Welcome, friend. You’ve just checked into the Mars Hotel. The Wall of Sound, the greatest PA system ever constructed, is freshly built and ready to go. Phil Lesh is busy experimenting with a low-frequency concept known as “Earthquake Bass.” Jerry Garcia is smiling, fresh from blaring a tongue-in-cheek anthem titled “U.S. Blues” that serves as both an irresistible rallying cry of pride and ironic commentary. And the Grateful Dead’s interplay continues to wow, peaking on “Unbroken Chain,” the most obvious example yet of the group’s shared chemistry and individual talents. Yes, we’re certain you’ll enjoy your stay. In the lobby, you’ll find decoratively funky “Scarlet Begonias.” Do we need mention the music, performances, and sights sound and look better than ever?
Mastered on Mobile Fidelity’s world-renowned mastering system, pressed at RTI and strictly limited to 4,000 numbered copies, Mobile Fidelity’s 180g 45RPM vinyl 2LP set of From the Mars Hotel comes on as both an audiophile delight and Deadhead’s dream. Vastly improving upon the long-out-of-print 1984 MoFi version that currently commands upwards of hundreds of dollars on the aftermarket, the new version takes advantage of enhancements to the cutting system, pressing process, and mastering gear. MoFi’s engineers have taken every precaution in honing the sound and feel of the Dead classic. And you cannot argue with the extra information within the wider 45RPM grooves.
Originally made in a modern facility dubbed Studio A – a large cinderblock room that Columbia Records specially outfitted for Simon and Garfunkel, who, ironically, split up before they could use it – From the Mars Hotel was primarily recorded live to 16-track machines. After laying down the basic structures, a few overdubs got added, most notably in the form of John McFee’s rustic pedal-steel guitar accents on one track and Ned Lagin’s spacey synthesizer passages on another. Always prized for its superb fidelity, the effort possesses an uncanny sense of airiness around the vocals, brilliant microdynamics, excellent transients, reference-caliber balance, accessible tonalities, and the distinctive aura of a real band playing in a defined space.
With Keith Godchaux’s spry quick-finger piano notes adding a barroom blues feeling and wife Donna Godchaux’s soaring background vocals bringing up the rear, the Dead puts a vibrant spring into the step of contagious fare such as the rousing “U.S. Blues,” down-and-dirty funky soul of “Loose Lucy,” and slippery “Money Money.” These songs stand as some of the loosest black-inspired music the Dead composed. And why not? True to the era’s burgeoning mix of soul, R&B, psychedelic rock, and dance, the collective places its own memorable stamp on the day’s popular fusion.
Yet From the Mars Hotel earns its stripes as a must-own album for Deadheads and traditional listeners alike because of the manners in which the six band members communicate, bond, react, and create. Singing lead on the high country of “Pride of Cucamonga” and interlocking centerpiece “Unbroken Chain” while threading the record’s golden tapestries with silvery bass lines that cradle, shift, and anchor the arrangements, Lesh turns in a heroic individual performance.
Each of his mates maximize their own techniques: Garcia lending equal doses of sincerity and salaciousness; Bob Weir hunting, pecking, and jabbing guitar phrases into the flux; drummer Billy Kreutzmann demonstrating jazz-like flair, flawless timing, and rhythmic wit. It’s no wonder that many Deadheads, if forced to choose, would select “Unbroken Chain” as the premier example of third-era Dead interaction. Relatively concise, eminently soothing, and named for a crumbling hotel down the street from Studio A, From the Mars Hotel forever dispels the tired notions that the Dead never succeeded in the studio after leaving Warner Bros. and aimlessly drifted (the longest track here clocks in at a scant 6:45).
- U.S. Blues
- China Doll
- Unbroken Chain
- Loose Lucy
- Scarlet Begonias
- Pride of Cucamonga
- Money Money
- Ship of Fools
Music Vinyl LP's
- Numbered Limited Edition
- Midler’s Grammy-Winning 1972 Debut Announces the Birth of a Superstar
- Numbered Limited Edition
- Silver Label LP
#338 on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time: Big Brother and Joplin Convey Fearlessness, Toughness, and Synergy on Every NoteIn many facets, Big Brother and the Holding Company's Cheap Thrills is the quintessential album to spring from the outcome of the Summer of Love. Best known as Janis Joplin's major-label debut, the 1968 set arrived when the countercultural movement was in full swing and before co-optation, drugs, and violence signaled the fall of the era. Ranked #338 on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, it puts a female singer in the prominent position traditionally given to a male and showcases a band pouring a potent cocktail of fiery psychedelic, blues, and folk sounds that informed the unfettered creativity of the San Francisco scene. Produced by John Simon, Cheap Thrills also features one of the most iconic and elaborate album covers in history.
Diverse Set Encompasses Ballads, Waltzes, Hard-Swinging BopBill Evans catapulted to the top of the jazz world in June 1961 after reeling off three straight masterpiece sessions at New York’s Village Vanguard with his trio. Yet the emotional highs came to a screeching halt shortly thereafter when bassist Scott LaFaro died in a car accident. Devastated, Evans refrained from playing for nearly a year. If not for an inspirational collaboration of tremendous creative outpouring, one wonders what fate may have befallen Evans. Undercurrent, the outcome of two studio sessions with guitarist Jim Hall, is that project.
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