In the final posting in our month-long tribute to Jerry Garcia, by way of the Road Trips series of releases, comes another Doug Collette review, from the All About Jazz site, dated Dec. 4, 2011. This is the final Road Trips release…
Set to be supplanted in 2012 by a new sequence of concert recordings dubbed Dave’s Picks (overseen by chief archivist David Lemieux), The Grateful Dead’s Road Trips archive series ends in stellar fashion with a complete show (plus), capturing the iconic band at one of the highest performing plateaus of its career in one of its favorite cities.
Volume 4, Number 5 is a beautifully played and precisely recorded triple-disc set from The Boston Music Hall. The third show of the Dead’s first lengthy jaunt since returning from its 1975 hiatus, there’s a down-to-earth but nonetheless playful quality to this music. Erstwhile drummer Mickey Hart back in the fold, and he, in synch with rhythm partner Bill Kreutzmann, swing with understated panache through the nonchalant shuffle of “U.S. Blues.” They then churn with a light touch within “Dancing in the Street.”
Few if any notes are wasted there or anyplace during the course of this June 1976 show (or the “filler” that completes the third CD in such rousing fashion). Tunes such as “Scarlet Begonias” begin tight and remain trim instrumentally and vocally; neither Donna Jean Godchaux nor Bob Weir}} had succumbed to the temptation to over- Read the rest of this entry »
Doug Collette’s Sept. 17, 2011 All About Jazz review of this 1982 concert recording…
Throughout the entirety of the Grateful Dead’s archival series, Road Trips, the graphics have accurately mirrored the music enclosed and Vol.4, No. 4 is no exception. Lacking the plethora of detail in the cover art as well as the usual array of action photos, the plainness of the packaging reflects what’s inside. Five years removed from its hiatus, and having already recognized its fifteenth anniversary two years prior with acoustic/electric runs in its San Francisco birthplace and its adopted hometown of New York, the group was essentially marking time.
As the Grateful Dead was rediscovering its roots, its own canon of self-composed material remained static. As Blair Jackson relates in his liner essay, there was little new original material to be offered in 1982, which explains the appearance of covers like “C.C. Rider” and “Man Smart, Woman Smarter,” neither of which may hold any particular cachet for the band or its audience. (“It’s All Over Now,” on the other hand, might have been self-referential, given the group’s status in the culture at this period in time).
It’s clear that more focus would have benefited the group, as well as its audience at Read the rest of this entry »
This review is from John Metzger, dated Jan. 25, 2012, from The Music Box site…
The Grateful Dead has unleashed a daunting amount of material for its fans to digest. There are studio albums, concert compilations, multi-track concert recordings, and numerous DVDs. There also are 36 volumes to its Dick’s Picks series and 17 installments in its Road Trips collection. So, why is it that with all of the music that the Grateful Dead has dispensed, it took until 2011 for the band to issue its performance at the Denver Coliseum on November 21, 1973? Beautifully presented along with a handful of selections from the show that was held on the previous night, Road Trips Vol. 4, No. 3: Denver ’73 is, to put it quite bluntly, the best release that the Grateful Dead has issued in a long time.
In 1973, the Grateful Dead was flush with ideas. In the preceding years, the band had been adding material to its canon at an alarming rate. At the same time, the outfit had taken its music far beyond its roots in early folk and blues. Read the rest of this entry »
Doug Collette’s Feb. 23, 2011 review from All About Jazz…
Adorned with some of the most colorful packaging in the Grateful Dead’s Road Trips archive series, Vol. 4, No. 2: April Fools’ ’88 Jerry Garcia’s survival of a near fatal coma in 1986 and the Dead’s penetration into mainstream culture in 1987 following its hit, “Touch of Grey.”
This was also a year after the group collaborated with Bob Dylan, so it’s not surprising four covers of his songs appear on these three discs. The convoluted lyrics of “Ballad of a Thin Man” allows Bob Weir to channel the relish he brings to his singing that sometimes, as on his own “Estimated Prophet,” leads him to become grievously overwrought, while Garcia’s vocal on “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” sounds as heartfelt as if he wrote it with composing partner Robert Hunter.
That fruitful a partnership created the elegiac ballad “To Lay Me Down,” and there the tenderness in the voice of the titular leader of this band is as noticeable as the Read the rest of this entry »
From the All About Jazz site, another review by Doug Collette, dated Dec. 11, 2010…
Recorded in May, 1969 at a Seminole Reservation in Florida, Road Trips Vol. 4, No. 1 hearkens back to the first golden age of the Grateful Dead. The previous twelve months found the group solidify its personnel lineup with the addition of drummer Mickey Hart, nurture a prolific songwriting relationship with lyricist Robert Hunter and hone a collective and individual improvisational sense, the chemistry of which allowed for what was to be the comparatively short-lived, but nonetheless significant inclusion of keyboardist Tom Constanten.
All the while, Owsley Stanley’s industrious nature took many forms, most productively in the context described above, by stabilizing the Grateful Dead’s own sound system and formalizing its habit of recording its performances. No doubt mastering engineer Jeffrey Norman enhances the depth of detail obvious on these three CDs, but as with all such recordings, the source is the most important element. Small touches of percussion are clearly audible and bassist Phil Lesh’s instrument has just the proper balance in the near-nineteen minutes of “Dark Star,” taken from the first of the group’s two headlining nights at the comparatively small Big Rock Pow-Wow festival (larger festivals were yet to come in an era so succinctly described by Blair Jackson in his essay in the accompanying booklet). Read the rest of this entry »
Doug Collette’s All About Jazz review of the next installment in our ongoing look at the Road Trips series of releases, dated Oct. 31, 2010…
Taken from two college stops on the Grateful Dead’s spring tour of 1980, the latest edition of Road Tripsvis a three-disc set that, like the very first entry in the series, features the band’s lineup with Brent Mydland.
At this point a year into his decade-long tenure with the iconic group, the keyboardist’s presence helped in various ways to consolidate a new chemistry within the Dead. Neither scintillating nor celebratory, Vol. 3, Number 4 is nonetheless worth hearing as a document of the band, close to its fifteenth anniversary, eminently comfortable in its own collective skin.
Material from the Dead’s just-released studio album, Go to Heaven (Arista, 1980), appears early in this composite production of successive Penn State and Cornell University shows forged by David Lemieux and Blair Jackson. The group takes its time throughout the near-three hour playing time, not much more or less so in the later segments than on rhythm guitarist Bob Weir’s collaborations with John Barlow, such as “Lazy Lightning/Supplication,” or the contributions from guitarist Jerry Garcia and lyricist Robert Hunter in the form of “Althea.” Read the rest of this entry »
Back to Doug Collette we get this review the next in the Road Trips series, dated Aug. 21, 2010 from the All About Jazz site…
This edition of Grateful Dead’s Road Trips albums, Volume 3, No. 3, may be the pinnacle of the archive series as in summer 2010 it approaches its third anniversary. The three main discs capture the iconic San Francisco band at the Fillmore East in New York in May of 1970 (a fourth, bonus disc includes more from that run plus content from the previous tour stop), just prior to the release of a studio album, Workingman’s Dead (Warner Bros., 1970) that signalled a paradigm shift in its style.
The flowering of the Jerry Garcia/Robert Hunter songwriting team, combined with the former’s new fascination with the pedal steel guitar, ushered in a rediscovery of roots folk and country music that enabled the Dead to effectively balance the open-ended improvisational approach they had honed since 1968. At the very same time, this alteration also allowed them to move in the more economical and structured direction that had just worked so well in the studio with Workingman’s Dead.
Yet, as depicted on the bonus disc (like the best of such Road Trips inclusions, a Read the rest of this entry »
The next release in the Road Trips series, I cannot find a review by Doug Collette this time out, so this review comes from The Music Box website. Written by John Metzger from July 23, 2010…
Arguably, throughout its existence, the Grateful Dead was almost always in a continuous state of evolution. At the very least, however, one would have to admit that the shows the band performed in 1971 were its most transitional affairs. In fact, where its concerts in 1977 projected a unified perspective, the Grateful Dead’s sojourns six years earlier stood in sharp contrast, exhibiting a persona that was as variegated and unsettled as its musical roots. The show featured on Road Trips, Vol. 3, No. 2: Austin 11-15-71 is a prime example of how deliriously scattered the Grateful Dead’s performances were during this era.
Of course, in November 1971, there were a lot of internal and external pressures weighing upon the Grateful Dead. Most notably, the relatively young outfit was faced with the prospect of having to find a replacement for founding keyboard player Ron “Pigpen” McKernan, whose health had begun to fade. Considering how much of the Grateful Dead’s sets had been devoted to his uproariously blues-y antics, this surely was not an easy task. No matter who was hired — in the end, it was Keith Godchaux — a seismic shift in the ensemble’s approach was bound to take place.
By the time the outfit had settled into Municipal Auditorium in Austin, Texas on November 15, 1971 for the concert that is captured on Road Trips, Vol. 3, No. 2, the Read the rest of this entry »
The first of Vol. 3 in the Road Trips series (another complete show), Doug Collette’s review from All About Jazz, dated Feb. 13, 2010…
The Grateful Dead’s archive series Road Trips begins its third year somewhat, but not wholly, as it began. Like the first edition, Vol.3 No.1is another excerpt from the time of keyboardist Brent Mydland’s membership of the band. Steve Silberman, in his wide-ranging essay in the liner booklet, reaffirms the high level of inspiration Mydland brought to the group, more validation of which appears in any one of the Hammond B3 organ surges that sprinkle these three discs.
But contrary to the original concept of Road Trips—compilations of recordings spotlighting notable phases of the Grateful Dead’s career—this one represents an entire show, from the group’s year-end run at Oakland’s Arena. Archivists David Lemiuex and Blair Jackson, in conjunction with engineer non-pareil Jeffrey Norman, are past masters in sculpting releases with the flow of an actual performance. But fans’ demands for a return to the completist approach of the now-defunct Dick’s Picks series no doubt constitutes the reason for the shift in direction of this more recent archive series.
It’s an auspicious new beginning on its own terms, though it may be telling that, in contrast to previous editions in which the bonus disc represents an arguable highlight, this one, comprised of excerpts from the 12/30 show, doesn’t add to the Read the rest of this entry »
Another review by Doug Collette from the All About Jazz website, dated Oct. 25, 2009…
The Grateful Dead archive series Road Trips was conceived to include highlights of a given period in this iconic band’s history, and Volume 2 Number 4presents a streamlined take on two shows from the Cal Expo in 1993. In stark contrast to the cookie cutter amphitheatres the group was finding itself forced to play to accommodate their growing audience at this point in their history, the open-air atmosphere no doubt contributes directly to the overall vigor with which the Grateful Dead plays. The spotty sound quality here compels the audio disclaimer on the back cover, but doesn’t seriously negate the impact of the playing over the course of the three compact discs.
The septet gets off to a jubilant start through the tight rhythm work of Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart on “Samson and Delilah:” noticeably routine in their tandem playing in the latter year’s of the group’s performances, here the two prod each other into increasingly intricate patterns. That concentrated approach serves the stop and go beat of “Walkin’ Blues” equally well as guitarist Jerry Garcia and bassist Phil Lesh simultaneously interweave melody and rhythm back and forth.This action, however, is in direct contrast to the lethargy within “The Same Thing.” Read the rest of this entry »