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July 76 sound review

 
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a.j.craig



Joined: 07 Jul 2008
Posts: 359
Location: New Zealand

PostPosted: Tue Oct 28, 2008 1:45 pm    Post subject: July 76 sound review Reply with quote

Widely regarded as one of the great runs, the post-retirement return to San Francisco, with the shows just getting better and better. Unfortunately, with the exception of the last show, the sound quality of the available recordings often leaves me wondering what might have been.

1976-07-12 Grateful Dead: Orpheum Theatre, San Francisco CA

Soundcheck (on SBD only):

Dancin' in the Streets
They Love Each Other
The Music Never Stopped #1, #2
Stella Blue #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6, #7
Let It Grow
Eyes of the World

Set 1
The Music Never Stopped
Brown Eyed Women
Cassidy
Tennessee Jed
Minglewood Blues
Candyman
Looks Like Rain
Row Jimmy
Lazy Lightning->Supplication
Deal
Promised Land

Set 2

Sugaree
Samson & Delilah
Help on the Way ->
Slipknot! ->
Franklin's Tower ->
Dancin in the Streets
Wharf Rat ->
Drums ->
The Wheel ->
Around & Around
encore: U.S. Blues

Two versions available:


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(AUD)


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(SBD)

No matrix presently available.

Overall ratings, based on my somewhat geriatric hearing. (Reminder: This relates to sound quality, not necessaily music quality:
7/10, minimum acceptable sound quality – approximate balance of pleasure and hard work.
4/10 or less, of historical or completist interest only)

The AUD gets 6
The SBD gets 7.

General Comment: First impressions are often dangerous as it can sometimes take a track or two before the sound guys get focussed enough to function effectively. However, not the case this time. AUD is both jangly and mushy. Weir often sounds as if he is singing through an echo chamber located somewhere inside his nose. Donna is, as the poet has it, “like a razor at the throat of quiet”. Neither of these versions captures the haunting bluesy harmonies which she was capable of generating on a good night with Weir.

Have to say, though that the initial audience impact in the AUD had real excitement and atmosphere. Sounds as if the audience was having a ball, right from go. This was missing in the sbd.

SBD is almost as flat as the other one was jangly, but overall marginally better, and a good deal clearer, with better bass definition. Had to turn volume up a peg or two to approximate the AUD levels. Overall, SBD misses much of the excitement the AUD captures. Very noticeable around, say, the beginning of Samson, though the above-mentioned faults of the AUD win through in the end. Worst of AUD and best of SBD exemplified in Cassidy.

There is considerable variation in the track times: BEW gets 5.56 in the AUD, 4.30 in the SBD; Dancin' gets 11.25 in the AUD, 10.58 in the SBD, etc etc.

....................................................


1976-07-13 Grateful Dead: Orpheum Theatre, San Francisco

Set 1: Mississippi Half Step, Big River, Peggy-O, Cassidy, Crazy Fingers-> Let It Grow-> Drums-> Let It Grow-> Might As Well

Set 2: The Music Never Stopped, It Must Have Been The Roses, Samson & Delilah, High Time, Saint Stephen-> Not Fade Away-> Saint Stephen-> Sugar Magnolia-> Stella Blue-> Sunshine Daydream, E: Dancin' In The Streets

Two SBDs available:

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One AUD available:

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Archive reviews suggest a good solid show, with the ashley-bertha considerably better than the menke.minches, and the vernon a step up again.

Overall ratings, based on my somewhat geriatric hearing.
(Reminder: This relates to sound quality, not necessaily music quality:
7/10, minimum acceptable sound quality – approximate balance of pleasure and hard work.
4/10 or less, of historical or completist interest only)

AUD 7- to 6+
SBD ashley-bertha 7
SBD vernon 7+

General comment: Though it captures some of the audience excitement brilliantly, the AUD is missing drastically on bass, with a certain mushiness that was also evident on the previous night's recording. It's a better take than 1976-07-12, though.

The ashley-bertha over-compensates, I think, with a very fat bass sound, and while on a song like Big River this works – sounds a bit like Phil has been listening to Waylon Jennings – I'm not sure it does in a song like High Time. The vernon strikes something of a medium, but in doing so imposes a kind of tight sameness on tracks that could, and probably did, vary in style a good deal more on the night. So I'm a bit lost. I think probably the vernon has the edge, over all, and once again, I use Cassidy as a touchstone. None is what I would want to listen to for preference as sound.

All have a hard edge to the voices, the vernon a little less so, which I would contrast, for example, with the sound of the 1976-06-11 SBDs – some of the most haunting harmonies I can recall with Bobby and Donna in, e.g., Looks Like Rain.

....................................................................

1976-07-14 Grateful Dead: Orpheum Theatre, San Francisco, CA

Set 1
Promised Land, Sugaree, Minglewood Blues, Scarlet Begonias, Looks Like Rain, They Love Each Other, Mama Tried, Ship of Fools, Playin' In The Band-> Drums-> The Wheel-> Playin' In The Band

Set 2
Brown Eyed Women, Samson & Delilah, Friend Of The Devil, Let It Grow-> Eyes Of The World-> Wharf Rat-> The Other One-> The Music Never Stopped, E: Johnny B. Goode

Two versions available, one AUD and one SBD

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Overall ratings, based on my somewhat geriatric hearing.
(Reminder: This relates to sound quality, not necessarily music quality:
7/10, minimum acceptable sound quality – approximate balance of pleasure and hard work.
4/10 or less, of historical or completist interest only)

SBD 8-9
AUD 5-6

General Comment

The AUD has Bobby very high in the mix – OK in something like Looks Like Rain where he is dominant anyhow - and Jerry much further back. The SBD has the musicians much more evenly balanced, and on a rocker like Promised Land this is really important. (Often PL at the start can be tentative with Bobby hunting around for the correct key to sing in, but this time they start in with all the stops pulled out and the SBD version is a honey. One of my favourite PLs.)

The Playin' in the Band also suffers from the AUD's lack of balance. Just turn up the SBD and let it blow you away. Phil is maybe a touch dominant, but Keith's lightest touch is coming through as well and the honey in Jerry's guitar just pours out over it all.

The AUD has the same echoey, mushy quality that characterises the previous two nights' AUDS and the bass is still somewhat missing in action. Jerry is in lyrical form tonight and the SBD does a far better job showcasing this.

.....................................................................................................

1976-07-16 Grateful Dead: Orpheum Theatre, San Francisco, CA

Set 1

Cold Rain And Snow % Cassidy
Deal % Mama Tried % Row Jimmy % Big River % Brown Eyed Women % Looks Like Rain % Peggy-O
The Music Never Stopped ->
Scarlet Begonias

Set 2

Playing In The Band ->
Stronger Than Dirt Or Milkin' The Turkey ->
Cosmic Charlie
Samson And Delilah
Spanish Jam ->
Drums ->
The Wheel ->
Space Jam ->
Playing In The Band Reprise ->
Around And Around % High Time % Sugar Magnolia

Encore
U.S. Blues

There are six versions to choose from here. The Haugh DTS Matrix is outside the range of my equipment, so I'll leave that out of account. That leaves:
AUD:
(1)

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(2)

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SBD:
(3)

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MATRIX:
(4)

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(set 2)
COMBINATION AUD-SBD:
(5)

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Overall Ratings, based on my somewhat geriatric hearing.
(Reminder: This relates to sound quality, not necessarily music quality:
7/10, minimum acceptable sound quality – approximate balance of pleasure and hard work.
4/10 or less, of historical or completist interest only)


Matrix set (2) 8/10
Miller aud/sbd combo 7/10
Ashley bertha sbd set (2) 6+/10
Menke cribb aud 6/10
Menke ashley bertha 6-/10

General Comment
The difference between the versions is evident strongly on the Playin' and on Samson. Elsewhere there's often not a lot to choose, though Miller does a fine job as usual given the material he had to begin with. Given his is a full concert version you may wish to dl that as well as the matrix which is just set 2.

I may have to remove myself from reviewing ashley-bertha renditions of the Grateful Dead, in the interests of natural justice. I am reminded of the conductor of a provincial British brass band, who, in exasperation, called one of his musicians over to him, pointed at the music where it said ff and asked him what it meant. “Simple,” he said, “ff means full force.” The conductor pointed at the music again, at the direction, pp, and asked him what that meant. “Ah,” he said, “that means plenty of power.”
I get weary very quickly of the incessant reverberating bass and drums that accompany these renditions. While they suit the occasional rocker, they mainly just obscure the complexity of much of the music.

...................................................

1976-07-17 Grateful Dead: Orpheum Theatre, San Francisco CA

Set 1


The Promised Land
Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo
Mama Tried
Deal
New Minglewood Blues
Peggy-O
Big River
Sugaree
Johnny B. Goode

Set 2

Samson And Delilah
Comes A Time
Jam
The Other One Jam
Drums
The Other One
Space
Eyes Of The World
Jam
The Other One
Goin' Down The Road Feeling Bad
One More Saturday Night



Encore

U.S. Blues
Not Fade Away

There are five versions to choose from:

AUD


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SBD


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MTX


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Chris Chappell's notes suggest the later matrix corrects some flaws in the earlier version.

Overall Ratings, based on my somewhat geriatric hearing.

(Reminder: This relates to sound quality, not necessarily music quality:

7/10, minimum acceptable sound quality – approximate balance of pleasure and hard work.

4/10 or less, of historical or completist interest only)

AUD 18389: 5

SBD 243: 7+
SBD 34708: 7-

MTX 91827: 8+
MTX 95734: 8-

General Comments

Now the AUD gets bottom billing, but that said, you really do need to listen to at least the first track just to get a feel for what it was like to be there. I speak in a vacuum having never been to a GD concert, but I get a sense of excitement just being in the middle of all that sound and all those people that none of the other versions provide, even the matrices which are intended to do just that.

One of the reviews commented that there was a huge speaker box out front that functioned as a subwoofer that tended to over-bass and distort the AUD sounds. Maybe so. Very echoey - at times it sounds like Bobby is singing in a shower box. The AUD also gets you a better idea of what Keith was up to.

The SBD(243) is cleaner, but on the whole, thin: the drums particularly lack depth of sound, while Phil is, in comparison, both more dominant and fuzzy. The major plus from this SBD is Jerry's guitar which I have seldom heard sweeter. It comes through rich and pure and Chris Chappell has taken this quality into both matrices. The later SBD(34708) is not bad but twangier - more of a country/southern sound. Reminds me a touch of some Allman shows, though I'd be hard-pressed to say exactly where and how.

......................................................

1976-07-18 Grateful Dead: Orpheum Theatre, San Francisco CA

Set 1



Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo [9:52]
Cassidy [4:20]
Row Jimmy [9:47]
Mama Tried [2:59]
Scarlet Begonias [11:17]
Looks Like Rain [7:10]
Tennessee Jed [9:14]
New Minglewood Blues [4:56]
Loser [8:00]
The Music Never Stopped [6:49]

Set 2



Might As Well [5:54]
Samson And Delilah [7:10]
Candyman [7:50]
Lazy Lightnin' [7:29] >
Supplication [1:20] >
Let It Grow [6:51] >
Drums [3:24] >
Let It Grow [4:45] >
Wharf Rat [15:51]
The Other One [6:23] >
Saint Stephen [8:35] >
Not Fade Away [7:01] >
Saint Stephen [0:59] >
The Wheel [6:02] >
The Other One [3:16] >
Stella Blue [10:58]
Sugar Magnolia [10:05]

ENCORE
Johnny B. Goode [4:15]

There are two SBD versions to choose from.


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Overall Ratings, based on my somewhat geriatric hearing.

(Reminder: This relates to sound quality, not necessarily music quality:

7/10, minimum acceptable sound quality – approximate balance of pleasure and hard work.

4/10 or less, of historical or completist interest only)

SBD ferguson 8

SBD ashley Bertha 8+


General Comment

I started my test by playing Looks Like Rain from each, and then played the LLR from gd1976-06-11.sbd.unknown.22803.sbeok.shnf which is easily my touchstone for a 10 score. Neither of them stood up. I'm not usually an ashley.bertha fan but it scored marginally higher at 8+ than the ferguson.

Next I played the Stella Blue from each - one of the most highly rated songs on the night. Once again, the ashley.bertha took the honours. This song requires a gentleness and subtlety of sound to do it justice, and for once Phil was far enough back in the mix as to complement rather than dominate. I'd probably go to a 9- or 9 for this song for the ashley.bertha.

What about a rocker? Johnny B Goode? In the ashley.bertha Phil is all over this one like a rash and the others hardly get a look in. He's a distraction. I note that one of the reviews praises the ashley.bertha for faithfully reproducing what Phil actually sounded like on the night. OK. The ferguson does a good job for me here, but I've heard better sounding versions than either of these. I'd rank them a.b:6 and ferg:7+

Scarlet Begonias. Much the same as far as Phil is concerned. Very fat base on the ashley bertha, but this time the others are well represented as well. On the whole, just a bit more satisfying than the ferguson.

Next sit back with my eyes closed and the phones on and play several tracks from the start of the second set one after the other. Once again, I'd go for the ashley.bertha, but all that said, neither of these is going to disappoint anyone out for a good evening's listening.

_________________
Our freedom, in the very movements in which it asserts itself, creates budding habits which will stifle it, if it does not review itself by constant effort.

Evelyn Underhill


Last edited by a.j.craig on Mon Feb 02, 2009 9:02 pm; edited 2 times in total
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dw6



Joined: 26 Jan 2009
Posts: 13
Location: Philadelphia

PostPosted: Mon Feb 02, 2009 7:06 pm    Post subject: 7/17/76 Reply with quote

I'm very interested to see what source is deemed tops for this show. 7/17/76 set 2 is for my money the best set of music the band played in the post 74 era. It's got elements of primal, psychedelic, space, rock 'n roll, jazzy, and fly by the seat of your pants GD all packed into one. There has always been a nice, but standard sounding SBD, as well as a strong AUD, but there are some new matrix sources as well, that both sound great. Interested in your findings here especially.
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a.j.craig



Joined: 07 Jul 2008
Posts: 359
Location: New Zealand

PostPosted: Mon Feb 02, 2009 9:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've just updated to the 16 July but the updated review loads as a blank with my signature. I'll try again later.

Dave

_________________
Our freedom, in the very movements in which it asserts itself, creates budding habits which will stifle it, if it does not review itself by constant effort.

Evelyn Underhill
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