Wednesday, March 1, 2023

Album Review: Grateful Dead - Dave's Picks 45: Paramount Theater Portland 10/1-2/77

Grateful Dead
Dave's Picks 45: Paramount Theater Portland 10/1,2/77
**** out of *****

The most recent entry to the series, Dave's Picks 45 drives that train back in time to October 1st and 2nd 1977 for back to back shows at the Paramount Theater in Portland, OR. 1977 is a beloved year in Grateful Dead history with many official live releases, however most releases focus on earlier in the year (excluding the excellent Road Trips Vol 1 #2). These October shows give hints as to where the band was going in 1978, namely, more revved up songs. 

This being the Grateful Dead, things aren't speed metal levels, but there is more noticeable upbeat playing on this release. Perhaps it was the bands love of the Pacific Northwest, the chemical concoctions ingested or the energy of a successful year, but the band is raring to go. 

Dave makes note that the first few songs from 10/1 are taken from an audience source recording and are in rough shape sonically, things improve, but be warned the sound is not up to these releases high levels until "Dire Wolf". Overall, 10/1's first set isn't very noteworthy and the weakest on this release. There is a sped up "Cassidy" with nice key work from Keith Godchaux, a rocking "Passenger", and a solid "The Music Never Stopped" set closer. When the highlight of the set is a hot "Minglewood Blues" though you know the band is leaving a lot in the tank.

The second set improves right off the bat.  "Bertha" is a light and airy opener with the full band following Jerry Garcia's leads but the Bob Weir led tracks this second set really cook as "Good Lovin'" continues to dominate '77 with another very strong version along with a wah-wah drenched "Estimated Prophet". While both Weir and Garcia front the band, both of these shows are very clearly driven by the bands drummers, Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann who push and pull things along, sometimes at break neck pace (for the Dead).        

That drummer led pounding pushes this version of "Eyes of the World" forward with lots of energy and good playing, melding into a pumping version of "Dancing In The Streets" as the disco Dead strut out with confidence. Billy and Mickey never let up beating on the "Drums" and charging into "Not Fade Away". Things screech to a halt with the ballad "Black Peter" before wrapping up with a cover of Chuck Berry's "Around and Around", while nowhere near must-hear, the very lively second set makes 10/1/77 a fine effort from the band.

The second show, 10/2/77, is set to be special right from the jump as the band decides to bust out "Casey Jones" for the first time in years. While Jerry may have forgotten the songs structure, this uniquely jammed out version acts as a stakes raising show opener and ties in beautifully with this releases album art. Again the drummers set the energetic pace as "Jack Straw" is jacked on up, moving quickly throw the paces. A solo spotlight for Donna Jean Godchaux for "Sunrise" is a fine outing while "Brown Eyed Women" has Garcia missing some lyrics but playing damn fine. 

There are two more first set highlights, a very well played version of "Dupree's Diamond Blues" finds Garcia singing strongly (and nailing the lyrics) while "Let It Grow" is the most exploratory song of the first set with a driving percussion once again leading the away as Garcia's Latin tinged, southwest flavored, lead guitar lines discover nuanced spaces; a crisp version.    

The drummers keep up their MVP status to start off the second set as "Samson and Delilah" bounces out with raucous energy. 1977 was also the year "Scarlett Begonias > Fire on the Mountain" became an upper echelon jam vehicle for the band and this pairing is a delight on all fronts. Garcia's lead lines in both are magical as he directs the group through the grooving numbers, Phil Lesh ties the interchange between the two songs beautifully, while the drummers slow their pace just a touch to allow the heads and hips to bob and weave; the highlight section of this whole release. 

The frantic energy kicks back in for "Playin' In The Band" which seems to go a bit too fast for it's own good, but does have some interesting electro key work from Godchaux. A solid version of "The Wheel" comes out of "Drums" while the band dives into it the finale of the show with a strong run of tunes to close. "Truckin'" is a dynamite adventure that repeats and increases drum work banging into a brief foray into "The Other One" before dripping easily into "Wharf Rat". A gorgeous rendition of the ballad finds great harmonies between the singers before the set closing "Sugar Magnolia" and the encore "Johnny B Goode" wrap up a phenomenal second set and great overall show with a special focus on the drumming. 

While it is nice that Dave's Picks #45 includes 10/1, it is 10/2 which really is the shinning star of this release. If you are new to the Dead, start elsewhere, but for long time fans there is a lot to like regarding Dave's 45. 
Support the band, buy the album and peep some video below (not official sound)

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