The Grateful Dead
Holy Shit! That's a lot of albums for a bunch of lazy hippies!
I feel kind of weird reviewing the Grateful Dead for this site. I mean, it's a legendary group with 10 million records currently in release. Most people who aren't hippies or have any sort of 'rock 'n' roll integrity' at all probably feel like they are obligated to hate the shit out of this group. If you are initiated into the club you probably enjoy all of their records and are unable to distinguish between the good stuff and the flop.
But since I'm the only person I know that owns damn near all this stuff, I'm gonna give this a try. I'll also attempt to stay objective here, but goddamn it, if you're reading a review for something called Dicks Picks Volume 19 you are probably not perusing for your first purchase. I'm going to gush over the songs I like, whether the 'average uninitiated music buyer' will ever want to listen to it or not. And, sorry, Deadheads, I'm not going to describe how much I like a particular solo in your favorite 1982 version of 'U.S. Blues' if I, in fact, think the concert is shit. Some of the stuff the Dead did is truly worth all of the derision you can heap upon it. And conversely, some of it is worth every bit of praise you wish to give it.
Holy shit this band played a bunch of notes in 30 years. I mean Jerry Garcia would play damn near 3 hours of his life like 100 days a year. That's like (punch punch punch)...3.14159 hours of playing a year! Take out an hour for drum solos and you've got just about the same number of notes in Van Halen's 'Eruption'.
But seriously folks. The jamming gets to ya. If you aren't like Prindle and can stand some country in your life, mixed with some psychedelia and a bunch of boogie, some awful soul and blues, it'll sink in under your skin and intravenously inject 'marijuana' into your 'brain' causing you to 'buy all 500 live albums' and 'trade tapes' with other 'Heads' of 'useless concerts' from '1983'.
(note: If you actually like tapes from 1983, email me and we'll set up a tree)
Shit, sorry, went into Deadhead speak there for a sec. Back to Objective Reviewerhood.
The studio albums, good as they are, just don't have the same snap at all. This band was best playing completely blasted in front of a completely blasted audience where they didn't know what song would arise next (or probably what they just finished playing). The albums start out as primal psychedelia done pretty nice. Then it's on to country for a year, then...nothing for 3 years. Where the later studio albums go wrong after this is to attempt to treat this band like just any other 70's California band (like Jefferson Starship, Fleetwood Mac, the Eagles, or Fear) and make hits out of crap songs. You see, they really wanted to have a hit song, but couldn't fucking do it. Luckily they ignored this urge on some tracks, and simply played Grateful Dead songs, leaving us with some good caca 25 years after the fact. They only had a genuine hit long after they'd stopped trying altogether. Then they shaped up for another 3-4 years, released another piece of shit, then it was back to Bad Drugged Concertsville for a little bit and then Jerry died and that's it.
This band was just like a baseball team you really love. You go to see them, eat your items from the concession stand (or dealer) go really crazy when they score, feel bad when they lose, and regardless of whether they'll ever they'll ever go all the way, get a little misty when the season ends. They traded players often, so you needed a lineup card to keep track. They hovered in the cellar for their last few years, but you still loved to see the old vets stroll out there. Now their star has retired from the mound and it's not the same, but it's still nice to look over old box scores and think of nice evenings under the lights.
So ask yourself. Are you ready to step inside and try to grasp what this was all about? You're going to need a lot of patience and a lot of money.
Grateful Dead - Warner Bros. 1967.
This one is called 'Primal Dead' more times than I can stomach, but goddamn flies in my soup it sounds like nothing they ever did again. This is really weird and fast and not completely very good. It's definitely the most un-Dead album they ever put out. Even though it's got some forever concert standards on it ('Cold Rain and Snow', 'Good Morning Little Schoolgirl' and maaan 'Morning Dew'). They sound really sped up and organ-y on this one.
You see, Ron 'Pigpen' McKernan, organist, singer, and resident non-hippie, used to be like the real leader of this outfit, at least for a short time. His blues and soul leanings push this group in a direction they were never completely comfortable in, but at least on this one, it was just about the only direction they knew. He also sings a bunch here.
If you're a fan of early psychedelia, you'll probably dig it, but they don't even work that mine of gold at all like they do on the next year's Anthem of the Sun. They generally just don't know what they're doing yet on this one.
This one is one to get after quite a few of the others. Its enjoyable, but nothing that will make you say, want to listen to it twice in close succession.
Click Here to Email Me Your Reader Comments or Click Here to Fill Out the Handy Dandy Reader Comment Form
Zach Smith Your Rating: C+ Any Short Comments?: Yechh. Even if Golden Road, beat it, and morning dew are good, too much keyboards yechhiness gets on my nerves! Oh, and Cream Puff War is good too.
Anthem of the Sun - Warner Bros. 1968.
Now here is where the adventure begins, Remo Williams! Gol Durn it if this aint one of the weirdest pieces of plastic to cross my laser beam. Its neither drug-failure strange like, say the Rolling Stones Satanic Majesties or post-everything trying to be cool strangeness like the Boredoms or some crap. Its just really really weird in a we-know-the-chemist-that-first-synthesized -LSD-and-now-hes-our-soundman sort of way.
Look at that track listing and tell me this aint strangeness, baby!
But the songs are good. Damn near all of them. The Other OneàNew Potato Cabooseà Born Cross-Eyed is a masterpiece the band never equaled on record, at least as long as they attempted these sorts of long weird things. Other One is not as intense as it would later be in concert, where all the sound effects were excised, but its still all good. And most of it was recorded live with other bits stuck on it like dingle berries. Pretty snazzy. Potato continues in the TOO vein, and 'Born Cross Eyed' is an extremely weird little song.
The rest of the album is not quite as odd as that, but isnt much of a reprieve. Its also, not surprisingly, not as good. Alligator is a long and goofy mostly live boogie tune. This is the kind of song an Allman Brothers fan would really dig. Caution keeps chuggering and jamming on, but it just never seems to light my farts.
Listening to the album, it always surprises me how quickly it goes by. I feel I need to listen again to try to see if I missed something, and most of the time, I did. A good one, a real good one here.
Zach Smith Your Rating: B Any Short Comments?: Much better.... Studio side, and alligator rocks, but Caution is one of the weakest songs i have ever heard
Two From the Vault (8/23-8/24/68) - Grateful Dead Records 1992.
The release of the earliest Dead show so far, and with all of the Vault releases, the sound is exemplary in quality. The band is also in full flight acid rock mode ere in 1968. Good Morning Little Schoolgirl does its thing nicely, but Ill be damned if I can tell the difference between versions of this song. Jerrys voice on 'St. Stephen' aint all that hot, tho. A short Dark Star (10 minutes) and one of the bestest The Other Ones youll ever get, PLUS! AS AN ADDED BONUS! ONLY IF YOU ORDER IN THE NEXT 15 MINUTES! New Potato Caboose on the end of that bastard.
And Lovelight and Morning Dew. And it's only two discs, so it's like it saves you money, but only if you think giving the Grateful Dead money for only two discs instead of three saves you any money. If you do, put the bong down.
Matt Wilson Your Rating: A Any Short Comments?: This is a great album, almost the equal of 'Live Dead.' Had it been released in the '60s it would have been one of (if not the) best live records of the decade. The 'Anthem' songs are actually done better here and you get a preview of the 'Live Dead' stuff before they had perfected it. Good call on your rating. The fact that you give the Fillmore East '69 show the same rating shows your lack of ability to distinguish great Dead from merely good though (the exact same thing you complained about in your intro). (Capn's Response: Well, I like MY excellent Grateful Dead show from 1969 more than you like YOUR excellent Grateful Dead show from 1968, so I win! Fuckhead!)
Your Name: Jeff Blehar email@example.com Your Rating: B
Any Short Comments?: Well obviously neither of you two dudes know what you're talking about, because Dick's Picks 22 (King's Beach Bowl, Lake Tahoe CA 2/23-24/68) is the earliest officially available live Dead release, and it kicks the crap out of Two From The Vault! (Just kidding about you not knowing what you're talking about - but it's time to update this page!) The sound quality is pretty weak, however, and sometimes Jerry and Bob are off-mike. But whoa, what a tracklisting and what performances. It really deserves a review - one of the finest DP's released yet. I give Two From The Vault a B because, other than a definitive "New Potato Caboose" and a much better "Death Don't Have No Mercy" than the Live/Dead version, it just doesn't excite me that much. There are two other officially released "early" Dark Stars, both from February 1968 (one is on DP22 and is majestic and the other is on So Many Roads and is good) beat this one flat, "St. Stephen" is still way too primitive (far better in February/March 1969), and yet again Jerry fails to stick the opening flourish of "The Eleven." As an addendum, this concert comes completely from the 24th of August (it's a complete show). The reason the CD is mislabelled as also containing stuff from the 23rd is because it was originally slated to before it was cut. That material, "Alligator"-->"Caution"-->"Feedback," is utterly, unbelievably stunning. It's now available as the bonus tracks on the reissued Anthem Of The Sun, and it's superior to everything on this album. The best "Alligator" ever, perhaps, and that's near to being my favorite Dead jamming vehicle.
Another winner. This one has no long extended things . man its got songs on it. 3 or 4 minutes most of them. And songs it does. St. Stephen! China Cat Sunflower! Cosmic Charlie! Does any Grateful Dead fan look at those songs and not get all drooly so they have to go get a napkin and wipe off the keyboard or else go buy a new one, which would dreadfully reduce the amount of time one would be afforded to sitting and reading Grateful Dead reviews and downloading all the million and a half concerts now available for free on the internet?
And that cool guitar tone on this album! Splurt!
But then you look at the Second Tier songs. Wow, man, still good! Duprees Diamond Blues is a cute little ditty about killing a jewelry store owner because you have to get your woman a diamond for her to give you any sweet sweet jelly. Mountains of the Moon is grand, also. Listen Jerrys cool voice while he plays some amazingly pretty acoustic guitar there along with a harpsichord courtesy of Tom Christensen, who took over on second keys until 1970. Doin That Rag is a hooky tune that I wish they would have played live a lot more often.
But then theres the awfully weird and hideous Whats Become of the Baby. Bad juju, ladies and sisters. All covered in watery vocal effects and dang it . not any damn fun to listen to neither. Not all 9 minutes or whatever it is, anyway.Garsh. Except for that stinker, this whole ol boys a keeper. Goofy psychedelia, most of it, sure. But its tuneful, and isnt that what were all here for anyway? If you cant hum at least one of these songs later, Ill stomp your cat. Youre a blubbering fool.
The Cap'n writes (re "Aoxomoxoa"): "Listen [to] JerryÁ─≥s cool voice while he plays some amazingly pretty acoustic guitar there along with a harpsichord courtesy of Tom Christensen, who took over on second keys until 1970..." Nope - his name was (and is) Tom CONSTANTEN....
Jeff Blehar Your Rating: C-
Any Short Comments?: Eh. Lame. The production (and, to be fair, some really hesitant performances, especially "China Cat Sunflower," for which they had no excuse considering they'd been woodshedding it since January of 1968) ruins Aoxomoxoa. Absolutely nothing gels, instruments fail to interlock with one another, Mickey Hart is wasted, and in the end the best thing about the LP is its nifty palindromic title. A real shame, considering all these songs (save "Rosemary" and "What's Become Of The Baby?," each performed exactly once, and unmemorably in each case) turned out to be pretty sharp in concert. Dick's Picks 26 is great for proving this, as it features smokin' versions of every live standard from the album save "Cosmic Charlie."
Your Rating: B-
Any Short Comments?: Lots of weak songs here, St.Stephen and Doin' That Rag are great, but songs like What's Become of the Baby helps me realize why some don't like the Dead.
Live at Fillmore East 2-11-69 - Grateful Dead 1997.
Erm. These 68-69 shows are good. Real real good, I like all of these sets (Live Dead, Fillmore, Two From the Vault and Dicks Picks Vol. Whatever the Fuck). The only problem is, they sort of sound alike.
I know I know thats Deadhead sacrilege. I can tell the difference between a July and a September 1985 show, for Gods sake and I get confused with these. Probably because their set lists all contain Dark Star,St. Stephen, and Lovelight. Bitch bitch bitch.
But its like complaining all huge, shiny, bright diamonds look so beautiful you cant tell which one you like best. Its useless. This ones got better sound than the Dick Pick, but not as cool as Live Dead, This ones got Mountains of the Moon on it! Live! And boy mm mmm is it good. Its got a real great live Cryptical Envelopment on it where theres actual real live singing of the words. They didnt do that very much. See, Jerry couldnt seem to get them right most of the time. Goddamn I love this band. At least through most of the 70s, they could play anything.Listen to the drumming especially on this set. Man. And T.C. sounds good on the keys. Fuck it. Buy all of these live sets, at least up through 1970. You wont be disappointed in any of them.
Zach Smith Your Rating: A- Any Short Comments?: Great second disc, but Pigpen's Hey Jude is like listening to... pigpen slaughter good songs
Matt Wilson Your Rating: A Any Short Comments?: This is a great album, almost the equal of 'Live Dead.' Had it been released in the '60s it would have been one of (if not the) best live records of the decade. The 'Anthem' songs are actually done better here and you get a preview of the 'Live Dead' stuff before they had perfected it. Good call on your rating. The fact that you give the Fillmore East '69 show the same rating shows your lack of ability to distinguish great Dead from merely good though (the exact same thing you complained about in your intro).
* Live Dead - Warner Bros. 1969 *
So at this point the band was just about as far out as it was ever going to get studio-wise. Never would they be able to equal the complete out-there ness of Anthem or its follow up again. So, what do you do with a band that wasnt really even all that happy with what they did on those records?
You release the first double-live album in a collection that has now quickly topped 30 (and most of those are triples, even).
Here is all the casual Grateful Dead listener really needs, despite claims to the contrary. With the exception of Feedback, which surprise surprise surprise Gomer Pyle, aint a short folk ballad at all, each one here is a ringer. And aint no overdubbin, neither. No need to. Most of these songs were recorded in early 1969, which was an especially good time for Dead shows. Lookit those pictures on the inside of the sleeve. Thats them playing on a flatbed truck in the middle of Haight Street, blocking traffic. Playing for free, with the power cord running waaaay up to a third floor window so the cops couldnt yank it. It aint this performance, but its indicative of the time and place they recorded this. Lets do this one track by track:
Dark Star This is probably the most famous and widely loved live song the band ever did. It reached legendary proportions, rapturous receptions by audiences, and has been claimed to even be something religious. It aint all that, man, but its a cool song sho nuff. 20 minutes of noodly guitar, LSD lyrics, and not much melody, but it GOES somewhere. Much much much better than other jam bands. You see, the Grateful Dead dont just solo, or (god forbid) trade solos, they improvise as a group. Each one of them adds his part to the trip. And thats why songs tend to end up going somewhere after searching around in the ozone for some time, unlike even Phish. A listener is exploring with them, and the Dead are doing their darndest to take them somewhere cool. For example, to a song like
St. Stephen Is this, even with all my hundreds of hours of Dead on tape, my favorite performance of a single song they ever did? Maybe so. Golly! This fucker moooves! From the cool watery echo on the opening notes to the screams at the end, this one is perfect. It shows they have some pretty good judgment to put this one on their release. A real energy here. Ooh!
The Eleven Im always confused as to when St. Stephen ends and The Eleven begins, because usually they blend together like they do here. Fine wit me, mang! This ones in 11/4 time for no clear reason, but its also shiny as a new piece of chewing gum. Its just as good as the song that precedes it.
Love Light Bounce Bounce Bounce. Free love and sex, brothers and sisters. A blues/soul classic that jams around for a while. Pigpen sings here, but he usually did it better than this. Still quite nice.
Death Dont Have No Mercy So the psychedelic music doesnt last forever, and here we have a fine example of a slow Pigpen blues song. This is one of the best ones he ever did. Some might find it a bit tedious, but I think its scary as hell. And its followed by the ever creepy
Feedback Squeeeeeeek! Squaaaaaank! You know how this goes. Quite effective in its own way.
We Bid You Goodnight Not as good as some other versions, but still, you feel like theyre welcoming you back home after a long journey. Think back and its been an adventure.
Listen, even after all my other collecting of tapes and shows and stuff, they dont get any better than this for my money. A 10 if I ever heard a 10. Its just short .I want more. Buy this one before any of the other live albums. If you enjoy it and want more, theres plenty of it, pal. If you think its boring or indulgent, I feel pity for your soul. Buy a Bad Company album.Asslicker.
Click Here to Email Me Your Reader Commentsor Click Here to Fill Out the Handy Dandy Reader Comment Form
Re "Live Dead": "Á─≤Death DonÁ─≥t Have No MercyÁ─≥ So the psychedelic music doesnÁ─≥t last forever, and here we have a fine example of a slow Pigpen blues song. This is one of the best ones he ever did." Nope - this one was always sung by Garcia....
Jeff Blehar firstname.lastname@example.org Your Rating: A+ Any Short Comments?: Nothing more to say except that it deserves all the praise thrown at it over the years. There are better actual concerts from this era, but this cherry-picks highlights - including the 2nd finest "Lovelight" I've ever heard - and combines them into one spectacular package. I HIGHLY HIGHLY HIGHLY recommend you get a copy March 1st, 1969, which can be downloaded in perfect, multitrack sound - it was mixed by Phil Lesh for a release which never happened - from www.gdlive.com. That concert literally features the best performances of "St. Stephen," "The Eleven," (<---GODLY) and "Lovelight" I've ever heard, and damn I've heard lots. In the end, this is the iconic Dead album. Their first live release, their best live release (not including archival stuff), and a freewheeling, revolutionary LP to boot: this is Jam Band's Year Zero right here.
S. Your Rating: A
Any Short Comments?: Deserves all the praise it gets, but I deny it the A+ because of Feedback, never enjoyed it, never will. However, you could make a case for anything else on here being a best ever version, especially Dark Star and St.Stephen. Great for Dead Newbs.
Dick's Picks 19 (11/8/69) - Grateful Dead Records 2000.
Yeah. Trippy! The second disc is enough to make you have visions just on its own. The first disc eh, it could be better. Lotsa lotsa Pigpen. And like Dire Wolf keeps going on and on. They were getting bored with psychedelia, see, and wanted to play more country toonz but hadnt gotten the knack yet. Have to wait until the two 1970 Dicks Picks for that.
No matter how good the second disc is, though, I cant help but think maybe this is inferior to say, the Fillmore East 2-11-69 discs. Maybe the sound isnt as good.
Hell. Its still friggin' beautiful and its got two drummers and two keyboard players and two guitar players and three singers and a whole shitload of notes. Notes notes notes.
Buy it love it.
S. Your Rating: A-
Any Short Comments?: This is DP 16, DP 19 is from 1973. The second disc, like you noted, is the reason to keep this one. However, I can't stand the other two, the first shows the birth of the country Dead, but Tom C. doesn't fit in well at all. The third disc is basically a uber-long Caution, not one of my favorites. The second is incredible, with a great Dark Star and UBJ Jam!
Bear's Choice (History of the Grateful Dead Vol. 1) - Warner Bros. 1973.
Now I havent heard nor owned this album in quite some time, but since its so minor in the history of the Dead Ill tell you the following:
1. Its by no means a greatest hits collection of any sort. Its live.
2. Its a recording of part of an acoustic set and one electric song from a February 13, 1970 Fillmore East show.
3. This show is legendary for Deadheads, but in general their acoustic sets are disappointing. Plus its not all here.
4. Black Peter is darn fine, but its also on What a Long Strange Trip Its Been.
5. If you buy this with Dicks Picks Volume 4 you have that entire particular show.
6. If you buy this among your first Dead discs,
like me, you are an idiot sir.
Re "Bear's Choice": "ItÁ─≥s a recording of part of an acoustic set and one electric song from a February 13, 1970 Fillmore East show." Nope - I believe both "Smokestack Lightnin'" AND the awesome "Hard to Handle" are from the electric set.
* Dick's Picks 4 (2/13 - 2/14/70) - Grateful Dead Records 1996. *
Dick finally stopped with the releases of weird, unworthy shit and got down to business on Vol. 4 with this mutha fatha. This is widely regarded as one of the 2 or 3 best Dead shows of all time. I dont know if Id go quite that far (the Harpur College Dick Pick is probably better, if in-fucking-complete)
Goddamn. It pisses me off. All of these shows from 68-70 are PERFECT. How can I possibly describe them? Look at the track listing. Imagine all the songs played live better than you can imagine. What? Are you afraid of jams? Why are you reading a Grateful Dead review, then? I wouldnt necessarily start listening to the Dead with this, but many people have. The band intro is hilarious. It skips the acoustic set, which I regard as boring. Its Valentines day and Pigpen does a great Lovelight.
Maybe its not as good as some people say it is but it doesnt mean it isnt an A. Buy it today.
Jeff Blehar Your Rating: B
Any Short Comments?: It's simple: the best "Dark Star" ever performed by the band, period. End of discussion. You're never gonna hear a better version until you get to heaven. Nevertheless...this release is significantly weaker than all the fan reviews would have you believe. The number one reason? TOO MUCH FUCKING DRUMS. You have 6 minutes of drum soloing on "That's It For The Other One," 4 minutes on "Lovelight" (which is rather weak, honestly) and 12 minutes more following "Alligator" on disc 3. THAT'S A LOT OF DRUMS, MATE. (The cruelest tease of all is that, after forcing you to sit through 12 minutes of drum soloing after the 'head' of "Alligator," the group cheats us by not returning to the glorious, happy major-key jamming section which always made the song so wonderful. Instead, we go straight into everybody's least favorite song, "Me & My Uncle.") So this disc is weaker than it's generally made out to be. It's the "Dark Star," the great first disc (nice versions of "Dancing In The Streets," "China->Rider" and "Dire Wolf"), and the neat 2nd-set-medley after the "Alligator" drum break which cover up for the other really noticeable weaknesses here. Still, pretty essential, if only for "Dark Star." Hey, did I mention that "Dark Star" is really good on this release?
* Workingman's Dead - Warner Bros. 1970. *
The psychedelia thing wasnt working anymore. They were tired of San Francisco, tired of being fucked with, tired of the violence that had taken over the community feeling of the old days, tired of their albums not reaching the heights of their shows, and Pigpen was drinking himself into oblivion trying to figure out what the hell HIS old band was trying to do with this crazy shit. Where was the soul? Where was the country? The blues?
Here 'tis, partner. Ill betcha a million dollars Prindle hates the shit out of this record. Its really folky / country music. The lyrics are populated with tired characters, looking for redemption or peace of mind, maybe trying to cheat their way into it with awful results (Dire Wolf), or just dreaming about a better life (Cumberland Blues), or the end of the one they have (Black Peter). Its got blues (Easy Wind, which rules) an electric boogie tune which ruminates on anger about Altamont (New Speedway Boogie) and even some others, which are just as good.
Hey man, all these songs
are good. No stinkers here at all. Its dark, tired, soulful roots music and it works. It
ain't the old style Dead anymore, but its a damn sight better than all of the other
Country-Rock bands Ive ever heard (The Band, Eagles
goddamn I hate them) Its
really mostly acoustic, but its fine fine fine. No jams, no showing off, just Songs.
* Dick's Picks 8 (5/12/70) - Grateful Dead Records 1997. *
Another heavyweight champion. This is yet another tape collectors dream released on CD by our favorite vault caretaker Dick (RIP). If you dont get it by now, you never will. If you like the Dead, you will love this. Maybe its overlong for you. Listen in parts. The acoustic set, fr instance, is here in its entirety for your listening pleasure. Mmmm. That was good, wasnt it? Live acoustic versions of Rider and Friend of the Devil and Cumberland Blues. Rider is prettier than a 16 year old prom queen in a bikini licking an ice cream cone. Some of these are rocking and fast, even. Sho nuff better than Reckoning, but lets not knock that one. That was 1980, this is 1970. Its a world and several families of organic chemicals of difference. Can you imagine, having only Live Dead to listen to as representation, coming to a Dead concert and hearing them play an hour of acoustic country music? Youd think theyd have gone nuts. Then comes the electric set and all is right with the world.
I wish the St. Stephen werent cut. There. Theres my bitch about this one. Its got Viola Lee Blues. What the hell is that? From the first album? Yeah! Never heard that anywheres else, believe you me, bubby!
If I sat and listened to only 69-70 tapes my whole life, I might be able to judge between them better, but I cant. You like psychedelia? You got it. Pigpen? You got it. Country? You got it. Horrorcore Gangsta Rap? You got it. Kurdish Experimental Folk Dancing? You got it. (Thats somewhere in the middle of The Race is On on the first disc.)And its all good. Man. You gotta own this too. I feel like the fat guy in High Fidelity giving that customer all his favorite records. Ill calm down. Wait until the late 70s. Ill be more critical then.
Jeff Blehar Your Rating: A
Any Short Comments?: Great review (I remember it from Prindle's site), but for the record there is no "The Race Is On" on this record. That Horrorcore Gangsta Rap stuff is actually found in the middle of their rendition of the gospel standard "Cold Jordan." What can I say? A freakin' great concert. One of the best acoustic sets I've ever heard them do, in terms of tightness, performance, enthusiasm, and one hell of a rowdy audience. Then a great electric set, with Pigpen at his best (I like him much more than you do, but he can grate - this time, he's dead on, though). Not the best "Viola Lee" available (both the Fallout From The Phil Zone one from 1969 and the debut album reissue version from 1967 are better), but cripes, who's complaining? Its presence is welcome, as is that of "It's A Man's Man's Man's World," which Pigpen sings and actually really brings home. Beautiful show. Only thing missing is, of course, the performance of "Cold Rain And Snow" which, for whatever reason, was cut from the 3-CD release. Perhaps it was awful, I dunno.
* American Beauty - Warner Bros. 1970. *
A second winner. Could have been part of a double album with Workingmans Dead. This ones a little bit more wispy and less dark than Workingmans and has more electric instruments on it. Box of Rain is a deceptively smooth, simple song that sounds a hellovalot like the Byrds. Friend of the Devil is flat out country music here. But listen to those melodies. This is good quality poop, too. I wont say we have another flawless masterpiece here Sugar Magnolia is overplayed for such a light song, and Attics of My Life is kinda dumb, but listen to Brokedown Palace. Garcia wrote this after his momma died. Now this is emotional music.
I often wonder why I cant stand stuff like REMs Everybody Hurts, which everyone loves like its their best song. Its because I dont connect with those lyrics. I connect with stuff like Brokedown Palace, thinking about life while watching a river roll by. Thinking about the places youve seen and the people you met, and thinking about your home. And how you really have very little that is actually of value when the day is done. That is reality. Plus it has the pedal steel on it, which is the prettiest musical instrument ever made. So they totally fuck up the vocal harmonies at the end. And they made a piece of shit Claire Danes movie with this for the title and then proceeded never to play the song in the entire movie. Fuckers. Fuck it.
And Ripple. Can I tell you how much I love that song? Its also about life, and little miracles that happen. Its happy, wise, and has a gorgeous melody. Goddamn, I sound like a fucking mush here, but I like songs that talk about life and these songs do that better than most things I can think of this side of a Dylan album. You see, they met a lyricist named Robert Hunter round Aoxomoxoa who penned all these words, and at this time at least, he did a bang up job of it.
There's a couple more, like Operator, which seems like an also-ran, being underwritten like most of Pigpens songs, and Candyman, which is nice but no standout. Till the Morning Comes rolls nicely in a Byrds sort of way. And Truckin which some people see as a highlight, but I see as overrated. These songs are other peoples highlights, and on another album they would be great. On this one theyre merely good.
All in all, a little more philosophical than Workingmans Dead, a little bit more optimistic. The last unequivocally outstanding studio record they ever made.
Click Here to Email Me Your Reader Comments or Click Here to Fill Out the Handy Dandy Reader Comment Form
The Grateful Dead - Warner Bros. 1971.
Or Skull and Roses or Skull Fuck as you please. Another live album, this one from the no-mans land of 1971, after the departure of second drummer Mickey Hart, pianist Christensen, and (for most of the time anyway, due to health problems) Pigpen.
If you dont listen to too many concerts, this one sounds fine. If you do, you begin to notice how hollow most of the songs sound. Most of these tunes are new and hadnt developed their layer of protective fatty tissue they would the next year with the arrival of Keith and Donna Godcheaux. Not a lot of productive jamming, nor a lot of the cool country they did onstage in 1970. Its just thin. All 1971 shows Ive heard (maybe 5) sound like this.
The songs they did here, though, are the reason to buy it. Most of these songs are not available elsewhere, except scattered roughshod over all the other live discs. You see, their record company, Warner Brothers, was beginning to be a penis wrinkle. The Dead wanted their own company, see, and so they made one, but they wouldnt let the Dead record on it under their own name until they fulfilled their old contract. Which is why, from 1969-1973, for Warner Brothers, the Dead released the following:
Three studio albums, four concert albums (a single, two doubles, and a triple LP), and a lame ass greatest hits.
Christ. No wonder this band is considered to be a joke. (They released like 5 live albums in 2000 alone)
Anyhow, back to my point. This album has a bunch of new songs on it never conveniently released together on any other studio or live disc. Wharf Rat frinstance. What a good song, about a drunken bum who wants to change his ways. Me and My Uncle about robbing your own uncle. Bertha about a diabolical electric fan.
Dont buy this because it has Me and Bobby McGee and Johnny B. Goode on it. The Dead never particularly did these songs well.
In sum. Get other concert albums first.
Then you won't feel like buying this anyway. Its quite unnecessary for me now, but it sure
sounds nice. And the covers cool too.
Matt v Your Rating: C-
Any Short Comments?: This album(Nor Dick's Pick 2) does not cut it when it comes to 1971 for the Dead. It was a transitional yeaer for them but there is still good material to be found, particularly in Ladies and
Gentlemen.. which i recommend for ANYONE to get no matter what degree of Dead Fan. the jams on disc 3 and 4 are orgasmic and the rest can speak for itself.
Dick's Picks 2 (10/31/71)- Grateful Dead 1995.
The weird Dicks Picks choices continue. This ones only a single disc, so, you know, theres no complete concert there. Wouldnt it have been cool to hear a complete concert put on one single disc? Theyd have to play three times normal speed to do that, and cut out all of their long breaks in between songs. Or, they could play four times their normal speed and keep their silly long breaks they seem to like so damn much.
This one, wellllll its better than the first DP, but its still a 1971 show, which means its no true winner. Like 1976 and 1979-80, after they lose or replace a player, they have a corresponding drop-off in the quality of jams they make just for you. Got a 'Dark Star', though, which is worth something.
So this one has some strikes against it, and it aint one to buy anytime soon. Im sure the 4-cd box set Ladies and Gentlemen the Grateful Dead, consisting of shows from 1971, which I havent heard because I cant order from GDP here in Russia, is better because it at least has complete shows.
Click Here to Email Me Your Reader Comments or Click Here to Fill Out the Handy Dandy Reader Comment Form
Hundred Year Hall (4/26/72) - Grateful Dead Records 1995
I dont like the half-assed nature of the preparation of this set very much. Its a From the Vault release, so its got pristine sound, but its not a complete show, and the track choices are a bummer. Do we need One More Saturday Night, a song that was played identically about 10 million times during the bands career (Bobby you jerk!)? Do we need another Me and My Uncle? Ill even argue against Big RR Blues. I forget what they played that wasnt included (its 1972, chances are they played for nearly four hours), but I remember it had some better songs.
But it does have reeeeeeal niiiiice sound. Mmmmmm. Listen to that. Mmmmm. Like buttered popcorn. They were good in Summer 72. Reeeeeeeeal good.
And they play the Cryptical Envelopment part of The Other One, so the track listing says. And 37 minutes of it. Cant go wrong wit dat! Boy this band could play at this point. God. Close to the peak. You could listen to this over and over and over.
Buy this one for the sound and the fact that its the Dead in 1972. Get pissed they didnt give you the whole thing, which is really fucking good, too.
Europe '72 not long enough for ya? Step right on up to this troika (ooh! Russian!) of fun. Its got a whole 'nother disc of lovin for your mortal soul to enjoy. Its a good performance. It doesnt sound as good as the Hundred Year Hall set at all, but its longer and has more songs on it. Granted, a lot of those songs are like Tennessee Jed and Greatest Story Ever Told but it also has a real sweet Loser and a nice Deal on it.
Im not spending a lot of space on these Dick's Picks reviews because I think probably most of you are too lazy to order them from Grateful Dead Productions, which is the only place youll find most of them. I was. I found a shop that sold them for (I found out) a high fucking markup. Dont pay more than like, $20 or so for any Dick Pick that doesnt have 4 discs to it. You can get them from GDP for like $18 and they arrive in a week.
Also, at least on these pre 74 ones, very few of them suck. Ill be sure to write reams about the later ones that suck. This one doesnt. Does it sound appreciably different from Europe 72? Yeah, actually. Its less simple, sort of dark. Not an A-list Dead purchase like #4 or Fillmore East are. An 8. A firm, strong, youll think its great 8.
Click Here to Email Me Your Reader Commentsor Click Here to Fill Out the Handy Dandy Reader Comment Form
Europe '72 - Warner Bros. 1972
Okay, so heres where the real fun begins, at least chronology-wise. Again, if you look at the back of this two CD, 109 minute monster, and say Wow! Look at all the great songs! youll be just fine. If you look at it and go Wheres Casey Jones and Sugar Magnolias and all the other hits? youll be disappointed, if you look and say How am I ever going to make it through this? youre definitely in the wrong place. The Grateful Dead, no matter how hard they tried to have one, never was one about hits or greatest hit albums. They didnt play radio songs in concert 9 times out of 10. They played what they damn well wanted to. And here, they wanted to play some darn fine good stuff.
See, listen to this album and now youre treading on true Deadhead territory. If you enjoy this, I think you passed some sort of test. But not the acid test. Thats only if you actually suck on the vinyl until you hallucinate.
They kept releasing new songs in concert, just like on Cranial Fornication the year before. Some more good ones here, too. Brown Eyed Women is a monster song, with a sing-along chorus perfect for drunkenness. Jack Straw is their best ever Cowboy Song. Rambling Rose is catchy and awesome, Tennessee Jed is nice, if repetitive.
But the difference with this one and the one the year before, is that these songs now are fully ready to go. They had a pianist (Keith Godchaux, the best one they ever had) and had gotten used to the loss of Mickey Hart in the drum chair. They jam a lot more readily, as evidenced by the last third of the album and its marathon Truckin (fuck the Epilogue and Prologue bullshit. Its all Truckin.)
And China'à 'Rider is another concert staple that staples my nuts to the horse and kicks it in the jimmy to drag me around the stadium until I fall off bleeding to death. I LOVE THIS COMBINATION OF SONGS! Holy shit! I do! I love how that bass line for Rider pops its little head out of the jam and looks around. I love I wish I was a headlight ..ON A NORTH BOUND TRAAAAAIN!!! Always, always always good!
Step into Europe 72 with the knowledge that if you buy it, now youre truly a Deadhead, and nothing can save you now.
Ian Dunn Your Rating: A Any Short Comments?: You write about the dead bette than any of the writers of the "professional" books about them. Very sarcastic and irreverent but obvious you love them. I like the 72 era the best. I think you underestimate (a bit) Europe 72 and you don't mention morning dew and the discord before it, possibly my favourite dead "moment". Love the sarcasm about Bobby and Donna and agree very much about how good Kreutzman is in the early 70's without Hart. Keep up the good work
Wake of the Flood - Grateful Dead Records 1973.
Their first album on Grateful Dead Records. Unfortunately, their song-writing high theyd been on since 1970 had just about dried up. Not saying that these songs arent good, mind. But no Jack Straws or Ripples here.
The standout on this album is the vibe you get from it. Its laid back, like you just got back from an afternoon show. And its nice and tightly performed. Jazzy, swingy! Parts of it dont sound much like the Dead. As each album goes by here in the 70s, the studio group sounds more and more different than its live counterpart. Mostly because the studio albums, by and large, suck and the live shows dont.
You see, after summer 72, the live band at this point got pretty far out there up until it retired in 74. The studio group sounds sedate, calm. They arent playing country or folk anymore, but its there in the mix. The group has reached its Dead-ly synthesis of its psychedelia and roots music.
Problem is that the energy is sort of not there on Here Comes Sunshine, and Let Me Sing Your Blues Away, sung by Keith, sounds like something the Muppet Band (Electric Mayhem) might do, with that long haired girl muppet singing. Its awful. Right up there with Whats Become of the Baby as the worst Dead song on an otherwise good album. Still better than any Mydland song, though.
I wonder what a Tom Christensen song sounds like. I bet it sucks too. Only Pigpen could play keys and sing for the Dead. And he was dead by this point.
Whats good? The rest, more or less. Weather Report Suite is a nice Bobby Weir song, which at this point started to become a rarity. Its all California music, and the album is only 31 minutes long (cheap bastards!) so its actually shorter than a lot of versions of say, Dark Star. Get it, ohhh .sometime.
I agree totally with your overall grade for the album, but you didn't mention one of my all time favorite Dead tunes: "Mississippi Half Step Uptown Toodeloo" This song is one of the only ones on the album that actually has a somewhat fast pace and it really is the album highlight IMO. Also, you mention the Dead keyboardist Tom Christensen again on this review, but I think the guy's name is Tom Constanten. No big deal. The guy is now actually a professor of music and once taught at Harvard though. Anyway, keep up the great work!
Man does Dick get it together on this set. Four discs. Fours frickin discs. I got it for about $24 brand new. Four discs of perfect Dead. Heres the true goldmine.
Listen. If you like the Dead, buy these. It begins (and ends) with Morning Dews for chrissakes. It has the ripest parts from two shows in the prime of their career. They had the towering Wall Of Sound crammed into a little tiny theatre in Boston, so you know the sound rules. Theyre jazzy, Playing in the Band is the reason Bobby was born. Twice. Both rule. They play some of their best short songs and leave out the shit. They play the whole Weather Report Suite twice. Both rule. Eyes of the World? Jazzy and ruling, if a little draggy. Jerrys voice is still really good too. Donna Jean Godchauxs not here to fuck everything up with her caterwauling! Shes off having a baby! Good fer you, Donna Jean!
Can I just mention how good Billy Kreutzmans drumming was from 72-74? Hes a monster on the jams. Here, he lost his drumming partner and proceeded to provide the best drumming of the bands career in his absence. He makes these jams go, man.
ITS FOUR DISCS AND ALL OF IT IS GOOD.
Of course there are songs you could do without. There always are. Skip past them and move onto something you like. Like Mexicali or Dont Ease but damn there arent many.
Oh my god the concerts were perfect at this
point. Youve gotta own this one.
Dick's Picks 1 (12/17/73) - Grateful Dead Records 1994.
Huh? Finally get license to open the Vault to hordes of Deadheads waiting with baited breath as to what the Master Vaultkeeper will release, and we get .this?
Not to sound too disappointed or anything but this isnt too swift. Especially for such a good year. You see, in Summer 72 it sort of clicked for the Dead for the first time since the middle of 70 or so when Mickey left and Pig got sick. And it kept clicking, more or less. Witness the previous Dick's Picks for evidence of this.
So why this? It has a bang up giddy best of version of the otherwise sedate Here Comes Sunshine that maaay just be worth the price of admission if you swing on that particular side of the river. Me? Just another show. Id rather listen to an 81, than this less than stellar 73, for example.
Now that I think about it, it pisses me off. The From the Vault series was so successful. Multitrack versions of shows that a lot of people had never heard. Good shows and superior sound. Dicks Picks dont sound like shit or anything, but tapes exist that sound about the same and you dont pay $20 for them. But idiots like me buy anything that comes down the pike and likes a lot of it. Luckily the choices shaped up after the first 6 or so and now they seem to only release (mostly) good shows.
Dont get this for a long time. Its better than half of the studio albums but goldarnit not half of the live concerts.
Disagree about DP 1. Yes there are some problems: the sound quality is not the best, and some of the tunes aren't so strong. But I love the Here Comes Sunshine, the Playing, the Half Step. Then I love Nobody's Fault, and most of all what follows -- a subtle, deep, heading-towards-the-Other- One jam that is some of my favorite Dead of all time. That jam is music that I can play for the snobbiest jazz players, and have them go "whoa." The feedback jam is also quite powerful. There is some great music here.
Now the cashing in begins. Does this album have any right to exist other than to sell the most commercial and least representative Grateful Dead to a bunch of teenagers who want some 'Weed Smokin' Music' and don't know and don't want to know jack shit about the band or what they're about? This one sells and sells and sells and I've got to take a stand against it.
I wouldn't even agree with damn near any of the selections placed on here. Fuck I overstated that. Its got the hits you can buy easily on two of their other albums that actually hold together. Goddamnit I get pissed when I look at this album. Get What a Long Stange Trip It's Been for fuck's sake. This one chafes me like a bastard.
'Rosemary'? What the flying fuck is that doing on here? 'Golden Road (to Unlimited Devotion)'? Holy Hell!
Do you really need to hear 'Truckin' and 'Casey
Jones' that much? Buy Workingman's Dead and American Beauty ye stupid
mongoloids! Ye readers of Reader's Digest and ye watchers of sports highlights instead of
the whole game. AAGH! Don't buy this commercial piece of shit.
Grateful Dead From the Mars Hotel - Grateful Dead Records 1974.
Not a live album! Those cutesy little Deaders pulled a fast one with this album title! Hardy har! Not another live album! Not for another year, at least.
They also pulled a fast one with the album. Meaning, its not very good, a lot of it. Its less laid back than Wake Up, but most of the songs are even lighter weight. U.S. Blues is only good if youre going through total boogie withdrawal. Jerrys guitar tone and voice sound good on it, though .but whats that nasty synth in the background? Ecch! The accousticky China Doll sounds like a leftover from Aoxomoxoa, and consequently, is sort of a letdown. It got a lot better in concert when Jerry would sing it so quietly everyone had to SHUT THE FUCK UP AND STOP ASKING FOR COSMIC CHARLIE EVERY FIVE SECONDS just to hear it.
Loose Lucy and Money Money are useless, stupid, sexist, incompetent rock songs, plus they never played them live, really so they never improved either.
Unbroken Chain is sort of an enigma among Deadheads, but I have no idea why. The bass player, Phil Lesh, sings on this one, and it seems Heads love it when Phil sings. But this song is so .nothing. Does it have a memorable melody? Not at all. Theres a boogie section in the middle, with a frankly commonplace Jerry solo. Maybe its because it sort of resembles a live song, but if thats the case, why not just listen to a live album?
So what do we have left? Hey! Scarlet Begonias! It also sounds live in the studio, but it works. That theres a reason to buy the album, just that song right there! Good song! Want a biscuit? Yeah! There ya go, you good little funk song you are so good when you play with your friend Fire on the Mountain. Now dont get fur on the rug.
Pride of Cucamonga ehhhh, no. Now thats waaaaaay country, except for the blues part. Ship of Fools is slower than a very slow thing, but its not so bad. Any Jerry ballad you wish to choose sounds remarkably like another, but theyre good songs. Really clean version here, too.
You see, they were tired at this time. 1974 (though it had some OUTRAGEOUSLY good shows) was the year they quit the road for awhile. They took some time off, exchanged cocaine for heroin, and came back with the much-improved Allah.
Click Here to Email Me Your Reader Commentsor Click Here to Fill Out the Handy Dandy Reader Comment Form
"Unbroken Chain" rules! Alright, maybe not in a truly great song kind of way...but for Phil Lesh, it rules. The only thing annoying about it are those stupid "Back in the USSR" plane noises. They are awful. The tune is my favorite non-Jerry dead song the Dead ever did (Well, alright "Jack Straw" and "Fire on the Mountain" and "Estimated Prophet" are better, but that's about it).
Dick's Picks 12 (6/26 - 6/28/74) - Grateful Dead Records 1998
Dick's Picks 7 (Sept. '74) - Grateful Dead Records 1997
Remember how good I said that long ass Volume 15 was? These next two are nearly good. More far out, maybe. Quite similar. Gotta ask yourself do you need it? If you own that other one, probably not. If youre like me and you want it all, of course you need them. Theyre both highlights in a highlight year for live shows.
Listen, they're good, damn good, but are they appreciably different from other 73-74 concerts out there? Not really. Look at the setlists and see what your favorite songs are and choose from there. The band was hot as a firecracker at this point. Sorta laid back, but they were as ready to take you to the astral plane as the Live Dead band was, only they wanted to give you a more comfortable seat. The jams work. Firing on all cylinders.
You get Donna Jean-isms here, which is why I might steer you towards the Boston 73 Dick Pick.
And between the two of these, Id go for the September show first because its better edited. And its in London. Like that matters for some reason.
The Dead call it Steal Your Money for good reason. Its on Grateful Dead Records, and its a double, so its automatically expensive, plus its quite probably the worst live album theyve ever released.
Listen to me say that again:
Its quite probably the worst live album theyve ever released.
And thats saying something, folks. Worse than the 1983 Dicks Picks album. Worse than Without a Net. Maybe not worse than Dylan and the Dead, but Ive never heard that and dont plan on doing it either.
From late 1974 (the Farewell shows), from which some excellent tapes exist, none of which is included on here. It seems they picked only the songs which hadnt been on their previous live albums, which left them with, how to say .the Shit. Not really .its nice to hear Cold Rain and Snow, I promise. But! The mix is HORRIBLE! Its all Donna Jean Godchaux, their tone deaf backup singer about which the less said the better. She came back from having a kid and wanted to share with us what the little tyke sounds like. Two records of backup singer, gawd!
How? How in this year of spectacular
concerts, left and right, could they have chosen this shit pile to release
years after the fact even? Dont buy it unless you hate yourself.
One From the Vault (8/13/75) - Grateful Dead Records 1991
They only performed twice in 1975, one (also really good, and weird) free show in Golden Gate Park and this one for a bunch of industry geeks who got invited. Its a small hall with obviously good acoustics. Now this is good sound. A lot of the Dicks Picks were recorded on 2 track, and without a whole lot of care, so its nice to have sucha good multi-track release as this one.
Plus, you get a real fine performance to boot. They play almost all of Blues for Allah, which includes the title song and King Solomons Marbles which werent heard from too many other times. Plus theyve got Mickey Hart back again on second drums, and its nice to have him, even though Billy Kreutzman was fooking aces while he was alone.
This ones recommended for fans of Blues for Allah in the studio, or be like me and buy the live disc first and then the studio and remark on how much better they do this stuff live.
remark at all. Just keep your mouth shut. I dont want to hear another peep out of
Re "One From the Vault":
"They only performed twice in 1975, one (also really good, and weird)
free show in Golden Gate Park and this one for a bunch of industry geeks who
Nope - there was also a THIRD show at San Francisco's Kezar Stadium that
year - the SNACK benefit. The band were billed as "Jerry Garcia and
Friends." The concert was filmed and the crowd sequences can be seen in the
godawful Barbra Streisand/Kris Kristofferson version of "A Star is Born."
Blues for Allah - Grateful Dead Records 1975
Besides having one of the coolest covers in rock history, this album seems to be where the Dead said We never will sound in the studio like we do playing live, so lets make something you can only do in the studio. Its sort of off and on in its success, too. After about 7 years of normalcy, its nice to hear them attempt something weird again.
Help on the Way, Slipknot!, and Franklins Tower are the real keepers from this release. They jam real nice, like they planned each note. And when it goes from the jamming of Slipknot to Franklins cool riff, its like the sun coming out of a cloud. What a happy fucking song. And all for the black kid on Peanuts .how nice of them!
The Music Never Stopped is like really homosexual. I hate that song. Fucking Dead could do something intense like Blues for Allah and put some shit fuck bitch song on it like this one. Keep on Dancing, Keep on Dancing, come on clap your hands? Fuck you, Bob Weir! Thats why youre the least favorite fucking member of the group, you little piss!
Sorry. Actually, I like Bob Weir, but not here. And I like him less and less as the studio albums get more recent. Excuse my pontification.
Now Blues for Allah the song is intense and dark, but doesnt go anywhere, and going somewhere, as weve established, is the point. You know, youd think a song by the name Crazy Fingers would be about a million miles an hour of fast playing, but its not, but its allright in my book. Dont ask me to explain why. I have to talk about nearly 100 albums here. Im not describing Crazy Fingers for you, you leeches!
Buy this one after the 60s records.
What a Long, Strange Trip It's Been - Warner Bros. 1977
This compilation gets trashed regularly for, in my opinion, no real good reason. It was my first Dead album, and I feel it gives a fine overview of the Warner Brothers era Dead albums. A Hole Courtney Love better than Weir's In the Closet (the Gayest of the Grateful Dead) which I hate. Theres songs from every Warners release, and the single of Dark Star, so hey! And its got all the really good originals from Skullfrick and Europe 72.
It doesnt have Mexicali Blues on it. Wah. Big loss. Or 'Rosemary'. Why the FUCK was that song on Skeletons?
So its a corporate tool to earn
money. So was In the Dark and everyone loves the shit out of that record.
Real fans buy the concert albums. If
you want a good decent compilation, and dont think you want anything else, skip the
useless Skeletons and get this.
Dick's Picks 3 (5/22/77) - Grateful Dead Records 1995.
Dicks Picks after 1974 become quite hit-or-miss. This ones a miss. I dislike the vast majority of these songs and dislike the way they played them. This is disco-ey Dead. They do a Help--> Slip--> Franklins that aint so bad. They also do Music Never Stopped so count me out. Performance is quality, but without a lot of inspired jamming or exploration.
Dick Latvala continues his opening losing
streak with this release. At this point, he was 0 for 3 since starting Dicks
Picks, but he got a whole lot better with Number 4.
Terrapin Station - Arista 1977
Pbblt. Joined Arista Records and started to act all fluffy. All of the effectiveness of Allah is gone, no matter how muddled that puddle was. This one is not really very good. The title track is REALLY good in concert, but on record it just sits there. Ecch. Samson and Delilah is the best Weir song in a loooong time and thank god. 'Estimated Prophet' is pretty cool with the patented Garcia envelope filter on the guitar. Dancin in the Streets on this one? You dont want it. Its disco. Passenger is another underachieving Lesh track. Just because hes the second most talented member behind Jerry dont mean his songs are any good. Uh oh, were running out of tracks and I havent mentioned much good yet. Thats because there isnt much. Plus the production has absolutely no balls. No. Balls.Terrapin's not a total disaster like Shakedown but it's definitely going in that direction. Seems they wanted a hit. Didnt get one with blah nonsense like this.
Dick's Picks 15 (9/3/77)- Grateful Dead Records 2000.
First thing I want to mention about this disc is how hilarious the opening stage announcements are. That guy has the dippiest voice Ive ever heard. DonJeanGodshoooo! What a geek.
This show threatens many times to be cool and then disappoints. I cant remember it holding itself together for very long before it goes back to ho-humsville. The band was playing at an outdoor festival where it was extremely hot and about 100000 people showed up. Now, there are some instances where heat and/or a big crowd add up to Dead Magic (Veneta OR, 1972, Watkins Glen 1973). This one aint so bad, but it just fails to catch fire at any time, according to my recollection.You see, with so many really killer Dead concerts out there, you have to be able to say No man, this ones too average to get. Im saying this about this one.
Ryan BoyceI actually first heard this on an audio bootleg. I was overwhelmed by the energy, esp. on the Mississippi 1/2 step. What a monster! So when DP 15 came out I bought it as fast as I could. I was let down. The energy does not translate. But there are some great versions. The Estimated->Eyes is good. Long Not Fade Away. But the 1/2 step smokes!!! I understand your B+. I give it the same.
Uhhh, didnt do too well so far with the 1977 releases. A lot of Deadheads claim 77 is their favorite year for shows, though thats not my personal belief. What is true, though, it there are a lot of good shows from 1977, and this is not necessarily the bottom of the heap. Since they assume everyone has 5/7-5/9/77, Dick released this.
This isnt bad at all, in a purely Dead frame of mind. Its got some extra bit of energy in there that propels it nicely from song to song. It rolls easily, has some cool disco drumming, has their cool Close Encounters of the Third Kind tuning, and has a cool China --> Rider on it. The opening Jack Straw is fine too. Cool.
I'd definitely recommend this one
first of all the available '77 concerts. Its a bit long and of course its not distilled
gasoline all the way through but you know....it's the Dead. They weren't even this snappy
in concert very often after this.
I read the liner notes "Will it change your life?" with immense anticipation. It is strong with a fantastic china->Rider (the end of Rider is awesome). Any show that opens with Bertha is fine with me. Jerry fucks up quite a bit though. Must have been New Year's party week or something. A lot of energy on this. A-
Now this is a fine mid-period Dead show. It jams almost as much as a '74 show, and somehow seems more of a party than those jazzy affairs. By this late date, mind you, it took the band 45 minutes or so to really warm up and get jamming, but that doesn't mean you should skip the first disc. It's fine as a frog's hair too, my babies!
This Pick has a lot of yer favorites and mine on it. 'Estimated'à 'Eyes'à 'Playin'? I'll buy that for a dollar! Or $20, whatever the case may be. 'Scarlet'à 'Fire' hell yeah, baby! And good versions of all of these. The band was still in its 1977 groove, just before their piano player began to totally crap out on them and they had to replace him with Mydland the Doobie Monster. Mind you, this is concurrent with the recording of the totally disastrous disco Shakedown Street. And there's not a trace of disco on this album besides 'Music Never Stopped', which is a good version of that song for once with a nice spacey workout in the middle.
I say, for my money's
worth, its the best Dick Pick of a show after the '74 break.
Oh my god this is awful. This is really really bad. I had this once, sold it, bought it again, listened to it once, said oooh, this is really, really bad then put it away, then moved about 10000 miles away from the nearest copy of it (to Russia). It wasnt supposed to be this awful. They had the dude from Little Feat, Lowell George, producing or masturbating in the booth or sleeping in his trailer or whatever he was doing that made this disc turn out so godawful bad.
Highlight: Fire on the Mountain. A great song. A modern classic. A highlight, a peak, of any latter day Dead show. Decent here, as well.
The title track sucks (not in concert). Good Lovin sucks. France? Sucks! The other songs here I dont remember cause they suck? Suck! New Minglewood Blues? Already did this song on your first album, guys! So this version isnt totally sucky, you proceeded to play it at EVERY SHOW FOR THE NEXT 17 FUCKING YEARS! BOBBY! I SWEAR ILL KILL YOU IN YOUR SLEEP!
Naw. I like Bob Weir. He did Hell in a Bucket and covered Walkin Blues and then played them at EVERY SHOW FOR THE REST OF THE BANDS FUCKING CAREER! GODDAMN IT! IN YOUR SLEEP WEIR IN YOUR SLEEP!
Naw. I like Bobby. But not this album. This
is a blight. Dont be like my friend who has only one Dead album, this one. Guy even
went to a show and I didnt ever get to, and hes stupid enough to buy that pile
of doo first.
Dick's Picks 5 (12/26/79)- Grateful Dead Records 1997.
The first full-length show Dick Pick and the first three disker. Dick sure wasnt making much sense with these choices though. Never would I have thought, with a vault full of Dead shows, the power to hear and release shows people had only just dreamed about for decades, to have released a truly middle-of-the-road show from 1979?
This was directly after Brent graced the band with his Doobie presence, so they werent even all that used to each other yet. Garsh. Me-di-ocre. I remember it ends with Shakedown Street, which isnt so bad in concert at all. UJB is here, but I dont think its very good.
You could skip this one and
not feel pain at all. Get the splugingly good Pick from 78 instead. Now theres
a good show.
I actually like the 79's, because Brent adds some funk/color that was lacking for a long time. Very sleepy/mellow shows, with tons of jamming. This was is no exception. My favorite part is the UFO jam somewhere between He's Gone/NFA whatever. Crank it, it's great! Plus no stupid Brent tunes...yet Say what you want about Brent, but he was ten times better than Vince "Never stop soloing during verses/jams/chorus/althea" Welnick. I hate that bastard. B+
Now this is improvement from Shakedown, but not very much, and still doesnt clean off the sweet sweet smell of suck from this record. Horrible album cover. They look like theyre about ready to sell Breck or something. New keyboard guy Brent Mydland sounds like a Doobie Brother and never quit putting out mediocre crap on each new studio album. Plus the guy was a jackass who killed himself with a speedball in 1990. He was good on keys in concert, but they should have kicked his ass out of the studio before his his .AOR rubbed off on them even more. Which it did.
Whats good here, then? I like Althea a lot. Its like every other mid-tempo Jerry tune, but its neato. Althea told me blah blah blah Did I tell you Jerrys voice began to suck a few years back from inhaling all the heroin smoke all the time? Yup! Hey kids! He was a full fledged junkie when he made these shit albums! Sure blows the Smack-Makes-You-Make-Better-Music-For-A-Few-Years-Then-You-Suck theory straight out of the water, dont it? He never even had a few good years in the studio.
Feel Like A Stranger hey, boyo! I like that one too. Make me an idiot? Probably! I like it. Alabama Getaway sho dont rock, mister, but it aint that bad, neither. Nothing to put on a greatest hits (though it made the charts back in that banner year of 1980, so I guess its one of their few songs that would actually qualify as a hit), though. 'Lost Sailor' and 'Saint of Circumstance' are Weir AOR filler, which are boring enough to, luckily, not piss me off into a Weir-hating conniption.
You know, without a track listing in front of me, I cant even remember a lot of the rest of the songs on this one. That means it sucks. Some Mydland songs, if I remember correctly. Suck.
Gosh. Dont buy it for more than a
buck, maybe. Get some concerts, yhear?
Dead Set - Arista 1981
You know, I think this album must be out of print now or something. If I were Arista, I would take it out of print for sure. Whats the good of it now? Its electric shows from the New York run in 1980 where they also played their acoustic sets as documented on Reckoning. What can I say? Its not horrible, but its not anything special. They dont give you a Scarlet with your Fire, and no long jams or nothing. This run of electric sets are not considered to be high quality by much of anybody, and without the continuity of a full concert, theres not any of the climax of a Dicks Pick.Album cover rules, though. Buy it for a buck. It is Dead music, you know.
Dead Unplugged. I didnt want to march out that old warhorse term but the Dead did it long before anybody else. 1970. Remember that Bear's Choice I told you not to get? Then they did it again, ten years later. Hey, and its not a bad one, either
Pros: Songs not available anywhere else
other than tapes of similar shows. Monkey and the Engineer? Got it! They sound
mighty nice doing this, and its a good change of pace for them.
Cons: Mostly length and Jerrys voice. It seems to drag on after awhile, and some songs sound just like others. And Jerry, man its not as bad as 10 years later, but its not so strong anymore, especially in such a quiet environment.Pick it up. Its interesting. Could be difficult to find, though.
August West Your Rating: A
Any Short Comments?: Absolutely sweet music played with grace and humor. I suggest going to the etree sources to hear the 1980 Radio City Music Hall run more broadly
(http://www.archive.org/audio/etreelisting-browse.php?collection=etree&cat=Grateful%20Dead%3A%201980) ... but Reckoning does a good job of capturing the spirit.
Dick's Picks 13 (5/6/81)- Grateful Dead Records 1999
This concert starts off mighty familiar. A Minglewood, surprise surprise. Actually, most of the first disc is pretty standard. This is the first set of this show, and as we know by now, you dont look at first sets for real innovation after about 1974 or so.Then, after the set break, Bobby says This ones for Bobby Sands who was a Northern Irishman who died in a hunger strike. They play Hes Gone. This is the only overt political statement Ive ever heard at a Dead show. (Besides 'Take a step back and stop stepping on that girl's head!') After the sad, poignant song peters out, they do the vocal harmonies for a long time, then Jerry starts doing little scale runs reeeeeel fast, all by his lonesome. The whole band joins in and its off to the races. This is one of the best second sets the band had ever done. It cools off after the drum break but that Goneà Spanish Jamà Jamà TOO is marvelous.
One of the better Dicks Picks and one to find. Its not often to find an 80s or 90s show that holds as much power as this.Plus its got a great, hidden Scarlet à Fire from 1979 at the end of that second disc. Dang, mang! Embarassment of riches! Bu it! And buy it!
Listen, 1983 shows are on no-ones top lists. Theres a certain druggy trippiness that has its charms on these shows during Jerrys worst addiction and health nadir, but for the most part you take a 1980 show (no wonderful year in its own right) and just make it worse and worse.
This is a very strange choice for the sixth Dicks Pick. Most of the first five (excepting #4, of course) werent very obvious Picks, either. Meaning: They Sucked Ass. The only reason I can think that this was chosen is two words: Scarlet and Fire, as in, the longest one ever made. The sheer size and weight of this pair (no not Jerrys boobs) overwhelms the mediocrity around it. Its really the only thing of any particular worth on this.Get it for the Scarlet --> Fire and maybe the Spinach Jam and to find out how far the bad had fallen from the time of Europe 72.
This is the album that killed them, ladies and gentlemen. One song. One measly little song took them from being a mediocre cult former psychedelic touring band on the decline to being stadium superstars. Made everyone love them and want to join the fun following them around. Chances are, if theyd never made that song, they would be obscure, like Procul Harum or some group like that. Probably Jerry wouldnt have been into drugs quite so much again while trying to cope with his fame. Probably would still be alive, playing great shows like he did back in 1985, to audiences of maybe 10000, each and every one of them there for the music and because they love the band and not because it was trendy to put on tie-dye, drop some fake acid and think youre On the Bus. Its the first song most people think of now when they hear the name The Grateful Dead.
Its their bane and their savior. Its what they wanted for 20 years and never were able to achieve.
Thats right, ladies and gentlemen Tons of Steel
No, wait, shit, Touch of Penis. Goddamn it. Tits of Grey Assmonger! Touch My Growth fiddly diddly!
Its got Hell in a Bucket on it. They made a video for bucket so bobby thought it was a hit so he played it every fucking night making the last fucking grateful fucking dead fucking shows suck all kinds of fucking ass fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck
You see, I have a real hatred for this record. Besides Touch of Grey and Black Muddy River and West LA Fadeaway (hey! All Jerry songs! And why do you think that is?) its all crap. Cant stand any song with Brent singing, so that kills the awful AOR bullshit Tons. Push Comes to Shove is useless and dumb and cliched. Its a wonder Hunter wrote it. And, hell, thats just about all the songs on this thing I can remember, and its held up like some modern masterpiece by critics who would never actually admit that theres more good music in half of the first disc of Dicks Picks Volume 21 than this. They played most of these songs for 5 years in concert before they actually sat down to tape them. Not exactly burning up the old inspiration meter.
Listen, I love Touch as much as the next guy, but you dont need this record.
Ill be the first to admit I listened to this album last time over 5 years ago. But, almost half the songs on it are Brent Songs. You know what a Brent Song sounds like. It aint no damn good. He died before they released this. It was a shame. They replaced him with someone who was much worse on the keyboards. Id rather have Brent on the keys in any of his years with the band than Pigpen in 71 or Godchaux in 78-79 or any of Vince. But Im not going to listen to an album that has this many of his songs on it.
And anyway, the non-Brent songs here are no masterpieces. Not a one. 'Standing on the Moon' is slow and dated, 'Victim or the Crime' just has no melody. Not a one. Gosh. Theres over forty albums out there to choose from. Choose something else. Wouldnt even buy it for a dollar. Do I even consider this to be one of their albums?
Your Rating: D
Any Short Comments?: One correction: Brent didn't die until 7/26/90--about 9 months after Built to Last was released. I agree with your overall opinion--especially about the Brent songs. However, believe it or not, Victim or the Crime is actually my favorite song on the album. It's the only song on the album (in my opinion) that offers anything really different or unique musically, and doesn't try to sound mainstream.
Without a Net - Arista 1990
Continuing in the trend of releasing live albums that were neither entire shows nor entirely good, the Dead dropped this disc on us just months after it was recorded in March 1990. The live band had by this point begun to show definite warts. Jerry's voice was shot by the mid-80's, almost completely. They played the same songs with much higher frequency, the main culprits being Bobby's songs. They took forever to get moving in concert, if they ever did. They were always a hit-or-miss experience. This double disc is not worth listening to except used in a cutout bin or illegally copied. And I'll bet you a dollar the discs don't stay in the package correctly if you buy it. Every one I've ever seen lets the discs just rattle away inside because the spindle always breaks. This must be the worst-packaged disc ever. I remember more about how bad the box pissed me off than the music on it. Bad news. 'Bird Song' has Branford Marsalis, if that turns you on. It works ok. Can you tell I'm bored to tears by this one? Oh, and 'Dear Mr. Fantasy', if that gets you at all, is sung (badly) by Brent Mydland. Steer clear.
How does this get a better rating than "Shakedown Street?" SS has the title track, "I Need a Miracle," and "Fire on the Mountain." What does "Built To Last" have? It SUCKS! This is their worst album. D- No question about it.
This right 'tere is one hell of an improvement. Take all the mediocrity of Without a Net and replace it with some worthy material drawn from the exact same run of shows in upstate New York 1990. Sho nuff it's too fucking long, just take a look at the back of that box of discs. But, hey! The Dead can stil suprise us from time to time, even now after all these years. But that doesn't answer the most burning question: Do they play 'Hell in a Bucket'? Yup. First song. 'Walkin Blues'? Yup. God that Bobby was predictable. But they also play some totally coo versions of stuff like 'Terrapin Station' and 'The Wheel' and 'Brokedown Palace' and even the overly familiar stuff like 'UJB' and 'Playin' is cool here. Those 'Space's got really really good around this time too. In sum. A 6. It's the Dead, just older and slower.
Here we have yet another Vault release, with nice clear sound, but at this late concert date, the differences between the Dick Picks and Vault releases apporoaches zero. And like, who cares about sound quality, anyway? Used to be, the Vault shows has some special reason to be released, now they throw out just any old thang. This show's no stinker, and it is complete so they're not trying to screw you over for bucks like sometimes, but come on, y'all...
All Music Guide sez this one might be of more interest to casual fans than the other releases and I think they may be right. Its got 'Touch', 'Estimated', 'Terrapin'...this doesn't sound so bad, does it? Listen, the later version of the band was much more of a party band than the 70's group. They don't sound creepy or sad or even tough anymore. They're all bouncy and bright and conjure up images ike the silly dancing bears pretty often, rather than, you know faces melting or some shit like that.
Hmm. I'm totally middle of the road on this one. Its not bad. Its not good. Don't waste your money.
Sound - Does Not Meet Minimum Level of Competency, Jams - Incomplete, Singing - Needs Improvement.
As of late 1990, Mydland OD'd and died and they replaced him with a former Tube Vince Welnick. But, the problem was, Vince sucked so they had to get Bruce Hornsby (who wrote that 'Just the Way it Is' song I hate so much) to tour with them as well on piano. Now, Bruce's decent and he doesn't try to sing too loud. Welnick....dude, yer keyboards are really fucking loud and not very good. You solo like a fucking moron. Are you even in tune? And don't get me started on Bobby's retarded slide playing. Bobby Weir...I will take that glass bottleneck of yours and SHOVE IT SO FAR UP YOUR ASS YOU'LL DO SOMETHING FUNNY BECAUSE YOU HAVE A BOTTLENECK SLIDE UP YOUR ASS. Fucking Bobby. God I hate that motherfucker. This band could have been even better without his lame ass.
This concert is bo-ring. Its tightly played, but like in a straightjacket. Has very little rock or jam to fill you up. Its pop Dead. 's got 'Hell in a Bucket' too, in case you were wondering. Some of you might have been.
Now, I can recommend this one wholeheartedly. This is some goooood shite if I have anything to say about it, and since I wrote all of the fucking reviews above here I think I do. Wow! Whowoulda thought that Dick's Picks 17 would be something worthy in this world, born in 1991? 'Help'à 'Slip' à 'Franklins', 'Crazy Fingers', a 'Playin' sandwich, 'Terrapin'....and 'Eyes' from another date? Where do I sign up? Of course, you shouldn't buy this until you have a fine foundation of 1969-70, 1972-74, and 1977, but this isn't at all a bad place to start on modern-era Dead concerts. They're really trying here. Don't expect miracles, but there's still lots of good fun to be had in this Dickless Pickle.
The Arista Years- Arista 1996
Hey now! This compilation makes a shit load of sense! This replaces Terrible Station, Shitstorm Street, Go to Heaving, Dead Set (not so bad), In the Detritus, Built to Pass Gas, AND Whipout your Nards. Take a look at the average score of those albums. Not real high, guys! I listen to none of them with any regularity, and tend to forget they even exist. Like, I go look at my CDs and say 'Wow! I never knew I was stupid enough to spend money on this!' Without a doubt, the Dead's Arista releases are not at all very good. The exceptions are Dead Set, which is merely boring and not at all worth buying, and Reckoning, which is boring but is worth buying. But, if you take the time to go peruse my reviews for those other albums, you'll notice that, without exception, I hate the albums as a whole and like particular songs. Well, buddy, they took my advice and cut out all of the filler shit and laid this one on us! Let's take a look, shall we? From Terrapin we have 'Estimated', 'Samson and Delilah' and the tittie track. Shakedown's got 'Fire on the Mountain' and a bunch of shit. Go to Heaven's got all the decent songs off that one and a Mydland song just to ruin it. This has damn near all of In the Dark on it (had to put 'Hell in a Bucket' on it, too, which marks the 250th time in a row that song has been on a Grateful Dead release). And, well, some of Built, too. It also has the only reason there ever was to buy Without a Net, the Branford Marsalis 'Bird Song'. The big difference between this comp and What a Long Strange Trip its Been, is that, with that compilation, you knew they had picked the songs they liked (those tracks were selected by a Deadhead, by the way) from a large group of possible contenders. Here, they picked the only good songs from steaming piles of shite. So, well, it doesn't have any of Reckoning, but you should be a good boy or girl and buy that one anyway. But golly...Arista just gave everyone a reason not to buy any of its Grateful Dead releases other than these two. What can I say? Screw the bastard record company who laid Shakedown on us by copying this from a friend so they don't make a dime. Capitalism rules!
So Many Roads - Grateful Dead Records 1999
So many fucking releases. OK. This one has a bunch of unreleased tracks and live things that A) You don't give a fuck about because you're not a total Deadhead and are just reading this for a laugh. B) You do give a fuck about and already own, like me. C) You don't fall into one of the above categories and are just dumb enough to buy. This is expensive, and long, and most of it you can download perfectly legally off the Internet. The Dead let you trade their concerts with no restrictions, including on the 'Net. Me? Some of this is absolutely great, some of their best stuff, like the piece of the Watkin's Glen sound check they give you. And the parts of the last, unreleased album they give you, suprisingly, don't suck quite that bad. Christ. Don't spend money on this. I mean, its good, but jeez.
I came across your site today while looking for reviews of the various Dick's Pick's releases. I enjoyed your reviews and found your opinions to be in-line with my own for the most part.
I was wondering what you think of "Ladies and Gentlemen ... The Grateful Dead", the fairly new 4 CD set with highlights from a run at the Fillmore East in 1971. I have not heard it myself and was thinking about checking it out.
Back to the IndexPosted 9.26.01
Originally posted on Prindle's Site