Primal GD...
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Godchaux Era
Post Godchaux
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JGB June 16 - 18, '82

Grateful Dead bootleg reviews and recommendations

 

Dick's Picks Volume 26 reviewLive Dead review

Primal Dead...
pre Godchaux

Dick's Picks 16 reviewLadies and Gentlemen review

 
Grateful Dead bootleg reviews and recommendations

Overview: 10 shows to represent the primal era of the Grateful Dead … till Keith’s arrival

The Grateful Dead went through a lot of stylistic changes fairly rapidly in their first seven years, cemented really by the arrival of the Godchauxs. Before that, they had several peaks of various styles, each exciting in its own way.

1. Before 1968: Proto-psychedelic R&B. Wow, is this even the same band? You bet your boots it is -- although they had yet to even compose 'Dark Star' until December 1967. At this time, their main jam vehicle was 'Viola Lee Blues' from their jug-band days, and their main stage focus was on Pigpen.

Common favorites: 5-19-66, 7-16-66, 3-18-67, 10-22-67

Default: 3-18-67 comes right in the middle & takes only one disc. The one song omitted is on SO MANY ROADS anyway :-)

2 & 3. 1968: Primal psychedelia. Tom Constanten joins on electric organ. Long jams, constant segues, tricky arrangements, loud feedback; just about anything but what radio might play. Hunter becomes band's lyricist on strength of some lyrics mailed in to Jerry. By Fall, Pigpen & Weir were second-class band members, as the remainder played several jam-heavy \shows as 'Mickey & the Hartbeats'

Common favorites: almost any, especially 2-14-68, 8-21-68 through 8-24-68, and the Mickey and the Hartbeat shows

Defaults: 2-14-68 & 8-24-68 (readily available as Two From the Vault)

4. Early 1969 -- 'Dark Star' arrives. Multitrack recording for a live album began in late 1968, and they struck gold by the end of February with the maturing of 'Dark Star' as their prime musical vehicle.

Favorite shows: most February, early March; the April Ark shows, 4-26

Common favorites: most February, early March; the Boston Ark shows 4/21 - 4/23; 4-26 Dick's Picks 26

Default: LIVE DEAD remains a fine introductory compilation, featuring 2-27-69's quintessential performance of 'Dark Star'

5. Summer 1969: here comes Cowboy Bob. Strange as it might seem today, country music held the sound of rebellion, and the Dead wanted in.

Common favorites: 6-7, 6-21, 6-27 & 28, and (most oddly) Woodstock 8-16

Default: I'm gonna go with 6-7, despite the rough sound quality. After all, Janis joins them for 'Lovelight'

6. Late 1969 - early 1970: TC gets phased out. Jerry writes for Hunter's now more homey lyrics, largely influenced by the music of The Band. TC's interest was baroque strangeness, not the comfort of simple-but-heartfelt songs. This era showed the two in uneasy coexistence, as Phil, Bob & Jerry work on improving their vocal harmonies.

Common favorites: 11-8-69, 12-12-69, 12-26-69, 1-2-70, 1-23-70, 1-24-70

Default: 11-8-69 is readily available as DP-16

7 & 8 & 9. post-TC 1970. Acoustic sets become more common, though jams are still in force. The band shows no sign of loss with TC's departure. Theme jams develop, and the band returns to some of their earlier material -- a pattern we would see again when the band wanted to recharge itself.

Common Favorites: 2-13-70 (plus 2-11 & 2-14), 3-21-70, 5-2-70, 5-6-70, 5-15-70, 9-19-70 (circulates as an excerpt), 9-20-70, 11-8-70

Defaults: 5-2-70 [DP-8], 2-13's 'Dark Star' & 2-14's 'Caution' [both on DP-4], and one of the later shows -- 9-20-70 considered by some even better than 5-2.

10. 1971: Pigpen's last strong year. Mickey takes a break after 2-18-71, leaving the band a quintet for the first (and only) time since 1967 (Yeah, yeah, Donna wasn’t there in late ’73, but that was only temporary). This stripped-down version focused on improving their new material & tightening their sound, but still took the occasional foray into the jams they'd been known for. Less serious but often very fun.

Common Favorites: 2-18-71, 3-18-71, 4-28-71, 4-29-71, 8-6-71, 8-26-71

Default: LADIES & GENTLEMEN compiles strong performances from their late April Fillmore shows, including the two named above.

Grateful Dead bootleg reviews and recommendations

 

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