Dick's Picks Volume 6
Hartford Civic Center
[October 18, 1983]
First Appeared in The Music Box February 1997, Volume 4, #2
Written by John Metzger
The latest release in the Dick's Picks series is the weakest thus far, although that's not to say that there isn't some solid music contained in the three-CD set. It's just a little more sparse than usual. Dick's Picks, Volume 6 was captured at the Hartford Civic Center on October 14, 1983, and is a snapshot of the band at a time when Jerry Garcia's voice was weak and scratchy — so be prepared.
After muddling through the verses to the first set opener Alabama Getaway, Garcia manages to find his place in time to take a brief but fiery guitar solo that leads the band into Greatest Story Ever Told. They Love Each Other is the first highlight from Dick's Picks, Volume 6, as both Brent Mydland and Garcia take turns soloing and playing off each other's leads, which they did so often and so well. In fact, all three of the latest releases ( Dick's Picks Volume 6, Dozin' at the Knick, and the video Ticket to New Years) really play up and show off this tremendous musical relationship.
A slow Althea, lacking in spirit, moves into a strong C. C. Rider. Inspired by Bob Weir's vocals, Garcia, again, finds his place and produces a nice floating guitar solo, fitting for this blues standard. The second jam break in the song features Mydland, who rips the song to shreds with some blistering organ riffs. Close your eyes, and you can picture his feet dancing under his keyboard. Weir takes over from Mydland with a loud, screechy slide guitar solo, and finally Garcia calms things down with a smoother fill of his own.
An early version of Hell in a Bucket — it was only five months old at the time — contains a different introduction, a guitar solo from Garcia that fades into the rest of the band, and some inspired vocals from Weir. He loves his new songs, even if the band was still writing this one! The set concludes with an inspired version of Day Job, although the song is laughable.
The second disc of Dick's Picks, Volume 6 the highlight of the package, opening with a 30-minute version of the oft-played duo, Scarlet Begonias and Fire on the Mountain. Mydland provides s solid keyboard accompaniment throughout the piece, and Garcia goes on auto-pilot on five different occasions. Of particular note is the segue between the two songs. Garcia's guitar solos float effortlessly along, suspended by Phil Lesh's punctuated bass lines. There are more than nine minutes of music between the final verse of Scarlet Begonias and the first verse of Fire on the Mountain. When the Dead were on, they could blow your mind, and this disc is no exception!
As if the initial pair of songs isn't enough, Weir keeps the ball rolling with a killer version of Estimated Prophet. Again, it's Garcia and Mydland's show, as they play off each others' riffs in a call and answer fashion before Garcia takes off to explore. The jam that ensues is beautiful, spacey jazz that eventually, although briefly, breaks free. The band reconverges to conclude another popular pairing of songs with a well-played Eyes of the World. Garcia dances from note to note with a magnificent fluidity and ease. The jam out of Eyes is outstanding, as Mydland and Lesh hook up to provide the underlying rhythm for Garcia's flight before the song tails off into the drum segment.
The final disc of Dick's Picks, Volume 6 begins with Drums, which is fairly short. This gives way to an even briefer Space before turning into Spinach Jam, better known in taper circles as Spanish Jam. This version gradually builds in intensity and then quickly dissipates and mutates into a pretty pre-Other One jam.
Stella Blue suffers from the state of Garcia's voice, although the concluding jam is worth a listen. Sugar Magnolia brings an end to the set in a fairly standard fashion. There's quite a bit of silence before the Sunshine Daydream portion of the song, as Weir builds the suspense before the band rocks out the ending. The encore of U.S. Blues gets Garcia backstage to rest his voice. It's not the best show, and it's not the worst show, but it sounds great on CD! ½
Dick's Picks, Volume 6 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 © 1997 The Music Box