Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Album Review: The Grateful Dead - Dave's Picks #27

The Grateful Dead
Dave's Picks #27 
9/2/83 Boise State University Pavilion, Idaho
***and 1/2 out of *****

There is no shortage of Grateful Dead music out in the world today. There is the Internet Archive, there is the fantastic Relisten app and there is of course all of the official releases that seem to come out in all shapes and forms these days, Box Sets, Collections and the ongoing Dave's Picks series which started in 2012.

After the immensely successful Dicks Pick's series (named after tape vault archivist Dick Latvala and started in 1993) brought a full generation into the band's legacy with expert show selection and quality recordings the series ended when Latvala passed away. The archivists moved into the (underrated in RtBE's opinion) Road Trip Series which focused on show highlights as compared to full concerts.

Dave's Pick's went back to the that more popular formula, showcasing obscure shows from some far out locations and it took up until release #27 for them to get to the mid 80's one of the most maligned eras in Dead history. The band was about to hit a wall, Jerry was only a few years away from his diabetic coma and in general the players and crew were not happy in the mid-80's for various reasons; The Grateful Dead almost didn't make it out of the heart of the decade.

You need to dig deeper in the early 80's to find a good show (unlike say '72 or '77) and that is just what current tape archivist David Lemieux did. The board recording comes from a cassette tape captured by Dan Healey which was expertly mastered by Jeffrey Norman for this release. The sound is utterly amazing as those involved did everything they could to put the listener in Boise on this night with the best seat in the house.

Shockingly this is the only time the road warrior outfit ever played the state of Idaho and the band is a fun loving mood with Phil introducing the takeover. The concert has special vibe as the band selects "Wang Dang Doodle" as the opener marking only the second time they had tackled it onstage. The bluesy beginning drips into a powerful version of "Jack Straw" and Phil Lesh's bass in particular sounds thunderous in the mix throughout.

A pretty "They Love Each Other" and soulful "Brown Eyed Women", have Jerry forgetting a few words (reoccurring theme this evening) but using his six string expertly around the upbeat "Mama Tried" > "Big River" pairing which lets Brent Mydland and Bobby Weir tag team some twang.

It is the close of the first set where the band kicks this show into a second gear as the "Big Rail Road Blues", "Looks Like Rain" > "Deal" trio elevate the night. The energy of "Big Rail Road Blues" flows from both drummers Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzman, the whole band hops on board as conductor Garcia leads the fiery way; this is the best version of the song RtBE has ever come across.

While "Looks Like Rain" can become sappy and dull this version is anything but, really playing up the drama as Weir croons the tune before the band drops into possibly their longest version of "Deal" ever; just check out that guitar solo to end as Garcia picks up where he left off in"Big Rail Road Blues"; this "Deal" rivals 7/19/89 as the best in the groups history.     

The second set starts with the segue trio "Help on the Way > Slipknot! > Franklin's Tower" with Garcia forgetting most of the words to the opener but playing extra hard through the end including a very powerful "Slipknot!". The "Estimated Prophet" is par for the course rendition as is "Eyes of the World" (which features some audience tape in the middle) as the versions of both of these are fine but far from must hear. The end of Eyes however lends itself to some unique strumming and playing before "Drums" as Bobby and Brent start noodling around during "Jam". This sense of musical experimentation leads to a very listenable "Space" (don't skip this one) before a bouncing version of "Throwing Stones".

Garcia may not have had his singing/lyrical chops on this night, but he surprisingly pulls everything together to close out the show with an engaging "Black Peter" (not normally one of RtBE's favorites) and an upbeat "Sugar Magnolia". Jerry's most heartfelt vocals were saved for the encore on this night as "It's All Over Now Baby Blue" shows how dynamic Bob Dylan covers are when the Dead decide to tackle them.   

We here at RtBE are huge Dead fans, (see this for more) so giving this a Star Rating is tough. Comparatively to all the excellent records released this year, this is solid, but nothing earth shattering. If you are new to the Dead, Dave's Picks #27 isn't the greatest place to start (go with the old standby Cornell '77) but for people who are fans already, looking for a quality show from an underrepresented era of the groups history, presented with pristine sound, where every player was pretty on-point, this is a damn good listen.
Support the band, buy the album and peep some video below (Please note: this isn't the remastered sound you get on the official recording):

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