Golden Road (1965-1973)
Part Nine: Bear's Choice: History of the Grateful Dead, Vol. 1
The Music Box's #1 specialty package for 2001
First Appeared in The Music Box, August 2001, Volume 9, #8
Written by John Metzger
Bear's Choice: History of the Grateful Dead, Vol. 1
Despite its title, History of the Grateful Dead, Volume 1 is not a retrospective collection. Instead, it offers concert highlights from the Grateful Dead's February 13 and February 14, 1970 performances at the legendary Fillmore East. There's no question that these were two magnificent moments in the band's history, but one definitely wouldn't know it from the music contained on this album. In fact, Dick's Picks, Volume 4 offers a much better glimpse at these shows.
What History of the Grateful Dead, Volume 1 becomes, then, is a tribute of sorts to Pigpen, who died while the album was being prepared. Not surprisingly, it is a bit of a solemn affair — featuring a dreary Katie Mae, a somber Black Peter, a world-weary I've Been All Around This World, and a meditative Smokestack Lightnin' — rather than the Grateful Dead's typically joyous celebration.
To be fair, the songs are all well-executed, and the music does harken back to the band's roots as a blues-based ensemble rather than the jazzier group it was about to become. But the individual selections just fit better within the context of the concerts from which they came than they do side-by-side on this album. For better or for worse, the bonus tracks included on the recent reissue (Good Lovin', Big Boss Man, another Smokestack Lightnin', and Sitting on Top of the World) continue along this theme, and although each is solidly performed, none manage to save the disc from being the least essential part of an otherwise spectacular box set.
This is the ninth installment of a nine-part series, which
examines The Golden Road (1965-1973) album by album. The
entire set is rated:
The Golden Road (1965-1973)
Bear's Choice: History of the Grateful Dead, Volume 1 is available
from Barnes & Noble. To order, Click Here!
Bear's Choice: History of the Grateful Dead, Volume 1 is also part
of the box set Golden Road (1965-1973), which is available from
Barnes & Noble. To order, Click Here!
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2002 The Music Box