Deadheads have long regarded New York City shows to be among the band’s finest. Filmed during a 1980 stint at Radio City Music Hall, the newly reissued Dead Ahead is no exception. The inclusion of a rare acoustic set makes this collection even more special.
Although the Grateful Dead were primarily an electric band, their acoustic music had an understated charm of its own. While quiet and subtle, the acoustic tunes still retain the free-wheeling improvisation that fans have come to love. A meditative “Birdsong” morphs into an ethereal jam; while Jerry Garcia and bassist Phil Lesh churn out daring licks, Brent Mydland’s gently rolling piano chords keep the music grounded. Mydland had only been in the band for a year and a half when Dead Ahead was recorded, yet it’s striking to hear how well he and the band mesh musically. His keyboard playing adds muscle to blues workouts like “Don’t Ease Me In” and “Red Rooster” and fleshes out the sound on crowd pleasers “Franklin’s Tower” and “Ramble On Rose.”
Previously unreleased tracks include a spirited “Shakedown Street” and a gorgeous rendition of “He’s Gone.” Outstanding sound and picture quality round out the package.
– Jon Kleinmann