Monday 13 July 2015

Grateful Dead: Dick's Picks/Dave's Pick's

'High Time - The Alan's Album Archives Guide To The Music Of The Grateful Dead' is available to buy now by clicking here!

Dick's Picks Volume One

 (Curtis Hixon Hall, Tampa Florida, December 19th 1973, Released 1993)

Here Comes Sunshine/Big River/Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo/Weather Report Suite/Big Railroad Blues/Playing In The Band/He's Gone/Truckin'/Nobody's Fault But Mine > Jam > That's It For The Other One > Jam > Stella Blue/Around And Around
While the music isn't all that special, the occasion is: welcome to a whole number of firsts. This is the first show in the long-running Dick's Picks series, the first real Dead archive release since the 1970s and almost the last record with the Grateful Dead name on it released in Jerry Garcia's lifetime (though volume two is the very last). For now the archive series keeps it simple: a two-disc set of highlights from one single show, based mainly around the shorter tighter first set and things only really get 'weird' for the last quarter or so. By Dead standards not a lot happens, but the tape was still highly prized for ticking a whole number of boxes: the set included many of the Dead's most popular songs, there were no major problems with the recording or the performers, it included one bona fide rarity in the cover of 'Nobody's Fault But Mine' and this was a tape that hadn't been widely known to Deadheads and thus appealed to the largest possible target audience (Dick also claimed that this gig had the best version of one of his favourite songs 'Here Comes The Sunshine' to boot - stretched out to fourteen minutes it's certainly one of the longest, but the band are sadly in rather ropey form throughout). Donna Godchaux is at home for this gig, by the way, and about to give birth to baby Zion although daddy Keith is still out on the road with the rest of the band. Unusually the Dead seem quite keen to promote their newest album 'Wake Of The Flood', performing 'Mississippi' 'Weather Report Suite' and 'Stella Blue' in addition to 'Sunshine'. However none of these performances are definitive and given that this was one of the Dead's better eras all-round this gig seems to catch them on something of an off-night, with rushed or noodling jams that don't really give these songs space to breathe.  Best Song: A funky 'Big River' features a terrific Billy Kreutzmann shuffle drum part of which Johnny Cash would have been proud!  Worst song: A rare but rather rambling take on the entire 'Weather Report Suite' reveals why the Dead later pared it back to just the second half after a few dozen shows like this. 'He's Gone' is also so slow it almost comes to a halt at one point. Biggest Talking Point: This is the only released version to date of 'Nobody's Fault But MIne', a Willie Dixon blues cover. Uniquely, 'Mississippi' ends when a jamming session runs out of steam instead of going into its usual 'Rio Grande' refrain Best Speech A famous bit of Dead banter - Lesh: 'Before we get started, I guess we gotta let you know that there's really a strict rule against smoking in this auditorium and, uh, you heard the fellow telling you all about it in his best CBS School Of Broadcasting voice. What I wanted to tell you was no matter what you're smoking, you're liable to get tapped on the shoulder by somebody that you don't want to see. So if you're gonna smoke anything, I don't care what it is, make sure you know everybody within ten feet of you at all times!' Weir: 'If you're gonna do something that they don't want you to do, you better make sure that they don't see you and that's not easy to do' Lesh: 'In fact, it's impossible' Garcia: 'So, remember your hippie training folks!' Longest Song: A 21:10 'Playin' In The Band' Front Cover: A very dull picture of the series logo on a red background with a black stripe at the bottom Overall Rating - A bit of a mess to be honest and an unworthy first choice for a great series 3/10

Dick's Pick's Volume Two

 (Ohio Theatre, Columbus, Ohio, October 31st 1971, Released 1995)

Dark Star > Jam > Sugar Magnolia > St Stephen/Not Fade Away > Going Down The Road Feeling Bad > Not Fade Away
 What you take from this release depends on how long you've been a Deadhead. Originally Dick Latavia's series of releases was meant as an 'accompaniment' to the main releases of fan-favourite Dead shows, featuring merely selections from the hardest-to-find tapes that most traders couldn't get hold of for whatever reason. As a reason this archive set makes far more sense in the context of the Dead as still a fully functioning unit making their own records and came before the days when the band needed to 'hook' newer fans with old material to keep their name alive.  Alas only the Dead's second set is featured on this disc - the first and the encore 'Johnny B Goode' have yet to be released -with this the only single disc archive Dead set so far. The result is a set that even in highlights form never really takes off - a concert that's special for its rarity value rather than it's musical worth. Which is not to say that it's bad - in 1971 the Dead were on magic form and everything they touched turned to some form of gold. This is also understandably a bit wobbly - it's only Keith Godchaux's tenth gig with the band and he's still audibly finding his feet. It's just that this show paled against other archive shows from the same year and seems to go out of its way to sound 'different' to 'Skulls and Roses' - the Dead haven't yet latched on to the fact that fans want these shows warts and all, however similar the track order may be to what they've been playing for years. Hearing this it's easy to see why the more psychedelic songs rarely got an airing after this - they simply don't have the fizz and fire of old, with the band in a more mellow mindset. The band were supported by New Riders Of The Purple Sage once again. Best Song: This 'Sugar Magnolia' rocks!  Worst song: 'St Stephen' is a struggle to sit through, to be honest Biggest Talking Point: This is the last 'St Stephen' for nearly five years and when revived the song will have a very different slower arrangement than here Best Speech: Audience: 'Truckin!' Garcia: 'Well, why don't you play 'Truckin'?' Weir: 'Hey folks up there sitting under the lid of the balcony - you wanna watch out as any minute now they're going to be dropping a whole load of live chickens right on to you!' Longest Song: A 23:14 'Dark Star' that has its moments but isn't the most together the band ever played Front Cover: Like the first volume, a very odd and bland cover for such a musical set, with the series logo written in white on a red background and  the bottom half of the sleeve in black.   Overall rating - Poor for the period and far too short! 5/10

Dick's Picks Volume Three

 (Sportatorium, Pembroke Pines, Flordia, May 22nd 1977, Released 1995)

Funiculi Funicula/The Music Never Stopped/Sugaree/Lazy Lightning > Supplication/Dancing In The Street/Help On The Way > Slipknot! > Franklin's Tower/Samson And Delilah/Sunrise/Estimated Prophet/Eyes Of The World/Wharf Rat/Terrapin Station/Morning Dew
 Another early release in the Dick's Picks series is again taken from May 1977 clearly the archivist's favourite month!) and like the other early series issues while the band were still around is merely a 'highlights' compilation of what went on that night - with some questionable choices (for the record the songs missing are all from the first set: 'El Paso' 'Peggy-O' 'New New Minglewood Blues' 'Friend Of The Devil' 'Ramble On Rose' 'Brown-Eyed Women'  and 'Good Lovin', while the final encore of 'Sugar Magnolia' has also gone AWOL). This gig is a surprise choice, to be honest, as it's not even the best gig the band gave that week, never mind one of the three best of their entire thirty-year career. Once again the set occasionally comes to life and gloriously so, with a well drilled band finding new nuances in all sorts of old friends and giving three songs from the forthcoming 'Terrapin Station' a welcome airing that sounds both tighter and more lively than what made the record. However there's an awful lot of dross as well and not necessarily the tracks that got left behind off the record either (while not particularly memorable, at least the first set is tighter and played with more passion than some of the noodling second set). One of the first Dead releases to come out after Jerry's sad death three months earlier, it's not really much of a tribute to either him or the band.  Best Song: A gorgeously melancholic 'Wharf Rat' Worst song: 'Dancing On The Street' complete with Garcia 'MIDI' guitar-synth solo. And you thought the album version was bad... Biggest Talking Point: A brief extract of traditional Italian song 'Funiculi Funicula' during the opening tuning years before the Dead adopted it on-stage as a semi-regular  Longest Song: A 15:54 'Sugaree' that's at least 12:53 too long! Best Speech:None Front Cover: That dull 'Dick's Pick's logo on a red background with a black stripe at the bottom of the sleeve. Overall Rating: A frankly boring set that only occasionally sparks into life 2/10

Dick's Picks Volume Four

 (Fillmore East, New York, February 13-14th 1970, Released 1996)

Casey Jones/Dancing In The Street/China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider/High Time/ Dire Wolf/Dark Star/That's It For The Other One > Turn On Your Love Light/Alligator > Drums > Me And My Uncle/Not Fade Away/Mason's Children/Caution (Do Not Step On The Tracks) > Feedback > We Bid You Goodnight
 A famous three-night six-show series of gigs at the New York branch of the Fillmore, supported by Love and The Allman Brothers. Released some six months after the official end of the Dead, it's effectively the first archive release that's seen as a full career move and a chance to expand the band's legacy, rather than as a 'filler' between releases of new material. It might just be coincidence, but returning the Dead to another major crossroads in their life, when they were in a transition between the old and the new, makes perfect sense. Sadly the CD set only features two of the shows from another run generally considered amongst the band's best and skips the 'acoustic' set that's new to the Dead in this period and potentially more interesting (although parts of this set are raided for the live album 'Bear's Choice', with 'Dark Hollow' 'Hard To Handle' and 'I've Been All Around This World' all coming from these shows). Against all odds nearly an hour of the show was filmed and can be seen on Youtube, although there are no plans for an official release as yet sadly. The longest archive Dead set so far at three discs, it's an interesting mixture of the old and the new, with one of the last performances of 'Alligator' and 'Love Light' with Pig on lead alongside an early revival of 'Dancing In The Street' some seven years before it appeared on record, plus new songs like 'Casey Jones' 'High Time' and a song that receives its first ever official airing on this set 'Mason's Children'. The Dead aren't on top form, sounding occasionally sluggish and not for the last time Jerry is having more than a little bit of trouble vocally. However there are many highlights to enjoy, with almost everything here possessing the swagger of a band who knows they're on to something good. Note especially how lengthy some of the jams are, with disc two unique in the archive series in containing a mere two songs lasting half an hour each! However some fans can clearly hear something in these tapes I can't because the show on the 13th especially is something of a fan favourite, regularly voted high (as high as #2 in one fan poll), with the 14th polled as high as #17th. A large extract from this 'Dark Star' ended up on the compilation 'Grayfolded' (a longer extract than any other version used!)  Best Song: A fun 'Caution', with a light shuffle jazzbeat a million miles from the usual intensity with which the band play it Worst song: Most 'Dark Stars' get's far out, but this one goes far out very quickly and by the middle has lost all contact with the tune, the tempo, the theme or the ideas of the original. Most fans consider it a classic to be venerated but, truly, some experiments can go too far (the same with the fan praised 'The Other One' and 'Love Light', which are solid but not top league) Biggest Talking Point: Not the earliest 'Mason's Children' chronologically, but by far the earliest Deadheads who weren't there got to hear, this song all but overshadows the rest of the set for many. Best Speech: A chatty tonight with three classics all from the 14th: Weir starts the gig by proclaiming 'This ain't a show - it's a party!' Later he responds to a crowd asking where the 'Rounder We Go' bit from 'That's The Other One' has gone, improvising the following to the tune of 'Here We Go Round The Muberry Bush' : 'The faster go the rounder we get, into the fourth dimension'! Later still, someone in the crowd calls out: 'Play St Stephen!' Garcia: 'You want to hear 'St Stephen?' Crowd: 'Yes!' Garcia: 'Then go out and buy the record!' Later still, a member of the audience screams really loudly. Pigpen: 'Somebody put that poor horse down!' Longest Song: A 30:27 'Turn On Your Love Light' is exactly twenty seconds longer than 'That's It For The Other One' Front Cover: Another of those boring 'Dick's Picks' logo-on-a-red-background-with-a-black stripe-down-the-bottom covers. Thankfully these covers are soon to get much more inventive... Overall rating: Not a classic show, but full of fascinating moments 4 /10

Dick's Picks Volume Five

 (Oaskland Auditorium, California, December 26th 1979, Released 1996)

Cold Rain And Snow/C C Rider/Dire Wolf/Me And My Uncle/Big River/Brown-Eyed Women/New New Minglewood Blues/Friend Of The Devil/Looks Like Rain/Alabama Getaway/Promised Land/Uncle John's Band/Estimated Prophet > Jam > He's Gone > That's It For The Other One > Drums > Jam > Not Fade Away/Brokedown Palace/Around And Around/Johnny B Goode/Shakedown Street/Uncle John's Band
This Boxing Day special gig is first of five shows played at Oakland to play out the 1970s - the first time the 'new year's party hasn't taken place at Winterland - is also the first archive Dead release to split a lengthy jam across discs. Two more shows from the run of five are released later in 2009.The show was one of many benefit gigs the Dead played in the seventies, this one for the Seva Foundation as established by local character and promoter 'Wavy Gravy' formed the previous year to raise money for the blind and specifically for funding treatments that might help restore sight (Bob Weir is still a member of the charity's governing board to this day). In many ways it's a strange choice for the first ever full concert in the Dick's Picks series (and thus only about the fifth released by the Dead in total), although it's not quite as full as the packaging makes out (the encores 'Black Throated Wind' is missing). While the first set is nothing special (the band often very out of tune and Brent is clearly still unsure of his role as yet), it's the second that got Deadheads talking at the time and ever since: a fascinating one hour forty five minute medley that must be one of the band's longest, based around not 'Playin' In The Band' or 'Dark Star' as per usual but the relatively straightforward 'Uncle John's Band'. Along the way a whole range of favourites are thrown into the heady mix - 'Estimated Prophet' 'He's Gone' 'That's It For The Other One' 'Not fade Away' 'Brokedown Palace' 'Shakedown Street' ...and yet still that riff keeps coming back to haunt the band. Brent sounds particularly good on the vocals, beefing up the Dead's sound no end and the band are much sharper vocally than they've been for a while all round, with even 'Palace' more or less in tune! In case you were wondering, this was the New Year's Eve run when Bill Graham dressed as a psychedelic butterfly...Best Song: One of the better 'Brokedown Palace's, with a new arrangement that starts off near a capella and then has the two drummers kicking in mid-way through. Based on this one example, the Dead should have kept it. The sudden reprise of 'Uncle John's Band' is also pretty thrilling, as the Dead finally kick back into the riff they've been gnawing at for most of the second set Worst song: Bob's very out of breath during 'Me And My Uncle'  Biggest Talking Point: 'Dire Wolf' gets a rare reprieve in this era, with Garcia back singing lead rather than giving the song to Weir. 'Alabama Getaway' is given an early hearing, several months before its release on 'Go To Heaven' and sounds particularly good tonight, treated as an out and out rocker rather than a 'pop' song Best Speech: None  Longest Song: A 14:11 'Estimated Prophet' Front Cover: Another of those boring early Dick's Pick's affairs with the series logo on top of a red background with a pure black stripe at the bottom. Overall rating - One of the strongest gigs around from the second half of the 1970s - 8/10

Dick's Picks Volume Six

(Civic Centre, Hartford, Connecticut, October 14th 1983, Released 1996)

Alabama Getaway/Greatest Story Ever Told/They Love Each Other/Mama Tried/Big River/Althea/CC Rider/Tennessee Jed/Hell In A Bucket/Keep Your Day Job/Scarlet Begonias > Fire On The Mountain/Estimated Prophet/Eyes Of The World/Drums > Spanish Jam > That's It For The Other One > Stella Blue/Sugar Magnolia/US Blues

The first of two shows played at this venue on consecutive nights. The first archive set from the 1980s and it's a patchy choice, with a rather lacklustre opening set but a rather stunning elongated second set. Dick Latavia himself confessed that he'd chosen this show primarily so that the Deadheads could have access to one of his favourite 'Scarlet Fires' and it is in fact a good one, different to normal with Brent having fun with his mid-sequencer keyboard and coming up with all sorts of weird noises. Fans are also rather fond of what happens next - a left-turn into 'Estimated Prophet' and again into 'Eyes Of The World', the length of these versions meaning that the quartet takes up the whole of the second disc between them. Elsewhere this show is most notable for the early versions of some 'In The Dark' favourites like 'Hell In A Bucket' (still the earliest released version to date and here played at a slower grungier tempo than the 'heavy metal' of the record) and some rarities like cover song 'C C Rider' and a rare unreleased Garcia-Hunter flop 'Keep Your Day Job'. All in all this show is a nice mixture between good strong versions of songs fans know well and rare recordings they might not have, although coming to this show straight after five classics or semi-classics from the seventies there's a case to be made that this is also the first 'ordinary' release in the Duck's Pick's series. Best Song: Anything from the second disc Worst song: Bob sounds as if he's losing his voice during 'Sugar Magnolia'. 'Keep Your Day Job' is also a pretty terrible song, rightly binned after a mere handful of performances 'at the request of Grateful Dead fans' according to Hunter Best Speech: None Biggest talking point: In addition to the above rarities, this is reportedly the first Dead show Phish ever saw - he'll be instrumental in organising the band's 50th anniversary shows and his band will be acclaimed by some (though by no means all) of the Deadheads as the closest thing to a Dead vibe  Longest Song: A 17: 53 'Eyes Of The World' Front cover: That boring sleeve again with the 'Dick's Picks' logo in black over a beige and black striped front cover Overall Rating - A real extreme set, with the best and worst of the Dead in one place 5/10

Dick's Picks Volume Seven

 (Alexandra Palace, London, September 9th, 10th and 11th 1974, Released 1997)

Scarlet Begonias/Mexicali Blues/Row Jimmy/Black Throated Wind/Mississippi Halfstep Uptown Toodeloo/Beat It On Down The Line/Tennessee Jed/Playing In The Band/Weather Report Suite/Stella Blue/Jack Straw/Brown Eyed Women/Big River/Truckin'/Wood Green Jam/Wharf Rat/Me And My Uncle/Not Fade Away/Dark Star/Spam Jam/Morning Dew/US Blues
The Dead only play one show rather than two on the 9th because the band get to the gig so late. Phil Lesh's friend Ned Lagin guests on the 11th and very weird it is too (thankfully there isn't much of it here), with this last show arguably the most memorable of the three nights. However all three dates have their moments and deserve to be out complete, rather than on yet another highlights set which given what I've heard on the 'tapers copies' really isn't the highlights anyway! Hearing this you can't quite see why the Dead were so bored they'll head for their 18 month hiatus just a month or so down the line (they'll only play another nine gigs total including the five 'farewell shows' at the Winterland). The Dead are in a playful mood tonight, perhaps because the end is in sight and apart from giving us all headaches with musique concrete play with a lighter touch than normal. Like many a show from 1974 there's barely any songs from 'Mars Hotel' on here - a mere 'Scarlet Begonias' heard before it came as a pair with 'Fire On The Mountain'  Best Song: 'Weather Report Suite' is especially lovely tonight Worst song: Age hasn't improved 'Beat It On Down The Line' and neither does a harmony part from Donna Best Speech: None Biggest talking point:!I'm not quite sure why it's called a 'spam jam' but there's certainly nothing else like it around on these sets (that's a good thing by the way!) Longest Song: A 24:08 'Dark Star'  Front cover: An inviting looking magic carpet with the 'skull' logo inviting you on a ride! Overall Rating - Not spectacular perhaps but solid all the same 7/10

Dick's Picks Volume Eight 

(Harpur College, Binghamton, New York, May 2nd 1970, Released 1997)

Don't Ease Me In/I Know You Rider/Friend Of The Devil/Dire Wolf/Beat It On Down The Line/Black Peter/Candyman/Cumberland Blues/Deep Elem Blues/Cold Jordan/Uncle John's Band/St Stephen > That's It For The Other One (Cryptical Envelopment) > Drums > That's It For The Other One> Cosmic Charlie/Casey Jones/Good Lovin'/It's A Man's World/Dancing In The Street/Morning Dew/Viola Lee Blues > We Bid You Goodnight
Another very famous Dead show and a natural for the Dick's Picks series, which unusually for the Dead took place on a university campus (not many institutions of Higher Learning would let them in, but Harpur College had something of a reputation as a 'radical' place!) Being an early show taping gigs was hit and miss and only source for this show exists - sadly he or she (or it, or Lord or King or get the idea) seems to have been having tape trouble at this gig, missing the opening of 'St Stephen' and the whole of 'Cold Rain And Snow' known to have been played at this gig. For all that, though, this is another highly rated show (#6 in a 1993 poll to find the best Dead gig) and deservedly so - the band are beautiful on the acoustic set (featuring another run of semi-rare songs) and powerful on the extended second sets. The Dead are clearly on a creative roll, performing a total of seven then-unreleased songs including an early 'Friend Of The Devil' and 'Candyman' (or at least the first verse, heard in a medley with 'Cumberland Blues') that won't even be out on the next LP! Interesting too is the presence of some rare cover songs from the band's early days they either hadn't played for a long time or hardly at all - even 'Viola Lee Blues' makes something of a comeback some three years after it was last a regular in the band's set. The result is one of those holy grail Dead shows - a consistent and consistently excellent recording which shows off all sides of the Dead's nature and throws in a few surprises too. The only downside are the occasional sound problems (there's a ,ot of squealing feedback tonight - and not where it's supposed to be as per the 1968-69 shows!) and the lack of Pigpen, who doesn't even seem to be on stage for the acoustic set. Best Song: A golden 'Black Peter', a wondrous 'Morning Dew' and a welcome return for 'Viola Lee Blues', which here sounds slower and sulkier than normal Worst song: The band are clearly getting fed up of 'St Stephen by this point and Jerry is all over the place in the middle eight Biggest Talking Point: As well as the 'first' releases for several future classics, this set features one of only two released performances of 'Cold Jordan' and 'Deep Elem Blues' . This is additionally the only place where you can hear the band's cover of 'It's A Man's Man's Man's World'. Best Speech: Lesh: 'You folks should all follow the fine example of the feller over here who got it on with his girlfriend. We're gonna take a short break and I want you to all feel each other for ten minutes. But we'll come back and play some more - honest we will!' Longest Song: A 15:42 'Dancing In The Street' Front Cover: A skeleton in an 'Uncle Sam' hat sits atop a magic carpet embossed with the 'Bear' logo! Overall rating - Uniformly excellent and one of the best shows in the entire archive series - why did it take so long to come out? 9/10

Dick's Picks Volume Nine

(Madison Square Gardens, New York, September 16th 1990, Released 1997)

Hell In A Bucket/Cold Rain And Snow/Little Red Rooster/Stagger Lee/Queen Jane Approximately/Tennessee Jed/Cassidy > Deal/ Samson And Delilah/Iko Iko/Looks Like Rain/He's Gone/No MSG Jam > Drums > Space > Standing On The Moon > Lunatic Preserve > I Need A Miracle > Morning Dew/It's All Over Now Baby Blue
The third of six shows played at this venue across seven days - the last three will be released separately in 2008. Bruce Hornsby's first appearance as a member of the Dead takes place at the start of the week and he plays alongside Vince Welnick for this show. Traditionally speaking fans don't rate the Madison shows that highly - the keyboardists were still new and feeling their way, with the band's best years behind them. Yet whole this isn't classic Dead it's still much tighter and far more adventurous than shows from the first half of the year and features all sorts of weird and wacky jams in addition to the usual fare. The only downside is that Jerry is awfully hoarse, at times sounding more like Brent's growl than his usual floaty tenor. This gig in particular is very high on the 'cover' songs too, as if the band have forgotten that they actually used to write some songs too. The result is a show that's far from essential but is perhaps the nest to feature the last of the Dead line-ups. Best Song: Opener 'Hell In A Bucket' is a thrilling take-no-prisoners starting point Worst song: 'Little Red Rooster' is rather overcooked. Biggest Talking Point: Garcia continues his Dylan fetish of the period with another slew of Bob covers, while the jam described on the box as 'Lunatic Preserve' is, technically, never repeated by them again (and it's also unusual for a jam to come out of the slow weepie 'Standing On The Moon' rather than one of the faster songs) Best Speech: None Longest Song: A poignant 16:25 'He's Gone', with Brent surely in everybody's minds Front Cover: A gorilla in a tie-die T-shirt stands on a swirly magic carpet. Is it just me or are they running out of ideas now?... Overall rating - A god show from a lousy period 5/10

Dick's Picks Volume Ten

(Winterland Arena, San Francisco, December 29th 1977, Released 1998)

Jack Straw/They Love Each Other/Mama Tried/Loser/Looks Like Rain/Tennessee Jed/New New Minglewood Blues/Sugaree/Promised Land/Bertha/Good Lovin'/Playin' In The Band/China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider/China Doll/Playin' In The Band Jam > Drums > Not Fade Away > Playin' In The Band/Terrapin Station/Johnny B Goode/Estimated Prophet/Eyes Of The World/St Stephen/Sugar Magnolia
The second of four shows held in the run up to New Year's Eve at this regular Dead haunt (This year Bill Graham has dressed as 'Uncle Sam' and descends from the roof o a Harley Davidson!) The band are in good party form and this is another tape high on Deadhead's lists over the years, with a real vulnerability in Garcia's tired vocals, although it does take them a few songs to warm up. The ballads fare especially well at this gig, with the rockers perhaps a little overcooked. Not for the last time the 'bonus tracks' sound rather better, with a slicker tighter band. Some songs have been cut for unknown reasons (they're not that bad on bootleg and there's plenty of space hence the 'bonus' tracks): 'It Must have Been The Roses' and 'Sunrise' should both have come between 'Good Lovin' and 'Playin' In The Band' Best Song: A good night for 'China' based songs - 'China Rider' is punchy and heavy tonight, even if Jerry is struggling with the words, while 'China Doll' with a unique harpsichord accompaniment is lovely. Worst song: Another fourteen minute 'Sugaree'. How much shaking can one song do?! Biggest Talking Point: Playin' In The Band, which crops up twice (three times if you count the reprise!) 'China Cat' hasn't been played in three years and it's a good one too (the crowd go ballistic!) Longest Song: A 15:48 'Playin' In The Band' Best Speech: None Front Cover: A Deadhead logo on a flying carpet - what a trip! Overall rating - Easy to see why fans love it so but there are better gigs around  7/10

Dick's Picks Volume Eleven

(Stanley Theatre, New Jersey, September 27th 1972, Released 1998)

Morning Dew/Beat It On Down The Line/Friend Of The Devil/Black Throated Wind/Tennessee Jed/Mexicali Blues/Bird Song/Big River/Brokedown Palace/El Paso/China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider/Playin' In The Band > He's Gone /Me And My Uncle/Deal/Greatest Story Ever Told/Ramble On Rose/Dark Star > Cumberland Blues > Attics Of My Life/Promised Land/Uncle John's Band/Casey Jones/Around And Around
The middle of three shows played at this venue. While the track listing looks much the same as normal, this set seems out of kilter with the rest somehow. For a start it opens not with the usual punchy rocker but with 'Morning Dew', about the slowest thing in the collection. The band don't choose one of their usual standard jamming songs but two, with 'Playin' In The Band' chasing 'He's Gone' to be the CD's centrepiece. 'Dark Star', something of a rarity in this era anyway, mutates into not some other psychedelic-era jamathon but the compact and hard-rocking 'Cumberland Blues'. In many ways it's great to hear the Dead with no rules - but sometimes rules are there to stop people hurting themselves and you have to say that compared to other great 1972 shows this one is lacking something. Not that the band play badly, but they do seem a little uncomfortable, often appearing hurried or out of breath. There's also just a few too many first set 'filler' covers here that slow the show down. However the Dead can still get it together for some wonderful moments and like many a fan I'd gladly sit through the odd boring quarter hour just to hear the brilliance of those five minutes when everything suddenly synchronises and the band suddenly, brilliantly, catches fire. The set is an unusual one in Deadhead history too: it was one of the first tapes made widely available, although lots of different tapers offered their own heavily edited selections of it. As a result this is a show that many fans will have known but few would have heard in full before its release, making it both rare and an old friend all at the same time. Certainly the crowd seem to be enjoying it - allegedly the Deadheads caused so much structural damage jumping up and down in time to the music on the balcony that the theatre had to undergo repairs the following week...  Best Song: A heavier than usual 'Bird Song' with an unusual riff is first class. This is one of my favourite 'Cumberland Blues'es too, with that urgent silly riff exploited to a greater extent than normal and sounding like some vaudeville tune  Worst song: 'Beat It On Down The Line' takes a beating. 'Friend Of The Devil' is treated with the same punch as less subtle songs like 'One More Saturday Night' and isn't suited to it. Biggest Talking Point: A Longest Song: A 30:49 'Dark Star' is terribly slow - about the slowest out there - but also very very pretty Best Speech: None Front Cover: A statue of liberty flies off on a magic carpet Overall rating - More useful for how different it is than how good it is, but not without its moments 4/10

Dick's Picks Volume Twelve

(Civic Centre, Providence, Rhode Island, June 26th 1974 and Boston Garden, Massachusetts, June 28th 1974, Released 1998)

Jam > China Cat Sunflower > Mind Left Body Jam > I Know You Rider/Beer Barrel Polka/Truckin' > That's It For The Other One Jam > Spanish Jam > Wharf Rat > Sugar Magnolia/Eyes Of The World/Seastones/Sugar Magnolia > Scarlet Begonias/Big River/To Lay Me Down/Me And My Uncle/Row Jimmy/Weather Report Suite > Jam > US Blues/Promised Land/Goin' Down The Road Feelin' Bad > Sugar Magnolia (Sunshine Daydream)/Ship Of Fools
The 'Mars Hotel' album was released on the day off in between the these two shows, although typically Dead only two songs ('Scarlet Begonias' and 'Ship Of Fools') are actually played from that album across the pair of shows. Uniquely in the series, the set starts off with a jamming session, as the band tune up together in a sea of noise more usually like that at the end of a fiery second set. While the band are on good form throughout, with both sets more or less even, this compilation was surely released over others in the series because of the appearance of 'Seastones', the downright bonkers sound collage Phil Lesh's friend Ned Lagin was working on at the time and which he re-creates here by 'borrowing' Phil and the band's sound system. Now that the original album of the same name has been long since deleted, this is your easiest way of hearing a bit, although to be honest the band's own adventures in 'Space' are more palatable. The 'Wake Of The Flood' ballads sound especially strong tonight, with Jerry in a dreamy mood and tending towards the slow in terms of tempo for everything. Rather a good show, although it's a consistently excellent one rather than a wow-I-can't-believe-I-just-heard-that! kind of a gig. Best Song: 'Truckin' has a special swagger about it tonight and 'Wharf Rat' is delicious, Garcia spitting out his words in disgust rather than finding his inner redemption for once Worst song: 'To Lay Me Down' is a little clumsy and under-rehearsed compared to the best versions out there Biggest Talking Point: The band tune up to the strains of 'The Beer Barrel Polka' Best Speech: None Longest Song: A 27: 53 jam that segues a melancholic 'Weather Report Suite' and a cheery 'US Blues' Front Cover: A skeleton in pirate costume plays guitar on a magic carpet! Overall rating - A solid show 7/10

Dick's Picks Volume Thirteen

(Nassau Veterans Memorial, Uniondale, New York, May 6th 1981, Released 1999)

Alabama Getaway/Greatest Story Ever Told/They Love Each Other/Cassidy/Jack-A-Roe/Little Red Rooster/Dire Wolf/Looks Like Rain/Big Railroad Blues/Weather Report Suite (Let It Grow)/Deal/New New Minglewood Blues/High Time/Lost Sailor > Saint Of Circumstance/Scarlet Begonias > Fire On The Mountain/He's Gone > Caution (Do Not Step On The Tracks) > Spanish Jam > Drums > Jam > That's It For The Other One > Goin' Down The Road Feelin' Bad > Wharf Rat > Good Lovin'/Don't Ease Me In
A rare 'Dick's Picks' from the 1980s, this is another case of bad era, average show. You won't get the sense of courage and beauty you get from the Dead's earlier days but given how comparatively few shows there are from this era it's nice to have a record of it. Not that this is a particularly special show - any of the 1981 recordings could have been chosen to perform much the same job to be honest. Apart from three token songs from 1980's 'Go To Heaven' LP this is another set heavy on the oldies, with no other songs from after the band's 1974 hiatus. The band are in trouble several times throughout this set, having problems with the mix of vocals, the mix of instruments and Garcia's weakening ability to keep up with the rest.The best thing about this set is the 'hidden' bonus track, a nicely vibrant 'Scarlet > Fire' from November 1st 1979 (maybe that show would have been a better choice?)  Best Song: The band seem to perk up for 'Cassidy', even if they're having trouble with the microphones Worst song: 'High Time' is arguably Jerry's worst recorded vocal performance. Seriously, even The Spice Girls sound better live than this.  Biggest Talking Point: 'He's Gone' is prefaced by a speech from Bobby dedicating it to Irish freedom fighter Bobby Sands who died from a hunger strike in prison earlier that day. The jam following 'He's Gone' veers sideways into 'Caution (Do Not Step On The Tracks)' for the first time in five years, although the song itself never quite arrives. Longest song: That 'Caution' jam runs to 15:05 Best Speech:  Bob gets political Front Cover: Hard to describe. You know those patterns you can make by folding over a bit of card and cutting bits out of it? Well the cover looks like that, only in blue with a 'star' at the centre and on a swirly purple background. Overall rating - There's not much here of value to be honest, perhaps the weakest of all the Dead archive sets  1/10

Dick's Picks Volume Fourteen

(Boston Music Hall, Massachusetts, November 30th and December 2nd 1973, Released 1999)

Morning Dew/Mexicali Blues/Dire Wolf/Black Throated Wind/Don't Ease Me In/Big River/They Love Each Other/Playin' In The Band/Here Comes Sunshine/Weather Report Suite/Dark Star Jam/Eyes Of The World/Sugar Magnolia/Cold Rain And Snow/Beat It On Down The Line/Brown-Eyed Women > The Merry-Go-Round Broke Down > The Beer Barrel Polka/Jack Straw/Ramble On Rose/Weather Report Suite/Wharf Rat/Mississippi Halfstep Uptown Toodeloo/Playin' In The Band > Jam  > He's Gone > Truckin' > Stela Blue/Morning Dew
The first and last of three shows at this venue. This being another highlights show, more than one Dead fan thought the organisers had flipped their wigs at not releasing this set with all three shows. Bookended by two very different versions of 'Morning Dew' (slow and slower) it's a testament to just how much extra the Dead can find in their older songs from night to night, with all sorts of old friends revisited in new ways across the set. Like many sets from 1973 the mood is mellow and everything is quiet, so if it's rockers you're after then you're better off looking elsewhere, but there's a nice ambience to this set that sounds as if the band are in thoughtful, pensive mood throughout (perhaps missing Pigpen?) While there are better shows out there - including better shows from 1973 - this is notable as one of those wonderfully consistent gigs where the band never really put a foot wrong all night (either of them), one of those rare gigs on which both Jerry and Bobby are on form at the same time. The two shows are both equally good too, which isn't always the case, with perhaps the first set of the first and the second from the second being the standout moments. There are five of the seven 'Wake Of The Flood' songs here (including two different goes at the lengthy 'Weather Report Suite'), though nothing as yet from next album 'Mars Hotel'. In case you're wondering what's happened to Donna, she's still on maternity leave. Best Song: Another glorious 'Wharf Rat' with Jerry singing with more gusto than usual (sadly only the 2nd December one is here and not the November 30th - both are equally great) and a sparky 'Mississippi' with more grit than most. 'This is one of the best 1970s 'Cold Rain and Snow's around too, with the band right on the 'new-look' slower groove. Worst song: Weir pops his microphone throughout an otherwise fine 'Black Throated Wind'  Biggest Talking Point: The band don't actually play 'Dark Star' but they play a fierce jam based around the main theme which is generally recognised as one of their more inspired moments of magic and madness. The band are in a jolly mood during tuning too, performing snatches of the Looney Tunes theme 'The Merry Go Round Broke Down' and 'The Beer Barrel Polka' along the way. Best Speech: Phil introduces Keith to the audience, before Bob adds that 'Donna isn't with us tonight - she's at home getting big and round!' Phil also has a beef with an audience member who keeps yelling out instructions and asks a spotlight be shined on him if that's he wants - it seems to do the trick as he goes quiet after this! Longest Song: A 14:44 'Weather Report Suite' Front Cover: A blue tie-dye background with a black strip at the bottom Overall rating - An excellent starting place with fine versions of almost all the best songs still in the Dead's set list in this era, though nothing quite as transcendental as on other discs 8 /10

Dick's Picks Volume Fifteen

(Raceway Park, New Jersey, September 3rd 1977, Released 1999)

Promised Land/They Love Each Other/Me And My Uncle/Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo/Looks Like Rain/Peggy-O/New New Minglewood Blues/Friend Of The Devil/The Music Never Stopped/Bertha/Good Lovin'/Loser/Estimated Prophet/Eyes Of The World/Samson And Delilah/He's Gone/Not Fade Away/Truckin'/Terrapin Station
This show marked Mickey Hart's return to the band after nearly three months of recovering from a car accident on June 20th which saw him suffer a punctured lung and broke collarbone and plays one handed for much of the show. Donna too is poorly after undergoing surgery and sits on a chair throughout. In more recent terms, this is the first 'Dick's Picks' release to be released after Dick Latavia's death - seeing as 1977 was his favourite year for the Dead that might be why his successors deciding to choose this gig as a tribute of sorts. The Dead play to one of their bigger crowds - since Woodstock anyway - with an audience of 150,000, which might explain why this gig is fondly remembered but in truth not one of their best and is troubled by some hoodlums hanging off the tower  (yet again, the band's big chance and they blew it). As a result of all this drama, this show is the first chance the band have had to 'plug' the 'Terrapin Station' album released on July 27th - an age for a band who toured as constantly as the Dead - although they only actually play three songs from that album (all of them a little creaky; 'Estimated Prophet' falls apart across ten painful minutes 'Samson and Delilah' loses the tune early on and 'Terrapin Station' itself derails somewhere around five minutes in). The band are a little happier on the older material, although even here they come unstuck in the vocal department with Donna especially not herself and the band fluffing the words several times over (starting with the very first song 'Promised Land'). While the odd moment perks the set (the band pick some unusual songs for jamming, turning 'Mississippi' into a thirteen minute jazz magnum opus and 'Not Fade Away' is here ten times longer than Buddy Holly's original single!), you have to ask why this relatively wretched gig was chosen for inclusion over so many others, especially as 1977 was already a rather over-subscribed year.  Best Song: A faster and more electric than normal 'Peggy-O' Worst song: 'How can you miss 'He's Gone' if it won't go away and is stretched out to fourteen painful minutes?! Biggest Talking Point: The size of the crowd, the quantity of mistakes and the unusual jammed song choices Best Speech: Weir: 'We've just heard that someone's overturned one of the sound towers. Now come on, you can't be doing that!' (The Crowd Boos) Weir: 'You hear that? The good people down here just don't approve of that. Aren't you ashamed of yourself?' Emcee: 'Please whoever is there get the hell of the tower and so have a good time and get off the tower so we can have a good time like the rest of us' Weir: 'Did you just say 'hell'? Over the p.a.? Emcee: 'Erm, no I think I said 'gosh'! Longest Song: A 19:58 'Not Fade Away' that seems intent on staying round forever Front Cover: A skeleton Overall rating - Poor by Dead standards and one of the weakest archive releases 1/10

Dick's Picks Volume Sixteen

 (Fillmore West, San Francisco, November 7th and 8th 1969, Released 2000)

Good Morning Little Schoolgirl/Casey Jones/Dire 
Wolf/Easy Wind/China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider/High Time/Mama Tried/Good Lovin'/Cumberland Blues/Dark Star > That's It For The Other One > Dark Star > Uncle John's Band Jam > Dark Star > St Stephen > The Eleven > Caution (Do Not Step On The Tracks) > The Main Ten > Caution (Do Not Step On The Tracks) > Feedback > We Bid You Goodnight/Turn On Your Love Light
 Another classic 1969 set, perhaps a little more laidback than the others but still with plenty of chutzpah and oompah. Most of this gig dates from the 8th, just two days before the release of 'Live/Dead' with only 'Love Light' added as a bonus track from the night before. Even though the band fit in the 'Dark Star/Stephen/Eleven/Lovelight' collective it's clear that they've already moved on. This period was an important stepping stone, with the Dead caught halfway between the feverish psychedelia of yesteryear and the mellow intimate songs that will become 'Workingman's Dead' the following year (in total  five of the eight songs from that album are featured here). The lighter, folkier material works best, perhaps showing how heavily the Dead had fallen for this change in direction, although the band are notably rusty, crashing lines on 'Casey Jones' for instance. Best Song: ;High Time' is gorgeous, slower than usual and stretched out to seven minutes but all the better for it with Garcia on mesmerising form Worst song: 'Dire Wolf' is a struggle for Garcia to sing - he'll pass it over to Weir for most future live appearances Biggest Talking Point: The first ever performance of 'Cumberland Blues' - which to be honest is such a mess it's a surprise the band ever did it again - and a rare appearance of 'The Main Ten', a Micky Hart improvisation that will later become 'Playin' In The Band'. There's also and a mammoth jam that takes up all of the second disc and most of the third, including almost all the big Dead jams of the day but not in quite a different order to usual Longest song: A 25: 29 'Turn On Your Love Light' that's a little sloppy by Dead standards Best Speech: Pigpen during 'Caution' : 'Work fine for me, and my grandmother too, it work pretty good, know it's going to work for you, ain't no way to get around it, somebody good found it...!' Front Cover: Tie-dye in blue  Overall rating - This is one of those shows that's 'important' rather than 'good', although it does have its moments scattered across the set 6 /10

Dick's Picks Volume Seventeen

 (Boston Gardens, Massachusetts, September 25th 1991, with bonus tracks from Greensboro, March 31st 1991, Released 2000)

Help On The Way > Slipknot! > Franklin's Tower/Walkin' Blues/It Must Have Been The Roses/Dire Wolf/Queen Jane Approximately/Tennessee Jed/The Music Never Stopped/Victim Or The Crime > Crazy Fingers > Playin' In The Band > Terrapin Station > The Boston Clam Jam > Drums > Space > That Would Be Something > Playin' In The Band > China Doll > Throwing Stones > Not Fade Away/The Mighty Quinn/Samson And Delilah > Eyes Of The World
 The fifth of six shows played at the same venue across seven days. The long run - the last really long run of their career - comes at the invitation of Boston Hall Gardens, a prestigious venue who have never had the Dead as guests before, partly in response to a crisis of funds in Boston (many local businesses support the move and advertise at the gig). Being smaller than most gigs the band have played recently gives the shows a nicely intimate and 'friendly' feel - a nice change for a band who've been playing to bigger and noisier crowds over the course of the last four years. Many fans continue this to be their last stopping point on the band's journey and their last 'classic' gig - although the choice of date is an odd one (most fans agree that either the first or last shows are the best). Vince is still struggling to get up to speed quickly and has a flowery piano style more in common with Keith's that doesn't work so well on the 'Pigpen' or 'Mydland' era songs, although he's already got the shut-your-eyes-and-hope-for-the-best essence of the Dead down pat. Bruce Hornsby's more traditional 'piano conversations' are even louder in the mix and, well, let's just say he was doing the Dead a great service at short notice and leave it at that. Interestingly there's a lot of songs from 'Blues For Allah' tonight - all of the songs in regular rotation and five in all. The final two tracks are 'filler' from a show six months earlier and like a lot of these archive sets sounds far more interesting than the main gig itself, with a loose and funky 'Samson and Delilah' and a lengthy 'Eyes Of The World'. Best Song: A fierce 'Victim Or The Crime' sounds even scarier in slowed down form, with the two keyboardists tackling most of the angry riff between them Worst song: 'Crazy Fingers' is insane and not in a good way - half the band are doing rock, half are doing reggae and the tempos get very confused Biggest Talking Point: The Boston Clam Jam, a new  variation on 'Playin' In The Band' that's slower and less riff-based, plus a rare outing for Paul McCartney cover 'That Would Be Something' - the first time the band ever covered this song and the only one officially released to date. There's also a lot of Dylan covers tonight. Longest Song: All of the main show is comparatively compact, with a 12:47 'Terrapin Statiuon' the longest, although a 23 minute 'bonus track' 'Eyes Of The World' nearly doubles that tally Best Speech: None  Front Cover: Another mesmerising computer swirl, this time green shapes with red lines of fire. If you're looking for some Victoriana-Psychedelia crossover wallpaper patterns then I think you might have found yourself the perfect purchase! Final Rating - The rest of the week's shows were much better than the one they put out, a lowly 2/10

Dick's Picks Volume Eighteen

 (Dane County Coliseum, Wisconsin, February 3rd 1978 and UNI-Dome, Iowa, February 5th 1978, with bonus tracks from Milwaukee Auditorium, Wisconsin, February 4th 1978, Released 2000)
Bertha/Good Lovin'/Cold Rain And Snow/New New Minglewood Blues/They Love Each Other/It's All Over Now/Dupree's Diamond Blues/Looks Like Rain/Brown-Eyed Women/Passenger/Deal/The Music Never Stopped/Estimated Prophet/Eyes Of The World/Playin' In The Band > The Wheel > Playin' In The Band/Johnny B Goode/Samson And Delilah/Scarlet Begonias > Fire On The Mountain/Truckin' > Drums > That's It For The Other One/Wharf Rat/Around And Around
 They just like messing around with these gigs don't they? Given the period all three shows are rather good and deserve release in their own right, so why reduce them to a mere three discs with barely anything from the middle of the three dates? Despite being stuck together this way the compilers do at least do a good job of re-creating a Dead gig, taking the first set from the first day and the second set from the second and third so that you get shorter punchier songs then extended jamming. The former sound a little better although the band do tend to be more on the ball for the gig of the 3rd all round. Unusually, Donna is quiet for most of the set whilst Keith is loud, filling up much more of the band's sound than usual during his last year with the band. The band also play a mere two of the songs from the forthcoming 'Shakedown Street' album although songs from predecessor 'Terrapin' are particularly plentiful tonight.  Best Song: This is one of the better post-hiatus 'The Other Ones' with Keith finding a great piano groove and a jaunty 'The Music Never Stopped' is much more interesting than usual, spilling forth in several different ways Worst song: A soggy 'Passenger' is played too slow to rock and a clumsy 'Wharf Rat' is too poverty-stricken to click Biggest Talking Point: A rare revival of 'Dupree's Diamond Blues'. Longest Song: 'Playin' In The Band' at 24:53 Best Speech: None Front Cover: Another swirly spacey tie-dye pic Overall Rating - A good show from a struggling period  6/10

Dick's Picks Volume Nineteen

 (Fairgrounds Arena, Oklahoma, October 19th 1973, Released 2000)

Promised Land/Sugaree/Mexicali Blues/Tennessee Jed/Looks Like Rain/Don't Ease Me In/Jack Straw/They Love Each Other/El Paso/Row Jimmy/Playin' In The Band/China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider/Me And My Uncle/Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo/Big River/Dark Star > Mind Left Body Jam > Morning Dew/Sugar Magnolia/Eyes Of The World/Stella Blue/Johnny B Goode
 This show was released a mere four days after the release of 'Wake Of The Flood', with the band so keen to promote it that they use...half of the album in the set list (That's pretty good for them). However they fail to play either side of the single released the same week: 'Let Me Sing Your Blues Away' and 'Here Comes Sunshine'. Donna makes an early appearance with the band, still technically as a 'guest' rather than as a full-time member who stays for the full show. A lot of the older songs come with the same 'feel' as that album though with slightly mellow, generally quieter and more laidback performances. If you only like your Dead noisy this set might not be for you, but there's a case to be made that Garcia for one was never better when singing ballads like 'Morning Dew' and 'Jack Straw'. Even 'Dark Star' sounds positively bouncy for once, somehow segueing into another terrific 'Morning Dew'. Overall I wouldn't say my mind was 'blown' as the back sleeve promises - if anything this is the era when the Dead most resembled over clever bands out there and were more earthbound than usual, but it's another very good and under-rated set from an under-rated year.  Best Song: A funky 'Eyes Of The World' is clearly still feeling its way into the set (it was the last of the 'Flood' songs to make it to the stage) with more percussion and less riffing, but already sounds like a winner. Worst song: After three and a half hours where they barely put a note wrong Donna comes out on stage for  encore 'Johnny B Goode' and it all goes wrong fast. Biggest Talking Point: This is the first time the Dead play what will become known as the 'Mind Left Body Jam' which crops up at quite a few 70s shows, used as a 'linking piece' between 'Dark Star' and 'Morning Dew'.  Longest Song: An 18:26 'Playin' In The Band' Best Speech: None Front Cover: A thunderbolt of 'night-time' crackles through an unsuspecting daytime backdrop Overall Rating: Sometimes slow is, if not best, then second best 8/10

Dick's Picks Volume Twenty

 (Capital Centre, Maryland, September 25th 1976 and Onandaga County War Memorial, Syracause, September 28th 1976, Released 2001)

Bertha/New New Minglewood Blues/Ramble On Rose/Cassidy/Brown-Eyed Women/Mama Tried/Peggy-O/Loser/Weather Report Suite (Let It Grow)/Sugaree/Lazy Lightnin' > Supplication/Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo/Dancing In The Street > Cosmic Charlie/Scarlet Begonias/St Stephen > Not Fade Away > Drums > Jam > St Stephen > Sugar Magnolia/Cold Rain And Snow/Big River/Cassidy/Tennessee Jed/New New Minglewood Blues/Candyman/It's All Over Now/Friend Of The Devil/Weather Report Suite (Let It Grow)/Goin' Down The Road Feelin' Bad/Playin' In The Band > The Wheel > Samson And Delilah > Jam > Comes A Time > Drums > Eyes Of The World  > Orange Tango Jam > Dancing In The Street > Playin' In The Band/Johnny B Goode
 This is one of those two-show Dead archive sets that actually makes sense - the 25th is mainly short compacted hillbilly covers, whole the night of the 28th is more 'space age' full of extended jams. As a result you're getting both sides of the Dead in one, although neither of them exactly find the Dead on top form. Of course this is still the mid-70s before the rot sets in so this show is hardly bad - Garcia's still on the ball, Keith is still a key part of the sound and the two drummers 'lift' these songs compared to recent years. But certainly the other 1976 shows around are better - this one dates from about the middle of the gap between 'Allah' and 'Terrapin' and is noticeably low on songs from both (just a mere 'Dancing In The Street') However even the older oft-played songs sound a little under par this time around. Best Song: 'Lazy Lightning > Supplication' is a little off key but full of power. A rather sorry-for-itself take on 'Loser' is also great Worst song: 'The Wheel' and 'Candyman' are both a little ropey tonight Biggest Talking Point: A rare return for 'Cosmic Charlie' in the 1970s (this is in fact the last ever performance of it) in slowed down form and one of the last 'Scarlet Begonias' heard apart from forthcoming song 'Fire On The Mountain'. The band also 'tease' with the return of 'Playin' In The Band' a full four times before one of the longest versions of the 'second set medley' is finally completed. There's also a one off jam billed as 'Orange Tango' which is rather odd - and no it doesn't sound like the later TV commercial although seeing as we only have the audio here for all we know the Dead are are all drinking soft drinks while they play. Longest song: A 12:43 'Dancing In The Street' Best Speech: None tonight Front Cover: A blue thunderbolt appears in the middle of as wood. No, I don't understand that one either.  Overall rating - A rather lacklustre pair of shows 3/10

Dick's Picks Volume Twenty-One

(Richmond Coliseum, Virginia, November 1st 1985, with bonus tracks from Community War Memorial, Rochester, September 2nd 1980, Released 2001)

Dancing In The Street/Cold Rain And Snow/Little Red Rooster/Stagger Lee/Me And My Uncle/Big River/Brown-Eyed Women/Jack Straw/Don't Ease Me In/Samson And Delilah/High Time > He's Gone > Spoonful > Comes A Time > Lost Sailor > Drums > Space > Saint Of Circumstance > Gimme Some Lovin' > She Belongs To Me > Gloria/ Keep Your Day Job/Space > Iko Iko > Morning Dew > Sugar Magnolia
The only archive gig so far to date from 1985, this set seems to be out more so that this forgotten period in Dead history is recorded in some way than because it's of a standard with their earlier gigs. By now Garcia is ailing badly, a mere eight months away from the diabetic coma that almost ends the band, with this the last available show before his 'comeback' in 1987. As a result the band audibly play it safe, keeping the songs short and the covers frequent and Bobby's rhythm guitar plays more of a part in the band's sound. I must confess I haven't heard that many shows from this period (life is too short to hear all the good ones in the 60s and 70s alone!) but this is the best of the handful I know, coming to life at times like the good ol' days. While not as bad as at some future post-'In The Dark' shows then the band are really popular, ugly incidents before the gig where ticketless fans gatecrash the event and fight the police who come to restore order doesn't help the vibe much either. That said, you wouldn't know about the off-stage incidents just from the gig itself - the mood is actually light throughout with only 'High Time' approaching the emti0nal depths of the olden days. Strangely the complete November 1st show got paired with an extract from one recorded at a different venue five years earlier; apparently the final four songs present here from 1980 are the only ones that survive from the Rochester show and they're here because they 'fit' the timings than because they have any relevance to the main gig here. That's a shame because it's a far better sounding gig with a much more polished band and some gorgeously in-your-face Garcia vocals. Best Song: From the main show it's a gritty 'Gimme Some Lovin'. From the 'secondary' show it's another stunning 'Morning Dew'. Worst song: The slower songs tend to suffer the most, with a ponderous 'High Time' and stretched out beyond all sense 'He's Gone' the worst offenders. Biggest Talking Point: A rare cover of Willie Dixon's bluesy 'Spoonful', even rarer covers of Bob Dylan song 'She Belongs To Me' and Van Morrison's 'Gloria' and a rare outing for one of the few Garcia-Hunter songs nobody likes 'Keep Your Day Job'. There's also a lengthy jam based around the Bob Weir cornerstones of the 'Go To Heaven' LP, 'Lost Sailor' and 'Saint Of Circumstance', sadly split across two discs on the CD.  Longest song: An 11:26 'Space' that's not so much other-worldly and out-there, more out-of-control Best Speech: None again Front Cover: A golden thunderbolt splits a darkened starry sky Overall rating - While I'm glad there is an example of a mid-80s show out there, it's clear why this is such an unloved period in Dead history 2/10

Dick's Picks Volume Twenty-Two

(King's Beach Bowl, California, February 23-24th 1968, Released 2001)

Viola Lee Blues/It Hurts Me Too/Dark Star/China Cat Sunflower/The Eleven/Turn On Your Love Light/Born Cross-Eyed/Spanish Jam/Morning Dew/Good Morning Little Schoolgirl/That's It For The One > New Potato Caboose > Alligator/China Cat Sunflower/The Eleven/Alligator > Caution (Do Not Step On The Tracks) > Feedback
It's the earliest of all the Dick/Dave Picks Releases Series, the second earliest of all the 120 archive sets around and therefore an invaluable peek at what an early Dead set sounded like, with many of the classics from the next two albums already in place and typically almost nothing from the one released album fans could actually buy in shops. Not co-incidentally it also features about the worst sound in the whole series, although even this isn't bad given that it was taped in primitive ways by a fan. This is one of those highlights' sets with the best taken from the second and third of three consecutive shows at this venue, with the night of the 24th slightly the better. Note the changes to many songs to come: this 'Dark Star' is only six minutes long and doesn't run into any other track for instance! In truth this show isn't quite as astonishing as the pair of shows either side of it chronologically in this list - it's not that the Dead play badly, but they're slightly more unwieldy and clumsy here than on the other sparking shows and occasionally heavy-handed (the two drummers, still not that practised at working together, are really struggling to mesh in with each other tonight or instance). However it's still a glorious set well worth owning simply because every Dead gig back in these early days is so different to any other and almost all the classics of the next eighteen months are already here and raring to go! The sound is occasionally dodgy by the way - not bad for a set recorded unofficially some fifty years ago you have to say but not quite as shiny as other 1968 Dead recordings. For this reason the usual Dick's Pick's caveat warning is particularly funny: 'Warning this is not an audiophile no fair calling up customer support and complaining!' Although not taped specifically for use on 'Anthem Of The Sun' a few seconds of this night's 'performance' of 'Feedback' were used on that album.  Best Song: The 'toddler' version of 'Dark Star' is endlessly fascinating - everything fans will come to love about it is already there, but in compact form, like seeing the baby photo of someone you know really well Worst song: 'Love Light' sounds a little ropey today, as if Pig has just woken up and isn't really 'on' it. 'Born Cross-Eyed' is a bit of a mess too, with no one quite on the same page as anybody else. Biggest Talking Point: Pigpen howls 'It Hurts Me Too', a song that you don't often get to hear, whilst a record twelve songs are heard here before  their appearance on an album!  Best Speech: None Longest Song: A 19:16 'Viola Lee Blues' Front Cover: A thunderbolt filled with an image of a summer scene of a lake and birds stabs a winter scene of snow through the middle. Overall rating - Nice, but somehow slightly less satisfying than some of the other 1968 gigs 6/10

Dick's Picks Volume Twenty-Three

(Baltimore Civic Centre, Maryland, September 17th 1972, Released 2001)

Promised Land/Sugaree/Black Throated Wind/Friend Of The Devil/El Paso/Bird Song/Big River/Tennessee Jed/Mexicali Blues/China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider/Playin' In The Band/Casey Jones/Truckin'/Loser/Jack Straw/Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo/Me And My Uncle/He's Gone/That's It For The Other One/Sing Me Back Home/Sugar Magnolia (Sunshine Daydream)/Uncle John's Band
While like many shows from 1972 this record replicates a great deal of the material heard on 'Europe '72' it also features a higher than average proportion of songs from the Dead's various solo spin-offs. By this time the 'Garcia' and Weir's 'Ace' albums are clearly being regarded as part of the Dead's own canon and the songs from these two records ('Sugaree' 'Bird Song' 'Loser'  'Black Throated Wind' 'Mexicali Blues' 'Playin' In The Band') are all amongst the best played tonight. However it's a song from the past that most fans adore this set for - a version of 'That's It For The Other One' that seems to go on froever, despite featuring just the Weir not the Garcia sections of the song. While this show comes from the master-tapes made by the band, a fan taping of this show made it one of the most popular 'tape trades' for the band, memorable for the fact the taper was sitting next to his girlfriend playing along to the show on tambourine and for his cursing realisation during 'Truckin' that he'd left the plastic cover on top of the microphone for a song and a half! Ah well, it's all good colour - somehow I've never been able to enjoy the re-mastered pristine version of this show quite the same. Sadly the CD is missing the very last encore played that night, 'One More Saturday Night', a cut presumably made for timing reasons as the version on bootleg sounds pretty darn good to me!  Best Song: Tonight's 'Loser' is loose and funky, Garcia taking this version of the pleading song to a very dark place. 'Tennessee Jed' is pretty good too, with Garcia adding a Western accent he doesn't often use. Worst song: This 'China Cat' isn't feline furry well and keeps tripping over its own tail, played at a slower speed than normal and with Garcia really gasping for breath, even if his guitar solos are as exquisite as ever Biggest Talking Point: A 39 minute (!) version of 'That's It For The Other One' - the longest released to date. There's also a very early version of 'Mississippi Half-Step' almost a year before it appears on an album and it's played with a real swing and air of defiance tonight rather than it's later self-pitying self. Merle Haggard cover song 'Sing Me Back Home' is the biggest rarity here, although it's not the best of the small handful of released performances of it. Longest Song: Nothing was going to beat a 39:09  'That's It For The Other One' tonight! Best Speech: None - the Dead largely keep shtum Front Cover: A stunning thunderbolt in blue, with a raven - like those from the band's record label logo -  sitting in the middle of it and cawing Overall rating - 7/10

Dick's Picks Volume Twenty-Four

(Cow Palace, California, March 23rd 1974, Released 2002)

Us Blues/Promised Land/Brown-Eyed Women/Black Throated Wind/Scarlet Begonias/Beat It On Down The Line/Deal/Cassidy/China Cat Sunflower > I Know My Rider/Weather Report Suite/Playin' In The Band/Uncle John's Band > Morning Dew > Uncle John's Band > Playin' In The Band/Big River/Bertha/Wharf Rat/Sugar Magnolia (Sunshine Daydream)
Well well well. This might not be the most polished or most endlessly fascinating Dead gig you'll ever hear but it's a gig gull of importance. This is the first show after a month's break, unusual for the band and perhaps a sign of how tired they're getting (the 18-month hiatus is only round the corner) but more than that, it sees the first use of the Dead's famous 'wall of sound' which will give extra oomph to their shows and will make them the envy of the rock and roll world from this point on. Nowadays our sound systems, like our minds, have grown smaller but back then the equipment looked as scary as it sometimes sounded: over six hundred speakers and a stack of amplifiers, tweeters and woofers that drained 27,000 watts of power (this is in 1974 when pocket calculators were still considered the height of modern science!) You can't quite tell that from this release (the technology helped with what the audience heard, not what got fed into the soundboard) but the band do seem to be having fun and play hard and heavy throughout the gig. In all the 'wall of sound; will be so expensive to run it will be mothballed by 1976 (and that despite sitting out almost 18 months between now and then) so enjoy it while it lasts. Alas this gig has been trimmed slightly to fit it onto two discs, with encores 'Casey Jones' and 'One More Saturday Night' plus a pruned 'Ramble On Rose' 'Mexicali Blues' 'Tennessee Jed' and 'Ship Of Fools' from earlier the casualties (perhaps a three-disc set would have been better?)  Best Song: A frisky 'China Cat' and companion 'Rider' with a slowed-down riff that almost comes with a purr Worst song: 'Morning Dew' is usually the band's biggest out-of-body experience, other-worldly and faint. This version is as chaotic and jumbled up as the sound your clothes make in a tumble-dryer and perhaps the only truly bad version of this classic song around. Donna's at her squawkiest during an otherwise superb 'Playin' In The Band'. Biggest Talking Point: Two brand new songs: the classic  'Scarlet Begonias' which sounds rather slow and hesitant here with Garcia desperately trying to remember the words and the Dead version of Weir solo song 'Cassidy', first released in 1971 which sounds much like every other version around. 'US Blues' is also a new song on only it's third hearing yet already at home in it's traditional opening spot.The lengthy jam which veers between the similarly themed songs 'Playin' In The Band' and 'Uncle John's Band' is also notable - the Dead don't often seesaw between songs like this usually sticking to just the one. Longest Song: A 15:35 'Weather Report Suite' that sounds nicely mellow and then furiously hard, with much more of a contrast between the sections than normal Best Speech: Weir, presumably pointing out some less enthusiastic members of the crowd: 'You can sure tell the ones who win their tickets over the radio!'  Front Cover: A huge golden thunderbolt rips through a Californian setting Overall rating - More memorable for historical than musical reasons but occasionally stellar and very occasionally mega 6/10

Dick's Picks Volume Twenty-Five

(Veteran's Memorial Coliseum, Connecticut, May 10th 1978 and Springfield Civic Centre, Massachusetts, May 11th 1978, Released 2002)

Jack Straw/They Love Each Other/Cassidy/Ramble On Rose/Me And My Uncle/Big River/Peggy-O/Weather Report Suite (Let It Grow) > Deal > Bertha/Good Lovin'/Estimated Prophet/Eyes Of The World > Eyes Of The World > Drums > That's It For The Other One > Wharf Rat > Sugar Magnolia (Sunshine Daydream)/Cold Rain And Snow/Beat It On Down The Line/Friend Of The Devil/Looks Like Rain/Loser/New New Minglewood Blues/Tennessee Jed/Lazy Lightning > Supplication/Scarlet Begonias > Fire On The Mountain/Dancing In The Street > Drums > Not Fade Away > Stella Blue/Around And Around/Werewolves Of London/Johnny B Goode
This is another of those archive sets that's of most significance to long-term Deadheads than newbies. 1978 was not the best year for the band and they tend to float rather than soar, with this show no exception. However there was always a buzz at the time that this was one of the better shows of the period and yet the tape of these two gigs were hard to come by compared to some others. Hearing it after all this time reveals a gig more or less equal to all the others, no better no worse, although clearly fans who already own everything available snapped it up eagerly enough. Jerry's struggling a little tonight, losing where he is in the songs (even on the guitar solos which is worrying) and sounds like he'd rather be anywhere else during his slow ballads (were the drugs beginning to bite?) However everyone else is on good form, with Keith Godchaux playing more than usual (perhaps to cover for his ailing friend) and some powerful drumming from Billy and Mickey. For me the show on the 10th is slightly superior simply because the band are tighter (they get awfully loose by the end of the second date, sadly not always in a good way) but both are (largely) good (when the band aren't messing up). The Having played 23 dates inside a month the Dead are clearly in need of a rest, but sadly for them still have another four gigs to play before a mid-run rest. Best Song: 'Wharf Rat' is a stunner once more, with Phil adding some powerful bass runs at the start of the song Worst song: 'Bertha' just collapses, with Jerry getting lost and Keith's desperate attempts to vamp away until he finds his way again increasingly desperate. 'Dancing In The Street' features a peculiar setting on Brent's keyboard and gets weirder and weirder as the song rattles out of control. The band also mess up the opening, unsure if they're doing a chorus or an intro. perhaps sensing the song is going wrong, Bob messes around, growling and barking his vocals much to Donna's amusement! A two minute 'Drums' also tests the patience a little. Sadly the encore from the 10th ('Us Blues') is cut from the set, probably for timing reasons. Biggest Talking Point: A rare non-Halloween appearance of 'Werewolves Of London' (a-wahooo!) Longest song: 'Drums' at 18 minutes. Shoot me now. Best Speech: Bob talks about the band's 'lighting engineer...whoops lighting designer, excuse me. He can make the drummers red for instance! He can work miracles and deserves a big round of applause!'  Front Cover: A man claps underneath the logo with everything bathed in a purply pink light Overall rating - More fun for longterm fans who like hearing their favourites messing up than any real musical worth 4/10

Dick's Picks Volume Twenty-Six

(Electric Theatre, Chicago, April 26th 1969 and Labor Temple, Minnesota, April 27th 1969, Released 2002)

Dupree's Diamond Blues/Mountains Of The Moon/China Cat Sunflower/Doin' That Rag/That's It For The Other One > The Eleven > That's It For The Other One/I Know It's A Sin/Turn On Your Love Light/Me And My Uncle/Sitting On Top Of The World/Dark Star > St Stephen > The Eleven > Turn On Your Love Light > Morning Dew
The Chicago gig was the second of two shows held there on consecutive days. This is another strong set from 1969 when the Dead were sizzling: most of the gems from 'Anthem' 'Aoxo' and 'Live/Dead' are here making this pretty much an essential purchase and while the sound is a little grotty by Dead standards and clearly taped by a fan rather than taken from a soundboard (the sleevenotes confess 'we were unable to avoid the effects of the ravages of time') the music more than makes up for this. What's unusual though is that a lot of the heavier rockier songs sound really slow here - 'China Cat' doesn't strut so much as waddle, while 'The Other One' starts off more as a ballad than the quick-stepping  prelude to madness it usually does. The newest songs in the set (the 'Live/Dead' medley) sound particularly tight, while the band are clearly keen on their new composition 'The Eleven' as they play it twice (including a unique bridge out of 'The Other One', although it doesn't work quite as well as the one out of 'St Stephen'). The second disc - basically the second show from the 27th - is generally tighter than the first all round in fact although everything still seems slightly slower than normal. Sadly it's cut from the tape, but legend has it that Aoxomoa's 'What's Become Of The Baby?' received it's only live performance at this gig - though hippie memories being what they are no one can agree whether it was an 'actual' performance or just the as-yet unheard album track played over the speakers. The Minnesota gig saw the Dead supported by the Bobby Lyle Quintet. Best Song: 'Morning Dew' is even more powerful than normal, with some inventive drumming - one of the two drummers (Billy?) simply plays the cymbals while his colleague (Mickey?) hammers the song home. Worst song: I've never been a fan but this 'Dupree's Diamond Blues' is a mess - the band aren't ready and don't start together, Jerry is off-mike, the microphones squeal...Normally that would be fine but this is the first song so don't be put off! Biggest Talking Point: Jimmy Reed song 'I Know It's A Sin' receives it's only legal release so far - unusually for a blues song in this period Jerry sings while Pigpen's harmonica wails over the top. A very early 'Chinacat' appears without segueing into 'I Know My Rider'.  Best Speech: Emcee: 'They're gonna be around for a while so see what they can do for ya!'  Longest song: A 26:36 'Dark Star' that's exceptional Front Cover: One of those boring 'postcard' front cover again although check out the evil grinning skulls on the postage stamp! Overall rating - Not quite the best from 1969 but as any show from 1969 is pretty darn magical this show still gets 8/10

Dick's Picks Volume Twenty-Seven

(Oakland Coliseum Arena, California, December 16th 1992, plus bonus tracks from the same venue on December 17th 1992, Released 2003)

Feel Like A Stranger/Brown Eyed Women/The Same Thing/Loose Lucy/Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again/Row Jimmy/Weather Report Suite (Let It Grow)/Shakedown Street/Samson And Delilah/Ship Of Fools/Playin' In The Band > Drums > Space > Dark Star/All Along The Watchtower/Stella Blue/Good Lovin'/Casey Jones/Throwing Stones/Not Fade Away/Baba O'Riley/Tomorrow Never Knows
The final two of five shows played at the same venue across six days. Speaking chronologically, this is the penultimate archive Dead set, the last two of five shows played at the same venue on consecutive days. This was the first archive release from a year generally regarded as the Dead's poorest, with the band breaking in new keyboardist after Brent Mydland's sudden death (this show features Vince Welnick alone, while most others feature Bruce Hornby on stage alongside him). This is the first available show following a nasty turn Jerry suffered at home in August which was later diagnosed as an enlarged heart. Many fans feared the worst and the band sensibly cancelled all their gigs from then until the start of December (making the six months from June till then the longest gap since the 18-month hiatus), but Jerry bounced back a lot quicker than he had after the coma of 1986. He sounds on good form here in fact, on a gig that might not match past glories (like a lot of 1990s Dead gigs everything seems a tad slow, as if the band don't have the energy to play hard and fast and loose as before) but is a lot better than the reputation for the period suggests. Vince too is a revelation - freed of the need to balance whatever Hornsby is playing he manages to sound like both Keith and Brent all at once, flowery yet solid. Once again, though, the bonus tracks win with the four songs added from the previous night's show on the 16th arguably the best thing here. Best Song: A fiesty 'Playin' In The Band', which not by coincidence is probably the fastest paced piece here! Worst song: A bored 'Throwing Stones' sounds more like the band are throwing in the towel  Biggest Talking Point: 'Loose Lucy' is a surprise revival, not heard regularly since the 1970s, with Jerry singing falsetto on a slower more rhythmic version. Weir's latest blues cover 'Same Thing' received it's only official release to date. Note also the two rock and roll classics with which the set ends, The Who's 'Baba O' Riley' and The Beatles' 'Tomorrow Never Knows', two of four songs taken from the later show which the Dead only played a few dozen times each. Best Speech: None Front Cover: A final 'postcard' cover, this time with a picture of a train, perhaps because the Dead revive 'Casey Jones' at this gig Overall rating - Not exactly essential, but a better picture of the 'wilderness years' than you might think 4/10

Dick's Picks Volume Twenty-Eight

(Pershing Municipal Auditorium, Nebraska, February 26th 1973 and Salt Palace, Utah, February 28th 1973, Released 2003)

Promised Land/Loser/Jack Straw/Don't Ease Me In/Looks Like Rain/Loose Lucy/Beer Barrel Polka/Big Railroad Blues/Playin' In The Band/They Love Each Other/Big River/Tennessee Jed/Greatest Story Ever Told/Dark Star/Eyes Of The World/Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo/Me And My Uncle/Not Fade Away > Goin' Down The Road Feelin' Bad > Not Fade Away/Cold Rain And Snow/Beat It On Down The Line/They Love Each Other/Mexicali Blues/Sugaree/Box Of Rain/El Paso/He's Gone/Jack Straw/China Cat Sunflower > I Know My Rider/Big River
The last two shows in Pigpen's lifetime before his death on March 8th. Ill health means he's not with the others of course - his last show with the band was the previous June - but he's clearly in their thoughts with 'He's Gone' sounds especially mournful (the sleeve notes for this set sweetly list him amongst the others, crediting him with 'spirit'). Otherwise it's business as usual, with the usual suspects from the past four years still present in the setlists with lots of shorter compact Americana songs nestled against a late period 'Dark Star' and 'That's It For The Other One' which are almost a last hurrah for the psychedelic age (neither sound quite as great as they did at their peak but are still welcome). Elsewhere the Dead premier three songs from their forthcoming album 'Wake Of The Flood' - 'Mississippi' (very fast and upbeat) 'Row Jimmy' (also rather fast and upbeat) and 'Eyes Of The World' (very fast and upbeat, with the jazzy overtones already intact). For once on these archive sets both shows are more or less equal, the band perhaps playing with more fizz on the 26th and more finesse on the 28th but both performances equally worthy. The sound, while better than many in the series, comes from an incomplete source so the Dead archive team took the decision to patch up a couple of 'holes' with similar jams from period gigs. These are 'Eyes Of The World' and 'Morning Dew', although good luck spotting the edits because I don't think I noticed. All in all one of the nicest and most rounded of the Dick's Picks releases. Best Song: There's so much here it's hard to know where to start, although a drum-heavy 'Not Fade Away' is one of the best versions of the song and Bob's 'Looks Like Rain' is spine-tingling, but the best thing might well be the slowest, saddest, 'Loser' you've ever heard. Many versions of this song are out to steal your wallet - this one's out to steal your heart. Worst song: This is the era when Phil Lesh starts to develop vocal trouble that will see him keep quiet for most of the next four years. You can already hear it in his strained vocals for 'Box Of Rain'  Biggest Talking Point: The three songs from 'Wake Of The Flood' listed above are the first available on any archive set, while even more of as surprise is the first available 'Loose Lucy' featured over a year before its appearance on 'From The Mars Hotel'. She sounds suitably young and frisky. There's also a brief and rather odd sounding 'Beer Barrel Polka' when everyone is meant to be tuning.  Best Speech: None tonight Longest song: A 25: 23 'Dark Star' Front Cover: A sadly boring cover for such colourful music, one of those 'postcard' designs with a postage stamp of ballroom dancing. Overall rating -  This is excellent stuff with the band on great form right across the board and with a song selection to die for. One of the true must-haves in the archive series. 9/10

Dick's Picks Volume Twenty-Nine

(Fox Theatre, Georgia, May 19th and 21st 1977 and bonus tracks from Lloyd Norman Centre, Oklahoma, October 11th 1977, Released 2003)

Promised Land/Sugaree/El Paso/Peggy-O/Looks Like Rain/Row Jimmy/Passenger/Loser/ Dancing In The Street/Samson And Delilah/Ramble On Rose/Estimated Prophet/Not Fade Away/Wharf Rat/Around And Around/Terrapin Station (Lady With A Fan/Terrapin Station)/Playin' In The Band > Uncle John's Band > Drums > The Wheel > China Doll > Playin' In The Band/Bertha/Me And My Uncle/They Love Each Other/Cassidy/Jack-A-Roe/Jack Straw/Tennessee Jed/New New Minglewood Blues/Row Jimmy/Passenger/ Scarlet Begonias > Fire On The Mountain/Samson And Delilah/Brown Eyes Women/Dancing In The Street/Dire Wolf/Estimated Prophet/He's Gone > Drums > That's It For The Other One >Comes A Time > St Stephen > Not Fade Away > St Stephen/One More Saturday Night
Blimey - the first of the Dick's Picks releases to contain more than three discs - and it's an epic that contains six! In total two shows are split across two and a half discs, with 'fillers' from a later October show at a different venue (though goodness knows why - it's not as if there aren't others May available!) Like many an epic, this set is good only in patches, with the show of 19th slightly superior to the 21st but both are still very good, especially the extended second set improvs. The biggest claim to fame for yet another archive release from 1977 is the unusually high quote of then-new songs present. Most Dead shows tend to ignore whatever album the band are about to put out but 'Terrapin Station' is healthily represented with everything but 'Sunrise' played across the three shows. These trio of shows were all part of what Deadheads have come to know as 'Betty Boards', taped by sound engineer Betty Cantor and are amongst the best sounding in the archive releases so far. All songs from both Georgia shows are included, barring an encore of 'Us Blues' from the second, while once again the show included as a 'bonus' is arguably more interesting than the main course itself. Best Song: One of the best of the handful of 'Band Wheel Doll Jams' played in the 70s. 'The Wheel' especially is sublime, slower than usual and with a rippling cascades of drums throughout. Worst song: Cowboy lament 'El Paso' sounds even more outclassed by longer, better songs than normal Biggest Talking Point: 'China Doll' is back for the first time since 1974 and unusually pops up during an extended jam rather than in the shorter first sets. Garcia's solo song 'Comes A Time' is the set's rarest song and rather nice with Donna Godchaux's harmonies  and a - blimey - four minute guitar solo showing the band are on form tonight, even if everything's still a little slow Longest Song: A 16;21 'Sugaree' Best Speech: None Front Cover: Another of those 'postcard' editions, this time with an 'alligator' postal stamp (though the band don't play that song tonight) and a rubber stamp featuring the venue and date Overall rating - When it's on it's on 8/10

Dick's Picks Volume Thirty

(Academy Of Music, New York, March 25-28th 1972, Released 2002)

Hey Bo Diddley!/I'm A Man > I've Seen Them All > Jam > Mona/How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)/Are You Lonely For Me Baby?/Smokestack Lightning/Playin' In The Band/Truckin'/Tennessee Jed/Chinatown Shuffle/Black Throated Wind/You Win Again/Mr Charlie/Mexicali Blues/Brokedown Palace/Next Time You See Me/Cumberland Blues/Looks Like Rain/Big Railroad Blues/El Paso/China Cat Sunflower > I Know My Rider/Casey Jones/Playin' In The Band/Sugaree/The Stranger (Two Souls In Communion)/Sugar Magnolia/That's It For The Other One/It Hurts Me Too/Not Fade Away > Goin' Down The Road Feelin' Bad > Not Fade Away/Sidewalks Of New York/One More Saturday Night
The last four shows from a famous seven day appearance at the Academy Of Music which started on March 21st (the 24th was the only day off that week!), with highlights from the second and third later released as 'bonus' tracks on the 'Rockin' The Rhein' box set. All of these shows are notable for being only the second venue after the band's early-year break and as such saw the introduction of many new songs and the addition of Donna Godchaux as a full-time member (her husband Keith had been playing with the band since the previous October). They were also treated by the band as a 'farewell' sequence before the group took off for Europe, although I for one would claim the band sound better in this week's shows than they ever did on their better known forays to England, France, Germany, Holland et al. This set is also remarkable for the fact that the Dead were co-headliners with 50s legend backing Bo Diddley and this CD starts with the band backing him on a string of his r and b songs; as such it features several exclusive covers of his that the band never perform again. The pair might not seem a natural fit but actually this is a great pairing, the Dead really hitting the hypnotic repetitive grooves (certainly this makes much more sense than, say, a tour with Bob Dylan). Even when the Dead take the stage in their own right the energy levels don't dip; the band are in enthusiastic form all night long, with an energy and drive and without the usual 'dips' that are an inevitable part of most Dead concerts. Only Donna's occasionally wayward vocals (the band haven't worked on their harmonies yet) pulls this set down from maximum points (and unlike many fans I like Donna's contributions in later years - here though, after so many years without her, fans are in for a shock). Best Song: 'Mona', perhaps Bo's best song, sounds mightily good with a full Dead rhtyhm section behind it! Pigpen then takes over from Diddley and instantly rips into a chilling 'Smokestack Lightning' as if to say 'two can play at that game - you don't mean Diddley squat to me!' Worst song: Donna squawks her way through an otherwise glorious 'Playin' In The Band' Biggest Talking Point: The Dead back fellow show headliner Bo Diddley on the opening seven songs of disc one. This show also features three unique recordings: covers of Holland-Dozier-Holland song 'How Sweet It Is To Be Loved By You', Bert Berns' 'Are You Lonely For My Baby?' and on the final night an instrumental version of blues standard 'Sidewalks Of New York'. Listen too for a rare appearance of 'One More Saturday Night'  - played on a Tuesday! For these reasons - and the other almost as rare cover songs - it was long considered one of the most desirable of Dead shows by fans who were keeping song statistic tallies and yet for years it was assumed no tapers had been in the audience; thankfully someone had but it wasn't found until his death and his hoard of tapes were discovered kept in an old barn. Longest song: A 28: 16 'That's It For The Other One' that goes into some very odd places indeed Best Speech: None, surprisingly  Front Cover: Another boring postcard cover, this time with an American Beauty style rose on the stamp Overall rating - This set fulfils all the functions of a good archive release: it features some historical value, includes rare songs and generally speaking very strong performances. One of the best archive releases out there. 9/10

Dick's Picks Volume Thirty-One

(Philadelphia Civic Centre, Pennsylvania, August 4-5th 1974 and Roosevelt Stadium, New Jersey, August 6th 1974, Released 2004)

Playin' In The Band/Scarlet Begonias/Jack Straw/Peggy-O/Me And Bobby McGee/China Cat Sunflower > I Know My Rider/Around And Around/Ship Of Fools/Loose Lucy/Weather Report Suite > Jam > Wharf Rat > US Blues/Sugar Magnolia (Sunshine Daydream)/Casey Jones/Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo/It Must Have Been The Roses/Big River/He's Gone > Truckin' > Jam > That's It For The One > Jam > Space > Stella Blue/One More Saturday Night/Eyes Of The World/Playin' In The Band > Scarlet Begonias > Playin' In The Band > Uncle John's Band
The final show here - played on the 6th - was a last mi9nute booking to make up for a rare cancellation on the 2nd August (when torrential rain made electrocution a very real possibility - the crowd, who'd queued for hours with the affirmation that the band would play regardless, weren't happy and three things at the band). Laidback and mellow, without any real energy as per a lot of 1974 shows, this one's also a little too ragged around the edges, with Bobby unusually messing up 'Jack Straw' and Jerry sounding as if he's about to pass out during 'Wharf Rat'. The set does pick up once it moves past the first disc, though, with the shows on the 5th and 6th rather better (plus the band's 'wall of sound' was so technical it famously took a good four or five songs to adjust everything to the right balance!)  Once again, Phil Lesh and Ned Lagin's 'Seastones' shenanigans have been cut from the original tape, although they actually sound a little more palatable tonight. There are no new songs, with the selections from 'Mars Hotel' now pared back nto just 'Ship Of Fools' 'Loose Lucy' and 'Scarlet Begonias' Best Song: One of the best 'Eyes Of The World' played at a real whipcrack speed! Worst song: In addition to the above this is one of the worst versions of 'Truckin' with Bob unusually hoarse Biggest Talking Point: Not that the audience know it yet, but Richard Nixon resigns from the White House the day after the New Jersey gig. How the hell did the Dead get from one extreme of their canon (the slow mournful beauty 'Wharf Rat'; to the uptempo wisecracking 'Us Blues') so cleverly without you really noticing?! Best Speech: The best 'step back' banter of 30 years of saying it- Weir: 'Now we're going to play a very fun game everybody - it's time for everyone to step back. There now - doesn't everyone feel better?' Lesh: 'I know you guys love this game and well - you don't even need us to tell you about it do you?' Weir: 'Here's an excellent opportunity to meet the person behind you, simply by backing into them gently but firmly' Lesh: 'And wiggle a little while you're doing it!'  Longest Song:  Two lengthy 'Playin' In The Band's, the longest at 25:49 Front Cover: A weird and rather trippy stream of light died beige Overall rating - It gets better as it goes on after a dodgy start but never really flies 4/10

Dick's Picks Volume Thirty-Two

(Alpine Valley Music Theatre, Wisconsin, August 7th 1982, Released 2004)

The Music Never Stopped > Sugaree > The Music Never Stopped/Me And My Uncle/Big River/It Must Have Been The Roses/C C Rider/Ramble On Rose/Beat It On Down The Line/On The Road Again/Althea/Weather Report Suite (Let It Grow)/US Blues/China Cat Sunflower > I Know My Rider/Man Smart Woman Smarter/Ship Of Fools/Playin' In The Band > Drums > Space > The Wheel > Playin' In The Band/Morning Dew/One More Saturday Night

The first of two shows played at this venue on consecutive days. John Cipolina, of the Quicksilver Messenger Service, is the support act and guests on the band's second set.The year 1982 isn't one of the best for the band, with Garcia fading fast and Mydland still finding his way into the band's sound. However while the band sound ragged and worn-out, it's the sound in this set that really palls: most of the Dick's Picks series sound exemplary, incredible for their age and the occasionally low-fi recording standards. This one however sounds echoey and muddy, as if the microphones were placed under water, the compilers admitting in the sleevenotes that 'the source for this recording is a lowly, forgotten cassette' and has very little in the way of bass. That would be fine if this was a really great show full of storming performances and rare tracks, but instead this is just the usual representative sample of what the band have been sticking to regular for nigh on a decade now and the pieces only occasionally click into place. By now only one song, 'Althea' is still in the set list from 'Go To Heaven', with no previews of songs from 'In The Dark' and the whole of 'Shakedown Street' is missing with the next-newest song here stretching back to 1975.  Best Song: A rather countryfied 'China Rider' with a bit of a hint of 'Feelin' Groovy' in the guitar lick. There's a slower and sadder than normal version of 'The Wheel' that's rather lovely too. Worst song: I never was that keen on 'Ship Of Fools' but this one particularly is taking on water and about to sink Biggest Talking Point: A rare jamming session based around 'The Music Never Stopped' which somehow veers left into 'Sugaree' and back out again. Songwise the only track not released at the time is another 'Man Smart, Woman Smarter' which seems to be something of an archive favourite appearing on lots of 80s shows. Best Speech: None Front Cover: A nice computer print that makes you feel as if you're in orbit swooshing past the Earth - it'll get you higher than the music will, that's all I'm saying Overall rating -  Give this one a miss, one of the weaker sets in the series 1/10

Dick's Picks Volume Thirty-Three

(Oakland Coliseum, California, October 9-10th 1976, Released 2004)

Promised Land/Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo/Cassidy/Tennessee Jed/Looks Like Rain/They Love Each Other/New New Minglewood Blues/Scarlet Begonias/Lazy Lightning > Supplication/Sugaree/St Stephen > Not Fade Away > St Stephen/Help On The Way > Slipknot! > Drums > Samson And Delilah > Slipknot! > Franklin's Tower/One More Saturday Night/US Blues/Might As Well/Mama Tried/Ramble On Rose/Cassidy/Deal/El Paso/Loser/Promised Land/Friend Of The Devil/Dancing In The Street > Wharf Rat > Dancing In The Street/Samson And Delilah/Brown Eyed Women/Playin' In The Band > Drums > The Wheel > Space > That's It For The Other One > Stella Blue > Playin' In The Band/Sugar Magnolia/Johnny B Goode
The Who co-headline with The Dead for a Bill Graham organised 'Day On The Green' event and even dedicate their cover of Johnny Kidd and the Pirates' 'Shakin' All Over' to the Dead. A bit of a shock for the Dead as the heavy double booking means they hit the stage at 11 am - a near record for them! You'd forgive the bleary-eyed band for sticking to the simple and familiar, but no - they're on top explorative form tonight with the extended jams far more convincing than the shorter songs again (with discs two and four the standouts on this four disc set). What's more the band are in peak 'revival' mode with several songs in this period getting their first performances in several years ('St Stephen'  last heard regularly in 1971, 'Dancing In The Street' last jammed in the days before the first album came out). There's also early examples of 'The Wheel', though released on Jerry's first solo record in 1971, is still young enough to the Dead to be in single numbers and 'Might As Well', a newer song from 1975's 'Reflections'. This doesn't sound much better to me than the usual 'Dick's Picks; fair but the compilers were confident enough to include this sentence in their usual 'caveat' spot: 'This space is usually reserved to warn you of sound quality anomalies. Disregard that - there aren't any!'  Best Song: A sweet and sorrowful 'Loser' that' close to tears Worst song: 'Friend Of The Devil' is a little off-key Biggest Talking Point: The unusual extended jam round the first half of the 'Slipknot' trilogy that includes a unique 'Franklin's Tower' in the middle before the jam returns again! There's also an odd and less than convincing segue between 'Dancing In The Street' and 'Wharf Rat'  Best Speech: None tonight Front Cover: A nice swirl of bright yellow antimatter in front of a green sky (or something like that anyway...) Overall rating - Good for the era, though better on the longer songs 6/10

Dick's Picks Volume Thirty-Four

(Community War Memorial, Rochester, November 5th 1977, with bonus tracks from Senaca College, Toronto, November 2nd 1977,  Released 2005)

New New Minglewood Blues/Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo/Looks Like Rain/Dire Wolf/Mama Tried/Big River/Candyman/Jack Straw/Deal/Phil Lesh Bass Solo/Eyes Of The World/Samson And Delilah/It Must Have Been The Roses/Might As Well/Estimated Prophet/St Stephen/Truckin'/Around And Around/Estimated Prophet/He's Gone > Rhythm Devils > That's It For The Other One/Black Peter/Sugar Magnolia/One More Saturday Night/Lazy Lightning > Supplication
What is happening to Phil Lesh tonight? That's the thought of most fans who hear this sets, with the bassist fitting in several great bass runs and playing far more assertively than normal throughout the set. Otherwise it's business as usual, with pretty much all the Dead standards in circulation in 1977 present and correct. Like many 1977 shows the Dead tend to be compact rather than soaring but the third disc features more improvisatory explorations than usual in this year, stretching out through a fascinating 'Samson and Delilah' - then a fairly new addition to the repertoire - and a comparatively brief 'Lazy Lightning > Supplication' to bring the set to a breathless close. There are better shows around but this is still awfully good, showing off both sides of the Dead's live oeuvre. The last five songs have sadly had to be taken from an inferior second source of master tape as the fan who taped this show in the best sound seems to have run out of tapes before the end! The difference is more noticeable than many other archive Dead sets that have to do the same thing, but still listenable. Best Song: 'Candyman' is more floaty than most versions, as if the narrator is content to drifgt into a drug stipor instead of kicking against it. Garcia's guitar set up is remarkable too, replicating the 'pedal steel' on the original with a shimmering warped sound not unlike that heard on the studio take of 'Estimated Prophet', 'Samson and Delilah' also sounds much healthier here than usual, with some fine heavy drumming over the intro and a quicker-than-usual tempo. Worst song: 'Dire Wolf', initially a jaunty plea not to be murdered, is dragging its feet on this slowed down version which half wants you to urge the devil to get on with it and out him out of his misery! Biggest Talking Point: A Phil Lesh bass solo at the start of disc two! Minds are blown! There's also a by now semi-regular on-stage plea of 'take a step back!' after warnings that the audience are getting too close to the front of the stage Longest Song: A 14: 42 'Eyes Of The World' that ends up in all sorts of weird and wonderful places Best Speech: Garcia: 'The people up front are getting horribly smashed again. So if everybody on the floor could move back it would be helpful. It's hard for us to get off seeing smashed human bodies up here. Know what I mean? Give us a little mercy!'  Front Cover: Arguably the greatest cover of the entire 'Dick's Picks' series with a picture of space and a surprisingly blue Earth, taken as if the camera is rushing out towards the cosmos! Overall rating - 7/10

Dick's Picks Volume Thirty-Five

(Golden Hall, San Diego, California, August 7th 1971 with bonus tracks from Auditorium Theatre, Chicago, August 24th 1971 and Hollywood Palladium, California, August 6th 1971, Released 2005)
Big Railroad Blues/El Paso/Mr Charlie/Sugaree/Mama Tried/Bertha/Big Boss Man/Promised Land/Hard To Handle/Cumberland Blues/Casey Jones/Truckin'/China Cat Sunflower > I Know My Rider/Next Time You See Me/Sugar Magnolia/Sing Me Back Home/Me And My Uncle/Not Fade Away > Goin Down The Road Feelin' Bad > Jam > Johnny B Goode/Uncle John's Band > Playin' In The Band > Loser/It Hurts Me Too/Cumberland Blues/Empty Pages/Beat It On Down The Line/Brown Eyed Women/St Stephen/Not Fade Away > Goin' Down The Road Feelin' Bad > Not Fade Away/Me And Bobby McGee/Big Boss Man/Brokedown Palace/Good Lovin'/That's It For The Other One > Me And My Uncle > That's It For The Other One/Deal/Sugar Magnolia/Morning Dew/Turn On Your Love Light
I've noticed a tendency among Deadheads to treasure their earliest taped shows amongst all others, so perhaps I'm biased, but the second half of the Hollywood show used here as 'bonus tracks' (my second ever Dead show on disc) seems to me a much better gig than the main show from the Golden Hall. For this one the Dead are sparking, telepathic and play most of their best material, the sound is great - everything you'd want from a Dead live show. By contrast the Golden Hall gig only takes root sporadically and suffers from notably weak sound (though there's a reason for that - this was the last gig taped before the band hired Keith Godchaux and they gave them to him to learn to 'jam' with in preparation for his first gig on October 19th that year. He left the tapes with his mum and dad and they were retrieved as late as 2005 from the family houseboat where they'd been kept safe all that time!) That's the only thing of interest to say about this gig, which isn't the best or worst out there. New Riders Of The Purple Sage were once again the support act. Best Song: A heartbreaking eleven minute rendition of 'Morning Dew', one of the greatest interpretations the Dead ever gave of this lovely song for my money!  Worst song: 'Mr Charlie' wasn't one of Pig's better songs and sounds positively wet here Biggest Talking Point: A rare and previously unreleased Pigpen song 'Empty Pages'. Bob Weir's intro to tonight's 'That's It For The Other One'' features the beginnings of what will become the flamenco flourish on 'Weather Report Suite' two years later. Best Speech: None Longest Song: Of the two main shows it's an 11:47 'Good Lovin', with a 25:42 'Love Light' from the 'bonus show' by far the longest recording here in total Front Cover: Another of those computer-generated images, this time in yellow Overall rating - The main gig is a 4 rising to 6 with the bonus tracks/10

Dick's Picks Volume Thirty-Six

(The Spectrum, Philadelphia, September 21st 1972, with bonus tracks from Folsom Field, Boulder, September 3rd 1972, Released 2005)

Promised Land/Bird Song/El Paso/China Cat Sunflower > I Know My Rider/Black Throated Wind/Big Railroad Blues/Jack Straw/Loser/Big River/Ramble On Rose/Cumberland Blues/Playin' In The Band/He's Gone > Truckin'/Black Peter/Mexicali Blues/Dark Star/Morning Dew/Beat It On Down The Line/Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo/Sugar Magnolia/Friend Of The Devil/Not Fade Away > Goin' Down The Road Feelin' Bad > Not Fade Away > One More Saturday Night/He's Gone/That's It For The Other One/Wharf Rat
The first time the Dead play what will become one of their future regular haunts. Everyone raise your glasses because this is the last release (to date anyway) of the entire Dick's Pick's franchise *sob* No one is quite sure why the franchise ended - many felt it had simply run its course (although the sales figures were still strong) or that the Dick's lists of classic shows had been all but exhausted. This isn't exactly a classic way to say goodbye - most of the Dead's 72 gigs are interchangeable and there's nothing here that you won't have already learnt from the official 'Europe '72' set. However this is a good last throw of the dice in capturing all the strands of the Dead at once, with a tight first set and a loose and jazzy second, highlighted by later period showings of both 'Dark Star' and 'That's It For The Other One' shortly before they were shelved (and when they come back a few years later neither will ever sound quite the same again). The last of those witty 'sound warning' logos includes the memorable line 'Being more than thirty years old the tape shows some minor sign of the ravages of time - but then we all do'. Due to problems with the original tape, a few seconds of a rather ambling 'Friend Of The Devil' were spliced from another show, though the cut is so clever you don't really notice. The last three songs are taken from a 'bonus' show from earlier the same month and - typically of the Dick's Pick's franchise sounds far more interesting than the show itself, with tighter readings of a glorious 'He's Gone' and a thrilling 'Wharf Rat' by far the best things on this set. Best Song: A relatively short 'Playin' In The Band' is taken at one heck of a pace but sounds rather good turned into a pure adrenalin rush instead of gradually unfolding  Worst song: This 'Black Peter' really milks his death-scene, while the drummers play so loudly he can barely hear himself pass away Biggest Talking Point: Garcia breaks a string during a performance of 'Bird Song' and leaves Keith to 'fill in' for him until he can replace it. Best Speech: Lesh starts using one of his catchphrases at this gig: 'Higher, kids, higher' Longest Song: A full 37:07 of a rare 'Dark Star', shortly about to enter hibernation Front Cover: A computer-drawn image of what looks like pages of a book being opened and bathed in golden light (is that Pigpen turning it on?) Overall rating - OK but nothing really to make this set stand out above all the other fine shows of the period 4/10

Dave's Picks Volume One

(The Mosque, Richmond, Virginia, May 25th 1977, Released 2012)

Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo/Jack Straw/They Love Each Other/Mexicali Blues/Peggy-O/Cassidy/Loser/Lazy Lightning > Supplication/Brown Eyed Women/Promised Land/Scarlet Begonias > Fire On The Mountain/Estimated Prophet/He's Gone > Drums > The Other One > Wharf Rat> The Other One/The Wheel/Around and Around/Johnny B Goode

Welcome to the start of yet another new archive series - this one a sequel to the 'Road' Trips' CDs and named after tape archivist Dave Lemeuix, who picked his personal favourite Dead shows as a conscious 'sequel' to the 'Dick's Picks' series. Once again an archive series starts with the well received period of May 1977, though to be the best middle ground between the earlier adventurous Dead and the later slicker over-accessible Dead. This show does indeed feature a still rejuvenated Dead with top notch playing and with Billy and Mickey's four-handed percussion particularly strong and is amongst the better shows from this well regarded period. However this show (like all the 'Dave's Picks' thankfully included complete) is not without its problems: Jerry's vocal sounds a little fragile at times, which is a problem on the heavier recordings but gives songs like 'Loser' and 'Mississippi' a really melancholic twinge. It changed its name to the Altria Theatre in 2014. In case you were wondering, not the venue wasn't really used as a mosque but was built to resemble one in the 1920s. Best Song: The second set starts with one of the better 'Scarlet > Fire' grooves, although the lengthy jam out of 'Lazy Lightning > Supplication' runs it close! An interesting 'Loser' - where the band play with a smirk and Jerry sings with a sob - is also well worth hearing. Worst song: Peggy-O doesn't fit in between 'Cassidy' and 'Mexicali Blues' and this 'Jack Straw' deserves to be on the run! Biggest Talking Point: A version of 'The Other One' with 'Wharf Rat' somehow inserted in-between - the only time the Dead ever did this! Best Speech: None - the band aren't very chatty at all on this show Longest Song: 'That's It For The Other One', which lasts 18 minutes in total in two halves  Front Cover: The fun album cover features a pair of skeletons with lightsabers in reference to the fact that this gig was recorded the weekend the first 'Star Wars' film came out! Overall Rating - Another highly desirable 1977 set 8/10

Dave's Picks Volume Two

(Dillon Stadium, Hartford, July 31st 1974, Released 2012)

Scarlet Begonias/Me and My Uncle/Brown Eyed Women/Beat It On Down The Line/Mississippi Half-Step Toodeloo/It Must Have Been The Roses/Mexicali Blues/Row Jimmy/Jack Straw/China Cat Sunflower> I Know You Rider/Around And Around/Bertha/Big River/Eyes Of The World > China Doll/Promised Land/Ship Of Fools/ Ramble On Rose /Weather Report Suite/El Paso/Greatest Story Ever Told/To Lay Me Down/Truckin' > Mind Has Left Body Jam> Spanish Jam > Wharf Rat/US Blues/One More Saturday Night/Uncle John's Band. Bonus Disc: Sugaree/Weather Report Suite/He's Gone > Truckin' > Nobody's Fault But Mine > The Other One > Spanish Jam > Wharf Rat
A little wobbly by the Dead's mid-70s standards, with a tendency to ramble and Donna on top screeching mode, bless her heart. This concert is most notable in Dead lore for being the one where band friend Ned Lagin premiered his atonal composition 'Seastones', but sadly copyright issues (and quite possibly taste) mean it isn't on the CD. This is one of the shortest sets in the Dead re-issue series, in fact, with a third 'bonus' disc containing highlights from a set played two days earlier in Maryland added to bump the running time. There are notably few songs from the 'new' Dead LP 'Mars Hotel' played tonight (three in fact). Jerry is in the mood for a slow song, though, with far more ballads played across this set than usual - though sadly only one or two are truly sublime tonight. Overall this is a strange choice for a release, although the band are still just about together enough in 1974 for even their 'failures' to be interesting. This was issued in a limited edition of just 12,000 copies. Subscribers got a 'bonus' concert from two days earlier, although this is no great shakes and really just more of the same. Best Song: 'To Lay Me Down' - not the best version by a long stretch but Garcia's passionate vocal still brings a tear to the eye. 'He's Gone' also features a great 'jazzy' fade with Jerry, Bob, Phil and Donna trading lines in a variety of funny voices which extends what's generally one of the Dead's shorter songs to 13 minutes!  Worst song: Both 'Spanish Jam's are ear-torturing! Biggest Talking Point: Aside from the missing 'Seastones' it's probably a rambling take on blues standard 'Nobody's Fault But Mine', written by Blind Willie Johnson but most famous today from a Led Zeppelin cover taped two years after this gig Longest Song: Two 'Weather Report Suites' clock in at 17 and 19 minutes respectively Best Speech: The Dead are a bit quiet tonight sadly! Front Cover: An eagle perches on top of the stadium waiting to pounce! Overall Rating - Moments of genius but even longer moments of not much happening! 3/10

Dave's Picks Volume Three

(October 22nd 1971, Auditorium Theatre, Illinois, plus a 'bonus' disc featuring highlights from a show the night before, Released 2012)

Bertha/Me And My Uncle/Tennessee Jed/Jack Straw/Loser/Playing In The Band/Sugaree/Beat It On Down The Line/Black Peter/Mexicali Blues/Cold Rain and Snow/Me And Bobby McGee/Comes A Time/One More Saturday Night/Ramble On Rose/Cumberland Blues/That's It For The Other One/Deal/Sugar Magnolia/Casey Jones > Johnny B Goode/Truckin'/Big Railroad Blues/The Frozen Logger/Dark Star > Sittin' On Top Of The World> Dark Star > Me And Bobby McGee /Brown Eyed Women/St Stephen > Johnny B Goode
One of Keith Godchaux's first shows with the band - certainly the first released on one of the archive sets to date - and he's already settling in fine, with some excellent piano improvisations on the Dead's longer jams, although there's still a big hole where Pigpen's show-stoppers should be. Not for the last time in this series of releases the 'bonus disc' is arguably more interesting than the show itself, with the Dead on tighter and more exploratory form. Understandably many of the songs from the just-released 'Skulls and Roses' LP are here, while most of the band's 1970 material has sadly made way for it. 'St Stephen' gets one of its last playings too before a five-year retirement while this is the last of a handful of covers of 'The Frozen Logger'. The Dead are in a playful mood tonight and chat quite a bit to the audience after an extended rocking 'Truckin'!  Best Song: Alas it runs to a mere (!) ten minutes but an exquisite 'rocky' version of 'Dark Star', with Kreutzmann hammering down the rhythm rather than let the song coast as usual, is a real highlight. Worst song: The Dead are at their best stretching out on this show and struggle on the more compact songs, with 'Mexicali Blues' about the least impressive tonight Best Speech: Jerry jokes to the crowd 'if you want professionalism we'll have to charge another buck! Have mercy!' before Bob sadly turns down a request for 'Alligator' with the words 'in case you hadn't noticed Pigpen isn't with us tonight', Jerry adding 'It's not as if we'd come out all this way and wouldn't notice a thing like that!' Biggest talking point: A rare - and early - appearance of 'Comes A Time' , a full five years before it appears on Jerry's 'Reflections' album and an even rarer appearance of James Stevens' folk standard 'The Frozen Logger' , which Jerry clearly hasn't rehearsed, before the rest of the Dead try to join in, with very chaotic results! Longest Song: A 28:08 'That's It For The Other One' Front cover: An 'American Beauty' style rose in the middle of a 'black hole' space effect, although unusually only one song from that album is actually played tonight ('Sugar Magnolia') Overall rating -  7/10

Dave's Picks Volume Four

(College of William and Mary, Virginia, September 24th 1976)

Promised Land/Deal/Cassidy/Sugaree/Looks Like Rain/Row Jimmy/Big River/Tenessee Jed/Playing In The Band > Supplication > Playing In The Band/Might As Well/Samson and Delilah/Loser/New New Minglewood Blues/Help On The Way > Slipknot > Drums > Franklin's Tower > The Music Never Stopped > Stella Blue/Around And Around/US Blues
A middling show by Dead standards, with the first set full of compact songs the best. The second and third sets are noticeably heavy on songs from the three previous Dead albums rather than the band's old warhorses. Jerry's on good vocal form tonight, though, especially on the ballads, although it's a typically epic take on the 'Blues For Allah' tracks in the second set that's by far the most ambitious thing the Dead tackle on this night at a gig where they barely stretch their musical legs. Best song: A lovely version of 'Sugaree', performed a little slower than normal, with Jerry living every word. One of the best 'Row Jimmy's of the period is close behind too Worst song: Big River sticks out even more than normal here in between the yearning 'Row Jimmy' and quickstepping 'Tennessee Jed' Biggest Talking Point: A very early version of 'Samson and Delilah' a year before its appearance on 'Terrapin Station' and the second and last appearance of the 'Supplication' jam without the segue from 'Lazy Lightning', here played as part of the 'Playin' In The Band' jamathon. Nice to see Jerry's solo song 'Might As Well' in the setlists too. Best Speech: Bob Weir urges the audience to 'take a step back' during one of the routine people-are-being-squashed-at-the-front reports from the security team and ad libs 'use your elbows if you can!' Longest Song: In a set with unusually short playing times an 18:53 'Playin' In The Band' is as lengthy as it gets Front Cover: A grinning skeleton in an 'Uncle Sam' hat gives us the 'ok' sign! Overall Rating - Not much to report here 5/10

Dave's Picks Volume Five

(Pauley Pavilion, Los Angeles, November 17th 1973, Released 2013)

Me And My Uncle/Here Comes Sunshine/Looks Like Rain/Deal/Mexicali Blues/Tennessee Jed/The Race Is On/China Cat Sunflower/I Know You Rider/Big River/Brown Eyed Women/Around and Around//Row Jimmy/Jack Straw/Ramble On Rose/Playin' In The Band > Uncle John's Band > Morning Dew > Uncle John's Band > Playin' In The Band/Stella Blue/El Paso/Eyes Of The World > Sugar Magnolia/Casey Jones
This one's a popular show amongst tapers, perhaps because it was such an early one to do the rounds amongst fans (albeit with the beginning and end missing till some enterprising fan put the whole show back together again) or perhaps because it takes place on a famous date in American history: the same night Richard Nixon appears on TV to declare that he's 'not a crook' in recognition of the Watergate scandal. An unusual concert in that the band turned up to a new venue with their usual equipment and found it wouldn't fit on the stage - in the end the amplifiers and speakers were moved behind the musicians, which must have been awfully loud! It didn't seem to be a problem for the tapers though, with this concert having some of the best audio of the entire archive series. To be honest though this set doesn't do a lot for me - 1973 was a great year for the Dead but there are far better shows from that year around than this. The band play throughout as if they're in a hurry to get to another gig - the first half sounds rushed, the second set has its wings clipped. There are highlights though with some of the best versions around of the contemporary 'Wake Of The Flood' album (four songs are played in all - half the album - and all but one are the highlights here - see below for the exception). This set was another limited edition reduced to 13,000 copies. Best Song: A lovely 'Stella Blue', with this fragile beauty at her most ethereal and magical, which sits in stark contrast to the intense 'Playin' In The Band' jam just before it!  Worst song: 'Row Jimmy' should be a moment of splendour as a mystical journey of the mind across obstacles is taken, but this version makes it sounds as if the boat has a hole and the band are sinking fast Biggest Talking Point: One of the nuttier 'Playin' In The Band' segues - this time somehow slowing down into 'Uncle John's Band', then up to full steam again, then slowed down to a crawl for 'Morning Dew'. This set is also notable for its sleeve-notes - which are written by basketball player Bill Walton!  Best Speech: The Pavilion's Fire Marshall refuses to go on stage himself to tell the fans to 'cool it ' or the show gets cancelled and leaves the hapless emcee to deliver the message himself. Phil Lesh adds a sarcastic 'Fire marshall's chicken huh? After all folks, this is your school!' before the band simply return to playing, without any change in intensity for the rest of the night! Longest Song: All in all there are 26 minutes of 'Playin' In The Band' split either side of a three song jam. Front Cover: A skeleton from Pauley Pavilion with a guitar on his knee, sitting next to a 'Bear'. Overall rating - a few highlights aside, The Dead can do better than this! 3/10

Dave's Picks Volume Six

(Fillmore, San Francisco, December 20th 1969/Fox Theatre, St Louis, February 2nd 1970/Fillmore, San Francisco, December 21st 1969)

Casey Jones/Mama Tried/Hard To Handle/Cold Rain And Snow/Black Peter/Cumberland Blues/Dark Star/St Stephen/Mason's Children/Good Lovin'/Uncle John's Band/Turn On Your Lovelight/Not Fade Away/And We Bid You Goodnight//Dark Star/St Stephen/The Eleven/New Speedway Boogie/Turn On Your Lovelight/Mason's Children/China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider/High Time/Me And My Uncle/Hard To Handle/Cumberland Blues//Smokestack Lightning/New Speedway Boogie/Dire Wolf/Mason's Children/China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider/Black Peter/Good Lovin' > Drums > That's It For The Other One/Cumberland Blues
Three similar shows from two different venues across a span of three months. The middle show - the Fox Theatre one - is probably the best, but all three are strong gigs from a magical year for the Dead. All three shows were 'returned' to the Dead by the estate of original engineer 'Bear' and as a result were never leaked to tapers - the band weren't quite keeping tabs on everything this early on (though the fans were!) Considering that, all three shows are in impressive sound (in fact they're better than a lot of the 1980s and 1990s tapes!) There aren't all that many tapes of Tom Constanten playing with the band - the first and third shows feature some of his last playing, while he'd already left by the middle disc (yep, that's right - yet again these gigs aren't provided in order!) Once again we're in 'Workingman's Dead' phase and the crossover between the compact Americana of the opening sets and the more exploratory second sets, although the former is tighter and the latter looser this time around. By now seven of the 'Workingman's tracks are in place (with only 'Easy Wind' absent). Pigpen barely appears, a sad sign of things to come, although his ferocious 'Smokestack Lightning' is still one of the highlights of the set. Best Song: I'm not usually a big fan of 'Uncle John's Band' but this early live version of it might just convert me, with Bob particularly so into the song he's singing it at the top of his voice! Worst song: This is one of the worst 'Dark Stars' around despite lasting a full 22 minutes - the band simply aren't gelling on it tonight, almost segueing into other Dead songs but never quite getting there! Biggest Talking Point: The third show sees the first ever 'New Speedway Boogie'. 'Mason's Children' is also an incredibly rare Garcia-Hunter song that was only performed onstage in the brief period between December 1969 and February 1970. This set features three versions, including the second ever and the penultimate performance before its 'bricked back up' in its 'wall' Best Speech: Bob explaining that they're having a few technical problems because 'Mickey's just walked through his drum head' Longest Song: A rather heavy-footed 22:00 'Dark Star' Front Cover: A Winged skeleton holds a guitar - a bit too heavy metal by Dead standards! Overall rating A patchy set from a great era - 5/10

Dave's Picks Volume Seven

 (Horton Field House, Illinois, April 24th 1978)

Promised Land/Ramble On Rose/Me And My Uncle > Big River/Friend Of The Devil/Cassidy/Brown Eyed Women/Passenger/It Must Have Been The Roses/The Music Never Stopped/Scarlet Begonias > Fire On The Mountain > Good Lovin'/ Terrapin Station > Rhythm Devils > Space > Not Fade Away > Black Peter > Around and Around/Werewolves Of London

The last night from the Spring 1978 tour with a now heavily pregnant Donna Godchaux just a year before she and husband Keith leave the band for good. The band sound a little road-weary by now to be honest (this is the end of a gruelling 14 date run before the band got a ten day break) and are clearly in need of a new direction. Dear God they even tease us with a burst of 'Stayin' Alive' before hitting 'Me and My Uncle' although thankfully they never play the full song. This should have been a really good gig - this is the smallest venue the Dead have played in a long time and intimate settings usually bring out the best in the band, but here they do have a tendency to ramble. However the music can still catch fire, especially on the lengthier jams towards the middle and end of the set, falling into a shambles by the 'Rhythm Devils/Drums' set but back up to speed well before the end. Once again this Dave's Picks release was limited to a mere 13,000 copies and sold out very fast. In an interview around the release of it Dave Lemieux commented that this show was an unlucky - it was due to be a 'Dick's Picks' show before that series got cancelled and was also due as the thirteenth 'Download Series' before that got cancelled too. Fans held their breath but so far we've had quite a few more Dave's Picks since! Best Song: A particularly fine 'Scarlet Fire', with the new 'second half' of the medley ('Fire On The Mountain' if you hadn't guessed) already firmly in place as a Dead standard.  This is arguably the best 'The Music Never Stopped's out officially too, with a rare extended jamming session at the end. Also a very slow and very moving 'Black Peter' (which somehow segues out of its polar opposite 'Not Fade Away' ) is pretty fine too! Worst song: This is one of the weirdest 'Rhythm Devils' yet, with what sounds like a camel being milked halfway through! (A precursor of the forthcoming trip to Egypt perhaps?!) Biggest Talking Point: A brief snippet of 'Stayin' Alive', in mock homage to that month's biggest selling film and soundtrack 'Saturday Night Fever'. The Dead are of course the very antithesis of 'Stayin' Alive' from their name on down and the performance is very much ironic (we hope). An unexpected encore of Warron Zevon's 'Werewolves Of London' is another talking point, Garcia getting out his inner wolfhound with memories of Pigpen's howls from a decade before Longest Song: A 13:53 'Rhythm Devils' jam Best Speech: Err, none really - the band aren't terribly chatty tonight! Front Cover: A skeleton in a snappy suit leans up against the hood of his car with some flowers. A Dead date? How delightful! Overall rating -Not awful but only classic in parts  6/10

Dave's Picks Volume Eight

(Fox Theatre, Georgia, November 30th 1980, Released 2013)

Feel Like A Stranger/Loser/Cassidy/Ramble On Rose/Little Red Rooster/Bird Song/Me And My Uncle > Big River/It Must Have Been The Roses/Lost Sailor > Saint Of Circumstances/ Deal/Scarlet Begonias > Fire On The Mountain/Samson And Delilah/Ship Of Fools/Playin' In The Band > Drums > Space > The Wheel > China Doll > Around And Around > Johnny B Goode/Uncle John's Band
A 'sacred object' with 'multiple re-listenings leading to unending revelations, even auras' as Dead historians long hold it to be? Well, it's a very good show from a lesser period in Dead history, with Brent Mydland now firmly part of the band's sound (although thankfully he does more playing and less singing than on some other shows!) and the band have ore eneregy than they do from most other similar shows. That said, though, this one that doesn't come close to matching the Dead's 1970s peaks and is a whole solar system away from their late 1960s highs. Typically Dead, they only actually play three songs from the 'Go To Heaven' album they're meant to be promoting, although all three sound particularly good tonight! Best Song: A terrifically energetic 'Deal' that seems to be coming to a close, only to take off again in spectacular form Worst song: This show contains one of the better 'Drtums' but one of the worst examples of 'Space', the atonal sonic weirdness jams the Dead so love in this period Best Speech: Bob Weir at the end of set one: 'We're going to take a short break, so don't go falling into the orchestra pit or anything like that before we come back!' Biggest talking point: The first 'electric' jam based around 'Bird Song' since 1973! Longest Song: An 11:44 'Scarlet Begonias'  Front cover: A trio of skeletons strum guitars while standing in front of a cannon...or is that just an acid flashback I'm having?... Overall Rating: 7/10 

Dave's Picks Volume Nine
(Harry Adams Field House, Montana, May 14th 1974)
Bertha/Me and My Uncle/Loser/Black-Throated Wind/Scarlet Begonias/It Must Have Been The Roses/Jack Straw/Tennessee Jed/Mexicali Blues/Deal/Big River/Brown-Eyed Women/Playin' In The Band/US Blues/El Paso/Row Jimmy/Weather Report Suite/Dark Star > China Doll/Promised Land/Not Fade Away > Goin' Down The Road Feelin' Bad/One More Saturday Night
Amazingly, despite thirty years as one of America's busiest and most regularly touring bands, this is the only concert the Dead ever played in the state of Montana. To be honest you can kind of see why the band weren't asked back - though this is far from the Dead's worst performance of the period they do sound awfully tired and rarely click with each other throughout the set, at least compared to most other 1974 shows out there. The song choice too seems pretty tired, with only two songs from the forthcoming 'Mars Hotel' album here and an awful lot of 'cowboy' songs compared to normal. Donna toop is on loud form throughout, which won't be to every fans' tastes. However the rockier songs do have a certain spark to them tonight and, freed of the need to play dual drums, Billy is on top form throughout, trying to weave the whole band together whether or not they're listening to him. At least the compilers leaves this set alone in all its three-hour glory, rather than cutting it to bits for a 'highlights' set. Once again the show was released as a limited edition of just 14,000 copies. Best Song: 'Black Throated Wind' really purrs tonight. This is one of the better 'It Must Have Been The Roses' too. A new born 'Scarlet Begonias' is a delight even though the Dead clearly don't know the song that well just yet. Worst song: 'Playin' In The Band' is going off in so many different directions at once its hard to keep track of it all. Biggest Talking Point: Not much to say really, no rare covers and no new songs, although its 'nearly' hello for the likes of 'China Doll' and 'Scarlet Begonias' and its nearly goodbye (for a while anyway) for 'Dark Star'. Best Speech: None Longest Song: A 26 minute late-period performance of 'Dark Star' that's easily the highlight of the set, played slow and with a jazzier feel than normal  Front Cover: A skeleton of a moose surrounded by pink flowers. Ok these covers are getting weird now. Overall rating Slightly disappointing -4/10

Dave's Picks Volume Ten
(Thelma, Los Angeles, December 11th and 12th 1969, Released 2014)
Cold Rain and Snow/Me and My Uncle/Easy Wind/Cumberland Blues/Black Peter/Next Time You See Me/China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider/Turn On Your Love Light/Hard To Handle/Casey Jones/Mama Tried/High Time/Dire Wolf/Good Lovin'/I'm A King Bee/Uncle John's Band/He Was A Friend Of Mine/Alligator > Drums > Caution (Do Not Step On The Tracks) > Feedback > And We Bid You Goodnight/Dark Star > St Stephen > The Eleven/Cumberland Blues/That's It For The Other One/Cosmic Charlie
Another fine 1969 show with the Dead in slightly mellower, reflective mood for most of the set perhaps already hinting at the huge sea-change towards laidback country music the following year. Indeed several songs from 'Workingman's Dead' are already here including 'Casey Jones' 'Easy Wind' 'High Time' 'Black Peter' 'Dire Wolf' 'Uncle John's Band' and 'Cumberland Blues' (that's seven-eighths of the record - everything but 'New Spedway Boogie' - in place a full six months before release day, highly unusual even for The Dead!) However the Dead still do what they did best in 1969, exploring outer space thanks to monumental jams on such favourites as 'China Rider' 'Alligator' and 'That's It For The Other One'. Pig too is on great form, with some of his best 'raps' captured for posterity including an astonishing half hour take on 'Love Light'. This is also one of the last show to hear Pig play alongside Tom Constanten, who isn't often heard across the set but makes it count whenever he does play something.  Best Song: Most of the new songs sound good tonight. 'Dire Wolf' is introduced by Jerry as 'a little paranoid fantasy tune' and sounds much slower than on the record. 'Casey Jones' really rocks and rolls tonight with the whole band especially tight. 'Easy Wind', played slower than future versions, brings out the best in Pig. Worst song: 'Black Peter' is the one new song that doesn't sound in the best of health, Jerry's dying old man surely given a splitting headache for good measure from the loud percussion going on around him. 'The Eleven' is also a little bit stiffer than the previous sensational performances. Biggest Talking Point: There's a whole load of rare cover versions tonight (well two tonights) with Pig sounding spectacular - 'Next Time You See Me' which is nicely aggressive, 'Hard To Handle' which hits like a ton of bricks, a fiery 'Good Lovin', a sleepy 'King Bee' and a rare revival of folk song 'He Was A Friend Of Mine' with Jerry on lead. Tom Constanten fills in with a quick Bach piano piece while everyone else tunes up. Oh and additionally this is the second time of three that Bob tells his 'Yellow Dog' story, which he struggles to get through with the rest of the band - especially Mickey - cracking jokes behind him.  Best Speech: Mickey as Bob tries to tell his joke: 'Is it bed time already?' Longest Song: A mammoth 31 minute take on 'Turn On Your Love Light'  Front Cover: A bored looking Alligator waits outside a railway station marked 'Thelma' for the music venue for this show Overall rating A fascinating set right on the see-saw point between 1969 and 1970, the old and the new - 8/10

Dave's Picks Volume Eleven
(Century II Convention Station, Wichita, November 17th 1972, with a bonus disc from Oklahoma City Music Hall, Oklahoma, November 15th 1972, Released 2014)
Promised Land/Sugaree/Me and My Uncle/Tennessee Jed/Black-Throated Wind/Bird Song/Jack Straw/Box Of Rain/Don't Ease Me In/Beat It On Down The Line/Brown-Eyed Women/Big River/China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider/Around and Around/Casey Jones/Cumberland Blues/El Paso/He's Gone > Truckin' > That's It For The Other One/Brokedown Palace/Sugar Magnolia/Uncle John's Band/Johnny B Goode/Playin' In The Band/Wharf Rat/Not Fade Away > Goin' Down The Road Feelin' Bad
Wow - something tells me we're not in Kansas anymore, even though that's the venue depicted on the label, because the Dead are in their rare superhuman league again somewhere in the sky (or perhaps the Yellow Brick Road). The Dead don't particularly do anything different across this concert, they just seem to do it particularly well, not just in Kansas but on a 'bonus' highlights show in Oklahoma from a couple of nights before. Once again the set was released as a limited edition of 14,000 copies. Oh and funnily enough this seems to be the only time the Dead perform setlist regular 'Jack Straw' in Wichita, the place where its set! Best Song: 'Bird Song' is particularly sumptuous and elegiac tonight Worst song: The band are Dead on their feet, as it were, by the end of the set having given their all with 'Uncle John 's Band' suffering particularly badly Biggest Talking Point: The surprise return of 'A Box Of Rain' to the setlists after a couple of years spent largely in limbo. The Dead won't perform this lovely song regularly again until the 1990s and goodness knows why because it's one of the set highlights. Best Speech: None Front Cover: A black and white sketch celebrating the Kansas theme by portraying various Dead logos as characters from 'The Wizard Of Oz' - that's a 'Dorothy' skeleton surrounded by ravens in the main picture. Overall rating A pretty good set, one of the best around from 1972, so why did it take so long to come out? - 8/10

Dave's Picks Volume Twelve
(Colgate University, Hamilton, New York, November 4th 1977 plus a bonus disc from Seneca College, Toronto, November 2nd 1977, Released 2014)
Bertha/Good Lovin'/Brown-Eyed Women/Cassidy/It Must Have Been The Roses/Sunrise/New New Minglewood Blues/Dupree's Diamond Blues/Let It Grow/Samson and Delilah/Cold Rain and Snow/Playin' In The Band/Eyes Of The World/Estimated Prophet/That's It For The Other One > Drums > Iko Iko/Stella Blue/Playin' In The Band/Johnny B Goode/Promised Land/They Love Each Other/Me and My Uncle/Big River/Candyman/Looks Like Rain/Ramble On Rose/Scarlet Begonias > Fire On The Mountain/Terrapin Station
Here we are near the end of the Dead's busiest year in terms of archive released and things are much the same - the band can get it together like never before, but only in patches while the songs generally tend to be shorter and less adventurous in this period. Unusually the bonus show is actually a lot flatter than the main set, with the band woefully out of sync with each other at times, amongst the worst of the famous 1977 run. However the show of the 4th is well worth hearing, if only for the more unusual material the band don't often play like Donna's 'Sunrise', Jerry's solo 'They Love Each Other' and the surprise revival of 1969's 'Dupree's Diamond Blues' although there's nothing exceptionally rare tonight. Like many a show in the Dave's Picks' series this one was a 'limited edition' release restricted to some 14,000 copies.  Best Song: 'Stella Blue' is particularly slow and gorgeous tonight, the crack in Garcia's tired voice sounding all the more poignant. Donna's 'Sunrise' is always welcome and sounds particularly strong tonight. This is one of the quickest, silliest 'Me and MY Uncle's around too. Worst song: While far from the worst 'Terrapin Station' around, this one de-rails early on and never really gets back on track. Biggest Talking Point: This 'Dupree's Diamond Blues' is slowed down and really sounds as if its drunk, even more of a sore thumb in the band's canon than in the 1960s.There's also one of the earliest 'Scarlet Fire' medleys, the latter song still a full year away from appearing on record. Best Speech: Phil Lesh, whose clearly been on something strong tonight: 'We're the Jones band, right? Here we have Keith Jones on the keyboards, on the guitar we have Jerry Jones and of course on drums the one and only... Julius P Jones! In centre stage ladies and gentlemen, a star whose name is going to be known throughout the farthest galaxies: Bob Jones! And I'm Phil Jones and that's Mick Jones. And now I'd like to introduce all the other Joneses...' Longest Song: A 13:43 'Let It Grow' is as lengthy as things get at either gig Front Cover: A Wicker Dead Skull made out of straw. No, I don't know why either. Overall rating A relatively strong main show with a slightly disappointing bonus disc -7/10

Dave's Picks Volume Thirteen

(Winterland Arena, San Francisco, February 24th 1974, Released 2015)
US Blues/Mexicali Blues/Brown Eyed Women/Beat It On Down The Line/Candyman/Jack Straw/China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider/El Paso/Loser/Playin' In The Band/Cumberland Blues/It Must Have Been The Roses/Big River/Bertha/Weather Report Suite/Row Jimmy/Ship Of Fools/Promised Land/Dark Star > Morning Dew/Sugar Magnolia/Not Fade Away > Goin' Down The Road Feelin' Bad/It's All Over Now Baby Blue
The last of three gigs played on consecutive nights at the same venue. After a six week touring fast the band are back together for just this trio of gigs before taking off again for a month. Playing in front of a home crowd often brings out the best in the Dead and they're on solid if tentative form here, with only the second or third performances of 'Ship Of Fools' 'US Blues' and 'It Must Have Been The Roses'. Like many of the band's 73-74 shows, the band are in mellow, laidback form with the slower songs from 'Wake Of The Flood' and old standards like 'Morning Dew' sounding particularly on-the-ball tonight. However while nothing gets messed up badly tonight and the band play well, nothing really sizzles and soars like some other sets of the period, too full of bland covers and with a far too shortened second exploratory set. Best Song: Unusually, it's 'Beat It On Down The Line' sung as a duet between Bob and Donna, which works far better than the faster paced versions from later years. The two shortened 'Not Fade Aways' are good too. Additionally this 'Loser' has a real smirk on its face, as if it's just nicked your wallet and charged you for looking for it Worst song: This 'Dark Star' is a mockery of the pizzazz and sparkle from just five years earlier, ending up a slow stilted jazz ramble. 'Row Jimmy' is harpooned by a slow tempo that stretches this song out to twice it's natural length a smidgeon past ten minutes.  Best Speech: Emcee, perhaps referring to the Watergate hearings as well as Vietnam: 'Whatever's going on in the rest of the world, if it's wars or kidnappings or crimes, this is a peaceful Sunday night with the Grateful Dead!'  Biggest talking point: The band are clearly gearing up for the next album 'From The Mars Hotel' with the two songs that bookend that album debuted this week and heard here on their earliest available appearance. There aren't really any rare songs tonight, although i8t's odd to hear the band play the downbeat 'It's All Over Now Baby Blue' as a final encore rather than as part of the first set. Longest Song: An 18:37 'Playin' In The Band'  Front cover: A well dressed skeleton ice-skates! Overall Rating: The Deads equivalent of sensible shoes: gets the job done perfectly well but just doesn't dance! 3/10

For the 2017-2018 releases pleas see the 'updates' provided alongside our Grateful Dead Essay: 

‘Live/Dead’ (1969)

'Workingman's Dead' (1970)

'American Beauty' (1970)
'Blues For Allah' (1975)

'Terrapin Station' (1977)
'Shakedown Street' (1978)
'Go To Heaven' (1980)
'In The Dark' (1987)

'Built To Last' (1989)
Surviving TV Clips 1966-1994
The Best Unreleased Recordings 1966-1993
The Last Unfinished Album 1990-1995
Live/Solo/Compilations Part One 1966-1976
Live/Solo/Compilations Part Two 1978-2011
A Guide To The CD Bonus Tracks
Dick's Picks/Dave's Picks
Road Trips/Download Series/Miscellaneous Archive Releases

Essay: Why The ‘Dead’ Made Fans Feel So ‘Alive’
Five Landmark Concerts and Three Key Cover Versions

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