Stormy Mondays | Grateful Dead 1974 Retrospective Part 4

For part four of our Grateful Dead in 1974 retrospective (Part One, Part Two and Part Three), we have two noteworthy inclusions that can’t be overlooked. To some degree, what best defines 1974 is the "Mind Left Body Jam," but not just because of the handful of full performances deep in second set suites. "MLB" also colored "Greatest Story" and "China" > "Rider," making versions from this year extremely distinct, even though the band has long denied that such a jam even existed. (Until the early 1990’s it was called the "59th Street Bridge Song Jam" by fans, and not usually listed as a separate song.) The "China" > "Rider" transition jam is labeled "Mud Love Buddy Jam" on Dick’s Picks Vol. 12, however, in what is apparently a simultaneous admission and denial.

From June 30, 1974 in Springfield, MA; a show that took place 40 years ago today, we open with a ripping "Greatest Story Ever Told" followed by a beautiful "China Cat Sunflower" > "I Know You Rider." The recording here is really warm, and an added bonus is how pronounced Phil’s vocals are on "Rider." Then, there’s a nice first set closing jam of "Playing In The Band" > "Uncle John’s Band" > "Playing In The Band," which is unlike just about every other version from this period, in that the "Playing" almost immediately floats into the jazziest Grateful Dead I know. Keith nods out for almost the whole trip, leaving room for some really incredible interplay between Garcia and Kreutzmann. The 18- minute version steers clear of the cataclysmic meltdown until literally the very last minute before the band springs into a lilting "Uncle John’s Band." It’s a pretty stellar moment, with more great Phil vocals and Keith suddenly in the mix full force. Nothing but psychedelic summertime fun.

[Playing > Uncle John's Band > Playing]

To put this show in context, also give a listen to Dick’s Picks Vol. 12, which includes complete versions of two of the strongest second sets of 1974 from the two previous shows. The first night includes a smoking "Truckin’" > "Spanish Jam" > "Wharf Rat," the "Spanish Jam" being framed with brief, but fully formed "Other One" teases. There is an amazing "Eyes of the World" encore to begin disc two, so vibrant you could swear it was the heart of a second set. June 28th's set has "Sugar Magnolia" and "Sunshine Daydream" bookends, and in between strong performances abound. What is truly mind boggling, however, is the "Weather Report Suite" that blossoms and gives birth to a soaring "Mind Left Body Jam" - arguably the best version. A jazzy, groovy, maddeningly gorgeous jam follows, eventually closing the 50 plus minute segment by oozing into "U.S. Blues." Vol. 12 is unquestionably a highlight of the Dick’s Picks series, and a highlight of 1974.


Written By: Dan Alford

[Published on: 6/30/14]

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