Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Album Review: Grateful Dead - Dave's Pick's Volume 50: 5/3-4/77 Palladium NYC

Grateful Dead
Dave's Picks 50:
5/3&4/77 Palladium NYC
***and1/2 out of *****

Standard disclaimer: When reviewing the Dave's Picks series, and really any Grateful Dead release at this point, it needs to be noted that a lot of the truly great shows from the band have already been professionally released. (If new to the band, check out RtBE's Beginners Guide to The Grateful Dead Part's one and two.) With their vast back catalog on and all of their previous releases, the band's selections are running thin when it comes to must own, professionally released shows.

That said, this series still exists for a reason, obsessive fans (like RtBE) will always listen to anything from The Grateful Dead as Dave and his team continue to unearth rare gems.

One of the most beloved months in the Grateful Dead's career which already has had so many professional releases, scrutiny, and fan adoration, is May 1977. Perhaps the Europe '72 could make a case as being just as well loved, however May '77 is a truly special time for the Dead, as they have released a box set, a host of Dave's and Dick's picks and their most famous show of all-time.  

The quality of playing from the band during this time period (and recording quality) is top notch and that continues for Dave's 50 which presents the 5/3/77 with added bonus tracks from 5/4, both at the Palladium in NYC. While the show (and especially the bonus disk/added 5/4 tracks) are solid, there is a reason they were held onto until now, they aren't as amazing as other shows from that same month.    

That is not to say there isn't a lot for fans to enjoy here. The first set of 5/3 finds Jerry Garcia focused on his ballads which gives the proceedings a more mellow vibe. Tracks like "Peggy-O" and "Row Jimmy" sound glorious with Garcia's tone ringing brightly however more upbeat numbers like "Bertha" never ignite and dropping a late set "Ship of Fools" feels out of place.  Weir seems to want to push the band and an early "Jack Straw" is a highlight, as is the quick pairing of "Lazy Lightning" > "Supplication" and the closer "The Music Never Stopped". 

Joining Weir and Garcia on vocals, Donna Jean Godchaux sounds in top notch form, supporting wonderfully on all the efforts. The second set for 5/3 really starts to click with "Samson and Delilah" as the drummers Mickey Hart & Bill Kreutzmann kick start Garcia to deliver excellent guitar lines. The full band locks in for another fantastic version of a fan favorite "Friend of the Devil" as everything just slips into place on a song that can be a bit bewildering live as Garcia takes command and delivers. 

His twinkling guitar also highlights an upbeat "Eyes of the World" which leads into what is labeled "Space" here but is really just a Jerry solo that he brings into the highlight song on this night, "Wharf Rat". This is a stand out version that soars before an awkward transition into "Drums". "Not Fade Away" is OK if a bit wandering while "Around and Around" feels the same way to end the set. A very nicely played "Uncle John's Band" closes the night on a high note but overall the show feels slightly below average for a May'77 effort from the Dead, which is still really good in the overall sense of their career. 

What gives this release that special bit extra is the bonus disk and added material from 5/4/77. "Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo" and "Big River" are both fun workouts while the slower paced "They Love Each Other" is fine, if not particularly memorable. Where things really start cooking is on the extended, disco infused take of "Dancing In The Streets" as the band lets loose and bassist Phil Lesh dominates, leading the band on and on; this is a real gem of live take on the classic song.    

The bonus disk is also worth seeking out. After a sparse, still finding it's way live, "Estimated Prophet" the band digs in for their "Scarlett Begonias">"Fire On The Mountain" combo which really kicks up in the second half. The stoic "Terrapin Station" is perfectly displayed and leads to a fantastic combo of "Playing In The Band" > "Comes A Time" > "Playing In The Band Reprise" that is adventurous, gorgeous, and simply fantastic overall. 

If you are new to The Grateful Dead there are better places to start than Dave's Picks 50, however long time fans will find a lot to like from this release as the solid month of May '77 gets another professionally released show added to it. 
Support the band, buy the album and peep some video below:

No comments:

Post a Comment