Dick's Picks Volume 11
Stanley Theater - Jersey City
[September 27, 1972]
First Appeared in The Music Box November 1998, Volume 5, #11
Written by John Metzger
Whether you can keep up with all the Grateful Dead-related releases or not, this is yet another fine selection from the Dick's Picks series. Dick's Picks 11 was recorded at the Stanley Theater in Jersey City, New Jersey on September 27, 1972. The audience probably had no idea what kind of wild ride they were about to receive — though the band certainly tipped their hand by serving up a monumental Morning Dew to open the show. The song began gently enough, lulling the audience into a calm complacency before surging towards an apocalyptic conclusion.
The Grateful Dead settled into a comfortable groove for most of the remainder of the first set, choosing to perform selections from their oft-played, country-oriented fare of the time. An up-beat Friend of the Devil, a fiery Tennessee Jed, and a scorching Mexicali Blues are just a few of the tunes that flew by at lightning speed. Only a transcendent Bird Song, an explosive China Cat Sunflower/I Know You Rider, and a deliriously frenetic Playing in the Band gave the group a place to linger and seemed to hint at the glorious fireworks towards which they were working.
A quick glance at the setlist would reveal exactly where the psychedelic pyrotechnics really heated up — a 30-minute epic Dark Star centerpiece in act two. The song began with a slow, deliberate groove that cradled the collective consciousness of the audience. Carried by the shimmering cosmic ray of Jerry Garcia's guitar solo, the band dodged and weaved through Bill Kreutzmann's jazz-tinged cadence as they moved through the vast entity of space. Bob Weir's pulsing rhythm added colorful bursts of light, Keith Godchaux's piano conjured distant twinkling stars, and Phil Lesh's bass punched holes through reality.
It's through one of these holes that the Grateful Dead yanked a tight Cumberland Blues. They cut loose from the cosmic mayhem of Dark Star and headed straight home with a raging urgency — as if their lives depended upon it. It's there that they caught their breath and pondered Attics of My Life — a delicately sweet, post-hallucinogenic lullaby. This is as good as it gets.
Many of the Dick's Picks series appeal primarily to diehard fans. More mainstream observers are left wondering just what the big deal is after limiting their explorations to a selection or two of the Grateful Dead's mediocre studio output. But this band was meant to be heard live, and this disc sums up the diversity of the group's song styles while balancing on a fine line between the all-out exploratory jams and the more focused rock and country selections. For those finding themselves on the mainstream side of things, block out three hours, turn out the lights, and listen to this piece as a complete entity. It will surely change your perspective.
Dick's Picks, Volume 11 is available from Barnes & Noble.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 1998 The Music Box