BASIC CHANNEL – BCD 2 (2008)

Reviewed by: Roland Bruynesteyn

3584348

After three minutes of listening to Enforcement, the first track on Basic Channel’s BCD 2, I could have made up my mind: this is shitty noise, it’s not even music. I could write a few paragraphs focusing on why I do not like it. I could briefly discuss individual tracks and I could single out some differences between them. I could philosophize about whether this is music at all. I could do all that and the end result would be predictable: Roland does not like it because he’s a dad rocker at heart and this is not dad rock. This review would be useless, then.

So I decided to do something different: I propose to answer the question why somebody would like this. I make this a three-pronged question:

  •         Don’t all tracks sound the same?
  •         There’s not much development going on in any particular song, is there?
  •        Why is this actually good music (rather than bad music or ‘good sounds and         grooves’)?

Don’t all tracks sound the same?

Strange question, Roland. Having a signature sound does not seem to bother you when listening to J.J. Cale, Phish or the Allman Brothers Band. In a sense, it’s what makes one a fan of a certain group in the first place. But to answer the question, no, not really. For instance, Phylyps Trak sounds way more focused on just bass and percussion than Enforcement. Inversion is colored (some would say: dominated) by a Riders On The Storm-type of rain sounds in the back.

There’s not much development going on in any particular song, is there?

There you may be on to something, Roland. Generally, the tracks take their time to slowly develop. It is strongly loop based. But that’s not much of a criticism, is it? You, as a lover of all things krautrock, trancy stuff such as Kitaro/Tangerine Dream/JM Jarre and minimal music such as Philip Glass and Simeon ten Holt should not only respect this, you should love it! The attraction is not so much caused by something as vulgar as a simple, catchy, memorable hook :), but it is indeed way more sophisticated. By elaborating on a theme, slowly adding little variations, the rhythm and the continuity become the hook, sort of.

Why is this actually good music (rather than ‘bad music’ or ‘good sounds and grooves’)?

Well, it IS also ‘good sounds and grooves’, as this is more or less their chosen genre or schtick. And, as music, it has to be judged on those terms, not on some preconceived notion of good music the listener might have.

If a lover of thrillers judges a poem, you’d not expect him to judge the poem as a shitty thriller but to judge it as fiction. This is ambient techno, rather than dad rock. As dad rock, this pretty much sucks, but that’s not really the point. If one ONLY likes dad rock, this will suck. But that really only reflects poorly on the listener that listens with closed ears.

In short: this music may not be hummable or great to sing along to, but it is comforting nonetheless. As a modern-day type of serial music it succeeds. You probably won’t listen to this over and over again on a daily basis, but it is far more satisfying and indeed, rewarding, than some other genres such as punk or heavy metal.

It is less psychedelic, and less melodic than, say, Ozric Tentacles, but in a way, it is more subtle. The slowly, but constantly evolving instrumentation (whether it’s some synth loop, some sound effect or some rhythmic variation) does not keep you anticipating their next move on your toes, but certainly with some expectation to be surprised and delighted.

We will have to believe Tristan if he claims that this is one of the highlights in this genre. As such, I can honestly recommend this to any open-minded music lover with a comprehensive collection. In my collection, it would proudly sit between BBM and the Beach Boys…

Advertisements

Roland’s Column: GRATEFUL DEAD – Dick’s Picks Volumes 1-36 (1993-2005)

Review by: Roland Bruynesteyn

The infamous Dick’s Picks series (DP) of Grateful Dead releases numbers 36 installments. A few facts:

· The series ran from 1993 (when the band was still active) to 2006. Initially, releases came slow and almost without warning. Later on, they settled into a routine of 2 or 3 releases a year (in between other releases).
· The series is named after Dick Latvala, vault keeper and connoisseur of GD concerts. After his death in 1999, David Lemieux became vault keeper (he still is), but out of respect (and because it sounds so nice) the name was retained.
· Dick Latvala says “Hi” from beyond in the DP 15 booklet. As of DP 17, the word “Latvala!” is hidden somewhere in the booklet as a sign of respect.
· All 36 sets were produced from the two-track masters (that were not originally intended for future commercial release). Although they did remaster them, and polish the sound, it was not possible to remix it: if vocals were low in the mix, that’s still the case now.
· A large portion of their active career (1966-1995) is covered, with the first set dating from February 1968, and the last one dating from December 1992.
· As a consecutive ten-year period, 1970-1979 is overrepresented and the 80’s and 90’s are underrepresented, presumably in line with commercial appeal (and the shape Jerry was in, and the audio quality of what’s in the vault). Later big box treatment of the 1990 Spring tour corrected this somewhat, but then again, the complete Europe 1972 tour (73 cd’s…) and smaller boxes and standalone releases (of 1977 especially) put the stress firmly on the 70’s again. 
· The sets run from 1 cd (a second set from 1971) to 6 cd’s (2 full concerts plus bonus songs from 1977), but they mostly number 3 cd’s, i.e. 1 complete concert.
· Compared to other series and standalone releases, artwork and liner notes are pretty minimal, but later on they added some press clippings and the like
· Basically, everything is out of stock, so you’d have to look at ebay, although some are rereleased on cd by Real gone, or on vinyl by Brookvale records.

If you are into the Grateful Dead, they are all pretty much essential. If you’re not into jam music, psychedelic music, country music, bland covers of rock songs by Chuck Berry and meandering fusion music, this is not for you.

That does not mean you cannot enjoy any of their studio albums, of which I recommend Workingman’s Dead and American Beauty. Also, I think you need to get at least Live/Dead, their first live album, which is part of their official discography and can be found new and cheap in good quality.

In describing individual sets, I’ll mostly stick to the following format:
· Release number (number of cd’s), date, venue
· Band members at the time
· Peculiarities about the set lists (rarities, nice transitions, etc.)
· Overall judgement and suggestions for furthur (sic) listening if you think you’d like this one.

I refrain from giving complete set lists, as they can all be found at www.deadlists.com.
 ________________________________________________________
DP1: (2 CD’s) December 12, 1973. Curtis Hixon Convention Hall, Tampa, Florida, US
Band: Jerry Garcia, Keith Godchaux, Bill Kreutzmann, Phil Lesh & Bob Weir.

This is a somewhat tentative first release, as if they did not know what to expect of it, sales wise. It’s not the complete concert. In fact, the remaining songs are not even in their correct order. Donna Jean was giving birth, so you miss her wailing on Playing In The Band and on some other tunes.

Here Comes Sunshine is one of the all time top versions and the sound overall is nicely warm and detailed. 

However, late 1973 was a great period for the band, and competition is fierce. I think this release has been eclipsed by others in the series and releases outside the DP series: DP 19 (October 19) may be my personal favorite Dick’s Pick. And then you have the Winterland box (November 9, 10 & 11, with a great Dark Star), November 14 (from the 30 Trips Box, 30 concerts from the years 1966-1995, not separately available) with a great three part Other One, interrupted by both Big River and Eyes Of The World, and Road trips 4.3 (November 20/21) with an exceptional Playing In The Band > El Paso > Playing In The Band > Wharf Rat > Playing In The Band > Morning Dew sequence.



DP2: (1 CD) October 31, 1971. Ohio Theatre, Columbus, Ohio, US
Band: Jerry Garcia, Keith Godchaux, Bill Kreutzmann, Phil Lesh, Bob Weir

Another tentative release, as this is only the second set (and without the encore), so it’s just a 56-minute single disc, a rarity in GD releases. Pigpen is sick and not present, and Keith is in his first two weeks as a band member. No matter how competent he is, it’s apparent that he’s still learning how to blend in. Donna Jean is not yet a member (she would join early 1972).

The Dark Star is predictably great, and sound quality is nice, but again, with hindsight this release has become slightly irrelevant if you’re not an OCD collector: from the same (short) period with Pigpen and Donna absent I would recommend Dave’s Pick 3 (October 22) and Road Trips 3.2 (November 15). Both contain more tracks (and indeed, complete concerts), a nice essay and equal or better sound quality.

Special note: at least in Europe you can find many semi-legal releases from concerts that were broadcast on the radio during this period. Semi-legal in this case means: legal in Europe, but not necessarily in the US. Packaging is minimal, but so are prices. Sound quality is OK to (very) good, but there is some radio chatter and sometimes some fading in or fading out. Having bought all official releases I didn’t mind buying some of these releases as well.

If you want to go there, consider Northrop (October 19, historically important as it’s the debut of Keith Godchaux and six songs), Harding Theatre (November 7, a rare Hideaway and both Dark Star and the Other One). But regarding sound quality (and from a moral standpoint), go for official releases first.



DP3 (2 CD’s) May 22, 1977. The Sportatorium, Pembroke Pines, Florida, US
Band: Jerry Garcia, Donna Jean Godchaux, Keith Godchaux, Mickey Hart, Bill Kreutzmann, Phil Lesh, Bob Weir.

I hate to inform you, dear reader, but this is an incomplete concert again. Other than that, this is “where it’s at”, as the saying goes. The sound quality is superb, the Sugaree is one of the best ever and the Help On the Way > Slipknot! > Franklin’s Tower is one for the ages as well. In fact, apart from Dancing In The Street, Lazy Lightning > Supplication (which I never like) and Sunrise (well performed, but it’s just a silly sentimental song), all performances are great.

Now, the Spring tour of 1977 (often narrowed down to May 1977, but that’s not really correct) is famous among deadheads. All concerts from this period are great, so your preferred concert likely depends on the set list. One WOULD need a Sugaree from this era, but whether you like the disco rearrangement of Dancing In The Streets is debatable. I don’t, and it is included in this set…

For a long time (actually for 8 years, till the release of Dicks Picks 29, containing the May 19 & 21 concerts), this was the ONLY officially released concert from this period in the Dead’s history. And Cornell (May 8; its reputation towers over all others, partly because it was one of the first easily available tapes) is still not released. I expect a 40th anniversary release in 2017, if they did indeed get the tapes back. In my humble opinion, a Spring 1977 Grateful Dead concert belongs in any serious, substantial music collection. 

Now just sit back and wait for my assessment of the first absolutely essential Dick’s Pick…


And there it is…

DP 4 (3 CD’s) February 13/14, 1970. Fillmore East, New York, US

Band: Jerry Garcia, Mickey Hart, Bill Kreutzmann, Phil Lesh, Pig pen, Bob Weir

Culled from two nights at the Fillmore East (where they shared he bill with the Allman Brothers Band), this one is required listening for anyone with a passing interest in acid rock. This set contains some wild music. Therefore, this is as good a place as any to explain my view on GD music and especially the improvising part, because the ‘wild’ aspect needs some explanation.

First, even in later years (from 1976 onward), when they would have two drummers again, just like 1968-1971, they would never rock as much as in these early years. While they would never rock as hard (or rock at all, some would say) as, say, Led Zeppelin, the Stones or even the Allmans, in 1969-1970 the Dead could and did rock. Both the two drummers and Jerry’s guitar (sound) add to this. In later years they would definitely mellow down, and prefer to play songs more slowed down, and in quite similar tempos.

Secondly, although improvising is the Dead’s middle name, in later years this tended to be somewhat more scripted. To me when improvising in a rock context, listening to others in the band is key, and that is what they do here. Although they take risks (and things do go wrong from time to time), the excitement is palpable. In later years it sometimes felt as if they sort of decided that everybody could make some silly sounds for a few bars (or a few minutes). “And ‘Space’ it shall be called”. Even if their instrumental prowess definitely improved over the years, most surprises are found in the early years.

The main attraction here is obviously the big sequence: 30 minute versions of Dark Star, The Other One and Lovelight. There are only so many 30 minute versions of Lovelight that you need, but this might as well be one of them. Other songs are standouts as well: Mason’s Children never got an official release and this is a good version. Both Alligator and Caution (Do Not Step On Tracks) are Pigpen vehicles and are energetic versions. Caution is an extremely simple song and only succeeds if Pigpen is in great shape, as he obviously is tonight.

If you like this, you’ll surely like DP 16 (from November 1969, with an embryonic, instrumental Uncle John’s Band), DP8 and Road Trips 3.3 (both from May 1970, with an acoustic set, and more songs from Workingman’s Dead). But as mentioned before, these shows are from an early peak in the Dead’s career, and there are other releases from the era: 3 Dave’s Picks, two from a Download (only) Series, a single acoustic disc (featuring Pigpen) and one from the 30 Trips box.

DP 5 (3 CD’s) December 26, 1979. Oakland Auditorium Arena, Oakland, California, US

Band: Jerry Garcia, Mickey Hart, Bill Kreutzmann, Phil Lesh, Brent Mydland, Bob Weir

A big jump in time, to Brent’s first year in the band. He started in April, following Keith’s and Donna’s departure in January. Apart from some pretty average songs and an OK voice (but then Keith did not sing at all), he brings new energy, new keyboard sounds and effective background vocals. This is a powerhouse of a show, and, you guessed right, it’s also the first complete show in the Dick’s Picks series.

Now I have some issues with a show that contains Promised Land PLUS Around & Around PLUS Johnny B. Goode, because the Dead never really did those rockers justice (imo). But other than that, this is a great show of the era. Friend Of The Devil sounds fresh in the new, slowed down, arrangement. Brown Eyed Women and Looks Like Rain sound great as well (if you can get past the lyrics of the latter, ‘the sound of street cats making love, etc.).

But the second set is a real gem. It starts (and finishes) with an Uncle John’s Band for the ages. It always was the ultimate campfire song and this is one of the best versions ever. Songs such as Estimated Prophet, Not Fade Away and Shakedown Street are played with gusto, and still quieter songs such as He’s Gone and Brokedown Palace get all the subtlety and love they deserve. A great show!

Other full shows from this era that deserve mention are October 27 (30 Trips Box) and December 28 (just two days later, from the same venue, released as Road Trips 3.1).

DP 6 (3 CD’s) October 14, 1983. Hartford Civic Center, Hartford, Connecticut, US

Band: Jerry Garcia, Mickey Hart, Bill Kreutzmann, Phil Lesh, Brent Mydland, Bob Weir

The wilderness years… For a long time, until the release of the 30 Trips box, this was the only concert released from the period between August 1982 and November 1985, and with good reason: Jerry’s health was deteriorating, Phil was doing coke and many concerts were improperly recorded (on music cassette, and with weird treatment of (especially) Bobby’s voice).

Although you may have to lower your standards somewhat, this is an absolute gem in a sea of duds: the slowed down version of They Love Each Other is great, as is the still relatively new Althea. Althea is a song close to my heart: lyrically and melody wise it’s just a great composition.

But the real meat is, as so often, in the second set, with an hour of Scarlet Begonia > Fire On The Mountain, Estimated Prophet > Eyes Of The World (all on the second cd). From the nice marimba-like intro to Scarlet, this is one cd that shows the Grateful Dead in the mid 80’s at their best.

As I mentioned before, it is difficult to find releases of this era with the same quality. It took them 19 years to come up with another 1983 release (actually from a week later), October 21, 1983 (30 Trips Box).



DP 7 (3 CD’s) September 1974. Alexandra Palace, London, UK

Band: Jerry Garcia, Donna Jean Godchaux, Keith Godchaux, Phil Lesh, Bob Weir

As the ‘date’, September, indicates, this is a composite show, containing tracks from three separate concerts played in London on September 9, 10 & 11. The first night was plagued by some technical issues, so the decision is at least partly understandable. What’s left is actually some great music with nice versions of Playing In The Band (23 minutes), Not Fade Away (16 minutes) and Dark Star (31 minutes). Dark Star was becoming a rarity by 1974 and this is a nice, rather mellow version.

1974 will always be known for the massive Wall of Sound, at the time the best sound system used by any band during a rock concert. I think it has only been approached by ELP in 1976/7. And ELP also went broke… As the Dead were in their jazzy phase, it was nice to be able to hear all kind of subtleties and intricacies anywhere in the stadium.

In transferring concert tapes to cd, the Wall of Sound is not really a factor, but a lot of great music from 1974 has been released over the years. An absolute standout is the Grateful Dead Movie Soundtrack, a massive 5 cd summary of the week at Winterland in October, before they basically retired from touring (only to return, again with Mickey as second drummer, in June 1976). That set is a nice picture of where they were at the time.

Other notable (non-DP) releases are Dave’s Pick 9 (May 14, this one also has a Dark Star but this time it is not a mellow version but a total melt down). From the same little Europe tour we have September 18 in France (30 Trips Box), notable for the inclusion of Seastones, a 15 minute noisescape (or ‘musique concrète’) by Phil Lesh and Ned Lagin. Rather unlistenable in fact, to the extent that saying “you had to be there” does not suffice.

DP 8 (3 CD’s) May 2, 1970. Harpur College, Binghampton, New York, US

Band: Jerry Garcia, Mickey Hart, Bill Kreutzmann, Phil Lesh, Pigpen, Bob Weir

This is like DP4’s non-identical twin brother, with the added benefit of an acoustic opening set. At the time they were trying to emulate CSN(&Y) vocal stylings, and although they failed at that, they wrote some nice songs (Friend Of The Devil) and played some nice cover songs (Deep Elem Blues) that fitted that style.

The Other One is predictably great (and long, at 28 minutes) and Pigpens showcase, It’s A Man’s World, is nowhere near James Brown’s soulful version but is nice nonetheless.

The Morning Dew is nicely majestic and Viola Lee Blues, simple as it is, at over 15 minutes, does not overstay its welcome. To some deadheads, this period, with Pigpen in great shape, and the improved song writing is one of the best eras in Dead history and it is easy to understand why: a lot of energy, a lot of focus, but with a trippy edge (so why not call it ‘soft focus’?).

They simply ooze musicianship, having great fun on stage and enjoying their new found popularity: Live/Dead had recently come out and sold better than their three previous studio albums, Workingman’s Dead had been recorded and would be released shortly, and they were already writing (and road testing) their songs for American Beauty.

If you like this era, go look for the concert two weeks earlier (April 15, released as part of 30 Trips) or two weeks later (May 15, released as Road Trips 3.3). The latter one has a (big) acoustic set as well, with a few rarities.

DP 9 (3 CD’s) September 16, 1990. Madison Square Garden, New York, New York, US

Band: Jerry Garcia, Mickey Hart, Bruce Hornsby, Bill Kreutzmann, Phil Lesh, Bob Weir, Vince Welnick

A totally different band, due to the fact that keyboardist Brent Mydland died of an overdose in July. The fall tour had been booked (this is the first night of a five night residency at MSG) so they found Vince (formerly of The Tubes) as new keyboard player. Also they asked Bruce Hornsby to sit in (and actually be a full band member) for as long as he could manage, considering his solo career that was taking off at the time.

Two drummers, two guitarists and two keyboard players can sound like a bit of a mess, but Vince and Bruce fit in nicely (especially Bruce’s accordion and acoustic piano). Their latest (and last) studio album (still with Brent) had been released the year before and in 1989/90 they were on a roll, especially live. Switching keyboard players did not pose much of a problem; in the second part of 1990 and into 1991 they played some marvelous concerts (after that it became progressively more hit and miss, mostly due to Jerry).

New songs are a mixed bag: the Dylan covers are all quite nice, mostly better than the Dylan & the Dead cd of their concerts together would have you think. But the blues covers in the first set (this time it’s Little Red Rooster) leave a lot to be desired.

Now seems as good a time as any to elaborate a little on their instrumental skills. Whereas Bob Weir is an underrated rhythm player in my book, caused by playing with Jerry and by (quite often) being rather low in the mix, I think Jerry is actually a little overrated as a guitar player or band member. He had an enormous appetite for experimentation, knew an awful lot of songs, felt at home in jazz, folk/bluegrass, acid rock, boogie, blues, and other genres. He could vary his lines endlessly during improvisations and he has a nice guitar tone. Performances definitely suffered if Jerry was not in good shape. All this may be true, but whether he was really as innovative or important a guitar player as he’s often made out to be, is somewhat open to debate.

In my book, Phil Lesh was (and is) the driving force of the Grateful Dead at their best: steering improvisations, dropping ‘Phil bombs’ and never playing the same line twice (just do not let him sing after 1975…). I think this is especially audible in concerts following changes in the band: as if he feels released by the absence of old routines, Phil then takes the band by the hand. Well, my 0,02.

1989/90 is NOT my favorite period, mostly due to the song based repertoire at the time (rather than jams), but I have to admit there is some exceptional playing to be heard. This show had a major He’s Gone, clocking at 16 minutes and a 25 minute Space > Standing On The Moon > Lunatic Preserve (the latter also a jam). Jams (and Space) were sometimes played by 3 or 4 players only and that is a nice touch.

If you like this particular version of the band, your best bet is Road Trips 2.1. It contains selections from the same week at MSG, mostly from September 19 & 20. Especially with the (hard to find) bonus disc, with songs from September 18, it’s actually a better proposition than DP 9, although that’s a complete concert. October 27 (30 Trips, a show from Paris, France) is nice as well, if only for the great Bird Song.



DP 10 (3 CD’s) December 29, 1977. Winterland Arena, San Francisco, California, US

Band: Jerry Garcia, Mickey Hart, Donna Jean Godchaux, Keith Godchaux, Bill Kreutzmann, Phil Lesh, Bob Weir

Two years before DP5 (Oakland), we find the Dead playing their home state for the festive season. 1977 had been a tremendous year for them and they are in good shape. Funnily, the concert runs a little short, and another 45 minutes from the day after are added at the end of cd 3.

Set list is typical for the times. But beware, a typical set list does not mean that they play the same set list for the complete tour, with only very minor variations (like the Stones, for instance). They always have an extremely large repertoire to draw on, and also the order in which songs are played can and will vary each night. Still you can hear they have been touring a lot, it’s a well-oiled machine, even if it’s a little low on jams.

First set highlights include a tremendous Loser and Sugaree, really one of the songs that defined 1977 for them. The second set is a powerhouse: it opens with the one-two punch of Bertha > Good Lovin’ (the latter sung by Bob Weir since it came back into rotation after Pigpen died). The rest is construed around a big Playing In The Band, that incorporates some other songs, of which China Doll stands out.

As a whole, it’s hard to fault the set, but for me it does not really stand out in the DP series or in 1977. It’s certainly powerful, well played and energetic (but here DP 15 (from September 1977) beats the hell out of it). It also sounds great, but is lacks a little subtlety. From (more or less) the same period I much prefer DP18 (early February, 1978). Also, the concerts that have been released from the beginning of November in New York (released as DP34 and Dave’s Pick 12) get more playing time in my house.

DP 11 (3 CD’s) September 27, 1972. Stanley Theater, Jersey City, New Jersey, US

Band: Jerry Garcia, Donna Jean Godchaux, Keith Godchaux, Bill Kreutzmann, Phil Lesh, Bob Weir

Europe 1972 would be Pigpens last tour; he would die in March 1973 and join the ‘27’- club. This meant they had to adapt the repertoire a little, losing his rapping vehicles and his soul and blues songs. They also lost his presence and his influence in the band (somewhat comparable to that of Brian Jones in the Stones, if more in the general ‘vibe’ rather than his musical prowess) but that role had already diminished a little by 1972.

One can only conclude that they overcame the loss of their founding member, blues singer, harmonica player and (limited) organ player very successfully. Part of the explanation, as far as I can determine, is the amazing amount of new material they were writing at the time.

Both Bob Weir and Jerry Garcia had produced solo albums. All (but one) of Weir’s tunes found their place in the Dead’s regular repertoire, partly because the whole band, minus Pigpen, had played on them in the studio as well. Jerry’s album was a little weirder, but still produced future Dead classics Deal, Sugaree, Loser, To Lay Me Down and The Wheel (from 1976 on). And then there were a lot of other original songs that never found a place on any GD studio album: Jack Straw, Tennessee Jed, Ramble On Rose, He’s Gone, Brown Eyed Women, Bertha and others.

This brings us to DP 11, one of three DP’s covering the Fall tour of 1972, and they’re all great. Which one you prefer might depend on the set list. This one strangely opens with Morning Dew, usually a contemplative song for late in the second set. One could not say it sets the tone because the rest of the first set is rather up tempo, happy, or both, with the exception of Bird Song and Brokedown Palace.

The second set contains half an hour of Playing In The Band > He’s gone and one of the great Dark Stars of 1972, lasting half an hour. 1972 Dark Stars are all great, less jazzy than 1973/74 versions, but more laid back than The Other One (and PITB). This is a great concert in a great year. Other concerts from September are equally great, whether it’s one of the DP’s or the concert released as part of 30 Trips, and the same goes for the shows of November 17 (Dave’s Pick 11) and the second set of November 18 (a single disc standalone release). But, although you can’t go wrong with 1972 Dead, only completists would need them all, so it seems…

DP 12 (4 CD’s) June 26-28, 1974. Providence Civic Center, Providence, Rhode Island, US/Boston Garden, Boston, Massachussetts, US

Band: Jerry Garcia, Donna Jean Godchaux, Keith Godchaux, Bill Kreutzmann, Phil Lesh, Bob Weir

You would have thought that by now they realized that fans want complete shows, but no, it’s another composite show, containing the second set plus encore from June 26, and Seastones, the second set plus encore from June 28.

Whatever the reason for this partial release, the songs that are released are marvelous, and highlights are many: CD 1 (June 26, second set) starts with a brilliant 20 minute China Car Sunflower > I Know You Rider, a top 3 version in my book. After that, we get a 32 minute Trucking, incorporating an Other One Jam and a Spanish Jam. Eyes Of The World is a relatively rare encore, played nicely. The bulk of cd 2 & 3 is the second set from June 28 and it is a monster. It is the first release of a ‘split’ Sugar Magnolia, with Sugar Magnolia proper starting the set and the ‘coda’ Sunshine Daydream ending the set. Between we find a great Row Jimmy, a (relatively rare) To Lay Me Down, a huge jam out of Weather Report Suite and as an encore a nice Ship Of Fools. Although incomplete, this DP shows the major strengths of 1974 Grateful Dead: total control of great material, combined with the ability to jam, ferociously or subtly.

Surprisingly, there are NO complete 1974 concerts released as a DP. We have already discussed Alexandra Palace (DP 7, September 1974). DP 24 contains the March 23 concert (the first real Wall of Sound concert), but misses a few songs. DP 31 is a mix of three August shows. Even the Grateful Dead Movie Soundtrack Box, at five cd’s, does not contain a complete show. Same goes for Road Trips 2.3. Luckily for complete show fetishists, in recent years some complete shows have been released in the Dave’s Picks series, DaP 9 (May 14), DaP 17 (July 19) and DaP 2 (July 31). And from February 24, slightly before the Wall of Sound but totally equal in quality, we have DaP 13.



DP 13 (3 CD’s) May 6, 1981. Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, Uniondale, New York, US

Band: Jerry Garcia, Mickey Hart, Bill Kreutzmann, Phil Lesh, Brent Mydland, Bob Weir

Although a complete concert, which is considered a plus by deadheads (to be discussed in dissecting DP 14), this is not a standout concert from any era, not even 1981 (which is not a top year). At the time of release the goal was probably to represent different eras of the Dead, and to release some songs which had not seen release on a live album yet.

The major highlight, and in fact the only highlight, is the huge He’s Gone, followed by Caution / Spanish jam. He’s Gone is dedicated to Bobby Sands, a member of the IRA who had recently died while on a hunger strike (well, from being on a hunger strike, really). This is one of the very few times the Dead made some kind of political statement in concert (although one could easily argue it’s just a sympathetic gesture and they are not ‘taking sides’ in the Irish conflict in any way). Caution was very rare after Pigpens demise. Although instrumental, the jam is definitely Caution.

The only other noteworthy thing is a 42 minute version of Saint Of Circumstance on cd 2: as it happens, the regular song is followed by a bonus track: a very long (35 minute) Scarlet Begonia > Fire On The Mountain, that dates from November 11, 1979. No matter what deadheads tell you, longer is not always better, and this “Scarlet >Fire” is a case in point.

Unfortunately this DP, like the era, doesn’t grab me that much. I guess this is partly due to a somewhat muffled sound. Also Phil was playing rather simple lines at the time (coke does that to your lines…). If you do like it, the concert of May 16, released as part of 30 Trips would be a better option in my book.

DP 14 (4 CD’s), November 30/December 2, 1973. Boston Music Hall, Boston, Massachussetts, US

Band: Jerry Garcia, Keith Godchaux, Bill Kreutzmann, Phil Lesh, Bob Weir

Less than two weeks before DP 1, this is again the band without Donna Jean on backing vocals. It contains two concerts from the same venue, three days apart.

It is one of my favorite periods of the band, and indeed one of my favorite DP’s, so now is as good a time as any to discuss the average deadheads’ position on the release of full concerts. In one sentence: Only full concerts should be released, warts and all. This is NOT my position, and I have a few arguments to support that position:

1. Even if one in principle respects the idea of a concert as a work of art, that should be enjoyed as a whole, respecting the variation in lead singers, the flow and dynamics, etc., one could concede that fuck ups in particular songs DO interrupt said flow, and it would be better to not release that song
2. One should respect band member wishes about what to release as well. Major fuck ups in songs, that band members feel bad about, could thus prohibit the release of otherwise great sets.
3. Before all of these archival releases started to flood the market, the Grateful Dead did release official live albums: Live/Dead (1969), Grateful Dead/ Skullfuck/Skull and Roses (1971), Europe ‘72 (1972), Bear’s Choice (1973), Steal Your Face (1976, but this one HAS in fact been disowned by the band and did not form part of The Golden Road To Unlimited Devotion, a box containing the first 12 albums), Dead Set and Reckoning (1981) and Without A Net (1990). They were ALL composite concerts and the fact that they were incomplete did not prevent them from being (very) popular: especially Live/Dead has a reputation similar to Live At Leeds, Get Yer Ya-Ya’s out, Waiting For Columbus and Fillmore Concerts (mostly composite concerts as well, btw).

So, while respecting the wish for full concerts, I’m not a fundamentalist in this regard. DP 14 is a nice case in point (even if I do not know what prevented a full release). What we have here is two concerts, bookended by great versions of Morning Dew and great music throughout.

Generally, discs 1 & 3 are first set material, and discs 2 & 4 are second sets. Highlights are too many to mention, but I SHOULD mention Playing In The Band, Eyes Of The World and all of cd 4. Well played, sounding great, this set is pretty essential for Dead heads.

One slight disadvantage I could name, is two versions of Weather Report Suite. It’s not my favorite song, and the two versions presented here are pretty similar. They played it at most concerts of this tour but they could have skipped one of them for this release, if only to to include Loser, Row Jimmy, El Paso and Deal that have been left off.

If you like this period in their career (and you should), there is a lot of music to discover: DP 19 (October 19, no Weather Report) comes to mind first, as it is my favorite. DP 1 has been discussed before. Of the other releases, the Winterland Box (three concerts in a row, November 9, 10 & 11, but three Weather Reports) deserves mention, as does Dave’s Pick 5 (November 17). This one is a personal favorite because of the Playing > Uncle John’s Band > Morning Dew > Uncle Johns’s Band > Playing sequence (and the absence of Weather Report…).

DP 15 (3 CD’s) September 3, 1977. Raceway Park, Englishtown, New Jersey, US

Band: Jerry Garcia, Mickey Hart, Donna Jean Godchaux, Keith Godchaux, Bill Kreutzmann, Phil Lesh, Bob Weir

Another 1977 release, another great set. This was an open-air concert, with 150.000 people in attendance. What the show might miss in intimacy, it more than makes up for in sheer power.

The first set is very good on this one, with Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo being one of the all-time great versions. Peggy-O is very nice as well, with great interplay between Bobby, Keith and Jerry. In the second set, Eyes Of The World is played at a brisk speed, full of energy. While I like me some meandering Eyes, speeded up ones are nice for a change. He’s Gone seems to go into The Other One at first, but ultimately they go into a great Not Fade Away. It’s slow, but full of energy and they take 10 minutes before they start singing.

As I said before, 1977 is all pretty great. Apart from the Spring tour, and the concerts in November that I mentioned in my review of DP 10, some nice concerts are the Winterland Box (3 concerts in June).



DP 16 (3 CD’s) November 8, 1969. Fillmore Auditorium, San Francisco, California, US

Band: Tom Constanten, Jerry Garcia, Mickey Hart, Bill Kreutzmann, Phil Lesh, Pig pen, Bob Weir

Wow! Just, wow! This is an amazing concert from an amazing period in the band’s history, for several reasons.

First, Tom Constanten is in the band. While he is underused (and would leave two months later), he brings a lot of sophistication in the keyboard department. Pigpen is a rudimentary organ player, to put it mildly, and TC, being classically trained and all, gives the band an edge here (I think Phil was instrumental in getting him in in the first place).

Secondly, this band, and indeed this concert, is a perfect mix of the primal dead immortalized on Live/Dead (mostly from late February / early March 1969) and the acoustic, folky dead of 1970. On the one hand, you get powerful versions of Good Morning Little Schoolgirl, Caution (Do Not Step On Tracks) and Lovelight with all the energy you’ve come to expect from 1969, and on the other hand you have early versions of future classics like Casey Jones, Easy Wind and High Time that had not even been released at the time.

Thirdly, cd # 2! That sequence! Dark Star > The Other One > Dark Star > Uncle John’s Band Jam > Dark Star > St Stephen > The Eleven! In my opinion, this is one of the single best cd’s with Grateful Dead music ever released.

Although it’s not jazzy as such (i.e. not in the way they would be in 1973/74), I do claim that the Grateful Dead at this time were more or less at the place where both Jimi Hendrix and Miles Davis (both far better musicians, by the way) were heading: finding (and using) the freedom to tackle whatever song you like, in whatever genre you like, taking as much time as the song needs, while all along improvising as you see fit.

This set is unique among Grateful Dead releases. There is not really more of the same. But if you need more of the somewhat similar, please visit the Seminole Reservation (Road Trips 4.1, May 23-24, 1969) and Dave’s Picks 6, 10 & 19, featuring concerts in December 1969 and January and February 1970 (the latter one after Tom Constanten left the band).

DP 17 (3 CDs), September 25, 1991. Boston Garden, Boston, Massachussetts, US

Band: Jerry Garcia, Mickey Hart, Bruce Hornsby, Bill Kreutzmann, Phil Lesh, Bob Weir, Vince Welnick

In some respects, the 1990/91 Grateful Dead resembles 1973/74 Grateful Dead. First, they dropped all of Brent’s tunes, on the whole a good decision, because they were either not very good or only tolerable when sung by Brent. Secondly, Bruce brings a lot of acoustic piano (like Keith did). He also brings some fusion(-ish) or even jazz chops to the table, whereas Brent was more bluesy and, to be honest, more generic even if very energetic on a good day.

On the other hand the set lists, and indeed the jams had a somewhat more scripted nature:  every first set would have a Dylan tune (here it’s Queen Jane Approximately) and an old blues tune (here it’s Walkin’ Blues). In the second set there would be a Drums/Space segment leading into some modestly jammy song. Sometime after that a Jerry ballad. Often a Dylan encore (this time it’s Quinn the Eskimo). Jerry’s voice was deteriorating, but then lyrical fuck ups were increasing as well, so… And all the experimentation with MIDI would be hit and miss. And yes, that is what we find here.

So what makes this set release worthy? Obviously the playing and the set list. A few things need mention: opening a show with Help On The Way > Slipknot! > Franklin’s Tower is always nice. The rarities It Must Have Been The Roses (achingly beautiful here, and Willie Nelson needs to cover it before he dies) and Crazy Fingers seem written for THIS band, and the latter one segues nicely into a compact Playing In The Band.

Terrapin Station with ending jam (called Boston Clam Jam, I don’t want to know the story behind it) is suitably majestic. Space moves nicely into That Would Be Something (instrumental version of a Paul McCartney song). Stella Blue is one of the better later versions. The combo Throwing Stones > Not Fade Away never fails. And as a bonus you get a Samson & Delilah into a monstrously long (23 minutes) but delicately played Eyes Of The World. The only let down (for me) is the inclusion of Victim Or The Crime, a terrible song in any band configuration.

There are no other DP’s from the same era, but you might be interested in View From The World Soundtrack, volume 2 (impossible to find on cd, $ 10 on dvd). Similar set list (Wang Dang Doodle is the blues tune, Maggie’s Farm is the Dylan tune, It’s all Over Now, Baby Blue is the encore). It may even have a slight edge as it has two Dark Stars, including (as an extra) a 25 minute 1990 version (with Brent, rather than Bruce and Vince). September 10 (released as part of 30 Trips) is comparable and also has a Dark Star (and Branford Marsalis as a guest).

DP 18 (3 CD’s), February 3 & 5, 1978. Dane County Coliseum, Madison, Wisconsin, US. Uni-Dome, University of Northern Iowa, Cedar Falls, Iowa, US

Band: Jerry Garcia, Mickey Hart, Donna Jean Godchaux, Keith Godchaux, Bill Kreutzmann, Phil Lesh, Bob Weir

1978 is a weird year. They had taken the 1977 material as far as they could, and, more importantly, Keith and Donna were nearing the end of their tenure. There were quite a lot of brilliant concerts during the year, including their first sets at Red rock and the Closing of Winterland on December 31. But there were quite a lot of concerts that were very loose even by their standards, both in the sense of being rough and raunchy and in the sense of being sloppy and rather uninspired.

This set is not one of them, probably at least partly due to the fact that it’s another composite set, consisting of the best material of two separate nights. On cd 1 (mostly February 3), we have a nice Dupree’s Diamond Blues and a rocking Passenger. The Music Never Stopped is almost as funky as Shakedown Street, but It’s All Over Now is a bit meh…

The second cd however, is perhaps the best disc of 1978 Grateful Dead music released so far, including DP’s, Dave’s Picks, Road Trip, a set in 30 Trips, a box with 5 concerts in July, a standalone release from the concerts near the pyramids in Egypt AND the Closing Of Winterland. It’s partly the set list: Estimated Prophet > Eyes Of The World > Playing In The Band > The Wheel > Playing In The Band. Nice songs, nice sequence, great segues. But it’s mostly the very inspired playing and singing: more than an hour of oral bliss.

The third cd, with half an hour of Scarlet > Fire and great versions of Wharf Rat and The Other One is no slouch either. I do not even care anymore that both cd’s end with silly Berry covers, Johnny B. Goode and Around And Around. It’s almost some sort of release after the things that went on before.

As discussed, other music in the year cannot hope to match cd 2, but if you like the general sound of 1978, I suggest you investigate July 8 at Red Rocks (July 1978 box, but separately available) and the Closing of Winterland (also on dvd).

Next up: my favorite Dick’s Pick!


DP 19 (3 CD’s), October 19, 1973. Fairgrounds Arena, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, US

Band: Jerry Garcia, Donna Jean Godchaux, Keith Godchaux, Bill Kreutzmann, Phil Lesh, Bob Weir

Since it came out in 2000, this has been my favorite release in the Dick’s Picks series, and it has remained my favorite (or at least a top 3) during the next 6 years of the series (that saw the release of numbers 20 to 36) and forever after. And it even starts with Promised Land and ends with Johnny B. Goode, so go figure!

It’s probably in my top 5 of released Grateful Dead concerts, period. Which is saying a lot, considering I have over 300 concerts by them. At the same time, it does not have my favorite set list, it’s not the most rocking, or the most jazzy or the most jammy, it’s not from my favorite year or favorite version of the band and I couldn’t say that any version of any song in this set is my all-time favorite version of that song. And did I tell you it starts with Promised Land and ends with Johnny B. Goode? So, I’ll take the opportunity to (try to) explain why this for me is the quintessential GD concert and at the same time explain the essence of fandom.

Being an obvious fan of the Grateful Dead, and an OCD collector of their music does not make me blind to their faults: many artists play their instruments better, sing better, write better songs and are, objectively speaking, better bands. In fact, I own many cd’s of many of those other bands.

And I do not necessarily want to defend my love for the Grateful Dead to others, or convince others to start appreciating their music. After all, my enjoyment of their music is not diminished if others disagree with me. But still there is this human need to justify your life choices, or at least, to try to rationalize it in some way.

So:
For me the Grateful Dead is the ultimate hippy group that still became hugely successful and had a long career.
They combined outrageous experimenting with a willingness to entertain their loyal fans.
They combined a hippy dislike of sound business management with a willingness to work hard and tour their asses off.
Or put differently: they outlived most, if not all, of their contemporaries, but did not change their basic approach, nor did they sell out in any way.
They screwed up major gigs (Woodstock, Egypt), and played one of their best concerts ever at a benefit for a struggling yoghurt company.
As one of the original 60’s dinosaurs, they scored their only top 10 hit in 1987, the MTV video age.
They invested a lot in their sound system but invested hardly anything in their public image.
They were ripped off by several of their managers, but still supported a huge group of people around them, and many good causes.
They covered an amazing number of other people’s songs, covering a large number of genres, but excelled in none of them.
They recorded almost all their concerts, but let others record them as well.
When you go see them, you know what to expect, even if they never play the same set list twice.
They play music for when you feel sad, when you feel happy and when you want to dance, sometimes all at the same time.
Now that their most active glory days are behind them, they are STILL making live music, interpreting their body of work and expanding it, turning young people (musicians and potential fans alike) into fans of great music.
Sometimes they play ballads so slow that they almost fall apart, at other times they use rather tricky time signatures.
All in all, I think the Grateful Dead have something to offer to many people, and they have a lot to offer to me.

And yes, most if not all of these little paradoxes are valid observations when you listen to this one concert, Dick’s Pick 19. If you like this one, they have a hell of a lot more in store for you. If you don’t like this one, chances are you won’t like anything by them.

DP 20 (4 CD’s) September 25 & 28, 1976. Capital Centre, Landover, Maryland, US. Onondaga County War Memorial, Syracuse, New Jersey, US

Band: Jerry Garcia, Donna Jean Godchaux, Keith Godchaux, Mickey Hart, Bill Kreutzmann, Phil Lesh, Bob Weir

1976 was an interesting year: after an 18 month hiatus (with only 4 shows), the Grateful Dead returned to touring. They had to slightly rearrange the songs of Mars Hotel and Wake of the Flood (and older ones that debuted in Europe 1972 or later) for the return of Micky Hart as second drummer. Mickey had never played with Keith and Donna (except the second set on October 20, 1974, the last concert before retirement).

They also brought back some oldies in altered form, like St Stephen, High Time, Cosmic Charlie and Dancing In The Streets, and older songs that had not (or hardly ever) been played live, such as The Wheel and Comes A Time, plus a bunch of new covers.

By 1977 everything would work smoothly. If you think 1977 is too slick, 1976 (like 1978) might be for you. Where 1978 tended to be a little rough around the edges because they were a little more energetic AND a little sloppier, 1976 sounds a bit sweeter, but also a little more tentative. Not really rusty, but somehow finding their shape, live on stage.

This is apparent in songs like Bertha or Dancing In The Street: well played, but missing the professionalism of 1977. Then again, many deadheads have a sweet spot for 1976, and it’s easy to hear why: they’re so clearly happy to be on stage again and play their hearts out that you gladly forget little irregularities. And there is actually quite a lot to enjoy: some people think that The Wheel was really a 1976 song. Cosmic Charlie and ballads like Candyman and Comes A Time were played beautifully. Finally, this concert is notable for the (accidentally?) frenetic speed with which Eyes Of The World is performed: it loses some of its hypnotic delicacy in the process but I see it as an illustration of their enthusiasm.

But if you want more from 1976, there are actually better options: Dave’s Pick 4 dates from September 24 and is comparable to this one (but it’s a single, complete concert, and you just might prefer the set list). DP 33 includes two concerts from the beginning of October (it will be dealt with later, but it’s great). On Road Trips 4.5 from June, Crazy Fingers and Looks Like Rain are played perfectly, Sugar Magnolia > US Blues > Sunshine Daydream is great fun and Mission In The Rain (from a Garcia solo album) is a nice rarity. But your best bet would be Dave’s Pick 18 (July 16 and 17). It includes a 16 minute Comes A Time, followed by 40 minutes of Drums > The Other One > Space > Eyes Of The World > Jam > The Other One > Goin’ Down The Road Feeling Bad. And there is a great 45 minute sequence, Playing In The Band > Cosmic Charlie > Spanish Jam > Drums > The Wheel > Playing in the Band on the bonus disc.

DP 21 (3 CD’s), November 1, 1985. Richmond Coliseum, Richmond, Virginia, US

Band: Jerry Garcia, Mickey Hart, Bill Kreutzmann, Phil Lesh, Brent Mydland, Bob Weir

I remember my disappointment in 2001, when it was released. I had nothing of this year, many of the songs that they released in 1987 (on In The Dark) were being road tested already and they celebrated their 20 year anniversary! What’s not to like? Well, this concert for one thing. It was, it is and it will continue to remain my least favorite DP, and probably my least favorite complete concert officially released by the Dead ever.

So I won’t try to sell this to you, but I still want to point out a few highlights: Space is the best tune (and there are two of them, one is a bonus track from September 1980). High Time, He’s Gone, Comes A Time, Brown-Eyed Woman and a few others are well played. But then you have a Spoonful… I love the guts to tackle new songs but once you’ve heard the Cream version, this is laughable. They just cannot get that slow, menacing vibe across. Likewise, Gimme Some Lovin’ (Spencer Davis Group) is not a fun rarity, it’s ridiculous. Gloria (Van Morrison tune) is just plain silly. Also, the overall sound of the thing is annoying, cluttered, muffled and tiring to listen to.


Not surprisingly, not much of 1985 has been released. The 30 Trips set, from June 25, is a lot better with the recent resurrection of Smokestack Lightning (OK) and Cryptical Envelopment as part of The Other One. I prefer the set list, and the sound is a lot better, but on the basis of these two shows, 1985 is not a year that I would like to see a lot more releases of…

DP 22 (2 CD’s) February 23/24, 1968. Kings Beach Bowl, Kings Beach, California, US

Band: Jerry Garcia, Mickey Hart, Bill Kreutzmann, Phil Lesh, Pig pen, Bob Weir

This, ladies and gentlemen, is Primal Dead, and it has been a long time coming. After the release, in 1992, of Two from the Vault, featuring two partial sets from August 1968, 7 months after DP 22, it took nine years for this one and it is (by far) the oldest concert in the DP series.

A few months before, Micky Hart had joined them as second drummer, and this expanded their possibilities as a performing band. At this time they are still playing a lot of covers (Viola Lee Blues, Hurts Me Too, Lovelight, Good Morning Little Schoolgirl), partly because they liked them and because they fit their style, but also because they just did not have a lot of material of their own. Besides, their own material was overly ambitious (or cumbersome as Jerry later put it) and difficult to perform live.

An exception is Dark Star: its structure (such as it is) allowed them to fail, and discover new things in the process. Born Cross-Eyed is at the other extreme: luckily it’s short, and somewhat fun, but it’s a pretty bad song compositionally. Alligator (sandwiching China Cat Sunflower > The Eleven) and New Potato Caboose are very good and the cover of Hurts Me Too is actually great!

Historically, Jerry’s guitar tone, that he would mostly lose by the end of 1969, is the most important factor. Although he’s not flashy at all (and not very sexy on and off stage) in some ways this really WAS his guitar hero phase, even if that’s only because he could not write proper songs write, nor sing with any conviction.

Sound quality is a bit harsh, but OK for the times and you get used to it quickly. So, on the whole, it’s a bit of a mixed bag: you want to love it more than you do, but (or: because) its historical importance overshadows its actual quality.

If you like this era, and to some extent you should, be careful. For the 30 Trips set from 1966 and Rare cuts and Oddities (a compilation of 1966 recordings) the epithet “primal” is a euphemism, I’d call them bad garage rock. By far your best bet is Road Trips 2.2 from 10 days before (Valentine’s Day 1968, a stunning set). Two From The Vault has been mentioned already, and you might also like the 30 Trips sets from 1967 and 1968. The latter one (from October 1968) is basically a warm up run for Live/Dead, mostly recorded 4 months later.

DP 23 (3 CD’s) September 17, 1972. Baltimore Civic Center, Baltimore, Maryland, US

Band: Jerry Garcia, Donna Jean Godchaux, Keith Godchaux, Bill Kreutzmann, Phil Lesh, Bob Weir

I could probably refer to my review of DP 11 from 10 days later (and my review of DP 36 to come): the Fall of 1972 was of consistent high quality. The rest of the US that had not heard the Academy of Music concerts in March, the warm-up set before their departure to Europe, now had a chance to see this amazing machine. 1972 is the favorite year of many deadheads, and is is indeed the year that saw most concerts released: over thirty and counting. The Fall tour had the added advantage of some non-Europe 1972 songs creeping in the set list, but then again Pigpen was gone, which was a big loss.

Playing In The Band and (to a lesser extent) Trucking underwent a major transition in Europe, where they really became new jamming vehicles, next to The Other One and Dark Star. Except for Dark Star, we find them all in this set, and it makes for some great listening (with the Other one needing 39 minutes all by itself…). But other songs, such as Bird Song, He’s Gone and Sing Me Back Home are nicely stretched as well. But also the ‘first set songs’ shine Black-Throated Wind, El Paso and Big River are performed exquisitely.

As I said, there is a wealth of 1972 released, some of it still available. Determining which one is your favorite, or which one is essential, depends on your mood, and on the songs you like most, but imo you cannot go wrong with any concerts in September.

DP 24 (2 CD’s), March 23, 1974. Cow Palace, Daly City, California, US

Band: Jerry Garcia, Donna Jean Godchaux, Keith Godchaux, Bill Kreutzmann, Phil Lesh, Bob Weir

Historically this is an important concert as it is the first one with the full Wall of Sound system, the brilliant, but intimidating sound system that almost ruined the band, but set the standard for years to come. Even Pink Floyd didn’t sound this good in 1974.

The US Blues opener sets the tone: this is a nice concert. A standalone up-tempo Scarlet Begonias, not yet linked to Fire On The Mountain of course, is always nice to hear. Also, this is the first release of a famous medley: Playing In The Band > Uncle John’s Band > Morning Dew > Uncle John’s Band > Playing In The Band. I once did a comparison with the version from November 17, 1973 (released as Dave’s Pick 5), and the latter one does have a slight edge, but this one is great nonetheless.

It is quite annoying that they decided to release the incomplete concert. Several songs are missing and I doubt that it’s technical difficulties that held them back (perhaps some commercial decision, based on the assumption that a 2 cd set would be better because of whatever big box they were releasing that year…).

For that reason alone, I’d probably recommend some other sets, but as discussed before, for complete 1974 concerts you should head to Dave’s Picks. In the DP series, 7 & 12 are also slightly better in my book.



DP 25 (4 CD’s) May 10 & 11, 1978 Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum, New Haven, Connecticut, US/Springfield Civic Center Arena, Springfield, Massachusetts, US

Band: Jerry Garcia, Mickey Hart, Donna Jean Godchaux, Keith Godchaux, Bill Kreutzmann, Phil Lesh, Bob Weir

Although the DP sets had similar packaging designs in batches of six, this one is different, to reflect the fact that it’s number 25 in the series. They should have taken a better concert to celebrate this, I think. This concert shows what’s good and bad about 1978: lots of energy, lots of screaming, lots of rocking, but also an enormous lack of focus and quality, due to coke or mescaline (so it’s claimed).

Highlights are limited: They Love Each Other is nice. Estimated Prophet > Eyes Of The World is as good as you’d expect. Peggy-O is classic and Not Fade Away is decent (although the screaming lets it down). Werewolves Of London (Warren Zevon) is actually great fun. It was a recent single (by an unknown artist at the time), but it’s a fun song in the Dead’s hands. It would become their Halloween tune for some years to come.

But all in all, this is not a release that’s likely to convince many people of 1978’s merits, such as they are. For further listening (or earlier listening, actually), I refer you to DP 18 which beats this release. Also the concert at Red Rocks (July 8) and the Closing of Winterland (December 31) are better sets.

DP 26 (2 CD’s) April 26/27, 1969. Electric Theater, Chicago, Illinois, US / Labor Temple, Minneapolis, Minnesota  

Band: Tom Constanten, Jerry Garcia, Mickey Hart, Bill Kreutzmann, Phil Lesh, Pig pen, Bob Weir

It seems weird, at this stage of the DP series, to release parts of 2 concerts from a great year (and just two months after the concerts that gave us Live/Dead) on just 2 cd’s. It IS weird, and frustrating. However, to put things into perspective, what we have here is actually the first half of the first set of April 26, and the COMPLETE (but rather short) concert of April 27.

On cd 1 we have great versions of Dupree’s Diamond Blues (although the vocals have to settle in a little) and Mountains Of The Moon (a personal favorite) and a rather short The Other One that includes The Eleven. From then on, it’s April 27, and it is basically a very long Turn On Your Lovelight in two parts, with in between nice renditions of Me And My Uncle, Sitting On Top Of The World, Dark Star, St. Stephen and The Eleven. Everything is great, especially the Dark Star > St. Stephen > The Eleven. Encore is a good Morning Dew.

As the set list indicates there were as of yet no folky tunes; they would start showing up during the Fall shows. This is pure acid Dead, not “Primal” perhaps, but the Dead in their Prime anyway. 

As indicated when reviewing DP 16, Road Trip 4.1 (Big Rock Powow Festival in the Indian reservation) is a nice companion piece. You should own Live/Dead and the 3 cd Fillmore West Compilation (the complete 10 cd run is hardly a realistic option, just check ebay). Furthermore you could check out the 30 Trips show from February  22 with a similar set list (but Death Don’t Have No Mercy ‘replaces’ Morning Dew) or Download Series Volume 12, from April 17. Although only available digitally, after Live/Dead, this might be your cheapest option. And I burned it to cd and downloaded the cover art, so dead rockers can do it.

DP 27 (3 CD’s) December 16, 1992. Oakland Coliseum Arena, Oakland, California, US

Band: Jerry Garcia, Mickey Hart, Bill Kreutzmann, Phil Lesh, Bob Weir, Vince Welnick

When this was released in 2003, it was singlehandedly responsible for me not investigating the later part of the Dead’s career. First, the sound: it sounds to me like an audience tape, in the sense that crowd noises interfere too much. The festive atmosphere may have been fun if you were there, but the band sounds like it’s performing in another room, and everybody’s drunk. It seriously detracts from my listening pleasure, to the point where I can hardly judge the set list or the playing.

Then, the performance: I’m not much of a fan of Vince on keyboards, but I assume he used the synthesizers the band asked him to use. As it is, he’s often way too high in the mix, which seems uncalled for as he’s playing rather generic lines (funnily, I like his contributions to Space and Dark Star, so he CAN play).

As we’ve come to expect, it does include a first set blues tune (The Same Thing), a first set Dylan tune (Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again) and a second set Dylan tune (All Along The Watchtower; it’s not the encore however). Highlights, and I use the term in a broad sense, include Row Jimmy and the nice rarity (from December 17) Baba O’ Riley > Tomorrow Never Knows, Vince’s major contribution to the band.

If you want to discover more of this era, I would probably strongly urge you not to. But, truth be told, with the release of 30 Trips, I’ve come to respect the twilight years of their career a little more. Those sets from 1992-1995 are all better than this one, and so is Road Trip 2.4 (from May 26/27, 1993). Just don’t make the last 4 years of the Grateful Dead your first excursion into Dead territory…



DP 28 (4 CD’s), February 26 & 28, 1973. Pershing Municipal Auditorium, Lincoln, Nebraska, US / Salt Palace, Salt Lake City, Utah, US.

Band: Jerry Garcia, Donna Jean Godchaux, Keith Godchaux, Bill Kreutzmann, Phil Lesh, Bob Weir

DP 28 almost contains 2 complete concerts: the first one misses 9 songs (5 of which were played the day after as well, so we still have them) and the second concert only misses Promised Land (but that was played as an opener on the 26th).

So far, this is the earliest officially released concert of 1973, ‘the year after’, one could say. According to the liner notes, Pigpen was ‘present in spirit’, he would die a month later. They had already somewhat adjusted to the loss of Pigpen and ‘his’ repertoire, and new songs were entering the repertoire. Just over two weeks before, February 9, saw the debut of several new songs: Row Jimmy, Loose Lucy, They Love Each Other, Eyes of the World, Here Comes Sunshine, China Doll and Wave That Flag (after a few modifications this would become US Blues). The first four of those are also played on these nights (Eyes is included twice) and they are all very well played.

Add to that great versions of Dark Star and The Other One, and you have a great 1973 set. Then we have the rarity Box Of Rain that they soon stopped playing when Phil couldn’t sing it anymore. Side note: nowadays, he thinks he can sing it again, he can’t, but still he’s the only one who should sing it.

For further listening, there’s not that much available in the first half of the year but Dave’s Pick 16 (March 28) and 21 (April 2) should do nicely!

DP 29 (6 CD’s), May 19 & 21, 1977. Fox Theatre, Atlanta, Georgia, US / Lakeland Center, Lakeland, Florida, US

Band: Jerry Garcia, Mickey Hart, Donna Jean Godchaux, Keith Godchaux, Bill Kreutzmann, Phil Lesh, Bob Weir

This is by far the largest installment in de Dick’s Picks series (6 cd’s), the only one consisting of more than 4 cd’s and the only one including 2 complete concerts, plus about an hour of bonus tracks.

Almost every song is a highlight. Even songs that I do not like, such as Promised Land and the disco Dancing In The Streets, are played very well. Although the Grateful Dead are a real power house in 1977, and they could do no wrong, it’s in a way the ballads that stand out on this release. But a few songs do deserve special mention: Row Jimmy is nicely extended, the slightly syncopated drumming and the rhythm guitar work make it stand out. The big medley on cd3 is great, a short Playing gives way to a fantastic Uncle John’s Band, where they actually start with the ending jam, a nice touch. And after Drums > The Wheel (very ‘percussive’, one of the all time best versions) > China Doll, we move back into Playing.

On May 21, we find a rocking Passenger, a classic Scarlet > Fire and another great second set medley, consisting of He’s Gone > Drums > The Other One > Comes a Time > Saint Stephen > Not Fade Away > St. Stephen. Simply marvelous. This music can be enjoyed while working in the (home) office, while jogging or working out or while doing stuff around the house or in the garden.

As I said before, one needs some (Spring) 1977 Grateful Dead in any comprehensive collection and pound for pound, dollar for dollar, this might be one of your best options. But most other 1977 releases in the Dick’s Picks series, May 1977 box (5 full concerts from the week before), Dave’s Pick volume 1 (a few days later, May 25, but currently doing about $ 200 at ebay) and To Terrapin (May 28) and Winterland (June 7, 8 & 9) are great as well. And expect Cornell, Ithaca (May 8) both as a standalone release and as part of a small box (called May 1977, The Other One) in May 2017…

DP 30 (4 CD’s), March 25 & 28 (one song March 27). Academy of Music, New York, New York, US

Band: Jerry Garcia, Donna Jean Godchaux, Keith Godchaux, Bill Kreutzmann, Phil Lesh, Pigpen, Bob Weir

This week of shows at the Academy Music, organized to raise money for the trip to Europe the week after, was basically a farewell party. As such, it is quite comparable with the shows in Europe, with three pretty major exceptions. First, no matter how integrated she sounds in Europe, March 25 marks the debut of Donna Jean as an official member. Second, for the first set (of March 25) they are joined by Bo Diddley (well, actually they are more or less his backing band) and they play some songs they would never play again. They play Hey, Bo Diddley, I’m A Man, I’ve Seen Them All (Bo comes over as an arrogant prick on this one) a Jam and Mona. Fun, and the first major collaboration that is released (usually there are legal issues prohibiting this sort of thing).

Third, without Bo, they play Are You Lonely For Me Baby? and How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You). Both (especially How Sweet It Is) would be played regularly by Jerry bands in the future, but these are the only Grateful Dead versions ever. Not that that as such makes them essential in any way, but still, it’s fun.

Other nice songs are Smokestack Lightning, that they did not play in Europe, so this is actually the last time it’s performed by the band (until it was revived in 1985) and a nice Other One.

If you like this version of the band and this repertoire (and yes, you really should!), there is a wealth of complete shows to choose from. You cannot go wrong with any concert from the massive Europe 1972 tour (that I may get to review in the future…).

But there have been a few more releases from the shows at the Academy of Music: a Dave’s Pick with the full concert from March 26 (plus a bonus disc with additional music from that week). There is also a bonus disc with additional music from March 22 & 23 that was sent with early orders of Rockin’ the Rhine (Düsseldorf concert, later rereleased as part of the Europe 1972 box set).

As you know, after Europe, Pigpen no longer performed with the band (except for once playing the organ, on June 17), so all the concerts in late Summer and Fall (great as they are!) are to be distinguished from the concerts earlier in the year.



DP 31 (4 CD’s) August 4, 5, 6, 1974. Philadelphia Civic Center Philadelphia, Pennsylvania / Roosevelt Stadium, Jersey City, New Jersey, US

Band: Jerry Garcia, Mickey Hart, Donna Jean Godchaux, Keith Godchaux, Bill Kreutzmann, Phil Lesh, Bob Weir

A full-blown compilation (nearly 5 hours) from 3 Wall of Sound shows in the Summer of 1974. Sounds great! The first cd has songs from August 4 and 5, the next three cd’s each present highlights from August 4, 5 and 6 respectively. Nowadays, you’d think they would construct a minibox with all three shows, because what we have here is very good. But then again, perhaps these are the best bits.

If you expect me to highlight the longer songs (apart from Weather Report Suite, obviously), you’re right, and I’ll get to those. Some of the smaller songs are performed extremely well. China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider is a good example, although that may be because it moves into big song territory at 16 minutes…). Same goes for Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo > It Must Have Been The Roses, a great combo.

But then, the long ones: the opening Playing In The Band is one of the ‘fusionishest’ ever, and it’s very nice. Even Donna, who sometimes wails a little too much, particularly on this tune, is doing great. Eyes of The World is also a contender for a BOAT version (best of all time, don’t know if it’s deadspeak or a normal American abbreviation), and it’s certainly one of the best by this version of the band.

Also, the jams! I may not like Weather Report Suite that much, but the outro jam (into Wharf Rat) is exceptionally well played. Same goes for Truckin’> Jam > Other One Jam > Space: half an hour of art is created llive  in front of you!

As mentioned before, most releases of 1974 used to be chopped up concerts: DP 7 from London in September is a close relative, and so are DP 12 (June) and the Grateful Dead Movie Soundtrack box from that last week in October before ‘the hiatus’. If you are not a complete set fetishist, these four releases are a good summary of their 1974 sound. However, a few years ago, in the 30 Trips box, a concert from France (September 18) was released. Other complete concerts can be found in the Dave’s Picks series.

DP 32 (2 CD’s) August 7, 1982. Alpine Valley Music Centre, East Troy, Wisconsin, US

Band: Jerry Garcia, Mickey Hart, Bill Kreutzmann, Phil Lesh, Brent Mydland, Bob Weir

The 1980’s are not well served in Grateful Dead history. There are several reasons for this. In some years Jerry was not feeling OK (he went into a diabetic coma in 1986 and more or less had to learn how to play the guitar all over again). On this release his voice can be pretty bad sometimes. Many shows were, for some reason, not properly recorded or mixed. Somehow the sense of adventure was lacking: Brent’s initial years (1979-1981) and his final years (1988 – 1990) were great, but in between is was hit and miss for the band.

This concert had been recorded on a cassette (!), and it shows: strangely echoey vocals, low bass and bad positioning of instruments in the mix. Although playing as a whole is not plain bad, I struggled to see why they released the show. I came up with a few possible explanations, apart from “We just have to release something from 1982!”.

The Music Never Stopped > Sugaree > The Music Never Stopped is an interesting opener. They performed this combo only twice, and this is the only released version. Unfortunately they’re not really segueing into each other. The transitions are in fact extremely awkward: they basically stop playing one song and immediately start playing the next. Clunky.

Nice set list. Beat It On Down The Line and On The Road Again are (relative) rarities plus first release of Man Smart, Woman Smarter. The second set medley (Playing > Drums > Space > The Wheel > Playing > Morning Dew) is great. Let It Grow goes ‘hard rock’. 

All true (and Let It Grow is pretty special), but call me a snob, I just cannot get through the sound quality and the somewhat uninspired playing: this Dick’s Pick is not for me. If it is yours, Road Trips 4.4 (April 6 plus parts of April 5) and July 31 (part of 30 Trips) are better sounding and suggest that all is not lost for 1982.

DP 33 (4 CD’s) October 9 & 10, 1976. Oakland Coliseum Stadium, Oakland, California, US

Band: Jerry Garcia, Mickey Hart, Donna Jean Godchaux, Keith Godchaux, Bill Kreutzmann, Phil Lesh, Bob Weir

These two concerts (called Day In The Green) were organized by Billy Graham and featured two full concerts by The Who and the Grateful Dead for 40.000 people. On the 9th the Dead performed first, on the 10th The Who opened. It has been suggested that Pete Townshend asked to go first on the 10th as they were outclassed by the Dead. Even as a deadhead I find that somewhat hard to believe, as far as sheer energy goes, but perhaps the fact that the Dead played more or less in their hometown played a role.

Anyway, this concert took place a few months after the Dead went back on the road after their 18 month hiatus, and the energy is palpable. To stress that, they open the first concert with Promised Land and finish the second one with Johnny B. Goode. They have not yet arrived at their 1977 sound and energy level, but the enthusiasm is surely there. A song like Cassidy (not a favorite of mine by any means) really found its place this year and is sung nicely by Bobby and Donna. Looks Like Rain is almost a gospel tune. Scarlet Begonias is predictably funky. Sugaree is one of the songs that’s clearly hinting at things to come: nothing wrong with it as such (may be one of the highlights of the first set), but it doesn’t really show its full potential yet.

But, as is so often the case, the second set is where things take off: St. Stephen goes nicely into Not Fade Away and the big medley is based around Help On The Way, Slipknot! and Franklin’s Tower. Franklin’s Tower is basically a speeded up version of Walk On The Wild Side (similarly being based on two chords mostly), but is always comes as a nice release after Slipknot!

October 10 is even better in my opinion. Another nice Cassidy, a great Loser, one of the first electric (and very slow) versions of Friend Of The Devil and a rather unique Dancing In The Streets > Wharf Rat > Dancing In The Streets. The one thing I do not like about the disco Dancing (apart from it being disco, rather than r’n’b as in Pigpens days), is the fact that Bobby and Donna do not really sing but rap or scream in an extremely monotonous manner, completely destroying the melody. What saves the tune (sometimes) is the music underneath, and that’s the case here: the first part of Dancing almost moves into Playing In The Band territory and the transitions are well played, especially the transition back into Dancing.

The second set has a medley similar to DP 32 but it also includes both The Other One and Stella Blue, to great effect: Playing > Drums > The Wheel > Space > The Other One > Stella Blue > Playing > Morning Dew. All in all, almost an hour of terrific music.

This is probably the best 1976 Dick’s Pick, although DP 20 is great as well. Other full concerts are Live at the Cow Palace (December 31, 1976)Dave’s Pick 4 and 18. I do recommend the latter one, especially if you can locate the bonus disc. Just keep in mind that 1976 has its attractions regarding set lists and delicate playing, but is widely considered some sort of prelude to 1977.



DP 33 (4 CD’s) October 9 & 10, 1976. Oakland Coliseum Stadium, Oakland, California, US

Band: Jerry Garcia, Mickey Hart, Donna Jean Godchaux, Keith Godchaux, Bill Kreutzmann, Phil Lesh, Bob Weir

These two concerts (called Day In The Green) were organized by Billy Graham and featured two full concerts by The Who and the Grateful Dead for 40.000 people. On the 9th the Dead performed first, on the 10th The Who opened. It has been suggested that Pete Townshend asked to go first on the 10th as they were outclassed by the Dead. Even as a deadhead I find that somewhat hard to believe, as far as sheer energy goes, but perhaps the fact that the Dead played more or less in their hometown played a role.

Anyway, this concert took place a few months after the Dead went back on the road after their 18 month hiatus, and the energy is palpable. To stress that, they open the first concert with Promised Land and finish the second one with Johny B. Goode. They have not yet arrived at their 1977 sound and energy level, but the enthusiasm is surely there. A song like Cassidy (not a favorite of mine by any means) really found its place this year and is sung nicely by Bobby and Donna. Looks Like Rain is almost a gospel tune. Scarlet Begonias is predictably funky. Sugaree is one of the songs that’s clearly hinting at things to come: nothing wrong with it as such (may be one of the highlights of the first set), but it doesn’t really show its full potential yet.

But, as is so often the case, the second set is where things take off: St. Stephen goes nicely into Not Fade Away and the big medley is based around Help On The Way, Slipknot! and Franklin’s Tower. Franklin’s Tower is compositionally a speeded up version of Walk On The Wild Side (similarly being based on two chords mostly), but is always comes as a nice release after Slipknot!

October 10 is even better in my opinion. Another nice Cassidy, a great Loser, one of the first electric (and very slow) versions of Friend Of The Devil and a rather unique Dancing In The Streets > Wharf Rat > Dancing In The Streets. The one thing I do not like about the disco Dancing (apart from it being disco, rather than r’n’b as in Pigpens days), is the fact that Bobby and Donna do not really sing but rap or scream in an extremely monotonous manner. What saves the tune (sometimes) is the music underneath, and that’s the case here: the first part of Dancing almost moves into Playing In The Band territory and the transitions are well played, especially the transition back into Dancing.

The second set has a medley similar to DP 32 but it also includes both The Other One and Stella Blue, to great effect: Playing > Drums > The Wheel > Space > The Other One > Stella Blue > Playing > Morning Dew. All in all, almost an hour of terrific music.

This is probably the best 1976 Dick’s Pick, although DP 20 is great as well. Other full concerts are Live at the Cow Palace (December 31, 1976), Dave’s Pick 4 and 18. I do recommend the latter one, especially if you can locate the bonus disc. Just keep in mind that 1976 has its attractions regarding set lists and delicate playing, but is widely considered some sort of prelude to 1977.

DP 34 (3 CD’s) November 5, 1977. Community War Memorial, Rochester, New York, New York, US

Band: Jerry Garcia, Donna Jean Godchaux, Keith Godchaux, Mickey Hart, Bill Kreutzmann, Phil Lesh, Bob Weir.

In many ways a typical high energy 1977 show, with a few twists: first this is a Phil show: not only does he gets a ‘solo’ recognized as a separate track, he really drives the proceedings, notably so on The Other One. Secondly, and unfortunately, at the end the sound quality is somewhat less: the master reels were lost apparently, so they use a cassette master for part of the show. Once you’re used to it, it’s OK really, and the material warrants release, but still, with all the good shows in 1977 you wonder about this choice.

Standout tracks are Mississippi Half-step, Looks Like Rain (a beautiful duet yet again) and Eyes Of The World, even if Jerry is absent at the end (broken string probably). The bonus material from November 2 includes a nice Might As Well and a second Estimated Prophet, segueing into a nice St. Stephen and a ferocious Truckin’.

If this is to your liking, you know a lot of 1977 has been released, including several Dick’s Picks (closest in time are nos. 10 and 15). The concert from the day before, November 4, has been released as Dave’s Pick 4. It is of similar quality (and also quite Phil-driven), and contains a very nice and long Stella Blues and the rarity (for the time) Dupree’s Diamond Blues. Also, it contains more bonus material from November 2, so that, apart from Samson And Delilah, Good Lovin’ and Sunrise (all included on either DP 34 or DaP 4) and Ship Of Fools, you have the complete concert from that date as well.

DP 35 (4 CD’s) August 6, 7, 24, 1971. Hollywood Palladium, Hollywood, California, US (7 songs) / Convention Hall, San Diego, California, US (full show) / Auditorium Theater, Chicago, Illinois, US (16 songs).

Band: Jerry Garcia, Bill Kreutzmann, Phil Lesh, Pigpen, Bob Weir

DP 35, AKA the Houseboat Tapes, contains music from shows in 1971 that were considered lost for decades. They were found by Donna while cleaning outa boat she and Keith owned. Presumably they were given to Keith to familiarize himself with the Dead’s music before he joined in October 1971. So we have less keyboard work but more Pigpen songs, including a major (25 minute) Lovelight.

1971 is an interesting transitional year for the band: Micky left in February (at least partly because he felt ashamed that his father had cheated the band out of a lot of money) and Keith joined in October. Also, after the show on August 26, Pigpen did not perform until December, so from October 19 on, Keith played some shows as only keyboard player. This set from the Summer (so with Pigpen and without Keith) shows that they did great: they had all this new material written, both as a group and individually, they were in great shape and I always feel that single drummer Grateful Dead is a little leaner.

This set contains a lot of great music: one of the earlier versions of The Other One that sandwiches another song (in this case Me & My Uncle), at 18 minutes combined but a glimpse of what was to come in 1972. Then we have the relative rarity Hurts Me Too, and the absolute rarity Empty Pages, a Pigpen song that was only played twice, this being the only released version.

Releases from this band configuration are rare. Your best bet would be Road Trip 1.3 that contains more music from the Houseboat Tapes. On the accompanying bonus disc there’s a famous Hard To Handle, one of the best ever.

You might also try Ladies & Gentlemen … The Grateful Dead, a 4 cd set documenting the last week in April 1971. It makes ‘The Grateful Dead’, an official live cd dating from the same period (and released between Live/Dead and Europe ’72) more or less redundant. Releases from the Fall tour (including DP 2 and the radio broadcast sets mentioned earlier) all include Keith as a piano player.

DP 36 (4 CD’s) September 21, 1972. The Spectrum, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, US
Band: Jerry Garcia, Mickey Hart, Donna Jean Godchaux, Keith Godchaux, Bill Kreutzmann, Phil Lesh, Bob Weir

The DP series goes out with a bang. This performance dates from between DP 23 (September 17) and DP 11 (September 27), and it is the best of the three. It’s song selection is great (especially with the 3 bonus songs: 50 minutes of He’s Gone > The Other One > Wharf Rat) and the playing is phenomenal.

In the first set Bird Song is very well played (with that meandering feeling the better Eyes Of The Worlds have as well), as are Loser, a driving Cumberland Blues and Black-throated Wind. And Playing In The Band. Well, everything, really. The second set starts with a typical He’s Gone > Truckin’. It’s a little more laid back than you’d expect, and truly wonderful. Then we have the Dark Star > Morning Dew, and this Dark Star is great! It’s long (37 minutes) and has a very nice bluegrassy jam at the end, leading into Morning Dew. It is rightly famous as one of the best ever. After that, the speedy Friend Of The Devil and the Not Fade Away > Goin’ Down The Road Feeling Bad > Not Fade Away seem but an afterthought, but they are performed nicely. This is a great concert from a band in its prime and you should get it!

As indicated, there are two highly similar concerts released in the DP series. One cannot discuss Summer/Fall 1972 without referring to Veneta, a concert from August 27, that is available as a standalone release including a dvd that partially captures the concert in Woodstock-like style (“poleman,” anyone?). However, the concerts in Europe may ultimately have the advantage of still having Pigpen.

Final thoughts on the Dick’s Picks series

Over the years, the Grateful Dead have released a ridiculous amount of live cds, documenting complete tours. The DP series sort of started this (One and Two From The Vault were released just prior to DP 1). In many ways these live releases present a far better picture of what the band was capable of than their studio albums could ever hope to do.

Recording all their shows has proven to be a game changer. Other bands (from Phish to Pearl Jam) have followed this example over the last 20 years. For band members it’s a nice retirement fund. To collect them takes a lot of space, a lot of money, a lot of time and sometimes a lot of stress for collectors (if the next limited release is announced and http://www.dead.net  crashes).

Obviously it’s not all good. They had their ups and downs, individually and as a band. Some songs suck sometimes, some songs suck always (looking at you, Victim Or The Crime, Gentlemen, Start Your Engines and Eternity!). Personal preference etc. I’m not recommending anyone to become an OCD collector, especially at this late stage.

But as a side note, picture this: I recently bought two From the Vault releases by the Rolling Stones, Hampton Coliseum (1981) and Live in Leeds (1982). Two concerts, a year apart, deemed worthy of release by mr Jagger and mr Richards. Hampton has Waiting On A Friend and Let It Bleed, whereas Leeds has Angie. ALL other songs (23) are IDENTICAL and played in EXACTLY THE SAME ORDER!

This is an even better way to tarnish the Stones’ reputation (after Some Girls) than Dirty Work or A Bigger Bang could ever hope to achieve. But, no wonder they sound more professional and are considered better businessmen than the Grateful Dead…

If you are not a GD fan, but like their general style and want to invest in some of their music, should you buy all the Dick’s Picks? No, so let me help you. While reviewing, I refrained from giving simple ratings (like 8/10), because I prefer to argue the case. But I will give you my top 5 of this series. In chronological order:

DP 8 – One of the best of 1970: a full show, including an acoustic set, Pigpen in fine form.

DP 35 – Folky, bluesy, rocky, jazzy and jammy. This composite set has it all, in great sound.

DP 36 – Not DP30 (with Pigpen), because you’ll need some release of the Europe 1972 tour anyway, see below.

DP 19 – Duh.

DP 29 – 1977 is pretty much essential and with the Dead (unlike modern architecture), ‘more is more’, always.

As it’s a top 5, it is necessarily an incomplete picture of their career. Some eras are missing but that’s partly because they are better served by other releases in other series. So, where next?

1968: go for Road Trip 2.2, Two from the Vault or the 30 Trips set, all better than DP 22, imo.
1969: Live/Dead is essential and only $ 9,- (if possible go for Fillmore West box: 3 cds or 10 cds). DP 16 is great as well
1970: DP 4 is great, as is 30 trips set and Road Trips 3.3
1971: just about anything you can get your hands on. Ladies & Gentlemen … The Grateful Dead is a nice 4 cd compilation from early in the year, and, if I remember correctly, the only archival release reviewed by George.
1972: for starters: Steppin’ out with the Grateful Dead (a compilation of UK shows), Europe ’72 volume 1 & 2 (also compilations from the tour) and Sunshine Daydream (August 27, slightly overrated, perhaps, but it adds visual content), but really just about anything you can get your hands on
1973: just about anything you can get your hands on; the jazziness increases throughout the year
1974: complete concerts are mostly released in Dave’s Picks Series, not as a DP. Grateful Dead Movie Soundtrack may be THE best compilation ever of the Dead (at a given point in time).
1977: Spring is great, but so is the fall.


The last 18 years of the Grateful Dead are not worthless. Especially 1989/90 is a great, late career high for the band, and this is recognized with close to 50 complete concerts released, some of them with dvd. Other than that it’s really hit and miss, but I still have a soft spot for DP 5, 6 & 18. Late period Dead is also nicely covered in the career spanning So Many Roads box set.