Dick’s Picks 28 4-CD box set
Real Gone Music
BluesWax Rating: 8 out of 10
Two Sweet February ’73 Shows
As many of these Dick’s Picks series continue to go out of print at www.Dead.net with limited availability, it sure is sweet to have the folks at Real Gone Music reissuing these gems. Dick’s Picks 28 consists of two complete shows from February of 1978. The bandmembers at this time consisted of founding members Jerry Garcia (guitar), Phil Lesh (bass), Bob Weir (guitar), and Bill Kreutzmann (drums), plus the later-added husband-and-wife team of Donna and Keith Godchaux on vocals and piano. Interestingly, in the credits Pigpen is listed as in the band “in spirit,” but he passed less than two weeks after (March 3, 1973) these two shows were performed. All in all, there’s a lot of music here on four CDs.
The first two discs are taken from the Pershing Municipal Auditorium in Lincoln, Nebraska. The recording date is February 26, 1973. Right from the start it’s apparent that this is going to be a fine show as the Dead rip into Chuck Berry’s “Promised Land,” where it is great to hear Jerry singing “Los Angeles, give me Norfolk, Virginia” with fiery fervor. Other highlights of the first set include the bluesy, traditional “Don’t Ease Me In” and an early version of “Loose Lucy” that’s also very blues based. The band is obviously in a very good mood as they instrumentally toy around with “Beer Barrel Polka” for a minute or so and tear into “Big Railroad Blues.” As first sets went with the Dead, I found it unusual that they did a seventeen-plus-minute version of “Playing In the Band” that I thought might end the set. Not! They gave us three more: “They Love Each Other,” a rollicking “Big River,” and finally concluded the set with “Tennessee Jed.” Set Two rolls with a very strong “Greatest Story Ever Told,” a song that I’d always thought would remain in their repertoire, but didn’t. Next up was a wild twenty-five minute “Dark Star” that finally morphs into a nearly twenty minutes of “Eyes of the World.” I found that having “Mississippi Half Step” next was an odd choice, but all is forgiven as they wrap the night up with approximately fifteen minutes of pure rock ‘n’ roll with “Not Fade Away,” “Goin’ Down the Road Feeling Bad,” back to “Not Fade Away.” I’m sure the audience was pleased. I also thought this was a well-rounded performance that was indicative of what the Dead were about during this rootsy time period.
Two nights later the Dead were at the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City, Utah. The band opens with a tender and mildly funky “Cold Rain and Snow,” followed by an okay cover of “Beat It On Down the Line.” I wasn’t impressed with “They Love Each Other” or “Mexicali Blues,” and thought “Sugaree” was pretty lame. But (a somewhat rare live) “Box of Rain” with Lesh on vocals is a treat. Moving along, Marty Robbins’ “El Paso” shows signs that the band is starting to coagulate, though they follow with a meandering “He’s Gone” that’s awoken from its slumber with a pretty strong Garcia solo that ends the song. “China Cat Sunflower” brilliantly segues (with a very strong instrumental interlude) into the traditional “I Know You Rider” where Garcia is echoing his early/late sixties guitar haunts that I thought would have ended the set, but close on another high-note with Johnny Cash’s “Big River.” Set Two opens with (I really never liked) “Row Jimmy,” but bash into a kicking twelve-minute “Truckin’” with a surprise Lesh bass solo that perfectly sets up a fifteen minute (but pretty weird) “The Other One,” and an equally out-there “Eyes of the World,” a song the Dead had just recorded that gave me the impression that they were test driving for future second-set excursions. The seventeen minutes of “Eyes of the World” eventually becomes the (always dramatic) “Morning Dew” that finds Garcia’s first solo breathtaking. Then they take the song down to a whisper where you can hear a pin drop and take it out one more time. Again I thought “Morning Dew” might close the night, but they ripped into a powerhouse “Sugar Magnolia” that finds Weir really egging Jerry on during the instrumental segment that concludes with multiple yelps of (“Sunshine daydreams”) from Weir, Donna, and Jerry. It’s not time to head home just yet as “We Bid You Goodnight” (performed a cappella, no instruments needed) sends the folks home with miles of smiles on their faces.
Thanks to the Real Gone Music label for keeping the Dead’s legacy available. A quick perusal on Amazon tells you that there’s an unquestionable demand for this music. If I had to select which show I liked better I would say I liked the more upbeat mode of the Nebraska performance, but like many the ying and the yang of life, both shows offer positives and negatives, some of which may work better for you than for me. Long story short – I hope Real Gone keeps the Dead vaults alive and accessible to the public. Thank you!
Bob Putignano is a senior contributing editor at BluesWax, a contributing writer at Blues Revue, and the heart and soul of Sounds of Blue.
The Grateful Dead
“Dark Star” into “Eyes of the World”
University of Illinois
February 22, 1973
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