now highly sought-after by collectors of rare prog and psychedelia.
On April 28th, 1971, Tom Constanten sat in with his former bandmates at the Fillmore East, and afterwards, Jerry Garcia, Phil Lesh, and Mickey Hart joined T.C. at Electric Ladyland Studios and recorded the following tracks. Called The Tarot Outtakes by tape collectors of yore , they are a true curiosity in the world of Grateful Dead tape collecting.
The pieces are all instrumental and feature baroque string and violin arrangements (performed presumably by Touchstone’s Art Fayer), and some interesting playing by Garcia, Lesh and Hart. A few of the passages skirt themes that resemble “Unbroken Chain” and “Morning Dew” and, according to the Deadhead’s Taping Compendium, some of these pieces would later appear again on Mickey Hart’s lost album The Silent Flute. Phil’s own compositional ideas here (inspired by his old friend Constanten) would later mature into his “Warp Ten” collaborations with Ned Lagin and the Seastones album.
Tom Constanten brought a versatile influence to the band during their primal years. He brought in avant garde prepared piano on Anthem of the Sun, but applied a classical flourish to many of the songs on Aoxomoxoa — especially his harpischord work on “Mountains of the Moon.”
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T.C. has kept busy, releasing a string of albums through the ’90s and working with other bands such as Terrapin Flyer, Dark Star Orchestra, and his collaboration with Dead digital sound designer Bob Bralove, Dose Hermanos.
Also, here is Touchstone’s 1972 Tarot – Original Cast Recording LP for your listening pleasure.
Enjoy the tunes, and I’ll meet you back here in a couple weeks.