There's a real dearth of commercial practice material for Grateful Dead fans, at least to my knowledge. There's plenty of stuff for Clapton or any headbangin's hair band you can name. But there are few transcription and guitar method books that focus on the Dead, and even fewer backing tracks beyond the usual suspects: "Truckin'" and "Casey Jones." And its always the studio versions. And trying to learn the Dead's style from those is a waste of time, in my view. I remember reading an interview with Garcia in which he said he could never manage to copy a lick perfectly, so learning songs note-for-note doesn't make sense to me.
Improvising is what's really important. Someday, some enterprising soul with a band -- maybe the Dead organization itself -- will realize there's a real demand for a "music-minus-one"-type recording of the Dead's catalogue. But until that day comes along, there's always the recording of the Dead's live appearance on Radio Luxemburg on 4-17-1972, right in the middle of their European tour. Luckily, the sound engineer on the broadcast did a lousy job, the result being that Weir, Lesh, Billy et al are mostly in one channel, with Weir recorded seriously LOUD, while Garcia is seriously underrecorded, practically alone, on the other. That means that you can practically eliminate Garcia from the mix simply by turning the balance knob on your computer or stereo. There's barely a trace of him left, even during the solos, because Weir has so much volume. I play through my computer with a GuitarPort set up, and I can't hear Garcia, even a foot and a half away from my speakers.
Obviously, that's good for practicing lead, but it also allows you to practice playing the kinds of little fills and chordal riffs during the vocals that Garcia excelled at. Plus, you really get a chance to hear what Weir, who I think is seriously underappreciated as a guitar player, is doing. His style is every bit as idiosyncratic and out-of-the-box as Garcia's and complement the Bearded One perfectly.
The band is very tight, at the peak of its powers, with everyone playing with great energy. And the setlist is a dream:
Me and My Uncle
Black Throated Wind
China Cat Sunflower
I Know You Rider
Beat it on Down the Line
Hurts Me Too
Playing in the Band
The Other One
Sing Me Back Home
Not Fade Away>
Goin' Down the Road Feeling Bad>
Not Fade Away
Encore: One More Saturday Night
You can even step away for a smoke just like the boys during the drum solo.
There is at least one site where the show can be downloaded as one big wav file. You can then split it into individual tracks. It's called Sugarmegs.
Now I also have a question, or actually two questions: Are there any other shows out there like this one? And two, does anyone know how Jerry might be scrubbed out of the Radio Luxembourg recording even more completely? Is there some kind of software, or special audio engineering knowledge/skill that might do the trick? If you do, let's chat.
There still is nothing like a Grateful Dead concert