Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Album Review: Grateful Dead - Dave's Picks 39: 4/26/83 Spectrum, Philadelphia

Grateful Dead 
Dave's Picks 39: 4/26/83 
Spectrum Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
**and1/2 out of *****

Back in 2018 we discussed Dave's Picks in length, it was the first time we were reviewing a release in this series and wanted to correctly place it in the context of the Dead's music/official releases.  Now Dave's Picks has gone on longer than its predecessor Dick's Picks and choosing what to release is probably a difficult task. 

Like that review back in 2018 the newest Dick's Picks release comes from 1983, not the most banner year for the band. There is also a reason that 9/2/83 Boise State University Pavilion, Idaho show was released as Dave's Picks #27 and 4/26/83 Spectrum Philadelphia, Pennsylvania was held until Dave's Picks #39 years later; the Boise show is simply better. 

That's not to say there aren't interesting moments, exciting playing and things worth checking out on #39 but overall the average listener is not missing much if you skip this release. For the completists and Dead Heads they already know that the cassette tapes of the early to mid 80's make for some different sounding shows. Dave Lemieux and his production team did the best job they could but at various times sounds shift and things get a bit warped. 

The opening "Shakedown Street" (oddly the first one to appear on a Dave's Pick release) is a prime example as Phil Lesh's bass drops bombs about 3/4ths of the way through that shake speakers but his low end can get completely lost in the mix on other songs. The other noticeable oddity is the deterioration of Jerry Garcia's singing voice (also mentioned when reviewing #27) as some of his vocals are rough.  However, his lead guitar playing can still be sharp and cutting, see his blazing solo work on "Mexicali Blues", his skittering take on "Let It Grow" and "Morning Dew" which also has plenty of those Lesh bombs throughout.

It is not just Jerry though, the normally strong Brent Mydland, whose 80's injection was much needed, seems tired vocally here, even when he gets to play the rare "Maybe You Know" a Spencer Davis Group inspired tune filtered through an 80's time warp. On the better side of things is Bob Weir, vocally on point throughout the show from a pumped up "New Minglewood Blues" through a damn good combo of "Throwing Stones" > "Not Fade Away" Weir carries the tunes flowingly. 

The best musical passage arrives in the form of the "Shakedown Street" jam, the grooving "Men Smart, Women Smarter" which finds Jerry and Brent trading freaky licks and a dynamite "Help on the Way" > "Slipknot!" > "Franklins Tower" trio whose transition through the middle passage and final movement is fraught with danger and warbling on the edge; thrilling stuff.

This release also has a hefty chunk of bonus material from the previous night at the Spectrum with the second half of that shows second set represented. After a better than normal "Space" segment where the drummers Billy Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart stay out to participate, the 4/25 show delivers a cool "Wheel" > "Playin' in the Band Reprise" combo along with some rocking upbeat numbers including a jacked up "Going Down The Road Feeling Bad" and the "Satisfaction" encore, but the whole offering is a bit rickety at times. 

Also included are two songs from the 4/15/83 Rochester War Memorial show. "He's Gone" finds both Jerry and Brent in better voice while the rare "Little Star" is a psychedelic wandering with "Spoonful" teases, feeling like it could have been apart of the "Lost Sailor" > "Saint of Circumstance" saga.  

Overall not a must hear offering from the band, and there are better official releases from this era of the, Dick's Picks #6Dave's Picks #27, but it is always worth checking in on the Grateful Dead. 

Support the band, buy the album and peep some video below:
(Not the official audio from Dave's Picks #39)

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