Day 113: Man Smart, Woman Smarter > Jam, 3/16/90

Ok. Let me state at the outset that Man Smart, Woman Smarter is a song I do not like. At all. It’s one I almost always skip when listening to shows. However, when the Spring 1990 box set came out it was mentioned by someone, I can’t remember who – might have been David Lemieux, that the jam after this version was particularly good.

Well let me just say that the jam is worth listening to Man Smart. If it were up to me I would swap out Iko Iko for every version of this song, I think the band could get to the same places since the songs are very similar, but that’s an argument for another day. But I cannot remember hearing the Dead play a jam like this before. It’s got a calypso or Afro-Cuban type of vibe to it. If a similar jam appeared other times please point me to those shows! For now, enjoy this version.

Man Smart rocks out to a Bo Diddley beat. Bobby takes the first verse and cedes the floor to Brent for the second. Right on their heels is Garcia with a nifty little solo that’s not too fast and not too slow. Jerry is not in a rush to get anywhere at the moment. Bobby complements with some upper register chord comping and Brent helps fill in the bottom end with some B3 swirls. How I’ve neglected to mention Phil yet escapes me. He’s very busy and moving all around the fretboard, propelling the song forward at a constant rate. Jerry switches on some MIDI effect that sounds like a horn or some combination thereof. A series of punctuated hits signals another verse, and Brent double Bobby for this run through. A vocal jam on the chorus follows between Jerry, Bobby, and Brent, the latter two engaging in some call and response.

The song ends and the crowd roars, but after a brief pause the band starts up again, using the same vibe and groove from Man Smart as their starting point but going in a whole new direction. It almost has a calypso feel too it. This isn’t quite “space” as there’s a melodic foundation, but there is a lot of experimentation going on. Brent sifts through his MIDI arsenal and finds some interesting sounds. The rhythm guitar almost sounds like Eyes at one point. As the jam slowly winds down the percussionists exert themselves more and more. Jerry offers a final, quiet theme that sounds very familiar yet I can’t quite place it. Brent picks it up as well, but quickly the endeavor is abandoned for drums. All told this is a fascinating jam and perhaps one of the best jam segments of this whole box set. Wowzers!

Complete Setlist 3/16/90

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One comment to “Day 113: Man Smart, Woman Smarter > Jam, 3/16/90”
  1. Man Smart, Woman Smarter

    Not my favorite song for starters, these boys do make a big racket of it. Bob takes the first verse and Brent is on top of the second. Then Jerry works his way around some calypso figures and it sounds like some mix adjustments are needed to get his part out front. That happens and all is well. The popping lead bounces above the other snappy parts and I must say I would select this version as my fave ever, or damn near it. Oh, now a faux horn invades the next vocal segment and on into the solo segment after it. Hmm, I am not a big fan of this development but at least it sounds purposeful and not too accidental. I try to focus on Weir’s parts instead and that is way more satisfying to me here. A repeat of the first verse rescues us from the silliness and returns us to a different sort. The band breaks down the tune so that Bob and Brent can croon a bit in call-and-response fashion, Jerry chiming in with some lines here and there. Back to the loud dynamic, they mercifully wrap it after only one time through.


    It is odd that there is a full stop here. I would not have inserted a segue arrow here as the packaging does. The band re-constructs a calypso feel from scratch and pushes it forward as a new “song”. It’s somewhat awkward but also brave of them to just create a related jam from pretty much nothing. Part of me hates the tones used and part of me is intrigued. Where will this go? If I had been in attendance I would have wondered what was going on. Soon, shades of “Eyes of the World” bleed forth, compliments of Garcia. This idea is very quickly squashed by the others. Instead, Jerry makes more of the island feel. This is as yacht rock as this band probably ever got. I picture a hoard of straw-hatted, Hawaiian-shirted, grey-skinned, balding men shaking their pudgy rumps. It’s not pretty. Thankfully it eventually retreats to backstage, leaving only the drummers.

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