Album Reviews

The Grateful Dead – Road Trips Vol. 4 No. 2 and 3

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The Grateful Dead
Road Trips Vol. 4 No.2 April Fools ’88
Road Trips Vol. 4 No.3 Denver ’73

(Rhino)

By now you know that no matter the PR adjectives—Fireworks! Majesty! Psychedelicornucopia!—these archival Dead releases are all just a state of mind. 1972-73 were watershed years for Garcia and company. Denver ’73 is a slow starter, not gathering steam until midway through disc one when solid runs on “Big Railroad Blues,” “Mexicali Blues” and an extremely tight and jumpy “They Love Each Other” stoke the head engines towards higher planes. Donna Jean’s often tuneless yelps and yowls do get more unforgiving as time passes, but Jerry’s dancing surgical strikes come in playful flurries, while Weir and Godchaux get especially jazzy throughout the hour-long jams comprising discs two and three.

Despite the success of 1987’s In The Dark, I had given up on the band by the mid ’80s. Mired in past glories, Garcia’s rehabs were more important than the music. Then I began to read the insider accounts and found quotes like “by ’88 we were floggin’ a dead horse” and figured I was right all along. But this spry and popping set from the Brendan Byrne Arena, the first ever official CD release of live material from 1988, begs to differ. From the get-go, the band is charging with “Jack Straw,” “To Lay Me Down,” “When Push Comes To Shove,” Cumberland Blues,” “Deal” and never lets up. Diverse and downright madcap, this set will keep you dancing!

—Mike Jurkovic

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