I’ve always thought a strong case could be made that the peak performance year for Grateful Dead was 1972. I especially preferred the single drum ensemble, the natural sounding guitars, bass and piano as opposed to bombastic (dual) drumming, and the overuse of unnatural sounding electronics by Garcia and especially Brent Mydland’s keyboards. So with open arms I embrace this concluding 2017 edition of Dave’s Picks (Volume 24.) Additionally: Owsley “Bear” Stanley’s recording from the Berkeley Community Theatre is clean and crisp; it also captures the good mood and playfulness of the band with the audience. The Dead are (in-the-zone) cohesively meshing like a fine and well lubricated machine. Also; listening to Bill Graham’s (un-credited) band introduction brings to mind fond Fillmore memories. (Note) This edition is unique because discs one and two are required for the lengthy first set; disc three is the entire second set.
Discs One and Two: The opening “Cold Rain and Snow” connects with the crowd with a warm glow rendition, it’s also nice to hear an early version of “He’s Gone” that’s nearly thirteen minutes long yet it never loses focus nor does it ramble on and on like latter day versions. “Friend of the Devil” is performed at a similar pace as it was originally recorded on “American Beauty,” unlike future slow-motion, dragged out, and painful versions that unfortunately became the norm for too many years. I also adored the freshness of the recent and expanded (twelve minute plus) version of Garcia’s jazzy-gorgeous “Bird Song,” and the early beginnings of the expanded editions (seventeen minutes) of “Playing in the Band.” An over the top “Bertha” concludes the first set in an uplifted and spirited fashion suggesting strong expectations for an above par second set.
Disc Three opens with a torrid (fifteen minute plus) “Truckin’” that includes Lesh’s non-indulgent and tasteful bass solo segment, that eventually finds its way to its famous partnership with an insane “The Other One.” These two segued songs together account approximately forty-four minutes of captivating and mind boggling jamming that eventually morphs into an elegant “Stella Blue.” Weir’s “One More Saturday Night” brings the house down and closes the set, yet there’s an encore with an equally rousing “Sugar Magnolia.” Whew!
Original copies of Owsley’s 8/25/1972 soundboard tapes circulated for many years. But because of some last minute changes as to who was going to record this show, and a miscalculation about how many minutes of tape were needed, Owsley (who was also the well-known and go-to LSD chemist) ran out of tape during the potent “Truckin’,” “The Other One” segment. Therefore; most of the circulated bootleg tapes that made the rounds were incomplete, not anymore.
In summary, this twenty-fourth edition of the Dave’s Picks series is easily the best of the four subscription releases of 2017, perhaps the greatest of the entire twenty-four Dave’s Picks. It’s a memorable event from the bands best days, even though Pig Pen wasn’t present.
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