Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Grateful Dead Mixing Europe 72' Tour at Prairie Sun!!

Prairie Sun is proud to announce a historic mixing project taking place on the farm. The Grateful Dead and Rhino Records have decided to mix the entire Europe 72' tour to be released as a box set this fall. This legendary group of recordings is being mixed by Jeffrey Norman who has been the primary mix engineer for the Grateful Dead for the past 15 years. Rhino Records has been kind enough to release a tease of some of the audio mixed here at Prairie Sun. An exclusive download of the previously unreleased performance of “Playing In The Band” from the April 14, 1972 show in Copenhagen, Denmark. Clocking in at over 11 minutes, the song was recorded at the Tivolis Koncertsal, which was the Dead’s first paying gig in front of foreign language crowd. Download it and stay tuned for more surprises!

Because you dared dream this might happen one day… Because you went down to the Gypsy Woman and offered up your first-born to try to make it happen… Because there are enough passionate Dead Heads at Rhino/GD who thought it might be cool for this to happen… It’s happening! Coming in September is a gargantuan EUROPE ’72 MEGA-BOX SET containing ALL 22 SHOWS of what is arguably the greatest tour the Grateful Dead ever played, on a whopping and clearly cosmic 72 DISCS (over 70 hours of music!). Bet you didn’t see that comin’!
Really, at this point we probably don’t need to lay on too much hype about how wonderful the music is: Chances are, if you’re even considering buying a copy of this enormous box, you already know how amazing the Dead’s tour of Europe in April and May of 1972 was. To review briefly, though, the Dead’s first tour outside of North America took them to all sorts of historic and unusual venues in England, Denmark, West Germany, France, Holland and even tiny Luxembourg. Many members of the Dead “family” came along on what was really an extended working vacation that was designed to both expose the Dead to new audiences and also reward the band for their unlikely conquest of America during the preceding two years. As a hedge against the costs of the nearly two-month trip, the Dead’s label, Warner Bros., paid for the band to lug around a 16-track recorder to capture the entire tour… and we’re glad they did!
This was a band at the top of its game, still ascending in the wake of three straight hit albums — Workingman’s DeadAmerican Beauty and the live Grateful Dead (“Skull & Roses”). It had been a year since the lineup had gone to its single-drummer configuration, six months since Keith Godchaux had been broken in as the group’s exceptional pianist, and this marked the first tour to feature Donna Godchaux as a member of the touring band. There was a ton on new, unreleased material that came into the repertoire in the fall of ’71 (after “Skull & Roses” was out) and during the spring of ’72, including “Tennessee Jed,” “Jack Straw,” “Mexicali Blues,” “He’s Gone,” “Comes A Time,” “Ramble on Rose,” “One More Saturday Night,” “Black-Throated Wind,” “Looks Like Rain” and Pigpen’s “Chinatown Shuffle,” “The Stranger (Two Souls in Communion)” and “Mr. Charlie.” (Sadly, this was Pigpen’s final tour.) All those future classics were interspersed with songs from the aforementioned “hit” albums—such as “Uncle John’s Band,” “Brokedown Palace,” “Cumberland Blues,” “Casey Jones,” “Sugar Magnolia,” “Bertha,” “Not Fade Away,” et al — and then were topped off by loads of big jamming numbers — the Europe ’72 tour produced spectacular versions of “Dark Star,” “The Other One” “Playing in the Band,” “Truckin’,” “China Cat Sunflower” > “I Know You Rider,” “Good Lovin’,” “Lovelight” and even the early Pig chestnut “Caution.” And that’s leaving out a truckload of other tunes, too! There wasn’t a clunker show in the bunch, and many are acknowledged today as classics. No doubt you already have some favorites.
Through the years, there have been a few releases of material from the Europe tour—starting with the 3-album Europe ’72 which knocked our socks off in the fall of that year, and followed many years later by material from a pair of German shows and the fantastic 4-CD Stepping Out, culled from the group’s eight shows in England. Incredibly, though, only one full show from the tour has come out previously: the excellent 4/24 concert in Dusseldorf, Germany, released as Rockin’ the Rhein in 2004.
Until now, that is. Jeffrey Norman, who has been the primary mixer of Dead archival multi-track material for the past 15 years (Fillmore West ’69Ladies and Gentlemen…,Rockin’ the RheinNightfall of Diamonds, etc.) has spent many months toiling over the 16-track masters from the tour, and will continue working on the mixes through the Winter and Spring, employing the high-tech Plangent Processes transfer and restoration tools, trying to get every show to sound “just exactly perfect” (as Bob Weir says) for this release. You might think you’ve heard that intense “Dark Star” > “Sugar Mag” > “Caution” from Copenhagen, but I guarantee you’ve never heard it sound this alive! Mastering to HDCD specs is two-time Grammy-winning engineer David Glasser of Airshow Mastering. Needless to say, all the songs that turned up on previous Europe compilations will be appear in their proper show contexts, and in the case of songs from the Europe ’72 album, without overdubs that were added later (where possible).
So dig deep, raid the penny jar, take a weekend job at Jack-in-the-Box, beg your kindly ol’ grandma for some of your inheritance early… Yes, it’s an extravagance, but jeez, you (or your loved one) deserve it! This is way cool.
This article was written and posted by please visit the site for more info and news updates on the project.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Guitar Player Magazine Featuring Johnny Hiland at Prairie Sun

This article was written by Matt Blackett for Guitar Player Magazine. We recently had Johnny Hiland out to the farm for what has turned out to be a fantastic multi genre guitar virtuoso album that is sure to amaze. We will keep you posted with a release date and some great footage of Johnny in the studio. 

I was psyched to get an email from legendary talent scout, producer, and shred historian Mike Varney informing me that Johnny Hiland is making a record for Shrapnel. Not only that, but he’s cutting tracks in the Bay Area and I was cordially invited to swing by Prairie Sun studios, chat with Mike and Johnny, and listen to some tracks. So that’s what I did yesterday, one of those days that reminds me that I have a cool job. I drove up to Prairie Sun, pulled into the driveway that is bordered by a big lawn full of chickens scampering about, and walked into the studio to hear some chicken pickin’.
Varney said that they were mixing one of the album’s heavier tunes, but that the record contained a wide variety of countrified playing. I settled in and they rolled the track, which started with a spooky, Sonny Landreth-style quivering slide chord. Just as I was getting used to that, a monstrous low-string gliss heralded the arrival of the full band, with Hiland, bassist Stu Hamm, and drummer Jeremy Colson absolutely crushing the dropped-D main riff. Over the course of the next few minutes I was treated to Hiland’s slippery slide work, spot-on bends, clangy open strings, and insane chops. The tune itself was full of memorable and hummable hooks and the two solos—one with slide one without—were super tasty, even with the mind-blowing technique. At one point Varney, the guy who discovered Yngwie Freaking Malmsteen, said, “Can this guy play, or what?”
A real treat was when they called up another mix, muted the lead guitar, and had Johnny play over the tracks. I don’t want to shock anyone, but it was really, really good. They not only allowed but encouraged me to shoot video of it all, so stay tuned for that. After, Hiland was cool enough to demonstrate some of his picking, double-stops, and what might have been the most impressive playing of the day: his multi-string bends. Once again, I got it on video but I don’t know if I have the wherewithal to transcribe these licks and get them into the print mag so no promises there. When I post the video I’ll invite any fearless guitar teacher to take a stab at them.
Varney says the record should hit in August, with a tour to follow. My prediction is this album will turn your head around. This blog is just a tease. Look for video and a full interview as we get closer to release time. In the meantime, I’ll leave you with the question I asked Johnny Hiland: “Damn. Why don’t you try playing something good?”

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Eric McFadden Experience

Guitar sensation Eric McFadden recently graced the grounds here at Prairie Sun with his signature blend of both old school and contemporary rock n' roll. Gearing up for a tour of Europe this spring, the Eric McFadden Trio laid down some killer tracks for their latest untitled release - a rock blues album with plenty of ear-shredding guitar. 

For those who may be unfamiliar, Eric McFadden is a fiery virtuoso of the electric guitar. A native of Albuquerque, he has taken on many side projects throughout his illustrious career including George Clinton, the P-Funk All Stars and more. Today he can be found touring with Stockholm Syndrome and the Faraway brothers. While his last release was a mellow, acoustic joint (with violin, cello etc) this record promises to turn up the heat and rock hard. Louder, heavier, and absolutely saturated with talented musicians ready to blow the roof off Prairie Sun.

For this visit to Prairie Sun, the trio consisted of Eric McFadden, Dave Schools(Widespread Panic, Jerry Joseph, The Stockholm Syndrome, Gov't Mule.)  on bass and Paulo Baldi (Cake, Les Claypools Fancy Band, Deadweight and the Faraway Brothers) rockin the drums. If thats not enough, the album features numerous guest appearances by some of the best in the industry. Holding down a propulsive slap-funk bass line was none other than Norwood Fisher (Fishbone, Mr. Green All-Stars). Wally Ingram (Eric Burdon, Stockholm Syndrome, Sheryl Crow, Tracy Chapman, Jackson Browne) stepped in and played drums on a number of songs, while  additional guitar was provided by Dave Catching (Eagles of Death Metal, Queens of the Stone Age, Tex and the Horseheads). And what's a rock blues album without a little B3? Northern California legend Chip Roland can be heard  conquering festivals across the country with his notable jam-rock band, Zero.

We're all really excited about this project and we hope you are too. This much talent under one roof is either going to result in magic or a structure fire - and we haven't seen any smoke.

Look for more on this release by visiting Eric McFaddens website at