“Grateful Dead in 1976” – Road Trips 4.5 – A Review
The Grateful Dead of 1976 was one of my favorite configurations. Back from a time off in 1975, the members went their own ways for awhile. They sounded refreshed and ready to play.
I am listening to the Dead’s last Road Trip’s Series which is my first one, it is the releases which followed Dick’s Picks(Latvala), and now will make way for Dave’s Picks (Lemieux). This is their Third show back of the small theater tour they did. They would play usually multiple nights at a smaller than huge venue. In Boston and Philly , they did 4 night stands. Tickets were available by mail order to Deadheads first. I got the best seats ever for a Dead show, two third row seats. The Tower Theatre in Philly seats about 2,000. The vibe of these shows is mellow and intimate. Donna’s singing is coming into her own, and sort of has to, as Phil is not singing at this point. Mixed in with recent Dead material, were playing some Jerry Garcia Band songs and Kingfish songs(a group that Weir played in during 75, a country rock type group, they put out one album, a good one, in my opinion, I saw them ,the previous year.
They played the two songs “Lazy Lightning” and “Supplication” by Kingfish on the Road Trips disc and from the JGB, “They Love Each Other” and “Mission In the Rain” from “Reflections” by the JGB.
A beautiful version of “Crazy Fingers” is on the Road Trips disc. Garcia is playing a white Travis Bean guitar, which he played for about a year. It tonally gave him some great tone, though it took a while for him to get it dialed in, after playing the heavily tricked out Irvin “Wolf” guitar which he was used to. The sound quality of this record is like a good Dick’s Picks and it contains a caveat on it about how it is a snapshot of history, not a modern professional recording. The quality is good enough, not to need a caveat, but I think there had been some complaints about the quality of a former recording, I guess that they wanted to give themselves a way out. For the most part, I really like the sound quality. Garcia’s vocals are low in a lot of the mix, depending on song. They are getting away from the Wall Of Sound which they had used on their last tour to a down sized system that they rented for a trial of shows.
It is fun to hear them start out the second set with “St Stephen”, a song which I do not think had been played in a while. Sounds like some of the beginning is lost or it was part of a segway from another song. Very good version of “Eyes Of The World ” next, both on the mellow side. Next, they play a part of the Weather Report trilogy “Let It Grow”, which is different, but good. A lot of songs on this Road Trips, I heard a few weeks later in Philly which was a more upbeat show, with a lot more reverb. I had heard an interview with Jeffrey Norman about mixing the Dead, He mastered this CD set. He said that Garcia always liked too much reverb on his guitar, so he would take it out in the mastering process. I don’t know about this, you are trying to present the music the way that the group liked it, but you change it to your own tastes? A little more reverb would have been nice to warm up the mix. Jerry plays one of his best solos on ” Ship Of Fools”, He was not really jamming alot this night or playing lots of extended leads.
Weir was playing a custom Ibanez instead of his Gibson 335 which he had been using and it changed his tone, The Gibson was a hollow body. Nice booklet by Blair Jackson describing the show with some nice pics. To fill out the space on Disc 3, they added some songs from June 12 to the CD. The Original Show ends with a raucous “Round and Round” which at first I thoght was a gliche, but it wasn’t, towards the end of the song, they actually gallup into double speed, quite a feat, Jerry playing almost mandolin style. All in all, a good show, they were still working themselves back into shape after being off for awhile. The songs from June 12 were really nice. A Sugar Magnolia with a US Blues in the middle of it. I think that I had heard them do that once before.