The Grateful Dead – “Road Trips Vol. 1, No. 3: Summer ’71” (2008)

August 13, 2012 at 8:28 am (Music, Reviews & Articles, The Grateful Dead)

The third installment in the Road Trips series, this review is once again by Doug Collette, this time from Glide magazine, dated Aug. 11, 2008…

The Grateful Dead Road Trips series of archive recordings is turning out to be as confounding –and satisfying—in its own way as the bands’ own live performances. For instance, the first release works best if you begin in the middle with the second disc, while its successor flourishes in the most consistent manner only on its bonus CD.

The third installment proceeds more like you’d expect a conventional concert to progress, beginning slowly but surely, with “Big Railroad Blues” and “Hard to Handle,” to peak with a resounding suite of songs that illuminates the idiosyncrasies of Dead live performances. That said, if you played disc one for someone not familiar with live Grateful Dead, chances are good the response would be desultory, which is almost how the music itself sounds: this is the kind of opening set—largely easygoing, good-natured selections of rock and roll– that would leave anyone hungry for more.

Crucially, though, it is the likes of which furthered the band’s recrystallization of themselves after Mickey Hart’s departure in 1970—this lineup is, after all, the one in place when they became “The Grateful Dead”—and lays a firm foundation for the assimilation of keyboardist Keith Godchaux later in 1971. Accordingly, the “Dark Star”/”Birdsong” interval on disc one only hints at what the group is capable of and maybe that’s intentional, for an interweaving of “Cryptical Envelopment,” a drum segment and “The Other One,” with “Me and My Uncle” thrown in for good measure, sets the stage for the ever-so-stark contrast of moods that is the melancholy “Wharf Rat” and euphoric “Sugar Magnolia.”

It’s a tribute to the intimate knowledge of this music evinced by archivists David Lemieux and Jeffrey Norman that each installment of Road Trips displays its own peculiar logic. Consequently, this series, like the best improvisational music, should remain interesting as it goes forward, no matter what direction it takes.

Doug Collette


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