Dick's Picks 18
Dane County Coliseum / UNI-Dome
Madison, WI / Cedar Falls, IA
[February 3-5, 1978]
First Appeared in The Music Box October 2000, Volume 7, #10
Written by John Metzger
Admittedly, I have a difficult time reviewing the various volumes of the Grateful Dead's ever-expanding Dick's Picks series. I am a Deadhead through and through, and as such, it's hard to quantify the albums in this aural encyclopedia amid any sort of ranking system. True, some of these releases have not been perfect. Yet, each edition has its strong points about which I could rave for hours. Frankly speaking, I love them all. So, when I tell you that the latest addition to the series (Dick's Pick's Volume 18) is one of the best that there is, you'll just have to trust me.
Compiling excerpts from three shows (see note below) in February 1978, this stunning three-disc set demonstrates quite clearly what the Grateful Dead was all about. Of course, there will be those who complain that Dick's Picks 18 does not contain a complete concert. There are indeed instances when that argument would be valid. After all, the Grateful Dead was very much about being in the moment, and each show was its own living, breathing entity. Therefore, taking a song out of context can serve to cast a shadow on the whole. To those complete-ists, however, I suggest they put aside any preconceived notions and give this collection a chance to shine.
The first disc on Dick's Picks 18 is wonderfully orchestrated to capture the ebb and flow of a typical opening set from this period of the Grateful Dead's career. If you did not know any better, you would believe all the material came from the same show in exactly this order. The sequencing is that perfect.
The Grateful Dead quickly found its groove and just kept building the momentum. Every time it appeared that it had peaked, the group managed to push things just a little bit further. The common pairing of Bertha and Good Lovin' sparkled with luminescent exultation; They Love Each Other gently brought two lovers together while Looks Like Rain heartbreakingly tore them apart; and both Passenger and Deal erupted with unbridled, explosive ferocity. The crown jewel of this opening disc, however, is a glorious rendition of The Music Never Stopped. Here the band deliberately took its time, allowing the song to develop at its own pace. Guitar, bass, piano, and percussion meshed together to climb, dip, ascend, dive, swirl, spin, and spiral in unison, and by the end of the song, what had started as a comfortable chugging amble had mutated into a galloping gait.
Understandably, this concluded the first set from the February 3 concert, and it fittingly completes the first disc of Dick's Picks 18. After all, it's seemingly impossible to top it. Yet, somehow the Grateful Dead did — not once but twice, and this is the material that makes up the final two albums of the package.
Estimated Prophet and Eyes of the World were two songs that — in the hands of the Grateful Dead — complemented each other perfectly. It's no wonder they so frequently appeared in combination. On February 3, they worked even better than most as Jerry Garcia took the reins to lead the band into the familiar kaleidoscopic jam that often linked the tunes together. While listening to the CD, it's impossible not to feel the wave of warmth that no doubt crept through the crowd as the joyful strains of Eyes of the World gently drifted out of the far side of Estimated Prophet.
Again, this was only the beginning. Eyes of the World mutated into a celebratory Playing in the Band, which in turn had a few surprises of its own. Anchored by Phil Lesh's pulsating bass line, the central musical interlude was initially quiet and peaceful before it drifted into more chaotic fare. The jam congealed and dissipated several times before the group slipped into The Wheel.
The final disc of Dick's Picks 18 contains the bulk of the material that was performed during the second set on February 5. Following a microphone malfunction, the Grateful Dead turned the introduction to Samson and Delilah into a raging instrumental. Scarlet Begonias and Fire on the Mountain — yet another powerful, but common pairing — was nearly thirty minutes of pure bliss, which words simply cannot describe. Suffice it to say that this was as beautiful and perfect as the band — make that any band — could get.
Amazingly, this is only part of the story. Each of the songs that appear on Dick's Picks 18 is exquisitely performed. Consequently, this is not just a collection for those most rabid of Grateful Dead fans with countless hours of bootleg tapes lying around their abode. Anyone who has wondered just what the big deal was with this band, just might find the answer lurking among the three hours and fifty minutes of music contained in this collection.
Note: Though the packaging indicates this is a two-show compilation, It's All Over Now and Dupree's Diamond Blues were recorded on February 4, 1978 in Milwaukee, thereby making this a three-show set.
Of Further Interest...
Dick's Picks, Volume 18 is available from iTunes.
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 © 2000 The Music Box