Godchaux Era
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Steppin' Out With The Grateful Dead reviewDick's Picks Vol. 11 review

Godchaux Era

Dick's Picks 12 reviewClosing Of Winterland review

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Overview: 10 shows to represent the Godchaux era of the Grateful Dead

Keith & Donna Godchaux arrived at just the right time -- the band had moved to a stronger song orientation, and Keith proved able to follow them into any musical territory they ventured. This ushered in a full maturing of all the directions they had so enthusiastically been pursuing since the summer of 1969.

1. Fall 1971 - March 1972: hit the ground running. Keith has no trouble fitting in, and the band picks up where they'd left off two months before, despite the loss of their front man. Bobby adds new songs, Pigpen rejoins by December, and Jerry takes up the Stratocaster which will define his sound for the remainder of his career. Donna joins during the March shows at the Academy of Music shows, and they're ready for the Spring [European] tour.

Common Favorites: 10-26-71, 11-7-71, 12-15-71, 12-31-71, 3-23-72, 3-28-72

Default: 3-28-72 is now readily available as DP-30 [although you should really seek out 11-7-71]

2. European tour April 7 - May 26, 1972. Often regarded as their best tour. Often regarded as their best tour. Pigpen & the Godchauxs are all fully integrated, making for a fuller sound with  two full-time keyboardists.

Common Favorites: it would be shorter to list the few shows that aren't favorites. Inarguable favorites include: 4-14, 4-24 [ROCKIN' THE RHEIN], 4-26 [ HUNDRED YEAR HALL], 5-10, 5-11, 5-23, 5-26 [featured in EUROPE 72], and STEPPIN' OUT [compiled from British dates on this tour]

Default: STEPPIN' OUT cannot be faulted, brilliantly capturing the mood & magic of this unique time in the band.

3. Summer 1972. After appearing onstage for one show in June, Pigpen takes another leave. The band soldiers on, not knowing what or when they will again perform with their friend & front man.

Common Favorites: 7-18-72, 7-26-72, 8-21-72, 8-24-72, 8-27-72

Essential: 8-27-72 is no default, but one of the landmark performances of their career. Download the 'Serafins' version at GDLive.com.

4. September - December 1972. 'Playing in the Band'. With Pigpen still off-duty, they embark on another great tour -- excited by plans for their own record label. Latvala's reputed favorite PITB* & Dark Star** are both found here.

Common favorites: 9-10, 9-17 [Dick's Pick 23], 9-21, 9-27 [Dick's Pick 11], 11-13**, 11-17/18*/19, 12-10/11/12

Default: Dick's Pick 11  is regarded by some as (another) candidate for Their Finest Show Ever, and a well-recorded one at that.

5. Feb 1973 - Aug 1973. One door closes as another door opens; massive volumes of new material launched in Feb, and Pigpen dies in March. The summer tour features some long three-set shows, including the last time they would share a stage with the Allman Brothers Band, 6/10/73.

Common favorites: 2-9, 2-15, 2-17, 3-26, 5-20, 5-26, 6-10, 8-1

Default: DP-28 pairs two nice shows from February (the last two, incidentally, before Pigpen died). Neither is among the listed favorites above, but this release quickly shot to the short-list of favored DPs.

6. Sept - Dec 1973. The ship is launched: the release of WAKE OF THE FLOOD inaugurates their own record label. Some personnel variations occur here, as they try including horns on stage for some September shows, and Donna bows off in late November for the last part of her pregnancy.

Common favorites: 9-12-73, 11-11, 11-14, 11-17, 12-2, 12-6, 12-18

Default: DP14 includes the best parts of 11-30 & 12-2.

7. 1974: full glory. MARS HOTEL released, Wall of Sound system completed. By the end of the year, their retirement is announced [and filmed].

Common favorites: 2-24, 5-19, 6-16, 6-18, 6-23, 6-26, 6-28, 7-31, 8-6 [partly used for Dick's Pick 31], 10-18 (used in the GD. Movie).

Default: DP-12 combines the best portion of two June shows [6-26 & 6-28]. On the other hand, serious devotees will prefer the 5-disc smorgasbord of the movie soundtrack!

8. 1975 - 76: experiment & transition. Mickey Hart rejoins. Although retired from touring, the jamming continues -- resulting in one of their most eclectic records, BLUES FOR ALLAH. By 1976 they return to touring, revamping old material alongside some new.

Common favorites: 8-13-75, 6-11-76, 6-12-76, 7-18-76,  10-03-76, 10-10-76 [now part of Dick's Pick 33], 12-31-76

Default: ONE FROM THE VAULT [8-13-75] was the inaugural Vault release, and for very good reason.

9. 1977: The eagle soars again. Having reloaded their stock for half of 1976, they spend half of 1977 blowing away their past with a tighter, more organized approach to their jams. The band that joked about being 'just exactly perfect' comes closest to it here. TERRAPIN STATION recorded & released.

Common favorites: Feb run, March run, most May shows (5-4 thru 5-9, 5-17, 5-19, 5-25), 6-9, 10-11, 11-5, 12-29

Default: No collection could be complete without 5-8-77's mighty, mighty second set.

10. The end of an era (1978 - Feb 1979). The Godchauxs' last year. Still, they play at the Great Pyramid in Egypt, and record one more album [SHAKEDOWN STREET]. The year closes with one last performance at Winterland, now available on DVD [Closing of Winterland]. Donna & Keith finish out Jan & Feb 1979, but the era had already ended; new blood would be needed for the next step. But that's another article :-)

Common favorites: 1-23-78, Dick's Pick 18 [compiled from three shows in Feb 1978], 4-15-78, 5-10 & 11-78 [Dick's Pick 25], 6-25-78, 7-8-78, 9-15-78, 11-24-78, 12-31-78, 1-10-79, 1-20-79, 2-17-79

Default: Dick's Pick 18 has proven one of the more enduring & popular releases.

As final note, it should be remarked that some serious devotees of the band consider this to be the *only* era worth serious collecting -- and some go so far as to make October 1974 the cutoff date. Truly, there is something to be said for the intuitive energy and extensive improvisation of their music from late '71 to late '74. On the other hand, the band became more adept at constructing sets in the later years, of which the songs acted as component parts even when they weren't directly segued. Garcia said in later interviews that the band simply became 'more concise'. Let your own ears be your guide, and form your own opinion :-)
Ramble On Joe

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