Dick's Picks Volume 30
Academy of Music - New York, NY
[March 25, 27 & 28, 1972]
First Appeared at The Music Box, March 2004, Volume 11, #3
Written by John Metzger
Over the course of its career, the Grateful Dead invited countless artists to share its stage. Occasionally, there was pure magic such as its collaborations with Branford Marsalis, Ken Nordine, and members of the Allman Brothers Band. Sometimes ó as in its 1971 appearance with The Beach Boys or its many pairings with Bob Dylan in 1987 ó the result was a train wreck. Most of the time, however, the unions simply yielded solid performances that casually strolled along some middle ground. Such was the case with the Grateful Deadís blues extravaganza with Bo Diddley that opens Dickís Picks, Volume 30. Taken from a March 25, 1972 concert at the Academy of Music in New York City, much of the mini-set was ragged and rough, although the jam that sat between the soul groove of Iíve Seen Them All and the harsher edge of Mona eluded to what could have been, if only this artistic fusion had taken place later in the show. For what itís worth, guitarist Jerry Garciaís mellow, Bay-area vibe embraced the urban roar of Bo Diddleyís funk-blues while Keith Godchaux did his best to interject a jazzy air to the proceedings. Still, the Grateful Dead and Bo Diddley seemed somewhat out of synch, which undoubtedly was due to little or no pre-show rehearsal.
As for the remainder of the four-disc Dickís Picks, Volume 30, it contains a typical, early 1972 concert, featuring one show in its entirety (March 28) as well as selected segments from two others (March 25 and March 27). Of interest to collectors is a pair of songs that became closely associated with Garciaís side projects (Are You Lonely for Me and How Sweet It Is), both of which were given admirable treatment in their only incarnations as Grateful Dead tunes. The more intriguing moments, however, came within the bandís better known and more frequently performed material. Smokestack Lightning was a potent distillation of the blues that was filtered through the groupís surging psychedelic energy while containing hints of the full-force rhythms commonly found in the ensembleís excursions through Truckiní and The Other One. Each of the two renditions of Playing in the Band swam away on cosmic currents of percolating rhythms, and Tennessee Jed soared across the shimmering strains that flew from Garciaís guitar.
Granted, the sparks didnít fly at these New York City concerts quite like they would over the coming months and years. After all, the Grateful Dead was in period of transition, and the music captured on Dickís Picks, Volume 30 was culled from what was largely a series of warm-up shows for the groupís legendary European excursion. Thatís not to say, however, that the collection is entirely devoid of the bandís spacious explorations, but save for a particularly chaotic rendition of The Other One ó near its conclusion, listen for a brief hint of Let It Grow, which didnít debut for another 18 months ó the Grateful Dead opted to traverse slightly safer terrain while delivering its own unique slice of Americana. Be it the gospel hue of Brokedown Palace, the mournful blues of It Hurts Me Too, the west Texas whirlwind of El Paso, or the tender balladry of Looks Like Rain, the group put an emphasis upon its songs instead of its lengthy jams, although thatís still a mighty fine place for it to focus.
Dick's Picks, Volume 30 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 © 2004 The Music Box