Dick's Picks, Volume 22
Kings Beach Bowl - Lake Tahoe
[February 23-24, 1968]
The Music Box's #3 specialty package for 2001
First Appeared in The Music Box, September 2001, Volume 8, #9
Written by John Metzger
Part of the reason for the Grateful Deadís longevity and success was the ability of its members to reinvent themselves. Songs were recast not only from year to year, but also from night to night, thereby keeping things interesting for both the musicians and their fans. Of all the shows that the band performed, however, none came close the sheer power and brute force contained in those from 1968. At the time, the Grateful Dead had been working on its often underrated studio experiment Anthem of the Sun, portions of which were recorded in concert. Two of these events took place on February 23 and 24 at the Kings Beach Bowl in Lake Tahoe, California, and it is from here that material was culled for Dickís Picks, Volume 22.
Thereís no question that by 1968, the Grateful Dead had begun to develop its own branded style. Yet, shades of the legendary San Francisco, acid-rock sound ó from which the band not only was born but also helped to create ó still clamored around within the groupís blues-based music, defiantly refusing to leave without a tussle. Witness the fire-breathing exigency of Viola Lee Blues as Jerry Garciaís searing guitar lead fanned the flames of the bandís broiling rhythm section, pushing the song closer and closer to its inevitable nuclear meltdown. On It Hurts Me Too, listen to the brooding sadness enmeshed in Pigpenís despondent vocals as well as his tearful harmonica solo and how Garcia responded to these with his own stream of gut-wrenching notes. Or visit the surging cover of Sonny Boy Williamsonís Good Morning Little Schoolgirl where Pigpenís brawny vocals power the songís steamy, seedy underbelly with unbridled passion.
As was the case throughout the Grateful Deadís career, the bandís concerts also provided shades of things to come, and these embryonic notions are scattered across the sprawling, two-disc Dickís Picks, Volume 22. These performances allude to more elaborate compositions, a greater emphasis on lyrics, free-roaming (and genre-jumping) musical excursions, and seamless segues between seemingly disparate songs. Dark Star glided along at a rather rapid pace but contained an ethereal beauty and jazzy elegance that further emerged in later incarnations. Though it truly didnít find its rhythm until later, the poetic China Cat Sunflower steamrolled its way into a blistering rendition of The Eleven ó not once but twice on this compilation. The operatic opus Thatís It for the Other One put a psychedelic spin on classical music that foreshadowed the coming dawn of progressive rock. The freeform Feedback hinted at the improvisational Space segments that the band would compose much later in its career.
That the Grateful Dead was able to fold all of these elements into a cohesive performance after being in existence for less than three years was in itself quite an accomplishment. That the group could mutate these songs significantly in the span of just a few months ó see Two from the Vault as well as Dickís Picks, Volumes 4, 8, and 16 for comparisonís sake ó says even more. It demonstrated that this was a band with not only an awful lot to say, but also a unique knack for knowing exactly how to say it, particularly in a concert setting. For as good as Anthem of the Sun might be, it is still overshadowed by the bandís stellar live performances.
Of Further Interest...
Dick's Picks, Volume 22 is available from iTunes.
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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