Rockin' the Rhein
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Rockin' the Rhein

with the Grateful Dead 

 Dusseldorf, West Germany
Order / Info Amazon

Rockin' the Rhein  review

Rockin' the Rhein review 

Rockin' the Rhein with the Grateful Dead is the first-ever complete show released from their Europe '72 tour, though, it is the fourth release from it. The featured  show is from April 24, 1972, from Dusseldorf, West Germany. Also included are two songs from the May 24, 1972, performance in London, one of which is the final version of "Turn On Your Lovelight" sung by Pigpen. This release is a multi-track recording so all things being equal performance wise, offers significant sonic advantages over Dick's Picks releases such as volume 31 that is from the same time period.

The first set is jammed packed with gems of both short songs and more jam oriented material. Signs of a strong show are present with the first track, "Truckin'," as fill Phil cranks it up, especially during the closing minutes of the instrumental. 

Keith makes his presence known primarily through melodic fills rather than by dominating solos, adding to practically every song, "Black Throated Wind," "Loser," and "Me and Bobbie McGee" to name a few. With a special note to the "China Cat Sunflower" transition; when Bobbie  hands things off to Jerry, Keith's fills are perfectly timed. Some of Keith's best soloing comes in set three.

Among the first set's lengthier pieces, there is a lot packed into "Playing in the Band." Pig Pen leads the band through a nearly 20 minute rendition of "Good Lovin'" At around the 13:20 minute mark Jerry hits a "Big River" riff.

Next up is "He's Gone," which is pretty well done seeing that it is the second performance of it. Keith is a really good blues player and he and Jerry get in some good licks during the Elmore James classic "It Hurts Me Too."

The real charm of Rockin' the Rhein is the third disc, one of the top single discs of any release. The rendition of "Dark Star" is every bit as good as the one from Steppin' Out With the Grateful Dead. This version is quite lengthy and offers excellent interaction with teases of "The Other One" throughout. This "Dark Star" also sandwiches "Me and My Uncle" into it. The transition to it is sweet with Bobby leading the introduction and Jerry and Keith following his cue, switching gears on a dime. Frankly, the move back to "Dark Star" is just as brilliant.

The second part of "Dark Star" is lively. Anyone hear "Cosmic Charlie" inferences just before the 12:00 minute mark? That tease continues gloriously for several minutes and they shortly make their way to the "Dark Star" melody again. Like the version on Stepping Out, the conclusion is energetic and sensational. This time they melt into "Wharf Rat."

After a break the boys come back and play some rock 'n roll Grateful Dead style with some upbeat material before sending the crowd on their way. 

Rockin' The Rhein is an excellent Grateful Dead performance and has incredibly good sound. The song selection is supreme and generous in quantity too. If you are a "Dark Star" fan this is a mandatory release. by Barry Smallę  


Rockin' the Rhein  review

Review by  Ramble On Joe

Asked to name which Europe '72 shows should be canonized by commercial release, it's all too easy to give up and ask for them all. In reality, before ROCKIN' THE RHEIN, we had only one release drawn entirely from a single date (and that not a complete concert). No doubt the more popular English shows from this tour were passed over for precisely that popularity; why try to sell what your intended purchasers most likely already have? Even STEPPIN' OUT was a nod to this -- stepping over the widely-circulated Lyceum shows in favor of the less-heard Bickershaw date, and scoring a genuine coup with the first quality presentation from 4/07.

Therein lies the rub: the most obvious E72 candidates already being leaked, what hidden gems might remain?

4/24/72 starts with the kind of "Truckin" that promises a good show: the harmonies are good, and (not surprisingly) the jam reminds us of its more famous brother on the E72 album. The difference here is that the band still has three hours ahead of it; having touched the muse, they exploit it for a few minutes and retreat to the coda.

Surprising to the ears of those accustomed to the circulated E72 shows, there's a bit of echo on Jerry's voice -- "Tennessee Jed" shows it on some of the band stops -- and Bill's drum intros can sound startlingly crisp. I venture to say that the band sound was probably *not* quite so good as it is here :-)

"Tennessee Jed" seems good enough to me to have been the album version; the band gets some real energy going behind Jerry's solo (notice Keith's down-the-piano backhand on the solo's conclusion). Unusually, Jerry throws a jovial "baby" into the lyric -- a minor joy, to be sure, but one for the conneisseurs. "China Cat" and "Mr. Charlie" similarly sound like album material to these ears; the "China>Rider" jam has that same marvelously amorphous quality of everything happening though nothing specific could be described. Poor "Black-Throated Wind" never made it onto a Grateful Dead album in its own lifetime; STEAL YOUR FACE was an embalmed memory of a former time. This show's rendition (and, for that matter, "Beat it on Down the Line") would have been fine live album fodder, had they so chosen.

"Loser" lacks the pinched harmonics we might expect in Jerry's solo, and the band seems to be coasting, but the audience is warming up all the same; appreciative applause has Jerry thanking them in their own tongue. The band responds to this encouragement by diving into "Playing in the Band" as if it were their latest hit; the jam starts in a rather uncertain, furtive mood, but soon generates the heat we expect as Phil and Keith push Jerry to higher, more desperate notes. Europe's Spring '72 tour was PITB's first real stepping out, as they learned to confidently stretch and pull its fabric. Having ventured as far as they dared, Jerry turns things back to the Reprise, complete with Donna siren. A very good showing, worthy to sit beside the greater adventures yet to come for this song.

"Next Time" is fine, though no rosette; "Bobby McGee" is sweetly sung and performed, but seems out of place after a song of bad love and bluesy dismissal. Especially nice are Keith's piano and Pigpen's supportive Hammond organ -- and please, let's give it up for Jerry's soulful harmonies -- a fine example of how well Jerry and Bobby blended.

The audience claps their desire for something more up tempo during the tune-up, and Keith plays along. Phil addresses the audience in German, then English, to remove themselves away from the PA, and the band launches into a seventeen-minute "Good Lovin" that must have had those German feet moving. Pigpen may no longer have been quite the audience wrangler he once was, but the band had learned to compensate: the double-percussive Keith-and-Bill propelling Phil and Jerry up and over the musical sand dunes of rhythm and tone. But don't count Pig out -- soon enough, he's out front and unreeling his tropes: motion, metaphor and desire stirred into the swirling musical soup, verbalizing what the band's music implied. Swagger and suggestion soon give away to something darker: we were already getting primal, but the band develops a more mysterious tone as it detours into the dense forest of the subconscious. Pig has no trouble with this, and we soon find the band taking one of its darkest guises without leaving Pig behind, or abandoning his bluesman persona. Band and front man equally feed off each other, and the strange turn soon comes out to the light: it was only a shortcut through the woods, and now the band can really gallop. Like a locomotive on the last long straightaway, they dash back to town (slowing down on the last turn so as not to scare the locals). Soon we're back to civilization, and familiar ground; Pigpen having been the engineer the whole time, we never had to worry how far or how fast this train went. Back at the station, the audience applauds with real enthusiasm; thanks for a real good time!

Such is enough for a good set, and "Casey Jones" finishes it in both music and metaphor; benefiting from the twin keyboard sound and the band's enthusiasm, it's a fine finish.

Set two begins with a joke [?!], which the band then admits is a test of the audience's English [!!!!]. Thankfully, they give up on comedy and let "He's Gone" resume the music which the audience actually wanted to hear. This goes very well for a song that had debuted only the week before; Jerry sings with snarling passion, Bobby inserts numerous guitar comments, and the band in general plays strongly. Noteworthy on the end jam is Jerry's gently soaring solo, punctuated by Bobby and Pigpen, with commentary from Keith. Gently, gently, they come in for a landing; I guess Bill is the landing gear ;-) Another album-worthy performance.

A Souza march* emerges from Jerry's guitar during tuning, and most of the band jumps on the, er, bandwagon (Phil seems especially keen on it). The audience gives no sign of recognition; seemingly with a shrug, the band puts up "It Hurts Me Too" on center stage. This seems the perfect next step, as Pig sings gently and soulfully with full sympathetic support from the band. Look for a solo that makes you want to stand up and howl your own bluesy support. "El Paso" is lively enough, but somehow not as satisfying as the blues song it followed; the highlight may well be Bobby's post-song explanation to the audience: "The hero died."

Filling out the disc is a two-partner from a month later (5/24) in England -- "Lovelight" segueing into one of Pigpen's original compositions. This is a rather shorter "Lovelight" than we had come to expect in 1969 - 71, but there's no denying the band's energy and commitment to the performance; Pigpen himself still seems firmly in command. I'm guessing this is essentially a outtake from the STEPPIN' OUT project which ended up here simply because there was space. In any case, I surely don't object to hearing it. As for the original song (alternately called "Two Souls in Communion" or "The Stranger"): this must be the slowest version ever, which fits the song well. Pigpen is still trying out different phrasing, searching out the song's strengths, though he hits a lot of flat notes as well. Jerry plays a sweet solo. IMHO, 5/26 is still the gold performance of this song -- perhaps partly thanks to the practice on end-harmonies heard here, which are surprisingly strong. Pigpen really shines on his soulful end shouts.

After this, we go back to 4/24 for the deep jams which (for many) constitute the main reason for hearing this show. "Dark Star" begins with no discernible audience reaction -- understandably enough, given the circumstances, but a little odd to ears so accustomed to those fateful opening notes. Switching to headphones, I find Jerry a little left, Keith way off to the right, and Bobby just right of Phil's dead center. Bill is panned across both channels, naturally.

Things get murky after a few minutes, and then get crazier from there; the nice spatial separation makes everyone perfectly clear. Phil switches on some fuzz; Keith goes through some stereo tremolo; it sounds like he has the electric piano in stereo while the grand stays off to one side. Hmm, a double threat :-) Nobody takes the lead, but everyone is in the flow. Turbulence, distance, change ... and the return:

"Daaaaaaaaark Star crashes ..."

Whoa -- did you hear that? Someone put a delay on during one word in "Searchlight casting" -- Jerry's voice echoes a ghostly "casting" afterward. If that was in fact done live, big kudos are due; otherwise, we hear some judicious 21st-century help. No matter, really -- it's effective, haunting, and not obtrusive.

The song being dispatched, the band goes for some heavy freaking: feedback is permissible. but this is only a side thought -- soon the band is headlong into a real jam, ideas thrown and juggled like flaming pins to dazzle our ears. Running comes to mind, as if they were dashing from room to room in some creaking mansion, unlit and supposedly uninhabited. Well, at least by solid people: the spirit world is quite busy here, and desperately trying to tell us something -- for good or ill, we can't tell. "Listen, dammit!" demands one. Uh-oh; we'd better try another room -- how 'bout this one? Woops, that room's even worse! Jerry lets in a massive tiger growl of terror and dismay while Billy battles the rear guard, not noticing that Phil seems to have found a safe haven. Bobby's caught in the middle, undecided, and indecision is always your worst enemy in these cases. Phil calls again, but the insect menace has been unleashed. Quick, this way!

Things seem safer in the basement -- or at least quieter. Except for those damn insects; you can't see them down here, but you sure can hear them. Can anyone find a window? Bobby does, but it doesn't seem large enough. Nope; gotta keep moving.

Jerry offers an Other route, but nobody bites; they seem preoccupied with a side corridor that looks interesting. Sure enough, it's almost wide enough to dance -- enough to spin, at least. Do Germans do that? Didn't think so. But what was that noise? Nobody really wants to see; better to just keep going. After all, motion = life, and we're all still alive, that's for certain.

Man, it's quiet down here, and we're all getting tired; it's just about time for a story ....

"Well, me and my uncle went riding down ..."

Quick as taxes, Pig Pen sneaks up to throw in some Hammond stabs. Good one, Pig! As for the song choice: well, only Bobby would want to do that. But there's something about a tale of theft, murder and betrayal in the wake of the previous 25 minutes. The conclusion finds the audience heartily applauding, though the band doesn't really stop; they can't just leave it at that. There are still thoughts to think, notes to spin, forces to enact; Bill drops out and lets the other instruments dance and interwine. Grace, delicacy, movement; sounds are busily cast forth, suggesting rather than defining. Seasons, then eons pass; cosmic time, not human time.

Just as a small breeze can be the harbinger of a storm, small sounds change to larger, and Bill gets back in the mix. Yes, we're moving again, like hoboes in a boxcar: everyone on this planet is right now hurtling through empty space with no certainty of the future. But it's the motion which counts: the doing, the being, the growing. "Let it grow" indeed -- this is the definition of life; bring it on.

Looking out the open doorway, we see our motion relative to all that we pass; we aren't in control of either speed or direction, but we can sure enjoy the journey. Faster now, but we have no fear: it's one thing to be out of control, but it's another to consciously let go of that control and accept what may come. That ain't the road to a big bank account, but what is? Poverty is another kind of richness: freedom from the fear of being poor, and from the fear of losing all you've worked for. Obviously, we've segued, and "Wharf Rat" is naturally where we've arrived. Jerry's passionate singing comes across as deeply felt; the band really knows how to bring out the song's delicate angst, and the audience seems especially appreciative of this kind of mood. Keith's piano is busy making subtle commentary between the verses; Bobby works around him, almost invisibly busy until Jerry goes for a solo. A very nice performance!

The segue to "Sugar Magnolia" is just as effective as it is predictable. Pigpen adds some percussion here, as he occasionally did earlier in the show; one could be excused for thinking Mickey was still in the band! By now, the band could motor through this song like a Harley going downhill; the break finds the audience almost taken by surprise, and the band unconsciously launches "Sunshine Daydream" a few ticks faster than "Sugar" had been. We get a hint why as Bobby shouts "Get up!" in between verses; I guess the audience needed a little encouragement after that hour-long trip!

All the same, the band takes a break, telling the audience they'll be back to play some. Technically, this is a three-set show, but all that's left is a "Not Fade Away > Going Down the Road > NFA reprise" jam and the "Saturday Night" finale. "Not Fade Away" turns into "Going Down the Road" rather sooner than usual (NFA is just over three minutes long), and benefits from some earthy Hammond from Pigpen. A chirpy tempo makes this a fairly enjoyable jaunt, even while Donna throws down wails that evokes nothing so much as some hillbilly housewife on the rampage, a frying pan in one hand and the hair of a husband caught red-handed in the other.

This doesn't trouble the band, who bring "Going Down the Road" to a high boil before removing to simmer over a cool "Goodnight" melody. This is like a moment caught out of time, and we are almost caught up in its delicate rapture when Billy heralds the NFA reprise with a solid thunk. Once again, Bobby feels the need to instruct the audience while singing ("Get up and dance!"), and the band takes it up to the judge for a long drawn-out final chord, leaving nobody in doubt as to whether the song was over. Losing no time, "Saturday Night" starts up before the applause can die down; it's almost as fine as the performance on the album and just a little more dangerous.

"Auf wiedersehen!" shouts Phil on its conclusion, rather more appropriately than Bobby's sedate "Good night" which follows, and nobody could feel cheated; in the course of three hours, they covered just about everything they had to offer and did a great job: blues, rock and roll, country, soul, freakout -- you name it, it's here. Now let's just hope this isn't the last release from the E72 tour :-)

* I just can't recall the name [is it "The Stars and Stripes Forever"?], though I performed it myself back in high school band!

Rockin' the Rhein  track list
Track List

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Disc One:
1. Truckin'
2. Tennessee Jed
3. Chinatown Shuffle
4. Black-Throated Wind
5. China Cat Sunflower>
6. I Know You Rider
7. Mr. Charlie
8. Beat It On Down The Line
9. Loser
10. Playing In The Band
11. Next Time You See Me
12. Me & Bobby McGee

Disc Two:
Set one
1. Good Lovin'
2. Casey Jones

Set ? 
3. He's Gone
4. Hurts Me Too
5. El Paso

5/24/72 Lyceum Theatre, London:
6. Lovelight>
7. The Stranger (Two Souls In Communion)

Disc Three:
1. Dark Star>
2. Me and My Uncle>
3. Dark Star>
4. Wharf Rat>
5. Sugar Magnolia

Set three 
6. Not Fade Away>
7. Goin' Down The Road Feeling Bad>
8. Not Fade Away
9. One More Saturday Night

Bonus CD:

Rockin' the Rhein   Musicians

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Jerry Garcia - lead guitar, vocals
Bob Weir - guitar, vocals
Phil Lesh - bass, vocals
Keith Godchaux - keyboards
Bill Kreutzmann - drums
Donna Godchaux - background vocals
Pigpen - keyboards, vocals, harmonica

Rockin' the Rhein with the Grateful Dead - Notes

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Released - May, 25, 2004
Label - Grateful Dead 
Tape Archivist - David Lemieux

This is first release that has Digipak packaging. Too bad as I much prefer the standard packaging. 

Bonus CD:
There is a limited edition bonus disc for orders placed directly from the Grateful Dead store. The material is a supplement to Dick's Picks 30 as it is from the same venue, The Academy of Music. 

Playing In The Band
Sugar Magnolia>
Uncle John's Band

Dark Star

Rockin' the Rhein with the Grateful Dead
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