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This memorable concert in a cavernous Minneapolis hotel ballroom - a "weird gig" as Mark Olson comments at one point - took place at a time when The Jayhawks were at a pivotal crossroads in their career. After five years of fitful existence, with enough highs and lows to last a lifetime, the band's fortunes were about to change with a fluke phone call by future producer/mentor George Drakloulias to the offices of Twin/Tone, the legendary Minneapolis record label who had released the Jayhawks artistic breakthrough Blue Earth the year before. Drakoulias heard Blue Earth playing in the background and, as they say in the movies, the rest was history.
The Jayhawks most significant studio triumphs were still ahead of them at the time of this show, but as a live proposition, this period found the band firing on all cylinders. Numerous local and regional shows in recent years had produced a live powerhouse - a well-oiled machine that was creating an increasingly unique brand of crowd-pleasing country-rock that evoked everything from the Burrito Brothers and Clarence White-era Byrds to Neil Young and The Band. With a staggeringly large array of original material and smartly chosen covers to choose from, a Jayhawks concert during this time was a guaranteed good time on every level. The potential they radiated was palpable; you could feel that something good was just around the corner.
This show has long been a favorite amongst Jayhawks fans and collectors - and for good reason. The performance is briskly-paced, robust and inspired - despite protestations from the band during the show. Critically for researchers and fans alike, the entire concert was professionally recorded by Twin/Tone; this is one of the earliest - and most important - high quality Jayhawks live recordings in general circulation. And the song selection provides ample thrills for both casual fans and hard-core fanatics. Several songs from the classic Hollywood Town Hall album (still 2 years away) anchor a setlist chock full of rarities and surprises as well as a veritable feast from the still buzzing Blue Earth album (songs from that beloved collection never sounded better live than they did during this time). “Pray For Me” – not released until 1995 – was also introduced to Jayhawks fans during 1990 and sounds positively epic at the Hyatt. How it missed the cut for HTH has to rank as one of the greater mysteries in Jayhawks history.
The unreleased originals from this show - many of them freshly written - are uniformly interesting, evidence of a repertoire that was impressive both for its size and diversity. "Nine Stitches," a jammy groover, was something of a stylistic departure for the band and was performed only a handful of times (the version included on the bonus EP bundled with the Best Buy edition of the Music From the North Country anthology is from this show). Astute fans know that early live staple "Stone Cold Mess" mutated two decades later into the exquisite "A Break in the Clouds" on Smile (a demo of "Stone Cold Mess" can be found on the North Country collection). Future b-side "Keith and Quentin" makes an early appearance here as does "Warm River," which was finally released as a bonus track on the 2011 Hollywood Town Hall reissue (which also included a studio version of another leftover regularly performed in 1990, "Mother Trust You to Walk to the Store"). The moody "Cold Dark Night" was just one of many songs from this era that were performed live, demo-ed and rehearsed - sometimes frequently - but still managed to fall through the cracks. Several songs that would eventually be recorded for the legendary "Mystery Demo" sessions in 1992 (check out disc 2 of the 2011 Tomorrow the Green Grass Legacy Edition reissue) get a workout here with the full band including the future Golden Smog chestnut, "Won't Be Coming Home," and "Precious Time," a perennial contender for "Best Unreleased Jayhawks Song" until that situation was finally rectified with its inclusion on the TTGG reissue (it was also given to Maria McKee, who released a fine Drakoulias-produced version in 1993 backed by The Jayhawks).
With an envious war chest of originals to choose from, the number of covers in a typical Jayhawks setlist from this time was steadily decreasing; only 3 were offered at the Hyatt. The Gabbard/Price country classic "I'll Be There" (performed by Ray Price and countless others) was a live staple during the early Jayhawks years; it's near the end of its run by the time of this show. The other two covers - The Byrds' ridiculously good "Drug Store Truck Drivin' Man" and Sister Rosetta Tharpe's gospel classic "Up Above My Head" - are sublimely performed here; they continued to pop up in Jayhawks setlists in the years and decades to come. "Up Above My Head" eventually showed up as a b-side in 1992 and has even been performed by the current incarnation of the band in 2011. "There is a heaven somewhere" indeed!
This show is required listening for anyone with more than a smidgen of interest in the history of The Jayhawks. Within months of this show and the signing of a major label contract, the band member's lives would change forever. Shows like this offer great insight as to why people got so excited about The Jayhawks back in the day and we're pleased to share that excitement with a broader audience as it continues anew.
(PD Larson - Jayhawks archivist)
Original live remote recording by Jay Perlman and Mr. X
Remixed by Bob Johnson and Charlie Pine
Twin/Tone cassette copy digitally transferred by PD Larson - January 2009
Remastered by PD Larson - June 2011