Rusty the Scoob wrote:
Counterstriker wrote:I don't want to bash Vince or anything (RIP) because I'm sure he was a great guy, but what was jerry thinking when they picked him? I heard an estimated prophet from 1991 and Jerry is going in the end solo and I hear vince come in with this horrible sounding trumpet patch COMPLETELY over powering Jerry.. I wonder what Rob Barraco (sp?) was doing at the time, he would have been great match for them.
My friend from Retro Linear is working on Robs Fender Rhodes which was actually Brent's that he recorded and gigged live with.. I'll try to get some pictures if he lets me!
Vince actually didn't get to pick his MIDI patches, I think... I believe it was Bob Bralove (I think) who was literally sitting behind Vince on stage, choosing his patches for him, with little input from Vince. Now why they thought this system was a good idea is beyond me. I think somebody in the organization thought MIDI was the future and by god they were going to use it no matter how awful it sounded.
Well, the problem wasn't MIDI. The problem was the synthesizers and the patches they were using. MIDI is just a system for interfacing different pieces of equipment. It doesn't make a sound of it's own. MIDI was "The Future", it was and is "The Present". MIDI was already an industry standard for interfacing electronic music equipment by the time Vince joined the band. They were already using it extensively during the Brent era, for just about everything except for his Hammond organ sound.
But getting back to my original point, the band was using mostly digital synths, which were good for certain things (mainly "mettalic" percussive type sounds and background "pad" sounds) but not so good for other things. I recall reading once that Phil had a Roland Super Jupiter (a mid 80's rack mounted analog synth) in his bass synth rack that he used during the Space bits, but I think everyone else was using samplers and various digital synths. That's the REAL reason why the synth sounds are at times less than desirable in the late 80's-90's era Grateful Dead, not because they were using MIDI interfaces.
I've never quite understood the band's deal with synths. I can kinda maybe understand Keith's reluctance to use a synth, because back in the early 70's, they were at times difficult to deal with. A lot of synths tended to go out of tune on a regular basis, they were all monophonic (meaning you could only play one note on the keyboard at a time), and there was no patch memory. And Keith being a pianist first, he probably didn't dig the idea of having to adjust his playing technique. Having said that, there's a couple examples where I think we do hear Keith play a synth onstage in 73-74, where he does some nice stuff with it.
I've always thought it was a shame that on the instances where Ned Lagin actually sat in with the band in 74, you don't hear him on the tapes. There's bits on The Grateful Dead Movie DVD, where you can see him tweaking the controls on his synths (particularly during Dark Star), but you can't actually hear what he's doing. I always thought the sort of spacey synth stuff you heard in bands like Gong, Hawkwind, or Tangerine Dream during that period would have been a nice thing to hear when the band was "going all the way out" during that era, but we never quite got to hear that sort of thing, except for 6/16/74 and 6/18/74.
Brent's deal was something else. By then, polyphonic synths and patch memories were available, in fact, he had a Sequential Circuits Prophet-5 onstage during the early 80's, and his experience as an organist would have made dealing with the lack of touch sensitive easier to deal with, as he'd be used to operating a volume pedal on his Hammond. But he insisted the Dead "isn't the kind of band where you can just go to a pre-determined patch on a synth" and he didn't like having to change patches on the synth because "by the time I had a new patch set up, the band would have moved onto some place where that sound was useless" or whatever. But is changing the sounds on a Prophet-5 or a Mini-Moog any different than changing the settings on a Hammond organ?
At any rate, certainly by the late 80's, Brent was most definitely using a predetermined patches in concert. I know the set up he's using in a lot of the video footage I've seen is a Hammond B-3 and a Kurzweil MIDI keyboard, the latter being interfaced to whichever modules he had offstage to get whatever piano and synth sounds he needed during a show (including the harpsichord for China Doll). And Vince was mostly doing the same thing, though I think it both cases it was really Bralove who was choosing the patches you heard at any given time.