Day 115: Shakedown Street, 10/25/79

Grateful Dead Road Trips 1.1 album cover artwork

A return to Shakedown Street is always a welcome thing. There aren’t a ton of versions to choose from but those that are available aren’t anything to shake a stick at.

In fact, I was rather surprised that I found this version so interesting. There was a discussion in an earlier post about the issues surrounding this first Road Trips release. I went back and listened to it to see what I thought upon further reflection and this track jumped out to me as a really strong one.

That’s one of the things that I really like about a band that has such a vast amount of released material. It provides ample opportunity for reflection and comparison. This constant re-evaluation and re-assessment is part of the fun of being a Deadhead.

Even as the band warms up it’s pretty clear based on the effects they’re using that Shakedown is on the docket. Phil tries to bring some funk, even if he consistently misses the mark on these tunes, in my opinion. Brent’s rocking the plinky keys. Is that good or bad? You decide if you are wise. For the most part the song is a pretty standard offering.

Things start to get interesting during the first instrumental break. Jerry not only plays with notes but plays with the space between the notes really nicely here. The cliche that sometimes it’s not what you play, but what you don’t play applies here. The vocal riffing on the chorus sees some call and response between the singers and Garcia’s guitar, as well as a bit of ad libbing from Senor Weir. Brent starts to lay down some funk with the clavinet. Where was that before? THAT is what this song needs rather than plinky keys. Jerry starts to poke around in his own right and hits his stride pretty soon thereafter. But man alive, Brent is just killing it on the clavinet. Don’t get me wrong Jerry plays some nice stuff here, but he comes across as a bit restrained. Of course, with Brent doing his thing and doing it well that stands to reason. Brent eventually switches back to keys and Jerry starts to exert himself more since there is more room to do so. There’s a really cool build up sequence right around the 12 minute mark with highlights from all three melody instruments. This leads to a fiercer jam for a bit, before they lay back in the groove again. No one seems to know which way to go until it’s finally decided to hit the main theme again and bring the song to a close.

Complete Setlist 10/25/79



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One Comment
  1. It is clear to everyone which song this will be long before it actually starts. Yet as the drummers kick it off, a huge roar erupts from the crowd. Just then, you will hear a god-awful keyboard tone interjecting its icicles into the mix. Meanwhile, the vocals are too low for most of the first verse. This gets adjusted but the keys remain icily hot. It is nearly unbearably distracting. I can’t believe there were not better sonic choices in the vast vault. About this time (2007) the Heads are being tested as to how low the sound quality can go before they stop buying. The Road Trips series does not have nearly the same standards that Dick’s Picks had, as you will hear again and again on later installments. As the guitar solo arrives, Garcia plays a tight round of licks that can’t quite obscure what should be background keys. The breakdown near the end of the song proper features a neat switch to a clavinet-sounding keyboard, but still too prominent. Jerry takes the song on a jaunt next, and spends the next several minutes perhaps mostly grooving to Brent’s stylings. He does get in a few interesting twists, but they are inconsequential in the overall picture. He builds up the dynamic after about 12:00 and for a few moments I think this thing might fly after all. “Some patience required” is the disclaimer on this one. The fun doesn’t last long and we simmer down now to a bubbly groove that Garcia funs with, letting the band guess where he will insert the ending. That happens smoothly and we coast across the finish.

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