I am convinced that God made the Grateful Dead so that they could be heard
in concert. Besides the tremendous amount of music which the Dead plays at a
date (usually they will play until they are stopped), the band exudes a
laid-back, happy confidence that puts a flame in the soul and a smile on the
face; yes it does. The group is a living sense of security and contentment for
pop music watchers, and it is probably our most important band still
This three-record set is the result of the Grateful Dead's European tour
last spring. It was recorded in London, Amsterdam, Paris and Copenhagen, and it lacks
just over ten minutes of being two full hours of music. The appearance of this
album and the Band's Rock of Ages is enough to make 1972 a very good
year for live recordings.
First of all, it is exquisitely recorded, with some of the truest fidelity
for location recording I have ever heard. Most of the tracks sound like studio
material, but there is sometimes the faintest hint of applause at the end of a
number. Most of the applause, by the way, has been edited out, so you're not
paying to hear the din the Dead gets after each number. As Ralph Gleason
commented about the Band LP in these pages, this set is an incredible bargain
at your local discount store, just like a real Grateful Dead concert is at your
local rock hall.
Most of the 17 tunes included can be found on other Dead albums, but they
are treated here with a muscular flexibility that makes them undeniably new
performances. The version of "Morning Dew" included here is over ten
minutes long; the band takes their time with the number, and the result asserts
a new poignancy and taste. It's preceded on the final side by an eight-minute
instrumental prelude that sets the slowed-down-and-done-right flavor which
permeates the record. You've got "Truckin'" and "China Cat
Sunflower" and the like, but you've also got great treatments of Elmore
James' "Hurts Me Too" and Hank Williams' "You Win Again"
that the Dead make their own property from the first notes.
That's not to say that the Dead don't stand up and rock, either. "One
More Saturday Night" is as lively as you'll hear on any Southern truck
stop jukebox, and there are riffs of all kinds liberally scattered throughout.
What do you say about the performance? Jerry Garcia is as fully in command
of his instrument as anyone in rock. He displays more sheer savvy of the guitar
fretboard and its incorporation - but not sublimation - into the rock milieu
than anyone I can think of. Garcia, Bob Weir, Phil Lesh and Pigpen are all
doing their jobs; not to star, but to form a unit - one of the happiest groups
around. Keith Godchaux's piano and Bill Kreutzmann's drums and some vocals by
Donna complete the circle; they make a wonderful whole in a field of music that
is virtually defined by its fragments.
The obvious comparison is with Live/Dead. While the extended
jukin' of that set has something to say for it, I like this one better. It's
better-recorded, it has a more generous supply of music, and it approaches the
concert effect of the Grateful Dead more precisely. No record album can replace
a live appearance by the Dead - but those who can't get enough of this
exceptional band will be kept busy for a good little while with this one.
(by Tom Dupree, from Rolling Stone, 4 January 1973)
* * *
The Dead have never ceased to feed off their origins as a performing band in order to avoid the danger of becoming marooned in a studio-based search for recording perfection. From their earliest appearances amidst the chaos of Ken Kesey's acid tests, the band have always used their concerts as a complement to their recordings, extending their range of material and experimenting with the relationships between the band, the audience and the music.
The Dead have already released two live double albums: Live Dead and The Grateful Dead. The earlier album was the best record of the Dead as a magical/experimental band. Track lengths averaged fifteen minutes and the album seemed like one long musical mutation: sci-fi instrumental improvisations became stoned Motown memories became spiritual urban blues became a gospel hymn became a wall of feedback. It was so eclectic and insubstantial it was almost frightening. The Grateful Dead offered us a record of the band as a hard working road show. There were almost too many tracks and ace Dead classics were mixed with forgotten Rolling Stones singles.
Europe '72 is a neat synthesis of these two faces of the band. The tracks average seven or eight minutes and are almost all straightforward songs, but with enough instrumental room to fly around in. 'Truckin',' the best song the Dead have written, is given a whole side of a record: the lyrics come in a thick wedge at the beginning, and then the band play on for a full fifteen minutes more, leaving the images of bad trips and city paranoia far behind as they explore a world of pure sound. The album also shows that in spite of boasting five singers, the Dead don't have one distinctive vocalist, and yet they carry the material off, simply by their instrumental skill and energy. Bob Weir doesn't have as good a shouting voice as McCartney, let alone Little Richard, yet his 'One More Saturday Night' rips along as good as any AM anthem you'll hear to the holiest night of the week. Pigpen doesn't have the power or the depth of a good blues band singer, yet their treatment of Elmore James' 'It Hurts Me Too' is one of the album's high points: they create a really soul-seared momentum through the interplay of Garcia's guitar, Pigpen's mouth harp and Keith Godchaux's piano triplets.
The recording quality is excellent and it's a welcome relief that the applause has been edited out, so that you can listen to the music instead of the occasion. One gripe: I heard a vague rumour that the album was originally titled Europe On $5,000 A Day – now that really would have put it in a league of its own.
(by Mick Gold, from Let It Rock, February 1973)
* * *
I've been to three Grateful Dead concerts in my life, and at each one I fell asleep. Oh, everybody else was pretending to be shimmying to the good vibes, but I know better. They were really just moving around like centipedes so they, too, wouldn't fall asleep. Certainly nothing would be more embarrassing than being caught by your counter-culture buddies sleeping at a Dead concert.
It's a shame, too, that the Dead are such symbols. Already their new triple-decker has outsold itself in record stores all across America. It's as if nobody had the guts, the death-defying nerve, to pronounce this album the dullest thing since the invention of Herbie Mann. You don't attack such sacred symbols, you know – you just let them fade away.
But I ain't about to: THIS ALBUM IS THE BIGGEST BORE... IT'S WORSE THAN NOVOCAINE!! The Grateful Dead have held monopoly for too long, and for no reason. They're much too mellow to get it on, and when they're truckin' it's like Wes Montgomery free jazz castrated. They're total muzak, and hip people just like em because they can float around with the music without having to put any oomph into it. The Grateful Dead are just a bunch of lazy motherfuckers.
I gotta be fair, tho. I mean, Garcia just begs to be assassinated. He stands up there, chugging around like a loose sloth, whipping out a few wrinkly riffs wherever he can fit 'em in, and then posing for several photos in the same breath. Pigpen is usually rammed up his ass, too, and so sometimes Garcia has to dig around in his crack to find the fat turd in time so he can do his favorite stomping soul tune. Yeah, I've seen Pigpen do 'Knock on Wood' with shit on his nose.
It's not that I hate em, tho. I'm just so goddamn tired of them. Hell, I used to own all their fucking albums up until this summer (I got rid of em by trying to hurl em across the mighty Mississippi). I even liked American Beauty for awhile and that first "underground" LP, too, that was such a hit for all those foggy old Downbeat subscribers. But then I heard the Soul Survivors and learned what slamming into the wall was really all about.
So I'm warning you. Stop dead in your tracks. DON'T BUY THIS ALBUM. Chances are everybody and his blue-baby sister already has it anyway, so why join the banana bunch?
You don't need it, besides, cause everything else is on other albums, except maybe 'You Win Again' which features squeaky vocalizing. You can't even drink to it. You can't even smoke dope to it. You can't even shit thru it.
But if somehow you do, if somehow you're so terribly bored you don't even get itchy britches (like maybe your girlfriend is sick with the flu or something), then I guarantee it, schmuck...you won't be able to get it up for three weeks. Yessiree, it's that pacifying.
(by Robot Hull, from Creem, February 1973)
* * *
The Grateful Dead have mellowed. This three-LP recording from their European tour is a testament to that. But all of it isn't their best; much of it (about half) is so mellow it's bland - for that, two stars. But when it's good, it's damn good - and for that, five stars.
Ramble on Rose has some of the best country harmony ever; it is earthy; it has buttermilk in it. But best of all (and worth it all) is the 40-minute evolution of Truckin' through Epilog into Morning Dew - because it is as if the evolution of all the music of the Dead had been synthesized (or rather, quilted) into a definitive and brilliant piece.
Truckin' is rustic rock, bouncing breezily down a dirt road - in the center of London, even. Then Garcia and Weir move out, improvising through each other with everyone listening, abstracting the music further and further, at first rocking it all, then freer with Garcia and Weir alone and introspective. The communion is intimate and the band is gradually and organically involved again; the tension is heightened along an edge of rock rhythm until, after the crest, it is moved into the simple beauty of Morning Dew.
Altogether, that 40-minute piece is the best of their acid and country rock music - not blithely "acid-country/rock," but a whole of the experience of the Grateful Dead in music. Europe must have got off good...
(by Bourne, from Down Beat, 15 March 1973)