Grateful Dead - Road Trips, Vol. 1, No. 4: From Egypt with Love

Grateful Dead
Road Trips, Vol. 1, No. 4: From Egypt with Love

Winterland - San Francisco - October 1978

(Grateful Dead)

Douglas Heselgrave's #17 album for 2008

First Appeared in The Music Box, January 2009, Volume 16, #1

Written by John Metzger

Tue January 13, 2009, 06:30 AM CST

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As Rocking the Cradle: Egypt 1978 demonstrated, the Grateful Deadís journey to Cairo was more about the experience than the music. The bandís performances, beneath the watchful gaze of a giant Sphinx, were uneven at best. Yet, the cultural exchange that took place continued to resonate long after the group touched down again in San Francisco. Although the energy that had fueled its 1977 excursions had carried over into the early part of the new year, there subsequently were huge portions of 1978 when it seemed as if the Grateful Dead was running on empty. Its trip to Egypt, however, gave the outfit a new lease on life.

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Revitalized by its visit to the desert, the Grateful Dead quickly lined up a five-night run at San Franciscoís Winterland Arena in mid-October. Road Trips, Vol. 1, No. 4: From Egypt with Love, the groupís latest archival release, features material from the final two shows of its lengthy engagement at the venue ó plus two tracks from the opening concert. Consequently, it is meant to complement Rocking the Cradle: Egypt 1978. It does its job nicely, too, completing the story that began in a foreign land, thousands of miles away.

Considering the fact that only a few weeks had passed since the Grateful Dead had performed in Egypt, itís safe to say that, in the interim, Bob Weir hadnít made tremendous strides in his ability to play slide guitar. At times, his insistence on continuing with the technique can be frustrating, too. The metallic clatter of his contributions got in the way of the relaxed deliberation of Sugaree, though Jerry Garcia and Keith Godchaux succeeded in salvaging the tune by tracing its melody with gently sweeping passages of guitar and piano, respectively. To his credit, Weir injected some snarling riffs into U.S. Blues, though they also seemed to have sprung uncontrollably from his guitar. Meanwhile, the band playfully gave the song more of a blues-based kick than normal, adding a little levity to the chaotic tempest that Weir was unleashing.

This, however, doesnít mean that Road Trips, Vol. 1, No. 4: From Egypt with Love doesnít contain its share of stellar moments. In fact, throughout the sequence of shows featured on the endeavor, the Grateful Dead was highly animated as it infused a myriad of fresh ideas into its material. Garcia, like anyone, often had a tendency to fall into a routine, but throughout Road Trips, Vol. 1, No. 4: From Egypt with Love, he led the way in reinventing songs like Peggy-O, Stella Blue, and Sugar Magnolia by lacing them with innovative solos.

Stella Blue, in particular, was an onslaught of emotion. Garcia sang the song as soulfully as he ever did, while the rest of the Grateful Dead performed like an orchestra behind his wailing ó and ultimately cleansing ó guitar solo. Likewise, the pairing of Scarlet Begonias and Fire on the Mountain was a veritable tour de force, one that was full of long, snaking passageways that led to alternate dimensions.

Even the lesser moments on Road Trips, Vol. 1, No. 4: From Egypt with Love come together in surprising ways. Neither The Other One nor Deal, for example, ranks among the best versions ever to be performed by the Grateful Dead. Yet, they become distinctive within the framework of their surroundings. In the former songís case, the mood was established perfectly as a Middle Eastern-tinged percussion interlude evolved into a spirited cover of Got My Mojo Working before plunging into the cataclysmic depths of The Other One. As Garciaís lacerating lead guitar solo ran circles around the tuneís rhythmic cadence, the increasing aggression of his attack created an upward spiral of momentum that soon erupted in a dazzling display of lightning amidst the thunder claps supplied by the rest of the outfit. By contrast, the raw firepower of Deal provided the perfect antidote to the hypnotic churning of Ollin Arageed.

Although the outfit was aided and abetted on alternate nights by harmonica ace Lee Oskar and guitarist John Cipollina ó Cipollina, in particular, helped to put a real charge into the expansive reading of Not Fade Away that appears on the collectionís second disc ó it was the Grateful Deadís own reinvigorated spirit that made the shows featured on Road Trips, Vol. 1, No. 4: From Egypt with Love so special. Keith and Donna Godchauxís departure may have been imminent, but somewhere amidst the sands of Egypt, the group found enough inspiration to send them off with a bang instead of a whimper. Although its concerts at Winterland werenít perfect, Road Trips, Vol. 1, No. 4: From Egypt with Love stitches together some of their better moments to make it appear as if they came quite close. starstarstarstar

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Of Further Interest...

Grateful Dead - Road Trips, Vol. 1, No. 1: Fall '79

Grateful Dead - Road Trips, Vol. 1, No. 2: October '77

Grateful Dead - Road Trips, Vol. 1, No. 3: Summer '71

Grateful Dead - Road Trips, Vol. 2, No. 1: MSG, September '90

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Road Trips, Vol. 1, No. 4: From Egypt with Love is NOT available from
Barnes & Noble. To order, please visit the Grateful Dead Site!

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Ratings

1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!

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