Once upon a time, some friends and I started throwing around big questions like “what is the best year ever (BYE) for song X?” this was a few years ago but for many of the entries that answer hasn’t changed. One of the ones I did was for a song I hold near and dear, Taste. While never a set carrying vehicle (well, hang on we will get to THAT) the song has always been one that could take you (me) elsewhere in a hurry as they stretched the boundaries of the song and folded in some interesting recurring themes along the way. Below is what I wrote then with the caveat that it doesn’t call forth the true best ever version of the song from the Baker’s Dozen on 08.02.2017 as that had yet to occur at the time. Even still, that one stellar type II version doesn’t change the reality that the song had its best year in 1997.
I humbly submit for my first entry to the “BYE” (Best Year Ever) files that 1997 was the peak year for the largely ‘Type I’ vehicle, Taste.
While this song has remained mainly in the box over the course of its history (including its interluding incarnations as ‘The Fog that Surrounds’ and then ‘The Taste that Surrounds’ before the final arrangement we know as ‘Taste’) the song includes an outro solo that usually involves Trey and Page leading call with alternating solos, generally ending with a peaked guitar charge before the return to the ending run.
The initial incarnation of Taste didn’t ever diverge from form per se and was wholly a first set tune in the ten times it appeared but in the next version (with different lyrics that had Fish out front) that Fall (’95) the band began to work more through the soloing from both Trey and Page for the first eight versions of the tour. Eventually this became “Taste That Surrounds” in a way that merged the two prior versions together and we started to approach what would eventually become the Taste we know today (but not quite yet!). There would be fourteen takes on “Tasty Fog” along the way of Fall ’95 with not much to speak of jamming-wise before it again got slightly re-worked during the Billy Breathes sessions to become the final version we have today.
So that gives us Taste and you could almost say it debuted 07.03.96, sort of, with Carlos and Perazzo joining in because why not. That first one is extended with the sit-in from Carlos due to traded licks from the two guitarists but is a bit loose in all honesty.
10.27.96 is the first occurrence of a Norwegian Wood tease in Taste (which becomes somewhat of a thing for this song at times)
Later on in ’96 Perazzo would be back again during the RiL run (10.29/11.02) which adds some nice flair with the added percussion but these are otherwise typical versions.
11.30.96 has Peter Apfelbaum on tenor sax for a very nice extended version
12.02.96 gets a major peak to close and really hints at where this is headed in ’97
which brings us to where I am leading with all of this…
Early in 1997 the band headed off to Europe for what would be the first of several defining tours that shaped the sound of the band going forward. This one brought forth several new songs and the seeds to the new sound. During the February run there wasn’t a particular Taste that BLEW UP but they were all nailed and based on the overall playing of the band at the time it was simply a matter of time. This was never a song that would succumb to the cowfunk so it would evolve in another direction: bigger solos and larger peaks.
The song would eventually get played 30 times in 1997 (easily its biggest year) and it shows why. They really were playing it well each time out with some versions hitting the stratosphere like…
06.22.97 Trey leans heavily on Norwegian Wood here (show opener)
07.03.97 big use of the wah effect to great… effect
07.09.97 Page dominates this one
07.22.97 another Page powered one, the storm plays the band
08.03.97 oh so very peaky! wide open west coast version
08.09.97 frenetic is the word I choose here
11.26.97 just go spin this. seriously.
12.30.97 the stellar capper to a year’s worth of Taste.
I skipped some (okay MANY), obviously, as to highlight all would be a bit much. tThe point is that pretty much every time they played the tune in ’97 they struck gold even when just getting from one big jam to another (such as in 02.17.97 Disease->Carini->Taste->Disease).
And so that I do not end things here, the song has had a life after this peak in different ways. The best versions from ’98 stretch things out a bit more while perhaps not reaching the same highs as those in ’97. Good examples are 04.04.98 (Island Tour of course) and 12.28.98.
As one would expect, 1999 things get even more stretched out, leading to versions that topped 12 minutes (for a song that started at 6-7 minutes initially) culminating in an almost Type II take from Rochester on 12.05.99 that deserves a listen for its uniqueness in this manner.
The millennium brought a relaxed feel to this song that took some of the energy out of the bag which kind of deflated it a bit, unfortunately, and to my mind the 2000 versions suffer somewhat as a result. That ‘mellow groove’ doesn’t always match with the feel of a song that has such a syncopated rhythm and it could come off as hit-or-miss at times as a result. The same can be said of the 2003 versions to my ear as well but others may disagree. There are definitely those who will defend the merits of versions such as 02.25.03 with that growly tone.
And as for anything from 3.0, well, there simply are not enough top shelf versions to point to in order to make a case that the song has had any sort of resurgence let alone a peak of any sort. The best version by far is the one from Worcester 06.07.12 with our friend Norwegian Wood rearing its head yet again as part of a masterful segment of music in that set but that alone does not carry enough weight to outshine the greatness the song showed throughout its Best Year Ever in 1997.
I rest my case.