Dick's Picks Volume 19
Fairgrounds Arena - Oklahoma City
[October 19, 1973]
First Appeared in The Music Box March 2001, Volume 8, #3
Written by John Metzger
When asked who I consider to be the best band of all time, I invariably answer The Beatles. However, that's not without a few caveats: As far as straight-ahead rock 'n‘ roll groups are concerned, the Rolling Stones are unrivaled, and when it comes to the finest live ensemble, my response is unequivocally the Grateful Dead. Fortunately, the case for the latter has become an increasingly simple one to make, thanks to the band's ever expanding series of concert recordings bearing the Dick's Picks label.
The latest release, which was recorded in Oklahoma City on October 19, 1973 — just a few days after the release of Wake of the Flood — is the nineteenth volume in the Dick's Picks progression. Not surprisingly, it once again is a gem. The first set of the concert was dutifully executed and featured exquisite versions of Looks Like Rain, Don't Ease Me In, El Paso, and Row Jimmy. It was, however, the set ending Playin' in the Band that stood out above the rest. As the bottom quickly and seamlessly dropped out of the song, the band fell further and further into the wide-open musical terrain that they loved to explore.
As evidenced by the Wake of the Flood album, the Grateful Dead had recently turned yet another corner in their careers. Shifting away from the acoustic-oriented sound that defined Workingman's Dead and American Beauty, the group had jumped full-force into the realm of jazz. This was well-suited to the band's improvisational approach, and in essence they became a jazz band working upon a rock 'n‘ roll foundation. Witness the rendition of Playin' in the Band contained here, and listen to the manner in which Bill Kreutzmann propelled the band from driving rock into free-flowing fusion. Or lend your ears to a sublime China Cat Sunflower that featured an intricate interplay of instruments, coalescing into a malleable lava-lamp emulsification of melody and rhythm. And then there were the Dark Star/Mind Left Body Jam/Morning Dew and Eyes of the World/Stella Blue medleys — sequences of such wondrous beauty that they simply must be heard. It's all there — everything the Grateful Dead were about: Meaningful songwriting. Mind-blowing, multi-faceted jams. Experimental improvisation. Spiritual revelation. And so much more.
Anyone wondering just how the Grateful Dead organization was going to follow the remarkable music contained on Dick's Picks Volume 18, now has their answer. Volume 19 does for the early '70s what its predecessor did for the latter part of the decade. With the exception of the first few songs, Volume 19 is full of music that is simply too good to miss. ½
Dick's Picks, Volume 19 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 © 2001 The Music Box