Thursday, December 29, 2022

Album Review: Grateful Dead - Dave's Picks 44: Autzen Stadium in Eugene, Oregon 6/23/90

Grateful Dead
Dave's Picks 44: 
Autzen Stadium in Eugene, Oregon June 23, 1990
***and1/2 out of *****

The final Dave's Picks of 2022 goes back to summer of 1990, just like the final Dave's Picks of 2021. Spring and Summer 1990 were the last consistently top notch tours of the Dead's career and archivist David Lemieux has made the most of them. 

While that 2021 release was the last shows with keyboardist Brent Mydland, this show was a bit earlier in the summer and has more of a laid back vibe; perhaps it was the Pacific Northwest surroundings or just something in the air. It could have been something in the water as well as Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters were at the show and contributed, but before that there was a good start to things. 

The tone is set from the opening pairing of "Feel Like A Stranger" and "West L.A. Fadeaway" as both are restrained, lazily looping along and turn out to be the highlights of the first set. They are also both funky for the Dead with Phil Lesh's bass leading things while the band stretches out easily; Lesh would prove to be the MVP on this night and shows it right from the start. 

The band's dip into their cowboy/country songs are less successful as "Me and My Uncle" and "Cumberland Blues" are average at best, while Mydland's "Far From Me" has strong singing from the keyboardist but is a bit off-kilter. Better is "They Love Each Other" as that opening groove returns but Jerry Garcia's voice starts off a bit harsh, only a minor issue though. 

Phil and the drummers Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart push "Cassidy" higher while "Tennessee Jed" pleasantly strolls around the bass with much stronger singing from Garcia. The set wraps up with a strange "Promised Land" as the microphone gremlins seem to be playing tricks on the band and Garcia and Bob Weirs guitars are to low in the mix. Overall, not a must hear first set by any means, but a easy going frolic of OK Dead offerings. 

Things instantly pick up for the second set as the band starts with one of their better late era versions of "Eyes of the World". While this might not be as epic as say their 8/6/74 version or their earlier in the year outing with Branford Marsalis, it is still a very engaging effort once again lead by Phil and the drummers who drop some mega bombs. Not to say Garcia doesn't hold his own as he plays some beautiful lines and dips into some flute like midi effects; a strong effort all around.

Eyes leads into "Looks Like Rain" which itself is perfectly played and sung by Weir with added help from the Merry Pranksters' who fired up Ron Boise's Thunder Machine towards the end of the song adding perfect sound effects to deliver a memorable version of the tune. "Crazy Fingers" is always appreciated even if this version is fairly tame while the "Playing In The Band" > "Uncle John Band's" > "Playin In the Band Reprise" again finds some funky pranksters messing with the sounds as well as Jerry and Bobby using wah-wah effects with success.      

The band comes out of their "Drums > Space" segment with an excellent version of "The Wheel" where Garcia delivers stunning guitar lines, especially towards thr end the song, which beautifully drips into a dynamite rendition of "I Need A Miracle" digging into the groove while Jerry keeps ripping. There is one more perfect segue left on the night as the band proceeds into "Morning Dew", Lesh who dominated the whole show, continues to drop huge bass bombs and just as they started the set with a great late era version of a classic they wrap up the set with another as this "Morning Dew" is a doozy.    

Dave's Picks 44 wraps with the encore of "One More Saturday Night" and a tacked on "Cold Rain and Snow" from Dave's Picks 43 which couldn't fit on that three CD release. As stated in the Dave's Picks 40 review, this era (Spring/Summer 1990) of the Dead's playing has been very well documented, so this isn't a must own show, but for Dead Heads (RtBE included) this is a high quality, laid back show with extra production values and incredible work from Lesh, raising it up a notch and definitely worth a listen.  
Support the artist, buy the album and peep some video below:
(Not official audio from Dave' Picks 44)

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