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Must-have live recordings at Grooveshark

Grooveshark is a great source for sampling live shows before you buy them.

Whenever the band Phish plays on Halloween, they pretend to be another famous rock band and do an entire album by that band. This year, they did one of my all-time favorite records, "Exile on Main Street" by the Rolling Stones. It's a double album, 18 songs worth of blues boogie, and I was very curious to hear whether they pulled it off.

Friday morning, a relative who knows of my fixation with that record sent me a link to the show, but the link--as is so often the case--wasn't working. Of course I could have purchased the entire set for 99 cents a song from the site, but the samples on that site are only 30 seconds long, and I wanted to try it out before committing with a credit card. So I did a little hunting on my own. Lala didn't have it. Imeem didn't have it. I couldn't find it on a Google search.

I used Grooveshark's playlist feature to arrange the songs from Phish's cover of "Exile" in order.

So I turned to old reliable Grooveshark. Sure enough, a search on "Phish Ventilator Blues" (one of the song names from "Exile") turned up a hit. From that result, I saw that the name in the "Album" column included the date, 2009/10/31. I ran another search, "Phish 2009/10/31" and there it was, the entire show. I took all the songs from "Exile" and arranged them in order on my playlist, and soon I was enjoying the band's faithfulness to the original recording, down to the horn parts and backup gospel singers, mixed with some very extended jam sections. The bit between "Ventilator Blues" and "Just Want to See His Face" is miraculous.

One of my complaints about Phish is that they often sound too perfect and clean, especially the singing. But in this particular case, it was great because Phish obviously studied the lyrics very carefully, and I could finally understand whole lyrical sections ("there's fever in the forecast now") that I've never been able to figure out despite hundreds of listens. (Mick mumbles, and he's buried pretty deeply in the mix on the original.)

I have no idea whether the recording was posted with the permission of the band. Probably not. But the beauty of Grooveshark is that users post the content themselves, in a similar fashion to YouTube, so you're not reliant on content owners.

Correction 2:22 p.m. PDT, Nov. 13: This post mischaracterized how Grooveshark gets content. All content on Grooveshark is uploaded by users. Grooveshark says it complies with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, and pays appropriate royalties for live and other types of recordings.