Day 19: Caution (Do Not Stop On Tracks), 8/23/68

Sometimes your listening habits just need to regress to their natural state. In these instances it can be quite beneficial to invest in some primal Dead. Two From The Vault is a snapshot of the Dead in their primal phase (note: This version of Caution was included on the expanded Two From The Vault AND the expanded Anthem Of The Sun). At this point the band could shift gears from serene, to chaos, to flat out weird as fast as a cheetah on the Savannah.

Caution builds slowly out of Alligator with some choppy guitar that gets progressively faster. Pigpen comes in with his organ and adds a number of fills until Garcia starts with the first wave of fanning. Pig is in hot pursuit. After the initial fanfare, the bring down the dynamics and explore the main figure for a while. Jerry inserts a few succinct bites around the 2 minute mark before quickly fading back into a subtle groove.

Everyone but the drummers drop out as Pig starts in on the vocals. An occasional muted guitar strum appears during the vocals, but this is all Pig and the percussionists. When we get to the “All you need” line Bobby and, I believe Phil, echo Pig almost like singing in a round, and the drummers sense the urgency and add some more of their own. “Just a little touch of mojo hand” brings the rest of the band back into the mix and they explore the situation with volume swells, and other sonic goodness. Right around the 7 minute mark Jerry establishes some authority on the matter and a more hasty jam starts. It’s not until almost minute 8 that we get that familiar bass run from Phil that tends to really cement the Caution jam. But everyone should be glad Phil does so because afterwards the boys are off and running. What really stands out to me is Pigpen’s organ/keys work. I think he tends to be rather under-appreciated for his actual musicianship, but this shows he had some decent chops.

Things slow down a bit as they reach what I can only think to describe as the chromatic theme, and once that ends it’s back into the ether to see what they can find. Phil tags his Caution riff a couple of times but a feedback session ensues that closes the show.

Complete Setlist 8/23/68

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  1. This chugs into action sounding just like a train gathering speed. A series of sweet collisions settles down into the superfast blues groove that defines this song. By 3 minutes in, all but the drummers shut up and let Pigpen have some. He sets up his usual tale of diminishing sexual powers and the help provided by the gypsy woman. Weir helps him yelp for a while before the secret is revealed: Just a little touch of mojo hand! Of course! Why didn’t we think of that? The music melts into a weird smear of sound as the mojo hand does its work, then a giant, pulsing bass beat drives the song into the next dimension. Big, stop/start figures come next, lifting this jam to classic status. This is really great stuff here. Another climax tears the top off of all that came before, and a series of bass chords leads the way to yet another flavor in this sonic smorgasbord. As this melts away, Jerry begins a little tick-tock figure that culminates in a wash of, yes, Feedback.

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