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.

See also:

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)

* * *

(Sunflower 5001)

That's right, there's a new Grateful Dead album, but it's not really new. The album was recorded at the famous Trips Festival at the Avalon Ballroom in San Francisco in 1966. The Trips Festival is a very significant date in what's happening here, Mr. Jones. Ken Kesey persuaded Bill Graham to let him use the ballroom to re-create an acid trip without acid. Remember that it's 1966 and your fav gear band is the Beatles and you dig the Beach Boys and Herman's Hermits and you're saving up for a surfboard. Kesey is re-creating acid trips. The words 'hippie' and 'psychedelic' haven't been used yet. Psychedelic was invented at the Trips Festival. For the first time anywhere people looked at day-glo art under black lights, they saw their first light show, and they heard their first acid-rock. It would be that night which shifted the emphasis from England back to the West Coast. Owsley circulated through the crowd dropping droplets from his vial into people's cokes. Everyone was high, most thought due to the music and the atmosphere. Owsley knew better. When the police finally arrived, they didn't know where to begin. It was on that night that 'hippie' was born, and rock music became less something to listen to after school and more a lifestyle. That was when San Francisco was everything it is supposed to be now. The Grateful Dead played that night.
The Dead were Kesey's band. In getting it together, they would all gather in a room, Owsley would provide the acid, and they would play whatever they individually felt like playing. After a while the individual trips grew from conflicts to complements, they had learned to express their individual trips collectively, and a new music form was born. The individuality of the trips was still there, but there was something new, an interplay, a focal point, it would go round and round and up, building, growing, throbbing, into a tremendous mountain of sound, and then crash! it all came down at once. It has been said that an acid trip transcends language. The Dead learned to express it in music. The Dead's music was acid.
If you rush right out and buy this album, you'll probably be very disappointed in it. It's not 1966 anymore. Historically, it's probably the most important album of acid-rock. Musically, it's less than outstanding. Rock music has come a long way since then - Sergeant Pepper's didn't come out for another year. If you expect to have an experience as incredible as those who attended the festival, forget it. One side of the album is "Midnight Hour" and the Dead just don't get it on at all. Pig-Pen hogs the mike and the Dead don't get the opportunity to catch the music and pull it up. The best cut is "Dancing in the Street" because Garcia and Lesh  [--line missing--]  for the most part, just songs with little jamming, and there is little "deading." Seen in perspective, however, the album is overwhelming. If you are looking for the musical answer to LSD, this isn't it. It was in 1966, but it seems almost sedate now. It's still the Dead.
There is a new Grateful Dead today. The acid music has been more or less abandoned because the Dead found that they themselves couldn't control its incredible power. The Dead have calmed down and learned to sing and have a lovely time, as opposed to an incredible time. They still occasionally let the acid out in live performances, but it is doubtful that there will ever be another acid-Dead album. In dropping acid-music the Dead have increased their popularity tremendously (since the release of "Workingman's Dead"). If you like the Grateful Dead because "Uncle John's Band" is a catchy tune, you'll hate this album. If you're a hard-core Dead freak, you are probably out trying to get it by now.
According to the liner notes of the album, "Jerry Garcia once said, 'I don't believe the live sound, the live excitement can be recorded.' Well, here it is..." Of course the live sound can't be recorded. A record is at best a frozen musical moment - stagnant and repetitive. Live music is the ultimate rock experience. In spite of what the liner notes of the album say, this record is nothing more than a record. As to the music on it, their old music had to be entered slowly, tentatively, relaxing defenses slowly, while the sound built until you were either totally committed or totally lost. If you were totally committed, you finally understood the meaning of the word 'psychedelic.' If you were totally lost, you were probably bored to death.

(by Dwight Tindle, from the Kenyon Collegian, 15 October 1970)

Thanks to Ron Fritts.

These were the Vintage Dead album liner notes written by Robert Cohen:
"In the beginning there was the Grateful Dead." (Chet Holmes, 1966) And the Avalon Ballroom was part of that beginning. In early 1966 there began a series of dances with an entirely new concept. Light shows, fluorescent chalk, strobe lights, flowers and an awe struck audience of turned on people. What was amazing was that instead of just watching performers, the audiences were an integral part of the total environment. People swaying and dancing to music and lights that had a rhythm and sound all its own. The Dead helped provide that sound. The thing about the Dead is that they are so completely and absolutely together! Working and living together has brought them so close that they play almost as one mind. Phil Lesh described the Grateful Dead's music: "We orbit around a common center that is impossible to define but it has something to do with making good music of any kind." That is the Grateful Dead. This closeness, this ability to become one being is perhaps the greatest asset that any group can have. They perform best on stage with an audience in front of them. They have fun on stage and this obviously is where they want to be. This is why I recorded them. Jerry Garcia once said, "I don't believe the live sound, the live excitement can be recorded." Well, here it is, in its liveness, pressed on acetate for those who were not there when the Avalon was. A memorial to a period that all too soon passed us by.
Robert E. Cohen

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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)

Thanks to

Aug 20, 2019

April 4, 1971: Manhattan Center, New York City

For Grateful Dead freaks

"Cocaine's for horses, not men," or at least so goes the song by the Byrds. But don't tell it to the Grateful Dead. Driving themselves on coke, the Grateful Dead play the best concerts around to the greatest audiences. Earlier this week the Grateful Dead held their first annual dance marathon in the Grand Ballroom in Manhattan Center, New York, to a crowd that traveled great distances to be there: even Case Tech had someone there. There was one person who claimed to be seeing the fifteenth consecutive Grateful Dead concert.
The Sunday concert was to start at 8 p.m. By four o'clock the streets around the ballroom were flooded with people looking for tickets to the sold-out performance. Hours before the show, hundreds of people were waiting to get in. About five thousand people occupied the ballroom that had a capacity of 2000.
A Dead crowd is amazing. Before the concert even started the crowd was going crazy. While tapes of the Rolling Stones were being played, the crowd was responding as if the group was there. A full house joined in to sing 'You Can't Always Get What You Want' and 'Jumping Jack Flash.' Balloons were flying everywhere and the crowd was in a general state of euphoria.
The concert started with the New Riders of the Purple Sage, a splinter group of the Dead with Jerry Garcia on the pedal-steel guitar and Spencer Dryden (formerly of the Jefferson Airplane) on the drums. Throughout their performance the crowd was dancing, clapping, and doing everything else but sitting still. The New Riders were doing everything from 'Down in the Boondocks' (you must have heard it on top-40) to a fantastic rendition of 'Honky Tonk Women.' Doing mostly blues, the New Riders material was excellent. Not too many groups receive the kind of response they got from the audience, and the tremendous greeting they received was nothing compared to what was to happen later when the Grateful Dead was coming on.
The Grateful Dead, minus percussionist Mickey Hart who recently quit the group, played with one drummer - Bill Kreutzmann, and put on quite a show. Surprisingly, it was neither Pig Pen nor Garcia that captured the crowd, but rhythm guitarist Bob Weir. Weir, doing most of the vocals, made whatever you heard on those superb Grateful Dead records sound very weak as opposed to the way the Dead played that night, and that is quite a feat.
Playing only acid rock, even with material from 'American Beauty' and playing very loud, the Dead made the marathon no ordinary Dead concert (which is a gas anyway). The Dead did not need to bring the crowd off its feet: there were no seats. The room in the hall allowed people to form great circles and dance together to the music, and some music it was.
The first big thing the Dead did was 'Morning Dew,' and it never sounded so good. They did many Pig Pen songs from 'Easy Wind' to 'Good Lovin' (a Rascals song) which he sung with Weir. Surprises were many. 'Me And Bobby McGee' was one, and so was Berry's 'Johnny B. Goode' which was done better than any of the numerous versions of the song that were recorded.
'St. Stephen' and the Stones' 'Not Fade Away' were combined into a magnificent medley that just cannot be described. 'Truckin' and 'Sugar Magnolia' were both done electrically. Both, especially the former, were superb. Needless to say, 'Casey Jones' was the crowd's favorite - there wasn't a soul sitting still for a moment of that song. If you could imagine 5000 people singing
"Driving my train,
High on cocaine,
Casey Jones better
watch your speed"
and soon, then you will get but a glimpse of what that song did to people. The concert was closed, as all Dead concerts, with 'Uncle John's Band,' done electrically. That was like 'Casey Jones' all over again.
The concert was advertised as a dance marathon where the Grateful Dead would play as long as the audience would continue to dance. It was obvious that if that were to happen, the Dead would have to play all night. So, after six hours of music came 'Uncle John's Band' and the end of the concert. The ending surprised the audience, most of which could have easily stood three or four more hours of music. The audience refused to believe it was all over. A full half hour after the concert half the crowd was still there waiting for more.

(by Joe Kattan, from the Observer (Case Western Reserve U), 9 April 1971)

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Aug 15, 2019

February 18, 1971: Capitol Theater, Port Chester NY


The Grateful Dead opened their first 1971 tour at the Capitol Theater in Port Chester, New York, to a packed house. Once again the Dead asserted that they are probably the best American band.
As a band playing together, they excel as the music created blends and mixes so perfectly that it sounds like a studio recording. As individual musicians, they appear tops in their trade. Jerry Garcia, considered the group's leader, simply because the musicians union requires one, is respected greatly not only because of fine guitar and pedal-steel work, but as the mainstay writer, composing most of the group's music. Teamed with Bob Weir, they form one of the best one-two guitarists around. Ron "Pig-Pen" McKernan is still around to belt out the vocals on cuts which flashed back to the early days. Phil Lesh is often overlooked as mainstay at bass guitar and part time song writer ("Saint Stephen" and "Cumberland Blues"). The Dead also feature two drummers, Micky Hart and Bill K who provide solid background.
The act the band did at the Capitol was advertised as being a showcase for new material. That it was, as the Dead appear to have picked up where they left off on "Workingman's Dead" and "American Beauty," predominantly country with a few hard-rock cuts. The old favorites were also featured. "Casey Jones" brought the audience to its feet, as did "Truckin'" and "Sugar Magnolia." The group also did Berry's "Johnny B. Goode" as their customary rock 'n' roll piece. A 30 minute version of "Dark Star," with the help of some very appropriate lighting, had the mob spell-bound. The show ended with "Uncle John's Band" and left the stage with the crowd at its feet for 20 minutes.
The New Riders of the Purple Sage opened the concert and were received as though they were the featured act. The group, which included former Jefferson Airplane drummer Spencer Dryden, did not perform as well together as their reputation connotes. This was due in part to the lack of experience they have had playing with Dryden and Don Nelson at bass [sic], and to an electrical breakdown which caused Marmaduke's acoustic guitar to sound rather tinny. Jerry Garcia also broke a string on his pedal steel guitar. Still, their country sound trucked through and had the audience dancing.
The Grateful Dead's new album is due out about April or May. It should send the band to unprecedented heights.

(by Ray Trifari, from the Hoya (Georgetown U), 4 March 1971)

Aug 6, 2019

October 23, 1970: McDonough Gym, Georgetown University, Washington DC


Mark Lang, a brother of mine, spent a lot of time rapping with Jerry Garcia while he (Mark) was living in Berkeley. Garcia once told him that the Dead were never intended to be a recording band, that making records was just something the band had to do for bread, and that the music of the Greatful Dead is an experience that must be shared in person.
The Dead's idea of music, as first demonstrated in the environment of Ken Kesey's Acid Tests in 1966, proved to be the experience that rescued American rock music from the likes of Gary Lewis and the Playboys. The Dead were the first born of the acid-rock scene with a new concept in the relationship of performers and audience. The emphasis was no longer on the music alone, though the music was the heartbeat of the event, but rather on the experience as a whole - the light-shows, the smell of incense, the touch of one another, and the vibrations. Along with the folk-rockers and the new blues bands, the "San Francisco sound" restructured and revitalized rock music.
Yet it is only with the release of their latest album, Workingman's Dead (their 5th), that the Dead have enjoyed any widespread popularity. Until recently, their only fans were for the most part other musicians, among whom Jerry Garcia became a legend. A rock and jazz critic for the Village Voice said it all when, while commenting that he considered Larry Coryell to be the best guitarist around, [he] added parenthetically "except for Jerry Garcia" who is only human when he wants to be. Garcia's sure-handed speed and economy of movement, his use of the entire length and breadth of the neck, his tonal control (though he rarely "bends" or "sustains" notes), and the beauty and power of his improvisational lines make him one of the finest guitarists of all time.
McDonough Gym is designed to hold 4500 bodies. About 6000 packed in to hear the Who last year. Between 8000 and 9000 were inside or immediately around the gym to hear the Grateful Dead. The music was piped outside, and after a few hours of admitting ticket holders only, all the entrances were thrown open for free general admission. Tickets had been selling for $5 in advance and $6 at the door, and I believe they sold out. Five dollars is a lot of bread, but I don't want to cry "rip-off" because I hear that the Dead asked for a high percentage of the gate plus their usual $10,000 (compare to CSN&Y who ask between $25,000 and $50,000). The Dead are badly in debt, as both the band and Owsley (their patron and engineer) are in drug-bust trouble. The Dead were busted for the second time in New Orleans, and Owsley is in jail pending an appeal. And remember that the Dead do more free concerts than any other major band.
The turnout for the Dead concert, their first in the DC-Baltimore area, has all the outward appearances of a holy pilgrimage, and the crowd looks to the stage as an altar. The sacrament is to be the music of Jerry Garcia's guitar. The Dead are preceded, as always, by the New Riders of the Purple Sage, with whom Jerry plays pedal steel guitar. A tiny cherub faced guy behind an absurdly large Guild acoustic guitar fronts the group and sings lead vocal. His name is Marmaduke. Coyly he asks the "monitor man" to turn up his guitar mike and stands there looking very stoned for fifteen minutes while they try to get it some volume, then Garcia shouts "fuck it" and Marmaduke's arm starts pumping across the strings like a power hammer. They go into the old Dave Dudley song "Six Days on the Road," and immediately the magic is on. Everybody in the front jumps up to dance and the usual "sit-down-in-the-front-stand-up-in-the-back" battle is begun. But above it all Marmaduke casts a spell. His whole little frame works out the beat and under his cowboy hat and blonde hair, his face becomes pure expression. Jerry's pedal steel riffs keep building stronger and more brilliant (he's only been playing the instrument for a year and a half, and the improvement over his playing on Workingman's Dead is striking). They do John Fogerty's "Lodi" and push it all up another notch. The finale is "Honky Tonk Women" and by the end of it, Marmaduke has chopped through all six of his heavy gauge strings, so they bid us good night.
There is about an hour's delay before the Dead appear. By this time kidneys are in critical condition and the overhead lights are making the floor of the gym seem like Death Valley. They are trying to get an aisle cleared down the center from the stage in order to remove someone who has taken ill. Virtually everyone in the audience is tripping and in extreme discomfort from the sardine-can crush and the heat. Yet no one leaves. I begin to develop this attitude that by God they'd better be good to put me (and all of us) through all this shit just to see them play. Then suddenly they are on stage and launch into "Casey Jones," and instantly everyone knows that it was worth the wait - everyone knows we were listening to the best rock 'n' roll band in the world.
Garcia sings "Casey" but Bob Wier does all the leads. All these freaks here to hear Garcia and he plays only one little lick in the entire song! Bob Wier continues to amaze me all night. He's easily as good as most lead guitarists, but mainly he's a great rhythm guitarist, playing long series of progressive chords interspersed with clean precise rhythm licks. During one jam, he and Garcia exchange one bar riffs beautifully for several minutes.
Even more astounding is bassist Phil Lesh. His right elbow arches over the bass guitar at a right angle as though he were playing an acoustic upright bass. Much of the time he plays out of bar positions, keeping his left wrist thrust out like that of a classical guitarist. He plays chords, octaves, and arpeggios, and his movements are often literally faster than the eye can follow. When the rhythm gets funky, he drops his right elbow and picks the strings with his thumb. I think I recall reading somewhere that he studied at Juilliard.
The Dead have two drummers, Bill Kreutzman and Mickey Hart. They start off playing the same thing together, and the visual impact is a trip. When they jam, Bill tows the line, counting out the beat, while Mickey starts syncopating the time, then they build one syncopation upon another until the fabric of the rhythm is filled to the bursting point, then snap back into the opening meter as the band begins a verse. Mickey Hart in particular seems to have an uncanny sense of the beat that allows him to syncopate it at will yet never disrupt the song. He did this strikingly well when he played with the Riders (he is the group's drummer).
Pigpen, who was with Garcia when he founded the band, has been relegated to the position of musical utility man in the Dead. He plays bongos, gongs, tambourine, organ, and mouth harp, but he has ceased to be as prominent a part of the Dead's instrumental work as he was in the band's early days. The early Dead were mainly into building spiralling crescendos, and Pen's organ sustained the rising tension. Then organist Tom Constanten joined the Dead and appeared on all their albums from the second through the fourth. His influence turned the group into what Garcia calls in retrospect "an experimental music" band. Tom has now left the group and they are a lot funkier and a little less "far-out" as a result. Pigpen now serves principally as the band's blues singer and turns out some great improvisational lyrics.
Jerry Garcia is getting a bit round and with his beard he looks like a teddy bear, always smiling his very strange smile. My brother Larry said to me while Jerry was hovering over the pedal steel, "Look at that face - that smile. That's the Dead!" Jerry used to wander around the stage quite a lot while he was playing, his wagging head bent down, buried in what he was playing. Now he mostly looks into the audience, from face to face, while his fingers, constantly in motion, create the closest thing to a rock equivalent of Coltrane's "sheets of sound." I mean, HE'S REALLY PLAYING ALL THAT, AND HE ISN'T EVEN WATCHING WHAT HE'S DOING! On his guitar, a stars and stripes bumper sticker flashes the legend "I am an American."
What songs did they play? Who remembers. "Know You Rider," a jam of "Cold Rain And Snow" and "Not Fade Away," "Good Love," "New Speedway Boogie." Things like that. What they play is rock 'n' roll. A lot of old stuff. And they play it like Stravinsky plays the masters. The Dead come on like a great musical machine, with a power that awes the audience, then when the initial wave passes over, has everyone grinning, dancing and generally getting it on. In response to a thunderous ovation, the Dead play an encore number, something they very rarely do. It is "Uncle John's Band." And they bid us goodnight.

(by Ric Sweeney, from the Eagle (American University), 30 October 1970) 



To the Editor:
I sent this letter to the President of the University. I hope you see fit to print it.

Dear Sir:
I am concerned about the concert which took place at McDonough Gymnasium, Friday, Oct. 23, 1970.
The gym was filled to over capacity by 7,000 or more people. (I got this figure from the Washington Post.) People were smoking cigarettes yet there was no organized attempt to clear and maintain aisles on each side of the gym. This condition creates a terrible hazard for people and property at hand. Safety is the most immediate level of my concern.
The next level is the lack of business ethic of the promoters, agents, and people responsible for the production. Too many tickets were sold for the space available. The show, due to begin at 8:30, was delayed. The doors were not even opened until 8:15. The group, (rather an off-shoot group), finally came out on stage at 9:00 but didn't do much of anything until around 9:25. They left the stage at almost 9:55 and did not reappear for an hour and 45 minutes. During this time nothing happened. At 11:00 the Grateful Dead materialized on stage to play probably five songs. The show ended at 12:30.
The Grateful Dead did not attempt any songs for which they are famous or the sort of music which made them so well-liked. They gave a half-hearted performance which I am hard put to classify as entertainment.
At five dollars per person one expects and should receive musical integrity in the form of a decent attempt at a performance.
In conclusion, I will add that the trash left by the crowd was deplorable. Perhaps if trash receptacles were available they would be used. I don't know.
I felt impelled to write because the concert was quite a swindle. It is not right to take such blatant advantage of people.

M. Elizabeth Person 
Falls Church, Virginia 

(from the Hoya (Georgetown U), 5 November 1970) 



To the Editor:
This letter is in reference to Miss Person's letter in the Nov. 5 HOYA, in which she characterizes the Grateful Dead concert as a "swindle." I can only scratch my head in bewilderment, as, out of the dozens of good and bad shows I have seen, this one was without a doubt the best. Perhaps that wasn't the right word, as it was more of an experience than a "show." I will grant that Miss Person and others were not interested in an "experience;" all they wanted was a good evening's entertainment. And they were not "entertained."
All I can say is that they should have been forewarned. The Dead never have been, are not, and do not intend to be "performers," "entertainers," or "stars." They are human beings making their particular music. That's why the lights were on: so you could be aware that you were in a room full of other people, and not watching a few figures among the darkness, like TV. You say they were half-hearted, but they were giving you their souls, and yours, and your neighbors'. Your reaction was up to you, they only presented the opportunity. They tried to make the best music they could, for you, and you instead wanted the "songs for which they are famous." Well you got the best performances of "Casey Jones" and "Uncle John's Band" I have ever heard. Does it really matter what they play, as long as it's good? You could have stayed home and listened to their records.
Songs are for singing; and they were doing something different, to see what would happen. As it happened, they succeeded. You could have had the courtesy to walk with them for awhile and get something out of the journey, instead of whining about the road being muddy, and can't we rest a bit, and my new shoes are getting worn out, etc. I'll admit that things were uncomfortable, and I can see why you wouldn't like to pay money to look at your friends for an hour, but good things don't come cheap. Ninety minutes is not a "long" show, but so much effort was put into [it] that to demand more would have been greedy.
Not many people seem to have liked the New Riders of the Purple Sage (though there was a lot of applause), regarding them as something of a welsh on the advertising, but I think it's better for the Dead to have a warm-up group, to get people ready for when things get really weird. I also happen to think the New Riders excellent on their own terms. But everyone is entitled to his own tastes. And of course you'll never get anywhere trying to please everybody you know. I'm just sorry you were put off by trivial problems, although the thing was incompetently run.

Mark Sawtelle 
Coll. '73

(from the Hoya, 12 November 1970)



May I heartily congratulate Kevin Moynihan and the Homecoming '70 Committee for pulling a fantastic stunt last Friday that qualifies them as second annual winners of the "Ron Henry Mismanage a Social Event" prize! When I read in the Oct. 22 issue of The HOYA that Mr. Moynihan "reminds concert-goers to bring a blanket" to the Grateful Dead Concert, I figured some budding HOYA journalist needed to fill up some space. (I never thought anything in The HOYA was meant to be taken literally.) But it turns out that The HOYA concert/fiasco tradition is in no danger of being supplanted. . . . .
Anyway, my date and I walked down to the Dead Concert, advance tickets in hand, fearing nothing worse than being inundated by pot-smoking teeny-bopper hippie freaks from Montgomery County. We weren't so lucky. Upon arriving at McDonough, we were told there was no room inside and they might find a place for us in the stable (alias, McDonough parking lot). They were nice enough to pipe the music out to us, and all for a measly $6 per ticket. October evenings in D.C. may be mild, but after 2 1/2 hours of sitting in the parking lot, with double pneumonia coming on and my date swearing she'd kill me if I ever dared call her again (she may only have been a dumb Marymountie, but she wasn't a bad kid), we left. And, of course, we didn't get our money back.
I realize this meager complaint will probably go to no avail. I'd bomb a building, but basically I'm a peaceful person. I just hope next time somebody on those godawful social events committees has the intelligence to enlist the aid of George Houston - or at the very least, an SBA accounting major.

George Sand 
Coll. '72 

(from the Hoya, 12 November 1970) 

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Aug 5, 2019

October 17, 1970: Music Hall, Cleveland OH


Saturday, October 17, Clevelanders will be treated to the original underground rock show when the Grateful Dead appear live at the Music Hall. Though the Dead have five very good albums out to date, they are best known for their live performances. This should be no exception; it is scheduled to last for at least five hours and will include a set by The New Riders of the Purple Sage and Jerry (Captain Trips) Garcia's country band.
The Dead started out way back in the late fifties when Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters were riding around the country in a bus, giving out acid and other assorted goodies to folks. The Dead were the California musicians for the troupe, and, together with Kesey's light show they formed the first psychedelic experience. Their initial album was released, and it was another first - the first underground rock group to record an LP. Then they began to tour the country, giving free concerts that lasted more than a day when the mood struck them. One of their favorite haunts in recent years has been Athens, Ohio, home of Ohio University. When they were there two years ago, witnesses at that free show said the Dead included seemingly innumerable people who just kept coming on stage and playing with the main musicians.
The music itself? It is hard to classify, for the Dead are always pushing ahead of the mainstream of rock musicians. Their first album was unique in that, though the songs were mostly old blues songs, they added instrumental breaks and rearranged the songs to make them their own. "Anthem to the Sun" is a collage of live and studio recordings that are blended together into one stream of sound, and the end result is very much like a symphony. "Aoxomoxoa" consists mainly of several ragtime-type numbers plus one extraordinary poem done against a feedback accompaniment. Then "Live/Dead," an exciting double collection of concert recordings was released. The latest addition was this summer's "Workingman's Dead," where the Dead suddenly waxed poetic. Their vocals had previously been mediocre at best, but now they put out an album filled with fine harmonies, acoustical guitaring, and darn good poetry, thank you. Nothing political or bitter or revolutionary about their songs; this is quite important, for they are interested primarily in making good music, not starting guerrilla wars. This is the essential Beat Generation theory that they grew up with - live your own life style without bothering others and thus live within the system happily.
So, if you can still get tickets, go hear and see the Grateful Dead. What they will play, how long the concert will last, how many will be there, it is impossible to say. But whatever happens, it will be an unforgettable experience.

(by Dan Cook, from the Observer (Case Western Reserve U), 9 October 1970)

* * * 


Last Saturday night at 8:06 the Grateful Dead played to 3,000 screaming fans. They played for 3 1/2 hours with only one five minute intermission. The only reason they stopped then was due to the fact that the management turned on all the lights and told them to get off the stage.
The group has been together for ten years now and it shows. In the concert they were never apart rhythmically although they executed numerous time and key changes. Along with this they have two drummers, Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann, who played intermingling solos and counterpoint to each other while staying constantly in beat. The four other members of the group are Jerry Garcia - lead guitar and vocals, Phil Lesh - bass and vocals, Bobby Weir - rhythm and vocals, Ron McKernan who played organ and sang when he wasn't drinking. Needless to say all six of the members of the group are masters of their instruments and it is easily seen why they have enjoyed popularity for so many years. Garcia has long been known as the best guitarist on the west coast and his reputation was proven to the fans as he led the band from NOT FADE AWAY into TURN ON YOUR LOVELIGHT, back into NOT FADE AWAY again and then once more into LOVELIGHT.
Although the musicians are the same, their sound has changed much since 1965 when their first album was released. Their present version of COLD RAIN AND SNOW, from the first album, was virtually unrecognizable as it had country harmony and was done in the almost ballad-like style that is characteristic of their last album. This was typical of the concert; they did songs from all of their albums but all were revised to sound country-like while still maintaining that hard, driving rock sound that the DEAD have been so long known for.
The concert was extremely well planned. The opening song, CASEY JONES, was known by all of the audience and therefore the DEAD had the fans with them from the start. The repertoire got progressively funkier and more exciting as the night progressed. Soon the DEAD was performing purely improvisational material to the deafening applause of the audience. At times the group was drowned out by the screams that their music evoked.
The concert ended all too soon at 11:15 but the DEAD gave everyone something to hum all the way home by coming back out and singing UNCLE JOHN'S BAND as their encore.
So the DEAD finally came to Cleveland and privileged us with their unparalleled music for 3 1/2 hours straight. All who saw them were grateful.

(Picture caption: Although the management threatened to stop the concert due to smoking in the audience, the Dead played for 3 1/2 hours.)

(by Chris Cook, from the Observer (Case Western Reserve U), 20 October 1970)

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November 24, 1970: Tarot Rehearsal


The tarot cards have been read for me three times, twice by so-called professionals, who meandered their way through a mish-mash, and once by an amateur, a girl who made a true attempt, but she didn't send me reeling with revelation either.
Several times I've gotten out my deck and tried my own reading, and it's been a little less fascinating than a game of solitaire except for one occasion when I came up with a sequence of cards which had me mumbling, "Right...uh-huh...well, if that's the way it has to be, so be it and kismet." Then I discovered that I had omitted one part of the card pattern, which disqualified the whole interpretation. It didn't help strengthen a belief in the cards.
But then I never had the tarot read for me by an old gypsy woman living in a wagon and traveling through Denmark, the way Joe McCord says it happened to him. McCord heads a pantomime company called Rubber Duck. A show conceived by him called "Tarot," reportedly based on the gypsy's reading and others he's done on his own since, begins previewing Tuesday at the Chelsea Theatre Center located in the Brooklyn Academy of Music, 30 Lafayette Ave., Brooklyn (783-2434).
I sat in on a rehearsal the other afternoon. The stage manager cried, "Quiet, please, places!" and "We need God!" The actors portray the tarot deck characters, and one of them, the Hermit, also is interpreted as a form of God in the play. "God" got up with his lantern and the actor playing the Hanged Man stood on his head as he does for the entire 40 minutes of the first act (a feat he achieves by going into a yoga-like trance), and McCord, as the tarot deck's Fool, mimed being born. Suddenly "God" swung his lantern too hard and it went crashing to the stage. Everyone broke up and someone yelled, "Hey, your power's gone!"
In the ensuing break, Rubber Duck - the name with which McCord is registered at Equity - sat down and filled in his background: born in Manhattan, aspirations to both sculpture and acting, studied mime under Jean-Louise Barrault in Paris, digressed to Denmark, fell in with a gypsy's daughter and met her mother, from whom he got the works - palm, numerological, astrological, and tarot readings. Back in the U.S.A., he formed a pantomime company in San Francisco, where the directors of the Chelsea Theatre saw one of his plays, "Tarot," and brought him east to do an expanded version of it as part of their series.
What will interest some people most about the show are its musicians, the Rubber Band, who joined forces with the Rubber Duck company this year. They're headed by Tom Constanten, who used to play organ with the Grateful Dead. Constanten did 90% of the show's score, with a bit of assist from the other musicians and former associate Jerry Garcia. Garcia will sit in with Rubber Band for some of the previews, opening night Dec. 8, and maybe a few other dates, but he has Dead commitments.
A man who never seems to run out of energy, Garcia came walking in at 2:30 p.m. to rehearse although he had been up till dawn playing a Hell's Angels-sponsored concert at the Anderson. The other musicians include Paul Dresher on guitar and flute, Jim Byers on classical guitar, Art Fayer on violin, Wes Steele on bass and cello, and Chicken Hirsch (of the Country Joe troupe) on drums.
Publicists for "Tarot" conscientiously refrain from calling it a rock musical because that's hardly a novel concept any more, but it doesn't keep the ads from referring to it as "an occult communal phantasmagoria in mime and music." The only words in the show will be lyrics for two songs.
Nothing heavy is intended, just entertainment, said Duck during the break while Garcia set up his pedal steel guitar and Constanten on a facing platform noodled around with "Tumblin' Tumbleweeds."
"The first act is the presentation of the tarot characters," Duck said. "The second act is the gypsy's reading and ones I did later."
What card patterns does he use, I asked, and what written text does he follow for interpretation? "You don't have to do that," he replied. "Just lay them out and look at the pictures. How you interpret them is up to you."
Gradually it came to me: Why, it's just like what we do when we flip off the alarm clock in the morning, turn on the radio, stare out the window, and decried "good day" or "bad day." That's tarot.

(by Ernest Leogrande, from the "Night Owl Reporter" column, the New York Daily News, 27 November 1970) 

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Aug 2, 2019

March 13, 1971: Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI

This is kind of a lost show: the tape is in the Vault but does not circulate. I had hoped to turn up a review, but could not find anything. I did locate a couple pre-show announcements.

From Rick Shaull's "Music Review" column, the Joint Issue, March 1, 1971:

The Grateful Dead are coming to East Lansing, March 13. They will play at Jennison. Tickets will probably go on sale this week at the usual places... 
The Dead, one of the innovators of the “Acid-Rock” scene, have progressed to a tight, soft rock country orientated band. Within the last year, they have released two albums, one of which - "Workingman's Dead" - broke top forty ground. Their latest album, called "American Beauty," is country gospel orientated with some fine vocal work highlighted on such numbers as “Ripple” and “Truckin.”
So, if you can scrape the bread together, you oughta go hear the Dead jam up for four hours. Far FarKing OuT.?!

The Joint Issue was the underground paper of Lansing; oddly the next issue didn't review this show, but carried a reprint of Mike Baron's review of the 3/14 Milwaukee show.

The Michigan State U student newspaper, the State News, also didn't review the 3/13 show - the Dead played right before spring break, during which the paper closed for two weeks! But there were a couple announcements in the last issue of winter term, March 12 (I didn't check earlier issues).

The last weekend of winter term offers the Grateful Dead, five plays, and five on-campus films.
GRATEFUL DEAD – Tickets are still available for Saturday night’s 7:30 p.m. concert in Jenison Fieldhouse. Considered by some to be one of the best groups in rock music today, the Dead are scheduled to perform four hours in a show that will be divided into three parts: acoustic, country-blues-and-folk, and electric.

The future direction of the ASMSU Pop Entertainment series will be determined by the manner in which the crowd handles itself Saturday night at the Grateful Dead concert. Behavior at the last few rock concerts on campus has left much to be desired. Aisles have been blocked with chairs; “No Smoking” signs have been completely ignored; gate crashing has occurred.
Such activities cannot continue. If rock concerts on campus cannot be held without a multiplicity of hazards, then rock concerts will not be held on campus.
It seems, though, that everyone should be able to handle themselves within the framework of the fire laws and enjoy the Grateful Dead at the same time. Sure, moving your chair will get you about 10 or 20 feet closer to the stage, but what happens should a fire start? Do we want to make the front page of the New York Times that bad?
And, right, we don’t expect everyone to sit through the concert straight. But did you ever think of smoking before the concert?
Finally, a lot of people have mistaken ideas about who is profiting from Pop Entertainment concerts. ASMSU is not “ripping off” anybody. To see groups of the caliber of the Dead, Sly, and the Byrds, one would usually have to pay at least $5 in Detroit. Top price is $3.50 at Jenison.
The Dead concert can go either way. It can either be the last of a good thing or proof that local rock fans are mature enough to understand the present situation and proceed accordingly.
The rock concerts are for the fans and, ironically, it may be the fans that cause them to be canceled.

Lansing's mainstream newspaper, the Lansing State Journal, of course did not bother to cover the Dead show except for the police report.

From the Lansing State Journal, 15 March 1971:

During the rock concert of The Grateful Dead in Jenison Fieldhouse Saturday night, Michigan State University police:
- Took into custody a girl who was found to have marijuana in her possession.
- Took from a youth a glove and wrist band, both of which had nails protruding.
- Discovered five juveniles who were in violation of the curfew laws. Parents of three of them were summoned to pick up their children, a fourth was released on his own recognizance when the parents could not be contacted, and the fifth, a 14-year-old, was taken to the juvenile home...