Dick's Picks 8
Harpur College - Binghamton, NY
[May 2, 1970]
First Appeared in The Music Box October 1997, Volume 4, #11
Written by John Metzger
Dick's Picks Volume 8 contains the Grateful Dead's legendary performance on May 2, 1970 at Binghamton, New York's Harpur College. This show has long been a popular one among tape traders, and it was one of the most requested dates in letters to archivist Dick Latvala. Given its status and popularity, there really isn't much more to say except that the sound quality is unbelievable. As with Dick's Picks 4 (which covered the February 13-14, 1970 shows), even those with high quality recordings will find that these discs are a must.
Many of the songs in the acoustic set on Dick's Picks 8 were relatively new at the time, and they allude to the direction in which the Grateful Dead were heading — towards the more stripped-down sound that became Workingman's Dead and American Beauty. Black Peter, in particular, is phenomenal. Elsewhere, David Nelson from New Riders of the Purple Sage offers a helping hand on a blistering Cumberland Blues, and Nelson and John "Marmaduke" Dawson, also from NRPS, join the band on Cold Jordan.
The second disc of Dick's Picks 8 opens in the same place as the tapes — the middle of St. Stephen. Despite this, it serves as the perfect introduction to a full-blown rendition of That's It for the Other One. From the first thunderous roar from Phil Lesh's bass, it's off to the races as Lesh, Bob Weir, and Jerry Garcia play simultaneous, raging leads. By the time that Weir tears through the first verse of The Other One, the band already has left the planet. This is the perfect counterpunch to the acoustic first set, and it sets the tone for the music in the remainder of the show. A solid Good Lovin' closes out the disc as Lesh and Weir lock into a groove over which Garcia's guitar ignites the air on fire.
The final disc of Dick's Picks 8 is the best one of this set. It's a Man's World kicks things off with an outstanding, soulful vocal performance from Pigpen. The Grateful Dead establishes a blues groove, and Garcia floats a delicate solo effortlessly above it. Dancing in the Streets further increases the intensity as the band unleashes a whirlwind of cosmic sound waves that are guaranteed to move your feet. The music departs from the context of the song and mutates into the same jam that appears in the middle of the October 31, 1971 version of Dark Star (see Dick's Picks 2). Morning Dew is technically the start of the third set, and the song creeps from a whisper to a thunderous roar. Viola Lee Blues is an all-out sonic boom designed to separate mind from body for the evening's final transcendent excursion.
Dick's Picks, Volume 8 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 © 1997 The Music Box