Day 68: Eyes Of The World, 3/31/91

Grateful Dead Dick's Picks 17 album cover artwork

Where to begin with this bad boy? I have a long history with this version of Eyes Of The World.

It started my freshman year of college. As I mentioned in my Throwing Stones post my buddy John turned me on to Dick’s Picks, Vol. 17 that year. It was one of the first DPs that I heard and I listened to it a lot. At one point during my freshman and sophomore years I had a playlist that I would listen to every night as I went to sleep. It contained a couple extended jams by the Derek Trucks Band, this version of Eyes, and at least one additional song that I’m spacing right now.

Bruce just adds to much to the jam on here. I don’t really know what else to say. If you’re skeptical about 80s, 90s, or post-Brent Dead this version of Eyes should change your mind for at least 20 minutes or so.

There’s also a Head Set on the Grateful Dead XM channel that includes this version and every time it comes on it just makes me so happy. Probably because it takes me back to undergrad, when life was much simpler. That’s one of the great things about music though, right? The ability to be transported without physically moving.

Comments on Eyes in general or on this version? Let me know in the comments.

This is one of those songs that starts slowly and everyone seems to fall in one-by-one. By the time Jerry starts his solo work the pace is set and everyone is moving along nicely. This version has both Vince and Bruce, and I believe the former is playing keys, while the latter is playing piano. They play for almost 3 minutes before Jerry takes the first verse and it’s just solid ensemble playing all around. Weir is doing some really interesting stuff so pay attention to him. Bruce doesn’t stand out as much as I would like, but if you listen carefully you can hear plenty of tasteful runs from him as well. Jerry’s tone is very clear, and sounds almost glass-like – if that’s even possible, kind of like a semi-hollow body guitar through a nice Fender amp. Bobby’s distorted, choppy chords juxtapose this tone quite well.

The instrumental section provides ample opportunity for Jerry just jam and lay it all out. Different people add their own accents throughout but Jerry is clearly the shepherd leading his flock here. Jerry finally cedes the floor and Bruce has some really cool runs, as does Bobby – his tone now much smoother than earlier. Hornsby really shines starting in the seventh minute here, just really beautiful playing. Spider fingers indeed! Jerry switches on the MIDI and carefully nudges his way to the front of the pack here with some sort of woodwind patch. Is that a flute or some type of whistle? I’m not really sure, but I’ve heard this version so many times that it’s almost a natural part of the song at this point. The jam continues and it’s good.

The second verse doesn’t appear until just before the 12 minute mark. This is always a good sign! The jam and the groove continue throughout the next instrumental break. Jerry seems incapable of running out of ideas, and you can tell he and Bruce are really pushing each other. The magical dance continues for several more minutes. I’ve found it’s best to just sit back and enjoy this laid back version of Eyes. Third verse appearance time? Approximately the 20:30 mark. Whew! The final few minutes contain a bit more jamming, but it’s not as frenetic as earlier passages. It’s clear that they’re easing their way out slowly, and that’s exactly what happens. The song slowly fades out…

Complete Setlist 3/31/91

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10 Comments
  1. It’s almost impossible to pick a favorite Grateful Dead song but if pressed I’d have to go with Eyes of the World. I love the jazzy feel to the song and enjoy it from every era it was played. My favorite versions are from 73 (especially late) and 74, no surprise there. I don’t listen to very much 90s Dead these days, but, Lunchbox, this is sounding terrific right now.

    The first time I ever heard this song was at my first show, 7-22-90, and while that’s certainly not an all time great rendition, I was very impressed at the time and it stayed with me. It was my favorite part of the concert, especially since it came out of Estimated Prophet, a song I already liked.

    One thing that I find interesting about Eyes is that, while most people like it, there are some who just don’t like it at all. My cousin, who first turned me on to the Dead, just won’t listen to this song, period. We both like “rock” but he leans more toward blues and country while I lean more towards jazz and pop (Bombs Away anyone?).

    Speaking of Bombs Away, do you think you’ll include any solo songs or side projects in your dead for a year blog, Lunchbox? That’s not a request, necessarily, just wondering.

    • Mike,

      First off, to answer your question. I am not opposed to including solo and side projects, I just want to make sure I get a good base of Dead stuff. But I have a lot of Jerry’s stuff, and some of Bobby’s too, so that’s fair game as far as I’m concerned.

      I’m always amazed at the songs some Deadheads hate with a passion and the ones they love. My favorites are often vastly different. I remember reading on a message board, perhaps over at dead.net, someone who didn’t like Attics of My Life. Seriously?! (Check out this studio rehearsal version. It’s KILLER. Why did they never perform this arrangement live?) I think there was someone else who didn’t like Ripple. WHAT?! I thought those were all universally loved. So I’m a bit shocked that Eyes would make it on to someone’s skip list. But then again Lost Sailor is near the top of mine and some folks just love that song.

      Yet, these divergent opinions are one of the reasons I like the Dead so much.

      Thanks for the great post Mike!

  2. hadn’t heard this show (& included filler) in awhile… Bruce is soooo tasty throughout this eyes… phil quickly follows him into jamtastic bliss, while jer noodles around with that midi flute-y sound during that 1st lil jam, killin… the recording & mix are near perfect to my ears, too… and clocking in @ 23+ min, it never drags along… great choice lunchbox, like alotta folks the 73/74 versions are where it’s at for me, but when it’s good, it’s good, right??
    note: this is a day before my birthday, what an EPIC 2-show Dick’s Picks (with 9.26.91 of course) that would’ve made… (saw the 9.26.93 show in the Boston Garden, so did get me a b-day show… anyone else??)
    [ this show has paired well with my viewing (on my dvr) of Munich puttin-a-hurtin on Man. United :~]
    another later-day version worth diggin on thee archive, there is a killer sbd:
    ~9.29.94 Boston Garden ☆ PLAYIN>EYES!>ESTIMATED>HE’S GONE>d/s>SPANISH JAM!!>OTHER ONE>WHARF RAT> MAGS… what is not to love about that list?!?
    the playin is a shorty unfortunately, but the eyes… oooooooooooh man, the pace is so slow & groovin… and jer plays some delicious lil licks throughout… & Spanish Jam > Other One, never sucks…
    people should dig on vince-era gd, there is LOTS of KILLER stuff & i’ll be happy to fly the flag for it like my BROTHER from SPACE does for his beloved 80s…
    irie time… they say it’s a livin, we all gotta eat… ♤

  3. I once described Ripple as the closest thing the GD could ever come to mass appeal. I just don’t see how anyone could not like that song, at least as long as they didn’t know it was played by the Dead. I saw that post on dead.net, too and I suspect it was from a troll.
    But you’re right, there are some songs that are loved by many yet lambasted by a few. Oddly enough, Lost Sailor is a song that I like very much, probably because I liked the Go to Heaven album so much long before seeing the Dead live. As a tape listener, it was way overplayed in the early 80s but I can’t help but like it.

  4. actually went & downloaded most of the 3.31.91 sbd from brother charlie miller… diggin on the Playin’ jam as i’m writing, it’s good but not mind blowing, although if you listen really hard, you’ll hear many lil Dark Star teases from jer & bruce towards the end/near the start of drumz… those at 3.31 had to know a Dark Star was comin on 4.1 as it did…
    sweet intro into The Wheel (LOVE The Wheel!!) awesome version, as well…
    also worth noting that there was no post-space ballad, which is sorta rare, only a Knockin’ on Heavens door encore…
    set:1 hi-lites: West LA, Cassidy>Might As Well

    and, some future suggestions, planting a few seeds, if these aren’t on your radar:
    ~~Visions of Johanna ~ Fallout From The Phil Zone (3.18.95)
    ~~Unbroken Chain ~ Mars Hotel
    ~~Stealin or Hey Little One ~ Rare Cuts & Oddities 1966
    ~~Other One ~ 3.31.88 ~ Road Trips Vol.4 no.2
    ~~Black Peter ~ 12.21.69 Dave’s Picks Bonus Disc from 2013
    ~~Dark Star ~ 12.20.69 Dave’s #6
    ~~Til The Morning Comes ~ American Beauty
    thanx for reading, wishing irie dreams to all…

    • Ace, thanks for the suggestions. I’ll make a note of them and certainly consider them for the future. Love it!

      I will say that I never got the hullabaloo about Unbroken Chain. Perhaps because the GD station seems to overplay that in my opinion, but I never thought it was that good. I heard Pride of Cucamonga on the way into work today and actually like that song better than UBC. Til The Morning Comes is an awesome song; I wish they had played that regularly.

  5. Loved the rehearsal of Attics, what year was that from? Looks like they played it once in 72, I was very surprised to hear Donna, wish they would have played it more when she was around.

    • That rehearsal was from 76. I’m surprised they didn’t play it out since they worked it up, but c’est la vie I guess.

      The lone Attics from 1972 was released on DP11, I believe. I should probably revisit that soon…

  6. This sounds scary both in terms of chord articulation and tempo at first. Once the band has the reins, Garcia lights into a clean-toned solo that does not do much to cement the groove to the sunny vibe that it oughta be. As he backs off in favor of some chugging, Welnick plays a short sidebar. The verse and chorus are smooth sailing, surprisingly. In his first solo, Jer evokes that bright afternoon trip we all took the first time we heard this song. It is a crazy delight. You will certainly get off on this. He backs off at just the right moment and Bruce takes over with some fun runs up the piano keys. This grows and grows into a showcase of what that guy was capable of, yet it shows admirable restraint. Next up: Vince, with a short cyber-organ solo that also is relatively tasteful. Jerry sums it up with a reprise of his skill maneuvering around the applicable scales. It is loveable, for sure. Have you heard a longer first break in this song? I haven’t. And it’s all fully engaged. The next verse trips off Garcia’s tongue as if he had never forgotten the words and another jam area is of course next on the agenda. Jerry mans the top of this with lots of his best, meaty licks. He ever-so-slowly backs out and allows the band to decide for themselves what temperature would suit the song at this point. No one comes forward with a new direction, so Garcia fills in the space with more cosmic noodling. I mean that in the best of ways. Can’t you just see him peering over the top of his glasses, looking for any suggestions? Seeing none, he pleases himself and probably most of the crowd (and later listeners) with a long, long reading of what this song is all about. Jerry is truly living no particular way but his own. He sings about that, the horses and visiting the country. A perfect chorus leads to the single-chord ebb where Phil pokes out a bit more as counterpoint. A shape-shift gradually occurs, clearly headed for somewhere as we fade. If you need a late-period redemption of Eyes, here it is.

  7. My favorite late era eyes. Nothing come close except for those 74 versions. Walking out of Greensboro Coliseum that night was a hold everyone whooping it up from such a rocker.. None of us knew they would top it the next night. 2 of my all time favorite shows.

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