Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Sources: 70s Soundboard Smorgasbord

Merl's feelin' it.
The circulating recordings from the era vary widely in quality, in terms of analog hiss from multiple tape generations, instrument imbalance in the original recordings, reel-flip dropouts, and occasional distortion. The sources I chose were all recorded direct from the live soundboard feed to a reel-to-reel master. The number of subsequent analog generations ranges from zero (master direct to digital) to two; I didn’t use any sources with a longer analog lineage than that. As with all direct soundboard feed recordings, the sound on tape simply records exactly what was going through the PA. In smaller venues such as these, players (like Garcia) who ran with very high onstage amp volume didn’t need to be as loud in the PA, so they're lower on tape. Jerry's not too quiet in any of the tracks I chose, but the overall instrument balance isn't always perfect, and sometimes it fluctuates a bit mid-song.  The other main variable in the original recording is the stereo imaging. Some tapes have a beautifully distributed, natural sound; others are nearly mono.

As I was putting this together I did minimal editing: fade-ins and -outs, normalization (making the levels match more closely), and a couple splices (see below) and that's it - no eq or other processing was applied. There shouldn’t be any serious tape or recording flaws evident in the sources I used, unless you're unrealistically picky when it comes to 35+ year old analog-master recordings; if there are I’d like to hear about them. These are taken from the high end of the spectrum: they’re not all perfect, but some are, and none should be hard on the ears. The hissiest recording is 4-20-75 Madison, which is most evident in Mississippi Moon. Distortion is noticeable, but not hopefully not distracting, in the magnificent He Ain’t Give You None and in the latter vocal section of Boogie On Reggae Woman. There are cleanly spliced dropouts in Harder They Come and Let It Rock. That’s about it. If you hear something egregious that I missed, please let me know.

Chut up!
Wondering where the flac files are? Get over it, Poindexter. You can convert the alacs. If you're a big enough lossless geek to care, you obviously already have the software for it. Right? Right.

 The existence of a decent number of low-analog-generation, cleanly digitized, soundboard recordings (and their relatively easy availability for internet download) is due to years of tireless effort on the part of a handful of dedicated, unpaid fans. You know who you are. Thanks for everything! I listened to every publicly circulating soundboard tape from 1974 and the first 7 months of ‘75 in the process of making this mix and it was an incredibly fun and rewarding experience. 

If you really like this stuff a lot, you should know that there are also a fair number of audience recordings from this era circulating. Without getting into the often contentious debate about the listenability of these tapes, it’s safe to say they don’t lend themselves to this kind of mix, since the audio characteristics vary so widely between them. So I omitted them completely and make no apology for it, but if you find yourself drawn to this era, you should consider downloading a few of them and making up your own mind. 


  1. Could you please re-up Is the only one with the link broken. Thanks a lot for your work and sharing

    1. Hey there - when I test that zipfile at it works for me, please try again

  2. Thanks a lot!
    I remember when I got Internet access in 2007. I have been listening to the Grateful Dead since I was a teenager.So you can imagine my joy when I discovered the and all the Dead shows...
    Believe it or not: I have been downloading hundreds of Dead shows (and burning)in 2007,although they all were just audience recordings. I felt like being high.In 2008 I finally noticed that there are not only Grateful Dead audience recordings on the world wide web (haha)but soundboard recordings,too.And I found out,that not only the Dead shows had been ready for download,but so much more (Hendrix,Zappa,Beefheart,Janis...).That was Big Fun! And it still is...
    So once again:Thanks a lot for this beautiful Jerry Garcia site and all the great work...