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Review of Dicks Picks 23


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Dick's Picks, volume XXIII - The Grateful Dead

Bill Stites

2002-01-23

Grateful Dead Records

"Holy fuck, why doesn't anyone play like this anymore?"

I actually said that, out loud, about halfway through the 39-minute "The Other One" that is the obvious centerpiece, and raison d'etre, of Dick's Picks, volume XXIII, recorded September 17, 1972 in Baltimore Maryland..

This "Other One" is simply one of the most superb pieces of free group improvisation I've ever heard. The contemporary jamband movement the title of this magazine refers to is supposedly inspired by this band more than any other. So why is it that no band currently performing (including those featuring the surviving members of the Dead) can improvise so lyrically, with the subtlety, grace, and telepathic attentiveness exhibited in every moment of this performance? When did guitar rock, funk and bluegrass become acceptable substitutes for abandoning rules, preconceptions and ego and dedicating oneself fully to the power and possibility of the moment?

The Grateful Dead playing on this "Other One" is the band I want to remember: anarchic, deeply textured, jazz-inflected and, at times, really scary, a word that could be applied to a scant few of today's allegedly Dead-influenced jambands. (Curiously, those who most trumpet their admiration for the Dead often seem to be the ones quickest to forget that the band's output went beyond "Saint Stephen" and "Friend of the Devil").

Unfortunately, not all the material on the set is quite as memorable, which is probably inevitable with a complete show release. This was nothing less than an excellent night for the Dead, though, and the band is as confident and solid as I've ever heard them. That doesn't necessarily make this version of "Sugar Mags" that different from any other, but it does mean each of the three discs is littered with highlights, notably a beautiful "Black-Throated Wind", a deeply weird "Playin' In The Band", a haunting "Loser" and a "Sing Me Back Home" that might have been better than the famous version played in Veneta three weeks earlier had Garcia's voice been in slightly better shape on this night in Baltimore.

I'm happy to report that the mix on this set is nothing less than astonishing; it's hard to believe it was done live to two-track at the show. The five players are at almost exactly equal levels in the mix, providing an exciting glimpse into the often-obscured worlds of Godchaux and Weir. And the bottom end is as rich as any tape I've heard from this era, which is especially lucky considering this is one of Phil's finest performances: he leads and struts throughout, totally assured, dropping bombs left and right.There are some fantastic full-color pictures in the liner notes, too, as well as two hilarious newspaper reviews of the show.

This is not the best Dead show from this period, nor the best Dick's Picks release to date. As well as they're playing, start to finish, on this set, the "He's Gone > Other One > Sing Me Back Home" seems to be of a higher level than the rest of the material, and I find the free improv, aside from "Playin'" and "The Other One", to be a little aimless.

Even on as fine a night as September 17th, '72, this was certainly not a band whose every quality is to be revered. I just don't understand why so many of the performers covered in this publication seem to have taken exactly the wrong lessons from them, and why so little about the jamband scene today reminds me of the improvisational mastery that flows through this monumental "Other One".

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Buy it here:

http://store1.dead.net/site/images/music/4043/

And on a sad note, the Habs traded Brian Heart And Soul Savage for Selfish Sergie Berezin......

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I heard that too.

>A new GD CD will be available everywhere on 3/19 at a list price of

>US$17.98. "Postcards of the Hanging" gathers ten of the Grateful Dead's

>Dylan covers, recorded live over a span of nearly 20 years. Track #11

>(coincidence???) will be a special bonus track, an excerpt [possibly

>"Man of Peace"] featuring the Grateful Dead and Bob Dylan from the

>rehearsals that preceded the 1987 Dylan-Dead tour. [ed. note: I was in

>the first couple rows in Akron 07.02.86 when Dylan played with the GD

>for the first time ever!]

>

>Track List

>* All Along the Watchtower

>* Ballad of a Thin Man

>* Desolation Row

>* It Takes a Lot to Laught, It Takes a Train to Cry

>* It's All Over Now, Baby Blue

>* Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues

>* Maggie's Farm

>* She Belongs to Me

>* Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again

>* When I Paint My Masterpiece

>* Bonus Track [possibly "Man of Peace"]

>

>The first run of discs will include a two track bonus disc featuring

>* Queen Jane Approximately

>* Quinn the Eskimo (The Mighty Quinn)

>

>View the press release and/or Pre-Order for only 15.98 here:

>http://www.gdforum.com/store/music/CD-Postcards.html

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