May 22, 2020

April 3, 1970: Fieldhouse, University of Cincinnati, OH


Last Friday The Grateful Dead presented a concert at the University of Cincinnati, and I doubt whether the Fieldhouse will ever be the same. The good feelings that hung in the air, the aroma of little cigarettes (I wonder what they could have been?), the vibrancy of the music, must certainly have caused a change in the molecular structure of the place.
The concert brought together various groups that helped to make the evening a good one. The Hog Farm was there, handling the technical aspects. One of the best things about the show was a spectacular and genuinely mind-opening light show, certainly the best I've ever seen. It used film, design and light to great advantage.
The story of the evening, however, was music. The first group to appear was the Lemon Pipers, a solid local band that did some blues-influenced rock. Good instrumentalists (except for the drummer who was monotonously heavy and not up to some of the tempos), the group started strongly and then got bogged down in some slow things that made their set run out of gas rather quickly.
The second group was Devil's Kitchen from Illinois. Ironically, they weren't very good instrumentally, and their singer is woefully bad, but they have a very fast drummer that kicks them into sounding like a pretty good band.
I should point out, however, that everyone knew that the bands were there just to warm-up the audience for the Dead. As such, they did their job well and were politely received by the happy audience.
After Devil's Kitchen left, there were the usual open-mike ramblings and then someone put on some Santana tapes. People wandered around, shaking to "Jingo," and then, "From San Francisco, here they are, the Grateful Dead!"
There they were, the two drummers, Pig Pen, Jerry Garcia, the works! There is no doubt about it, The Grateful Dead are one of the finest rock bands around. They played one of the longest and most exciting sets of rock I've ever heard. Some of the highlights: a long and friendly acoustic segment with a good version of "Wake Up Little Suzy," a crowd pleasing version of Bobby Bland's "Turn On Your Love Light" featuring a great solo by Garcia on guitar and a good shouting vocal by Pig Pen, a chugging version of "Good Loving" that led to interpolations of other tunes and a tremendous drum duet (along with the usual brilliance of Garcia). It is hard for me to single out other great moments, for the band's greatness lies in its ability to flow from song to song, from improvisation to improvisation, from shieking loud ensembles to controlled soft solos. Most importantly (and perhaps this is why they're so good) the guys in the band listen to one another, so that the total sound of the band is what grabs the listener. 

(from the Independent Eye, April 9-23, 1970) 

Thanks to Mark Neeley. 

See also these reviews:


May 9, 1970: Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Worcester, MA


The Greatful Dead performed at WPI on Saturday, May 9 and Sunday, May 10. Their concert lasted from 9 p.m. Saturday until 2:20 a.m. Sunday morning. Led by guitarist Jerry Garcia, the Dead performed everything from acoustic country music to distortic rock music.
Beginning a little late at 9 p.m., the group did a bit of acoustic country music. The crowd didn't quite get into this part of the show, except those who really liked the Dead. As the night went on, and the group moved into more electric music, the crowd began to wake up. By 12 the crowd on the floor had thinned out and some of those left were dancing and tripping. By 2:20 a.m. when the concert ended, those left had either fallen asleep on the floor, or were still standing up front jumping and dancing.
The Grateful Dead were one of the first groups to come out with what is now sometimes known as the "San Francisco" sound. A mixture of country and rock with a little blues thrown in, the "sound" has been carried on by such groups as the Moby Grape, Sea Train, Quicksilver Messenger Service, and Jefferson Airplane; the latter of which had more of a hard rock tint. The Grateful Dead are actually a group of about ten musicians, including two drummers, three guitarists, one bass player, and one organist-harp player.
All in all, the concert was very good, all five and one half hours of it.

(by Al Gradet, from the Tech News, 12 May 1970)

Alas, no tape! 

Thanks to Volkmar.

May 20, 2020

March 11, 1968: Memorial Auditorium, Sacramento, CA


Cream, a relatively new British rock music trio which has been, you should excuse the expression, rising to the top very swiftly in America by way of two record albums, made an impressive debut last night in the Memorial Auditorium before a near capacity crowd of around 3,500.
The trio takes its name from the claim that its members are the cream of the crop in England. Guitarist and singer Eric Clapton; Jack Bruce, who plays bass guitar, harmonica, and also sings; and Ginger Baker, the drummer, are all said to be stars in their own individual right at home. After hearing them ride through an hour and five minutes of hard driving and often brilliantly played arrangements, one is willing to believe it.
Their music is, with few exceptions, primarily and very strongly rooted in the blues. Last night's pieces were almost all blues, and included, from their more popular recorded numbers, "Tales of Brave Ulysses," a slow, driving and very verbal piece, and "The Sunshine of Your Love." The very slow and supremely gutty blues which followed the latter, a lament for a gone woman, was even better.
The trio's set closed with three pieces which gave each man a chance to shine. Clapton's moment, a long, insistent solo, came in a duet with Baker. Bruce then teamed up with the tireless drummer for a fast "train blues" on the harmonica, spiced with husky singing that eventually mixed so swiftly with the harmonica one could hardly tell them apart. It was a brilliant, exciting performance. Finally, the two guitarists gave Baker a sendoff and then left him alone onstage for a tremendous 10 minute drum solo that stood the crowd on its feet for a final ovation.

The San Francisco group known as the Grateful Dead opened the program with a 60 minute performance that was uninterrupted from start to finish. The first half of it seemed either to be divided into sections or was actually three or four numbers strung together with some random guitar tuning in between. The second half was a long, long blues that ended in several minutes of roaring, howling, screaming cataclysmic electronic sound, punctuated by several firecrackers set off by one of the two drummers and eventually fading away into a hillbilly-style hymn bidding the audience good night. It was quite a contrast. Some of the earlier parts of the performance worked up some musical momentum, but nothing of what was sung could be understood. Loudness, it would appear, is the overriding quality the Dead are after.
The local group known as the Light Brigade projected from the rear of the stage a light show behind the performers.
The show was an inexcusable 47 minutes late in starting.
Adults who think all young people are rebellious should have seen the incredible patience this crowd displayed during this period of waiting for those outside to buy tickets.
With the Cream's performance, however, it became apparent they knew what they were waiting for.

(by William Glackin, from the Sacramento Bee, 12 March 1968)

Alas, no tape! 

Thanks to

See also:

May 12, 2020

February 21, 1967: The Maze TV Broadcast


Were those picturesque persons who drifted lazily across the KPIX screen Tuesday night the beatific beneficiaries of a beautiful new society? Were they the harbinger saints of a revolutionary philosophy of love and anti-hassle? Or were they just a bunch of kids in beards, playing out the perennial delusion that 20-year-olds know more about life, truth and beauty than their confused elders, who commute, wear ties, and send a check once a month?
As a typically rat-raced commuter in the over-30 age group (who, as you know, are not to be trusted) I took the latter view of "The Maze," a well-made half-hour excursion into the scented-beaded-folk-rocking picnicland of Haight-Ashbury, home of the hip, the turned-on and the freaked-out. It was, as they say, a trip.
As the KPIX camera traveled through the centers of dropout culture, the Psychedelic Book Shop with its walls covered with poster photos of camp heroes like Bogart and W. C, Fields, [and] the Straight Theater where the Grateful Dead blast out a stupefying roar of nihilistic sound, the hippie community presented themselves with great profusion of facial hair and odd raiment, and expressions of vacancy that no doubt denote inner peace.
They are a weird clientele, all right, but are they really the sinister threats to society that local newscasters paint them to be? After the first initial shock, one soon perceives that underneath those beards are the smooth faces of somebody's kids, caught in the still hiatus between school and the draft, having a happy, slothful time for themselves and avoiding adult life as long as possible. Who can blame them? I mean, like, who really wants to commute?
As is good policy when venturing into foreign territory, KPIX hired a competent guide. Michael McClure, a handsome young poet with a medium-length mane, conducted a knowledgeable, articulate tour and defended the hippie way of life with reasonable plausibility.
"The straight people really need what's happening here," said McClure, explaining that Haight-Ashbury is a free, uncritical place where "the phony rituals are stripped away," where "I can grow my hair to my shoulders and see what it is to feel like Greta Garbo. There's no society to tell me 'You must be this.'"
McClure conceded, with an air of serene indifference, that sexual restraints and taboos are passe in Haight-Ashbury. "But they're also passe on Madison Avenue, and up on Montgomery Street. The difference is in the lack of hypocrisy here."
The camera visited several communal apartments in the district, where apartments are getting so scarce that incoming hippies must move into nearby areas. The pads, if they are still called pads (we grow old!) looked clean and colorful, intriguingly bedecked with hanging jewels, posters, Indian cloth, polished wooden & glass articles in aesthetic shapes. The squalor and calculated crumminess that delighted the beatnik generation are out of style now.
"This isn't North Beach all over again," said McClure. "North Beach was in revolt against society. But this new thing is not in revolt. It has just divorced itself."
Haight-Ashbury folk are not interested in protests, marches, or other tension-inducing behavior. They are also, it was clear, not interested in work, although the district maintains a "HIP Job Corps" to provide part-time employment for hungry hippies. McClure's young friends were seen in various postures of serenity (or was it just sluggishness?), carrying on all-night conversations in incense-shrouded circles, the girls gazing dully (or is it tranquilly?)  through the long, ironed hair that hangs in their very-young faces, the boys speaking solemnly through the bushy beards that look strangely incongruous against shiny cheeks and unlined foreheads.
Other hippies were seen making bread, or singing Krishna hymns in a Hindu ceremony, or simply congratulating themselves on their citizenship among the enlightened. "I think we are revolutionaries of living," said one unshaven and placid soul, squatting on a cushion.
After allowing McClure 30 minutes of affectionate propagandizing for Dropoutsville, KPIX felt the need to establish itself on the side of righteousness and squaredom by reminding that Haight-Ashbury also contains "weak, selfish and criminal people," and hinting with delicious vagueness at "sexual excesses." No doubt there are. . .  But the scene that KPIX revealed looked harmless enough, and pretty, and silly, and awfully young.
Personally, I haven't the slightest desire to know what it is to feel like Greta Garbo. Even if I had, with 13 car payments to go, this is no time to start getting disdainful of the good old straight world.

(by Bob MacKenzie, from the "On Television" column, Oakland Tribune, 23 February 1967)

See also comments here:  

Sep 20, 2019

October 26, 1971: University of Rochester, NY


A band that emerged from the San Francisco underground to gain perhaps the most devoted and fanatical following in the rock world will perform here Tuesday.
The Grateful Dead will appear at 8:30 p.m. at the University of Rochester Palestra. Appearing with them will be the New Riders of the Purple Sage. The concert is sold out.

(from the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, 23 October 1971)

* * *

Last Night In Review

Even the most fanatical fan of the Grateful Dead (and we all know the Dead fans are most fanatical of all) must have had occasion last night to ask himself, "Why bother?"
More than 3,000 fans were forced to wait several hours in front of the University of Rochester Palestra until the first row of waiters was pinioned against the building wall, and each successive row layered on the next.
The doors finally opened about 9:30 p.m., one hour after the scheduled start of the concert. Some in the audience had been there since 6:30 p.m. WCMF-FM had arranged to broadcast the concert beginning at 9:30 p.m.
Once inside the Palestra, where the breathing was not much better, the New Riders of the Purple Sage immediately began to turn the tide on the audience's lingering annoyance.
The New Riders are not a run-of-the-mill warm-up act, but a completely professional group worthy of top billing.
They spread their gentle countrified sound, very reminiscent of the Grateful Dead, over songs ranging from those of Merle Haggard to the old Ricky Nelson hit "Hello, Marylou."
The resemblance to the Grateful Dead is not purely coincidental, since Jerry Garcia, lead singer and lead guitarist of the Dead, plays the steel guitar quietly in the background for the Riders.
One unsatisfying moment in their performance was a venture into "I Don't Need No Doctor," played and sung proficiently but performed without the instinctive feeling of a great blues band.
When the Grateful Dead made their appearance just before midnight, the level of excellence the New Riders had attained was merely a launching pad.
The Dead has a reputation as one of the greatest performing bands in the world and they deserve it.
The band consists of Garcia, Bob Weir on rhythm guitar, Phil Lesh on bass guitar, Bill Kreutzmann on drums, and Keith Godchaux, filling in last night for organist Ron "Pig Pen" McKernan.
They came running out and into "Bertha," a song written by Garcia and Robert Hunter, who writes many of the Dead's songs. The audience was with them from the start, groups dancing in circles, bouncing, clapping hands over their heads.
The band appears to play with a minimum of frills - no strutting Mick Jagger, no guitar-twirling-smashing Peter Townshend, no drumstick flipping a la Keith Moon.
In fact the only frill was a simulated flamethrower, sending streaks of light in the air.
The Dead is one band that appears to perform without egos out front. Garcia frames some exquisite guitar solos, playing from the side of the stage, barely visible to half the audience.
The Dead's songs are only convenient landmarks for the audience on precise musical journeys into the stratosphere.
A beautiful version of John Phillips' "Me and My Uncle" featured Phil Lesh doing a final vocal. [sic]
The Dead, the one band that could play all night and does, was still going early in the morning.

(by Mark Starr, from the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, 27 October 1971) 

* * *

"ROCNROL"  [excerpt]

First off, a little Grateful Dead news - Due to illness, don't expect to see Pigpen making concert appearances with the Dead for a while. It seems that the laws of nature and human chemistry have finally caught up with Pigpen, and he'll be laid up in the hospital for a little while, recovering from what is said to be serosis of the liver. In his absence the Dead will have someone by the name of Keith Jarron playing organ and piano, but fear not, Pigpen will rejoin the Dead as soon as his recovery is complete.


At 5:30, four hours before the start of the concert, the truck pulled in and a complete sound system was unloaded. As the speakers, amplifiers, and preamplifiers were hauled to the stage, I noticed stickers on all of the crates. They read "Good old Grateful Dead," and for a moment I thought, "Boy, how far from the truth could they be." No more three hour versions of "Dark Star" or "St. Stephen," but rather short, sweet versions of "Me and Bobby McGee" and "Truckin'."
The Dead have changed, there's no denying that, but it was a natural evolution. The San Francisco pioneer group that played a major role in the creation of the Acid Rock scene has now turned to an almost country-western sound.
The guitar genius of Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir and the unique sound of Phil Lesh's bass is still there, but they are much more interwoven, whereas in the early days, ninety minute solos by any of the band was not uncommon.
Tuesday night's four hour set went really well and the Dead did a large selection of songs, ranging from cuts from their two newest albums, "American Beauty" and "Grateful Dead Live," to an old Rick Nelson favorite, "Hello Mary Lou, Goodbye Love." The appreciative audience applauded every number.
At the end of the concert, the crowd showed their thanks, content to leave with a head full of sweet Dead sounds.
Earlier in the evening, while backstage, I saw Guru Garcia open a piece of foil, swallow, take a drink of water, and smile. Maybe those stickers weren't so wrong after all. 

(both articles from the Stylus, SUNY Brockport, 2 November 1971)

* * *


I just sat down, turned on the radio, and was sadly greeted by news of the death of Duane Allman. A few years ago death in the music world came very unexpectedly, all being isolated incidents. This is no longer the case. There are reasons for Brian Jones, Jimi, Janis, Alan Wilson, and the all but physical death of Johnny Winter. And one reason might be the continuous pressure that we the audience place on these people? Well, it's something to think about!
All this leads me to the apparent musical stagnation of the Grateful Dead. Let me first explain to you what the Grateful Dead meant to me before last Tuesday, and what they mean to me now. For the past few years, there had been very few things that meant more to me: a few family members, a friend or two, my girlfriend. That was about it. My love for the Dead had even surpassed my love for the San Francisco Giants, a group of people I had lived and died with for 11 years.
I loved them for two reasons, one being that they played the fucking best rock music ever. As Lenny Kaye said in his review of Live Dead: "The Dead is five years ahead of any rock band. They play music other groups don't even know exist." Secondly, I found their attitudes beautiful. They played their music and if you couldn't dig it, that was no reason for them to compromise themselves or their music. As Garcia once said, "On our first tour, people were constantly walking out. But the people who liked us came back every night."
Then a strange thing happened (or should I use "inevitable") and the great masses discovered the Dead. As the crowds got larger and larger, some changes began to occur in their music. Those legendary all-night jams began to shorten, their acoustic sets were stopped, and since the new Dead freaks were those who were purchasing Workingman's Dead and American Beauty, a Dead concert was now designed to please that new audience. The Dead were true blue and indeed gave them what they wanted to hear - spotlight on "Uncle John's Band" and "Truckin." It's a helluva lot easier to just repeat the chorus to "Casey Jones" over and over again than to work and attempt to achieve a musical high like in "Viola Lee Blues" or "Dark Star." I guess that's it in a nutshell.
The high point of a Dead concert used to be musical, but it is no longer that. A Dead concert used to be a reinforcement of life, an affirmation of an alternative lifestyle. Now it's just a temporary alleviation from the monotony and sordidness of our lives. It is not so different from the way our parents use the once every three months bar mitzvah or wedding to forget how much it takes to go on. The point of all this being that the Dead are now able to satisfy their audience with just a trifle of what they are capable of.

So I found myself in Rochester last week, hoping that I would find the band that has given me so much pleasure in the past. But even before the show began I received news that Pigpen was in the hospital with cirrhosis of the liver. I had enough doubts about the show to begin with, and this news just made it that much worse.
Once inside the gym, I found myself right in front of the stage, maybe two feet away from Sam Cutler who promptly introduced the Riders. They seem to be shifting their sound from strictly country to include funkier material. This is evidenced by Marmaduke's shift to electric guitar, and bassist Dave Torbert doing two or three lead vocals. His songs were all hand-clapping, ass-shaking tunes. Anyway, the Riders put on one fine show. Their set included many cuts from their album, with great renditions of "Last Lonely Eagle" and "Henry," which Marmaduke dedicated to "anyone who has ever made a living by smuggling dope."
The stage was now set for the Dead, and it was the first time I was ever apprehensive before seeing a band. And my apprehension became even more real before they played a note. The stage was inundated by at least ten men wearing Grateful Dead skull shirts. And when I looked up at the gym backboard, I saw about five more skull stickers. And on the drums and everywhere else I looked all I saw was the ominous "skull." And then I realized what had happened, this really was The Grateful Dead Show, just like it had said on the ticket.
"The hottest rock & roll band this side of New York City," said Sam Cutler and the Dead broke into "Bertha." And then "Playing in the Band, Big Railroad Blues, Me and My Uncle," and "Me and Bobby McGee." I never saw a greater album push in my life. I wouldn't even have minded so much, but I was hearing the exact replica of the album, note for note. Absolutely no spontaneity, and spontaneity was what the Dead used to be all about.
And not only was their music lacking but their attitude was also. I've never seen anyone more bored than Bill Kreutzmann was that night. My mind wandered back to before the show when Phil Lesh had refused to give me a backstage pass because, in his words, "These passes are for beautiful chicks," and he proceeded to give them to three girls who happened to be wandering by.
Then came "Sugar Magnolia," and I told my friend to watch as Phil Lesh shoots his arms into the air at the end of the break. The end of the break came, up went Phil's arm, and my friend stared at me in disbelief. It had all become so contrived!
When it was over, I spoke to their manager and expressed my great disappointment in what I had just seen. His reply was: "We think there is something for everyone in our show now." I said to myself, "Yeah, for me and many other longtime Dead people there was about five minutes tonight where the Dead forgot about pleasing the masses and got down to playing." When they did that I knew they were still the best musicians around, not that there was any doubt about that.
It is evident that they've decided to take the easier path. But can we really blame them? They're only human, and so now that they've finally made it they're cashing in on it. No different than anyone else, right? Or mostly anyone else anyway. My only hope is that when things get a little less hectic, the Dead can once again settle down to the business of making great music, instead of the business of making money. That the Grateful Dead Show will deteriorate into the just plain old Grateful Dead. For now I'll content myself with recordings of what used to be and sit back and hope it can be again.

(by Terry Bromberg & Jesse Levine, from the Spectrum, University at Buffalo, 5 November 1971)

Thanks to Dave Davis

Released on Download Series vol. 3.

Sep 19, 2019

October 21, 1971: Auditorium Theater, Chicago IL


The Grateful Dead, whose four-hour concerts here last August loomed large among the summer's more welcome musical experiences, returned to the Auditorium Theater last night for more of the same.
Alas, all of them did not make the trip. Ron McKernan, better known for obvious reasons as Pig Pen, is in the hospital with cirrhosis of the liver and was replaced by a keyboard man who could fill his place but not quite his boots. Other than that, things were about the same as they've been every time I've seen the Dead perform - relaxed, yet very much together, with the high points outweighing the times long instrumental segments slip into dullness.
With the Dead came the New Riders of the Purple Sage, a group that - like the Dead - combine country and western with good ol' rock 'n' roll. Jerry Garcia, lead guitarist and vocalist for the Dead, doubles as a New Rider on pedal steel, and to him goes a lot of the credit for the group's sound.
Like their name implies, the NRPS lean most toward country, their material dealing in such things as the "Last Lonely Eagle" or a "Louisiana Lady," with the rock 'n roll thrown in for a change of pace. Last night they got some sparks going with "Willie and the Hand Jive," and maybe they should have done more in that vein. While good enough, their set, particularly at first, wasn't that outstanding - and certainly not as much as their new album, "New Riders of the Purple Sage" had me expecting it might be. Still, they're worth hearing - if only for Garcia's pedal steel work (and there's more to them than that).
A second performance will be held tonight, but it's already sold out. If you don't have a ticket, tho, take heart - the whole thing's being broadcast live over WGLD, beginning at 7:30.

(by Lynn Van Matre, from the Chicago Tribune, 22 October 1971)

* * *


What do musicians learn in two months?
The Grateful Dead played the Auditorium Aug. 23 and 24, so why would they come back, as they did Thursday night, and repeat?
Well, it turned out there was no need to question. For four hours, it was a new concert. I left at an intermission in the Dead's set to meet a deadline, but the Dead crew said the group would do the old numbers in the second half of their set.
The first new thing about the concert was the New Riders of the Purple Sage, which wasn't along last time. Composed of Dead man Jerry Garcia and four friends, the New Riders play a weird kind of country rock, with most of the pleasant songs written and sung by John Dawson.
The vocals are an important element in the New Riders' music, but the PA speakers were aimed badly for those in the front rows, so Dawson's nice lyrics were lost, although the occasional harmony sounded fine. What came through beautifully were the lead guitar of Dave Nelson and Garcia's pedal steel guitar.
Garcia is the showman, starting off badly on a solo but working at it until it turns into something to clap about. But Nelson is taste personified; he acts so insignificant onstage that it's hard to hear all the wonderful little things he's doing unless you close your eyes.
Rounding out the band are ex-Jefferson Airplane drummer Spencer Dryden, unawed by Dawson's simple-complicated numbers, and similarly flexible bassist Dave Torbert. They can get the crowd going with "Willie and the Hand Jive" and "Honky Tonk Women," but the real measure of the group is on unusual numbers like "Louisiana Lady" and "Lost Lonely Eagle."

As for the Dead, the first difference was the absence of Pigpen. Replacing the organist, who's just out of the hospital after treatment for a perforated ulcer, was Keith Godchaux, who plays a hot piano in addition to organ.
The Dead had been rehearsing a whole new set with Godchaux the last month, and Thursday night they played most of them. They show the group is once again changing, this time from the mellow music of their last few albums to classical rock.
Most of the numbers were in between, retaining the country-rock touch, but with more drive and energy. But the final number before intermission, "One More Saturday Night," was straight out of the Elvis-Little Richard-Jerry Lee Lewis songbook. The audience went crazy, turning up the chair seats and dancing in their places and in the aisles.
The Dead started playing their mellow, listening music at a time when audiences wanted to sit down and concentrate. Now it seems that many rock concertgoers can't wait to stand up and jump, and the Dead are into body music again. Could it be a revival for dance halls? 

(by Al Rudis, from the Chicago Sun-Times, 23 October 1971) 

Thanks to Dave Davis.

10/22 & part of 10/21/71 were released on Dave's Picks 3.

See also reviews of the 8/23/71 Chicago show: 

Sep 18, 2019

October 19, 1971: Northrop Auditorium, Minneapolis MN


John Pete was sweating, standing there on the stage of Northrop Auditorium Tuesday afternoon. Tuesday evening was the Grateful Dead-New Riders of the Purple Sage concert which KQRS radio, the station of which Pete is the program director, was going to broadcast live on FM stereo radio.
Pete was in shock because it was 3 p.m. and the group's equipment had yet to arrive. One hundred and fifty pieces of equipment, $100,000 worth, were still at the airport.
Pete had been working on this concert for the past five weeks. Minneapolis was the first stop in a nine-city tour for the Dead-New Riders entourage, which includes, along with the aforementioned hardware, 22 people to do things with it.
All their concerts are sell-outs, and the Dead wanted to be sure that everyone who wanted to could hear the music. The broadcast was set-up with the Dead, KQRS, and Warner Bros. and Columbia Records. It would be broadcast straight through, for five (or, as it turned out, six) hours with no commercial interruptions, the time being paid for by Warners and Columbia, for whom the Dead and the New Riders record, respectively.
The last needed piece was found and set up at 6:55 p.m.; the concert was to begin at 7:30. But the New Riders of the Purple Sage came on at 7 to play a couple of songs to test the broadcasting lines.
Pete was on the phone to the radio station, telling them to "Go! Go!" as the New Riders swung into an hour and a half set of country rock,
The New Riders were led by John "Marmaduke" Dawson, who writes all of the material and sing lead. He looks the improbable cowboy: slight, wide-eyed, an elf in country-western clothes. His music is lush, sweet country, songs that tell of the mournful cowpoke.
Foundations were laid for the Dead by Jerry Garcia, who played pedal steel guitar with the New Riders.
After a short break, the Dead came on for the first of two two-hour sets. Things were going off without a hitch. John Pete was beginning to look victorious. And then there came the Dead.
There is no other band in the world who can do what the Dead do to a crowd. They are all near-virtuosos on their instruments and they don't stop at being good. Or even at being better. 
The Dead's whole trip seems to be shifting emphasis. They seem to be out of the whole period that began with their association with Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters. Their music then was just wildly innovative energy music that enchanted audiences with its mind-rending power.
Now they've mellowed out a little. Oh, the power is still there, but an even more cerebral quality is present now that grabs the mind totally.
The second set was the high energy stuff that musical dreams are made of. They did "That's It for the Other One," featuring an excellent drum solo by Bill Kreutzman, "Truckin," "Sugar Magnolia," "Uncle John's Band," then jammed into an incredible version of the old Rolling Stones hit, "Not Fade Away." They played for close to four hours, building the sound and the levels of the songs.
The radio broadcast went perfectly. Backstage, Pete relaxed and said, "If you asked me now if I'd do another one of these broadcasts, I'd say no. Ask me tomorrow morning and I'd probably say, "Well, who's coming to town that we can broadcast?"

Marshall Fine is a senior in journalism at the University of Minnesota and a freelance critic of popular music.

(by Marshall Fine, from the Minneapolis Star, 20 October 1971)  

Aug 28, 2019

1971: More Live Album Reviews


By all indications (i.e., one listening on the radio), the new Grateful Dead live double LP dives to a new nadir in "middle of the road" sloppy country and aimless ersatz cosmic noodling. And they had the nerve to want to title this album Skullfuck. Whose skull, pray tell?  I might change my mind tomorrow, but the real problem seems to be that the Dead have ceased to be funky and ethereal at the same time. They are one of the few bands that I have gone to see in order to cure a headache. Of course, as every true fan will tell you, none of this Dead-baiting really matters (e.g., the bootleg is as good as ever), but it sure doesn't bode well. As I always say...folkie hearts will out eventually. Look at J. Tull.

(from the Spectrum (University at Buffalo), 29 September 1971)

* * *

Warner Bros. (2WS1935)

I remember when the Grateful Dead were a great band. From 1967 until late 1970, the Dead were really the heart and spirit of American rock. Each and every Dead album stretched upwards and outwards with no signs of boundaries or limitations. If you happened to read the American Beauty review last year in this spot, you know how I felt about it. I mean you could just see it coming. The Dead manage to get up there in sales and teen appeal, and with what? With the fucking most lame music they've ever played since they started.
This new double lp set should just zoom up there in a hurry. And where American Beauty was lamentable but not without its saving moments (Phil Lesh's first lead vocal ever), this thing near my stereo (I doubt if it'll ever get played again) is a disgrace to any Dead freak. And if you want to unite with other Dead freaks like they ask you to on the inside cover, you'll only help the decay spread some more.
Any resemblance between this record and Live Dead does simply not exist. The fire, the energy that transcended everything is lost. A Dead jam used to be spontaneous, and the Dead were actually terrible live sometimes. They had to work hard to reach those beautiful moments on Anthem of the Sun or "Dark Star." It seems that they've given up trying to be the Grateful Dead. The jams are all automatic and uninspired, like a number two play on the hardwood (which could be the result of playing in all those gyms).
"The Other One," better known as "That's It For The Other one," takes up a whole side. Bill Kreutzmann tries to make believe Mickey Hart is still there, so he goes on for about eight minutes in a pitiful display of drum soloing. The "figure eight" sound of the Dead's music is now one lonely "3" looking for help. The whole band chokes on this one, and I honestly felt like melting the record and shoving the free decal over it and mailing it to the Dead Heads fan club .
Of the four new tunes, "Wharf Rat" is the only one that's mildly entertaining, and only because Garcia says "fucking" loud and clear and the tune has been played intact on AM radio.
All there is on this album is wasted space, except for "Me and My Uncle," which used to start out each Dead performance when people used to hiss and yell during the country set. It's a good song, and Weir manages to sing on key for a change. "Johnny B. Goode" and "Not Fade Away" (Oh, wow! The Dead doing fifties stuff, far out) are horrendous, and their butchering of "Me and Bobby McGee" gives me the feeling that the next lp might be The Grateful Dead Tackle Montovani.
Pigpen does "Big Boss Man," and since he has so little to do with the new sound (I mean he even wrote a song all by himself for American Beauty, and it was a jug band song at that), you can't fault him for anything. He's the only one that success hasn't spoiled.
It's hard to believe that the Dead could sink this low. But now that they've finally made it, they probably don't care. After all, they have a lot of mouths to feed.

(by Lanky Lirstrot, from the Spectrum (University at Buffalo), 15 October 1971) 

* * *


The Grateful Dead, like all bands, have their off nights on stage but when they're on, they have a reputation as being one of the finest performing bands in the nation. The new Live Dead album has it all sifted out for you, and in a time when so many groups are turning out quickie "live" albums, the Dead stand miles ahead of the field.
One positive feature is that it's not just a rehash of old material, with only one tune having appeared on a former album. The new version of "The Other One" surpasses the original that appeared on their Anthem of the Sun album.
Furthermore, if you've been Grand Funked, Iron Butterflied, or Led Zepplined into heavy oblivion, this album is for you. Each song is light without sounding thin at the same time. Jerry Garcia's delicate guitar riffs, which make song after song float in the air, have no comparison.
This Live Dead album is much different from their earlier live album. The singing is improved. The cuts are much shorter and more oriented towards the type of material which has appeared on their last two albums than to electronic music (with the exception, again, of "The Other One" which shows the Dead haven't forgotten how to "do it.") There's a little light boogie music in "Bertha" and "Playing in the Band", some old time rockin' with "Johnny B. Goode" and "Not Fade Away," tinges of country in "Mama Tried" and "Me and Bobby McGee", and a bit of blues with "Big Boss Man".
If you've never bought a Grateful Dead Album before, you couldn't start with a better one than this. Just look for the skeleton on the cover.

(from the Griffin, Canisius College (Buffalo), 5 November 1971)

* * *


Even as you read this, 10,000 Grateful Dead T-shirts full of rose-crowned skulls are being trundled in their four-color glory into Warner Bros' warehouse in beautiful downtown Burbank, soon to be trucked out again for promotional purposes.
At an undisclosed location, they tell us, gnomes frantically stitch Grateful Dead patches with the same signature skull (which also happens to be on the front cover of their latest album). Giant blowups of the Dead are being churned out and in some circles October is officially proclaimed you-know-who month.
If it all sounds a little, well, commercial for a band that's been as much a social institution as anything else with their early San Francisco free concerts and their unwillingness to play the record promotion rock 'n' roll games (at one time they were referred to by some disgruntled executives as the Ungrateful Dead, the story goes), you're right. With the release of their seventh album, "Grateful Dead" - not to be confused with their first, "The Grateful Dead" - a wider audience is being sought for the group's music.
All of which is great, because the Dead still can make some of the finest, most relaxed and yet together music around, especially in live performance. Hopefully, they'll keep on doing that - rather than trying to consciously "commercialize" what they now offer a somewhat cultish following so as to garner mass appeal. The results of that sort of thing - witness Procol Harum - usually turn out disappointing all the way around.
"Grateful Dead," while indeed the group's most commercial in terms of singles potential and all that, also contains some most enjoyable and harmonious Dead, especially in bluesy and western veins. "Bertha" in particular is infectious; so is Merle Haggard's "Mama Tried" and Kris Kristofferson's "Me and Bobby McGee." Not all of the songs are new; some have appeared in different versions on previous releases.
The album is a two-record set, recorded live at Winterland, the Fillmore East and Manhattan Center with, thankfully, no overlylong applause between cuts. All of side two is taken up boringly by "The Other One," a mostly-instrumental combination of some Dead concert staples. The Dead have done this before, taking up whole sides of records with overly long numbers. They'll continue to do it, but it hasn't worked yet.
"The Other One," however, is the only thing I found really dull. Rhythm guitarist Bob Weir, who handled quite a few of the vocals during the Dead's recent four-hour concerts at the Auditorium, sings lead on more than half of the dozen cuts. Garcia takes over on a couple and Pig Pen on one. It's a must for Dead lovers - and maybe some other people too.

Garcia has an album of his own scheduled for release next month. In the meantime he's also heard on "New Riders of the Purple Sage" (Columbia), playing pedal steel and banjo. Phil Lesh, the Dead's bassist, produced. As the name implies, the New Riders make a purple sage sort of sound, dotted with tumbleweeds and well above average as far as country-flavored rock goes. Vocals and music are by John Dawson (Marmaduke), a composer whose works the Dead have occasionally dipped into.

(by Lynn van Matre, from the Chicago Tribune, 17 October 1971)

* * * 

But Dead Album a Letdown

No shit. I once had a chat with Jerry Garcia, driving wheel of the Grateful Dead. It was over four years ago and the world was a different place. It was only the Dead's second trip to the Big Apple, and they played before just about 400 of us, between Christmas and New Years, at the unheated broken down Village Theatre, that wasn't to become the Fillmore East yet for 3 months.
After the loudest, rockinest set in the history of history, the curtain came down so the band could take a short break. Being as I was sitting on the stage, I decided to slide my little 16 year old body under there to see what goes on behind those curtains during half-time. And before you can say "Let It Rock," I'm standing face to chest with Jerry 'Captain Trips' Garcia himself.
I take the initiative. "Hey Jerry, I saw your name mentioned on the back of 'Surrealistic Pillow.' Do you really know Grace Slick?"
His face spreads into a smile that stretches from ear to ear and forehead to chin. "Yeah," he says, "we're all friends out there."
"Out where?" I ask innocently; but too nervous to wait for an answer, I slip back under the curtain to the sound of some belly laughs from behind me.
And once I sat next to the Band's organ genius, Garth Hudson. It was at a Butterfield Band concert at Town Hall, a couple of years back. We were there - my buddies and some ladyfriends - and midway through the show down plunks Garth in the seat next to me. And let me tell ya, his brows were bushier than all of Bob Dylan's mustaches put together. And his beard was twice as long as it is today, which makes it half as long as your arm. And he looked as much like a Southern Baptist minister as a Canadian frontier trapper.
I talked to him too. I said, "Hi Garth Hudson."
He said, "Howdy."

In rock 'n roll, most often what one first suspects as National Music, upon further examination turns out to be merely Regional stuff. The brilliantly eclectic musics of the Byrds-Doors-Beach Boys, which first sounded so American, has been revealed to be more precisely Southern California soul music. And sunny South C. isn't exactly prototypically American.
But about two years ago, an album by the Band, and entitled "The Band," was released; and it contained the most thoroughly American music since Chuck Berry told Beethoven to tell "Chi-cow-ski the news!" And the fact that the group is composed of four Canadians and an Arkansas boy is so pregnant with meaning as to be irrelevant. The album is rich with associations, and its thematic material touches a lot of very American bases.
The Band has a new album called "Cahoots." And surprisingly, by no stretch of the imagination could it be called National Music. But it sure is great.
The record shows the group forsaking the demands of a National Music for an individual sonic identity. And whooeee, do they do it up right!
Where the Dead on their new album have sloppily collected a lot of diverse musics that they don't know how to handle, the Band has finally synthesized the influences of their diverse musical origins. Now, not only do they know who they are, and where they're goin', but they know so well how to get there that they can almost coast.
They could very well be the tightest band in the land.

No less than Captain Paul Lundberg, REN (ret.) has noted the Motown influence on "Cahoots." And the giveaway there is Rick Danko's Motown style bass pluckin'. On the opening cut, "Life is a Carnival," the horn arrangement is not so much derived from Sly Stone, as it is influenced by Motown's imitations of Sly. No small trick that!
These fellas sure can kick it out. Levon's fat-back drumming cracks like a whip. Richard Manuel's piano must have given off sparks in "Smoke Signal." Garth's organ fills up all available sonic space. But the key is Robbie Robertson's guitar; though rarely out front, he can be found on all sides of the others' music, framing it with his chording and picking.
But the real surprise is how mature Rick and Levon have become as lead vocalists. They used to sound like groundhogs. Now they sound like the mellowest woodchucks in the Appalachians.
Certainly the album's high point (and maybe this year's or even this century's!) is "4 percent Pantomime," a song which includes a guest appearance by Van Morrison, conceivably the finest singer-songwriter in this or any universe. Van and Rick trade back the verses, while sorcerer Garth leans his big body all over the organ, Levon slaps the stuffings out, as Richard stomps the piano into splinters, and Robbie's guitar is ripping flesh. Rick's bass carries the weight of the whole thing, as Van Morrison wails like a siren!!!
"4 percent Pantomime" is as good as it gets. No. Better.

For a long time the Grateful Dead had little more than a cult following outside their home, the Bay Area.
They were the rock critics' fave rave. And they deserved it, 'cause they really could breathe fire. On a good night, their white heat-rave up-break on through-high energy-killer-New Age music could melt the sun! But it's been a while since the boys dared to do that kind of stuff, and it's been even longer since, with a little coaxing, Pig Pen would sing "Midnight Hour," and Bobby Weir had the finest head of hair in rock.
During the last year and a half, the Dead have picked up a broad based national following. But they certainly have paid the price.
Lookit. I love the Dead. And you love the Dead. But you just can't avoid the fact that the Dead's new 2-record set, "Grateful Dead," sucks the mop. I mean, I like shooting fish in a barrel as much as the next guy, but I never thought I'd see the Dead float to the surface belly up.
On their new album they concentrate on doing all the things that they never have been able to do well, and ignore the more demanding modes of expression they had previously perfected. It's a patchwork of shallow imitations and half-baked homages to admirable people. With the exception of Weir's new song "Playing in the Band," and Garcia's handsome "Wharf Rat," the whole two-record set is a throwaway. Not only that, it stinks! It stinks worse than Tom Seaver's pits after a muggy day on the mound!

It's a sad day in Mudville when the Dead make such a boring, low energy record. They just sound anemic since the exit of their full time keyboard player, and their second drummer. The Grateful Dead used to make music that Kesey called "the Handsomest in the land." Now the sound is somewhere between "plain" and "homely."
The Dead's dive at National Music ate them out, they should have known better.
The Band abandoned nationalism for the sake of a more unified musical identity. The Grateful Dead watered down their singular identity for a broader based style that spreads their talents too thin, in an attempt to do music that they don't have the cultural apparatus, much less the chops, to play.
The Dead were in town last weekend. At both shows, they played generous 4 hour-plus sets. And they sure did play sweet and mellow. But what they didn't do is breathe fire; in fact, it seems they held their breath! They've only got one drummer now; and Bobby Weir never lets his hair down anymore. All of which is too bad.
Meanwhile, Jersey Marc Ryby says the Band's "Cahoots" is the best album of the year. And Jersey Marc wouldn't say something like that if it wasn't true.

(by Hank Neuberger, from the Daily Northwestern, 27 October 1971)

* * *


It's the time of the year for the devil winds to bring their message of dust and fire peril.
Winter, the Southern California variety anyhow, is tiptoeing nearer.
What better way to spend the long nights than with a close friend or two, and for music, both to stir and smooth.
One of the best musical samples to be had is the new Grateful Dead release on Warner Bros. titled simply enough "Grateful Dead."
It's a live double album recorded variously at Winterland, the Manhattan Center, and the now-defunct Fillmore East.
You'll not find a better Dead album anywhere.
The group has made some memorable studio albums, but its best work has been live, the band seeming to enjoy the interaction it creates with an audience.
There have been past attempts to catch the Dead live on disc, but nothing has worked, at least until now.
The aura of relaxation and good times the Dead emanates is present throughout the group's new release, which includes such songs as "Bertha," "Big Railroad Blues," "Playing in the Band," Willie Dixon's "Big Boss Man," "Not Fade Away," made famous more than a decade ago by Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry's chestnut, "Johnny B. Goode," and Kristofferson's "Me and Bobby McGee."
Jerry Garcia, that gentle-visaged man whose stature grows with every recording he makes, creates vivid tonal textures as his runs and fills keep the Dead rattling along at a foot-stomping clip.
It's not all Garcia though, with Phil Lesh, Bob Weir, Bill Kreutzmann fleshing out the ensemble to create exciting vocals and instrumentation which provide an irresistible urge to dance.
And when last did you hear music rollicking good enough to make you want to dance?

Straying from the Dead now, but not from Jerry Garcia.
The man with the impeccable guitar lines shares billing with pianist-organist Howard Wales on "Hooteroll?" (Douglas).
It's [a] different kind of trip for anyone used to hearing Garcia's work in the country-rock idiom he normally inhabits.
Jazz licks predominate as Garcia and Wales front an energetic group that includes horn work arranged by Martin Fierro, noted particularly for his stints with Sir Douglas and the quintet.
It's strictly instrumental, a rarity in itself in the pop music world.
The music sounds as if it came out of a studio jam session with someone saying after it was over, "Hey, you guys ought to put that down on tape and get it out."
Down on tape it is, good it is, and plenty of easeful listening it has.

(by Geoff Kelly, from the Pasadena Star-News, unknown date) 

* * * 


A "live" album is often a copout for performers who don't have anything new to say or are just too lazy to spend time sweating out studio sessions. They record a couple of concerts, include plenty of applause and cheers, and put out an album.
On the other hand, groups like the Grateful Dead are genuinely better on live recordings. Their best previous album was Live Dead (Warner Bros.-Ampex tapes), and their new one, Grateful Dead (Warner Bros.-Ampex tapes) is almost as good.
The studio albums have some very interesting musical ideas, as well as some good performances. But somehow there is a missing ingredient - call it edge or excitement - which only finds its way onto the live recordings.
Don't confuse Grateful Dead with The Grateful Dead (Warner Bros.-Ampex tapes), the mediocre first album. Maybe the title similarity means something like the Dead coming back to their roots, but the album certainly doesn't sound that way. The roots on the first album were noisy blues-rock, which was combined with the Dead's freaky image and dubbed acid rock.
The new album's quality is immensely better, and the songs are mostly mellow and country-folk tinged. The best numbers are "Playing in the Band," which features nice harmony, weird rhythm changes, and tasty instrumental work with Robert Hunter's strange lyrics, and "Wharf Rat," which, sort of, is the Dead's version of "Aqualung" and which has the same ingredients as above, plus a fine piano (who?).
The Dead's reach exceeds their grasp on this double album, and all of Side 3 could have been dispensed with. Not that John Phillips' "Me and My Uncle" isn't a terrific and funny song, but its humor lies in the lyrics, and sung in a mealy-mouthed unintelligible fashion, as here, it is worse than not done at all. Similarly, the other songs on Side 3 need not have been recorded.
But Side 2, although repeating a piece from Anthem of the Sun (Warner Bros.-Ampex tapes), was worth recording. It is one of those long flowing pieces. Parts are a little tedious, but they are worth putting up with. Similarly, the Dead contribute something new to the old chestnut "Not Fade Away" on Side 4. Altogether, the album is relaxing, satisfying, and fun - and also a good preview of the Dead's concerts in the Auditorium this Thursday and Friday. [10/21-22/71]

Appearing with the Dead both nights are the New Riders of the Purple Sage, friends of the Dead who occasionally use some Dead personnel. Their first album, New Riders of the Purple Sage (Columbia records and tapes), is a delight.
Maybe some recognized the greatness of the New Riders when they appeared with the Dead at the old Syndrome [11/27/70], but two things got between the musicians and the audience: the Syndrome vibrations, which certainly weren't conducive to quiet, mellow music, and the unfamiliarity of the material, which didn't have the heavy riffs to win immediate acceptance.
All this should be solved by this fine album and the friendly atmosphere of the Auditorium. Because John Dawson's songs definitely grow on you the more you hear them; so does the New Riders' restrained, easy-going style of playing.
There's no telling if Dawson, David Nelson or David Torbert have really good voices because they never raise or push them. It's always soft, tasteful harmony, even on a protest song like "Garden of Eden," which is reminiscent of the firm yet unhysterical tone of the original "For What It's Worth."
There are a good variety of songs, from the humorous myth of a modern Jason's perilous quest for the golden keys ("Henry") to tender love ("Portland Town") to a neo-folk ballad that beautifully mixes dirty feedback guitar with soft acoustic guitar ("Dirty Business"). New Riders of the Purple Sage is a sleeper album because it's so unpushy, but it might make a lot of people wake up.

Jerry Garcia is lead guitarist for the Dead and also plays pedal steel and banjo for the New Riders, but that's not enough for him. He's also on Hooteroll? (Douglas), an album of jazz-rock instrumentals. Co-leader of this combo is organist Howard Wales, who wrote or co-wrote all the tunes, although he didn't credit Herb Alpert, whose "Lonely Bull" he borrowed for "A Trip to What Next."
There are other echoes, like Hugh Masakela on "South Side Strut," on these nice jams by good musicians. Martin Fierro's horn arrangements seem to be at their worst when they're out front making the big blast, but the quieter things are really nice, especially his flute in "Da Birg Song."

(by Al Rudis, from the Chicago Sun-Times, 17 October 1971)

Thanks to Dave Davis.

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Aug 27, 2019

1970-1971: More Vintage Dead/Historic Dead Reviews

The Grateful Dead - Sunflower (MGM) 5001

In the days when people still knew how to dance (1966), in a San Francisco ballroom (the Avalon), a band that was to become the standard bearer for the San Francisco Sound (The Grateful Dead) began playing esoteric mind-body music.
The Avalon at that time presented a totally different concept in dance hall entertainment, augmenting the music with light shows, strobe lights, flourescent chalk flowers, and the people from the streets of San Francisco. The poster designs that came from the advertisements for those dances, as well as the ones later presented at the Fillmore West by Bill Graham, opened the way for a whole new field of psychedelic art.
The latest album from the Dead certainly does not cover where they are today, having explored the possibilities only covered slightly in this recording. It was recorded live at the Avalon while the Dead were still being born, and provides signs of the direction in which they developed.
The recording lacks the polish and subtlety which later became part of the Dead sound. Garcia's guitar is dominant; the rest of the group almost seems passive by comparison. The interplay between Bob Weir and Garcia, the instrumental conversations that they are fond of holding when recording live, is absent. Garcia plays over, above, and in spite of Weir, fulfilling their functions as lead and rhythm. Garcia, however, is a tasteful, if not intricate, guitarist, and it shows even on this early recording.
Most distressing is the vocalization, a department in which the Dead have traditionally been weak. Pig Pen has always been the worst offender of all, and on this album he nearly destroys Wilson Pickett's "Midnight Hour." The song wins out in the end when after eighteen minutes Pig Pen and the Dead decide that they have done enough. Other songs include Elmore James' "It Hurts Me Too," Dylan's "It's All Over Now Baby Blue," and "Dancing in the Street."

(by Vernon Gibbs, from the "Records" column, the Columbia Daily Spectator, 15 October 1970)

* * *


It is possible that the Grateful Dead are incapable of doing any music badly. They seem to be able to transform any song, with the sheer power of their creative exuberance, into a thrilling sound. This ability is evident on VINTAGE DEAD, the newest release by the U.S.'s original underground group.
Side One consists of four standard pop tunes given the unique rock treatment that only the Dead can provide. The songs are quite a mixed bag. "I Know You Rider" is an old blues song; "It Hurts Me Too" and "Dancing In the Streets" are old standards; and "Baby Blue" is Dylan. But with the Dead's arrangements they all become Grateful Dead rock, boisterous and joyful.
Side Two is 18 minutes and 23 seconds of "Midnight Hour" as sung by Pigpen (Ron McKernan). While McKernan isn't a particularly well-endowed crooner, his singing has the Dead magic. He screams, implores, wails, and caresses the lyrics, completely carried away with the music and the happiness of being a part of it.
Throughout the album, Jerry Garcia's guitar work stands out. It was very well recorded, and Garcia's brilliance even then is quite obvious.

(by Dan Cook, from the "Record Review" column, the Observer (Case Western Reserve U), 13 November 1970)

* * *

Vintage Dead, MGM-Sunflower 5001

This is a big year for rereleases and gettin' stuff out of the can. It's also a big year for The Dead & the conjunction of these trends produces yet another different kind of triumph for Trips & Co.
Raggedly tight sounds with Pigpen's organ up in front, live from the Avalon '66 and capturing the flavor of the early days & all. Nostalgia?? Damn right, soon as they rip into "I Know You Rider" you get a blast of Hashbury air radiant with sunshine as orange juice and just as uplifting.
Second side is long "Midnight Hour" sortie a la Pigpen & sort of shows you why Mister Pen was as much a hindrance as a help & finally had to be reduced to mascot's pay. The long unavailable "Dancing in the Streets" makes up for it. Pen was also the American Alan Price and a forerunner of Augie Meyers, if wooly organ be your trip.
You may or may not be one of those who will want this album irregardless. Check it out to see.

(by Rich Mangelsdorff, from the "Music Wheel" column, the NOLA Express, 30 October 1970) 

* * *
(Sunflower SUN-5001)

As long as I'm dealing with bands that come out of a community and involve audiences as part of a total environment, not just as passive consumers, I can't leave out the Dead. This record was taped back in 1966 at the Avalon Ballroom in San Francisco; it's a live performance. It's interesting to see how far the Dead have come. Back then I guess they were just a local band from 'Frisco, doing other people's songs, and getting it on in a really good way, but not the outasight super-group they've become. This record sounds a lot like their first release, which isn't surprising. Sometimes the vocals are a little weak, and Jerry Garcia wasn't as accomplished as he is now, but Vintage Dead is a fine example of good ol' rock'n' roll. My favorite cuts are "It Hurts Me Too" and Dylan's "It's All Over Now Baby Blue." I really love the way the Dead do Dylan; I think it's better than Dylan, but that's obviously a matter of opinion. The Dead have always made me feel good in a way no other group can, and this is no exception. It's good to hear Pig Pen's organ again, meshing with the rest of the band, producing a get-up-and-dance sound that just doesn't get tiresome. This is nothing to really blow your mind with, but it's sure comfortable and fun.

(by Rockin' Raoul, from the "In Your Ear" record-review column, The Rag (Austin, TX), 16 November 1970) 

* * *

(Grateful Dead, Sunflower SUN-5001)

Pardon me, hip people, but I’ve never really seen the point of the Dead. They always seem less heavy, less important when I hear them than the hype has built them. I think their connection with Ken Kesey in the days of the Merry Pranksters has prolonged their in-ness, as it were. Because musically, they are so-so, despite Jerry Garcia’s abilities.

(by David Wagner, from the record review column, the Post-Crescent (Appleton, WI), 8 November 1970)

* * * 

(Sunflower SNF-5004)

Here’s another in Sunflower’s series of releases of live performances recorded in ’66 and ’67. I was kind of put off by the $5.98 list price for a total of 29 minutes of sound, and even more so when I heard side 1, on which the Dead sound like your average amateur rock band, certainly competent enough and fun to dance to if there’s not much happening elsewhere, but nothing special. My opinion of the record went up considerably upon hearing side 2, however. Evidently recorded at a different session, this side reveals the Dead as the killer band it is, getting everyone off with perfectly executed riffs and a fine level of interplay between the players. “Stealin’” is a short, good-timey piece in the Lovin’ Spoonful style. The high point is twelve minutes of “The Same Thing,” a song Muddy Waters has done for years, but never in the stretched-out, intricate acid improvisation way that the Dead play it. For the first time I really understood the name “Grateful Dead;” this song is slow and comes eerily from a distance, a sinister indication of strange and freaky things coming out of the night. Jerry Garcia plays from the gut, slowly increasing the tempo and intensity, but never losing the flavour of coming from the dark side of things, alien to the daylight world of straight jobs and plastic entertainment, something new and slightly incomprehensible coming from the bowels of the old and stale. This is a fine side for listening to while you’re spaced in the middle of the night. I still think the list price is too high, but hard-core Dead fans won’t want to miss Historic Dead.

(by Rockin’ Raoul, from “In Your Ear," The Rag (Austin, TX), 7 June 1971)

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Aug 21, 2019

March 7, 1970: Civic Auditorium, Santa Monica CA

Evening of Good and Bad

 The Grateful Dead dates from the first wave of groups from the bay area. Lumped together in the "San Francisco Sound" pigeonhole they had very little in common - The Airplane, the Dead, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Flaming Groovies.
They were as divergent as imaginable. They sprang up only because it was the right place and the right time and there were places for them to play and people to dig them.
Family Dog and Fillmore were hothouses for groups and they developed their own exotic leaves at their own pace. They are mostly gone now, these hothouses, their windows broken by absurd booking prices and sundry harassments. (The Experience and Creation most recently are fading.)
The Dead got started in San Francisco and their roots are there and their sprawling off-center concert at the Santa Monica Civic was a bit like old times: dancers and families and children and fawning adolescents filling the edges of the stage and stoned usherettes telling people to sit anywhere. It was so pleasant and relaxed it's too bad they didn't play a better set.
Centroid Jerry Garcia seemed a bit bored most of the time while Tom Constantin went through over-long manic vocals and Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzman couldn't agree on a bobbsey-twin Bo Diddley drumming bit.
Garcia sang a couple of overlong songs with endless Dylanesque stanzas to floundering backups that almost fell apart through bad intonation, and even his magical guitar fleurs-de-lis were subdued.
There were occasional flashes of their three-guitar counterpoint and from time to time they were superb, especially in some close harmony and their a cappella closing number, but all in all it was an off night.
Their last regular thing, a half-hour pastiche of several different numbers, was alternately good and terrible, ranging from an excellent duologue (a medium tempo thing both subtle and exciting) between the drummers to some particularly flatulent vocal milking moving only the die-hard rock addict.

Cold Blood, the other half of the concert, could be great. Unfortunately their chick singer is in a mucky Janis Joplin rut.
She sang a Billy Taylor song that was ravishing, but everything else she sang was a pitiful copy of Miss Joplin (who, according to a Rolling Stone, has gone into the jungles of the Amazon with a muscley beatnik she found in Rio...honest).
Her voice is beautiful with a wide range and great facility but the waste is criminal. Dressed in hand-me-down clothes she looks like Howdy Doody with his strings tangled as she jerks and twitches, waving her hair like the lead singer in Grand Funk - only his hair looks better.
The group is tight and their winds (two trumpets, alto and bari) are well integrated. Their Fabulous Furry Freak baritone player is exceptional and his extended solo was well worth the time, although I found the ecstatic reaction to a long held note rather amusing.
(It's real simple, just breathe through the corners of your mouth while pumping the air through the mouthpiece with your cheeks at the same time and you can keep it up until you fall over from lock-knee or strangle on your neck strap, all the while resembling and sounding like a mouldy bagpipe.)
It speaks no better for a rock audience to drop their cookies over that stunt in the middle of a very heavy solo, than for opera buffs to wade through zillions of maimed notes until Del Monaco screeches a high C and wrinkle their nehrus in frenzy as their binocular lenses crack.

(by Mike Moore, from the Van Nuys Valley News, 17 March 1970)

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