Dick's Picks 34
Community War Memorial / Seneca College
Rochester, NY / Toronto, ON
[November 2 & 5, 1977
The Music Box's #5 specialty package for 2005
First Appeared in The Music Box, March 2005, Volume 12, #3
Written by John Metzger
The latest installment of the Grateful Deadís series of archival recordings under the Dickís Pickís moniker features the entirety of the bandís November 5, 1977 concert at the Community War Memorial in Rochester, New York while also adding a handful of selections from its performance three days earlier at Seneca Collegeís Field House in Toronto, Ontario. Superficially speaking, neither event was remarkable, and a quick glance at the set lists for both shows reveals little that is out of the ordinary. Indeed, Black Peter and Dire Wolf had returned to the ensembleís repertoire more than a month earlier, and the rest of the material had been appeared with some level of predictability throughout the year. Upon hearing the music, however, one immediately is struck with a notion with which the collectiveís diehard fans already are familiar. That is: the more conventional a show appears on paper, the more likely it is to be utterly sublime.
Faced with a rowdy crowd that had begun gathering at Rochesterís arena several days prior to the event, the Grateful Dead did the only thing it could to manage the proceedings: it unleashed a gem of a concert that explored the full range of its dynamic vision. New Minglewood Blues and Deal were hard-driving and edgy; Big River, Mama Tried, and Dire Wolf were graced with a sprightly bounce; and Candyman and It Must Have Been the Roses provided the group with an opportunity to explore its softer side. Of course, there also were those portions of the show ó such as the heartbreaking majesty of Looks Like Rain (which contained one of the finest duets that Bob Weir and Donna Godchaux ever delivered); the expansive Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo (on which the band managed to incorporate bits of Crazy Fingers into its cascading waves of sonic bliss), and a stirring union of Eyes of the Worldís breezy, bass-led jazz with Samson and Delilahís rampaging, gospel-laced fury ó that mixed and matched these elements with undeniably captivating results.
As if that isnít enough, the third disc of Dickís Picks, Volume 34 holds a 60-minute segment of positively breathtaking music that smoothly swerved in serpentine fashion from the robustly rapturous, reggae-tinged groove of Estimated Prophet to the sweetly soulful strains of Heís Gone to the alternations between the ominously ethereal essence and the cataclysmic frenzy of The Other One to the haunted refrains of Black Peter to the ecstatic glee of Sugar Magnolia. Unfortunately, there is a noticeable decline in sound quality towards the tail-end of the show ó the reel-to-reel masters had degenerated, and a cassette master was used to augment the lost selections ó but itís a minor price to pay for what amounts to the final few moments of an otherwise monumental recording. In fact, when all is said and done, thereís little doubt that this concert, which was propelled as much by bass player Phil Lesh as it was by lead guitarist Jerry Garcia, was one of the finest performances of 1977 by the Grateful Dead, and the bonus material, which showcases high-energy interpretations of staples like Might As Well, Around and Around, St. Stephen, and Truckiní, isnít too shabby either.
Dick's Picks, Volume 34 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 © 2005 The Music Box