Dick's Picks Volume 12
Civic Center / Boston Garden
Providence, RI / Boston, MA
[June 26 & 28, 1974]
First Appeared in The Music Box February 1999, Volume 6, #2
Written by John Metzger
These days, the Grateful Dead organization is churning out a variety of discs in an almost alarming fashion. In one sense it's great to see so much of this music finally seeing the light of day, but on the other hand, the pace is so quick that it's nearly impossible to thoroughly digest each album before the next one comes around. Even if you only purchase Grateful Dead-oriented releases, it's still difficult to keep up, and this is certainly not a strategy I recommend given all the other great music that is available.
Nevertheless, the Dick's Picks series continues to pump out amazing quality shows — from both a sound and performance standpoint. Volume 12 revisits 1974 — a phenomenal year in the band's history — and compiles most of the second set from June 26 in Providence, Rhode Island and all of the second set from June 28 in Boston.
This package is once again a must for fans of Phil Lesh. His bass playing is absolutely stunning throughout this three-disc compilation as he simultaneously manages to anchor the bottom end of each song, guide the rhythm section, and take his turn at soloing.
Just listen to the trio of Lesh, Jerry Garcia, and Bob Weir on the introduction to China Cat Sunflower that opens the first disc. Garcia's guitar sang with that familiar heavenly beauty, while Lesh engaged him in a duel, fueling the intensity of the song. Meanwhile, Weir added his unique rhythmic flavor in the open spaces between the two leads, magically connecting the twin melodies and creating a mood of absolute joy.
This is what improvisational music is all about, folks — that pure, unadulterated, supernatural moment where the musical beast becomes a singular entity capable of shaping all of the universe's cosmic energy into a massive ball of unbridled emotion. Whatever your mood, just listen to these opening tracks and watch your spirit become instantaneously lifted.
There's plenty of other highlights from the Providence show, including a beautiful rendition of Wharf Rat that was delivered late in the set. The group allowed the song to simmer, and as the narrator walked away from August West, Garcia unleashed a fiery solo that brought the song to a rousing conclusion. (In addition, Grateful Dead historians should take note of the thirty seconds that precedes Wharf Rat. This segment includes a series of chords from Weir that bear a striking resemblance to the later-penned introduction to Saint of Circumstance).
The Boston show is even better. Sugar Magnolia was a joyous opening to the second set, but before the band could conclude the song, Garcia changed direction, leading the band into a rousing Scarlet Begonias. He also delivered a tear-jerking To Lay Me Down that stood in dramatic contrast between two of Weir's boisterous cowboy cover songs — Big River and Me & My Uncle.
However, the highlight of Volume 12 is clearly the third disc, which concludes the Boston concert. Weir's Weather Report Suite began as a gentle, rolling melody that sprouted and grew with each passing note. Let It Grow erupted like a summer downpour, and its conclusion dissipated into a sparse, space jam, as if to capture the feeling of calmness after a storm. Much like the clouds parting to reveal the healing light of the sun, the band gradually regrouped and mutated the musical theme into a beautiful Mind Left Body Jam. A brief Dark Star Jam ensued, before the band again changed direction and headed into what sounds very similar to the underlying rhythm they used when performing James Brown's It's a Man's World.
These sets have been widely available in excellent quality on the tape trading circuit for some time. However, it's nice to see them recognized and included in the Dick's Picks series with the jams intact rather than devastated by a poorly timed tape flip that's nearly impossible to avoid. ½
Dick's Picks, Volume 12 is available from Barnes & Noble.
To order, please Click Here!
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 1999 The Music Box