Dick's Picks Volume 24
Cow Palace - Daly City, CA
[March 23, 1974]
First Appeared in The Music Box, June 2002, Volume 9, #6
Written by John Metzger
The subject of Dickís Picks, Volume 24 is the Grateful Deadís concert on March 23, 1974 at the Cow Palace in Daly City, California. It is a performance that is notable not only for marking the debut of the "wall of sound" ó the bandís homemade state-of-the-art PA system ó but also for being one hell of a show. From start-to-finish, the band was in top-notch form, fully exploring each selection with astounding curiosity ó a feat that was remarkable even by 1974-standards, a year filled with one groundbreaking concert after another.
The "wall of sound" was actually a massive array of small hi-fi speakers stacked behind the musicians. The arrangement eliminated the need for individual monitors, and the band was able to hear exactly what the audience heard. In addition, each member was able to have total control over his or her volume in the mix. Perhaps, this is why the music contained on Dickís Picks, Volume 24 has an almost Beatle-esque quality to it in the way that the instruments slip and slide around one another with studio-like precision.
Then again, the Grateful Dead were masters of improvisation, and by 1974, the band had fully fused jazz into its Americana-based repertoire. The breezy flare of Bill Kreutzmannís percussion drove the songs, anchoring them to a sometimes solid (Promised Land), sometimes nebulous (Playing in the Band) foundation, while each of the other musicians layered their instruments accordingly. On Brown-Eyed Women, Bob Weirís rhythm guitar textures fed Keith Godchauxís own keyboard accompaniment, and on Scarlet Begonias, all the sounds blurred together to form a joyously variegated dance. Deal began as a relaxed groove, but grew to a raging inferno, while on Cassidy, the band freely roamed in the space between each beat. And then thereís the breathtaking convergence of Playing in the Band, Uncle Johnís Band, and Morning Dew ó a highlight, not only of this concert, but of the Grateful Deadís career.
In the end, the "wall of sound" proved to be too cumbersome to utilize. (It actually took three fully functional systems ó one being torn down, one being set up, and one being used ó to mount a tour). But for one year, at least, concert-goers stuck in the back of large arenas could actually hear what all of the musicians on stage were playing. Nearly thirty years later, weíre all still waiting for someone to top it.
Dick's Picks, Volume 24 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 © 2002 The Music Box