Dick's Picks Volume 26
Electric Theatre / Labour Temple
Chicago, IL / Minneapolis, MN
[April 26-27, 1969]
First Appeared in The Music Box, March 2003, Volume 10, #3
Written by John Metzger
Some would say that the problem with the Grateful Deadís concerts from the late 1960s is that the set lists are far too similar. Dark Star generally progressed to St. Stephen, which in turn usually wound its way through The Eleven before concluding with Turn on Your Lovelight. There were variations, of course, but these too revolved around a familiar bunch of songs ó Thatís It for the Other One, Death Donít Have No Mercy, Dupreeís Diamond Blues, Mountains of the Moon, Hard to Handle, Good Morning Little Schoolgirl, Morning Dew ó that drifted about within any given set list, but inevitably popped up on most nights. These same folks undoubtedly are left wondering why, after the quintessential period piece Live/Dead, the group has repeatedly turned to this era to release similar collections of songs such as Fillmore East (2/11/69); Two from the Vault; Dickís Picks, Volume 16; and the latest release Dickís Picks, Volume 26. But to quickly dismiss these collections based on an overlap in songs would be a grave mistake. As the bandís most avid fans are aware, the reason is quite simple: the Grateful Dead completely reinvented its songbook each and every night ó so much so that one version of Dark Star (or any other tune, for that matter) was dramatically different from the next. This sense of exploration, of course, is unheard of within any idiom other than jazz, and though the bandís like-minded rock ínĎ roll brethren made valiant strides in similar directions, none pushed the boundaries quite so flawlessly, easily, or seamlessly as the Grateful Dead.
So where exactly does Dickís Picks, Volume 26 ó which includes all of the bandís April 27, 1969 concert in Minneapolis along with a sizeable portion of its show from the previous evening in Chicago ó fit in among the bandís other releases from this period? Itís not the towering masterpiece of Live/Dead, nor does it capture the transitional beauty of Dickís Picks, Volume 16 or Fillmore East (2/11/69). Instead, itís more on par with Two from the Vault ó a stirring, sometimes powerful, sometimes beautiful suite of songs. Thatís not to say that this two-disc set should merely be targeted by diehard collectors. The thunderous roar of Thatís It for the Other One magically envelops the wild, cataclysmically thrashing surge of The Eleven, and the epic, nearly 27 minutes of Dark Star boldly carries oneís thoughts along a delicate musical refrain to the furthest reaches of human consciousness and, ultimately, spiritual transcendence. Granted, Dickís Picks, Volume 26 isnít the premier showcase of the band from this era, but it is manna from heaven, just the same.
Dick's Picks 26 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 © 2003 The Music Box