Friday, August 17, 2007

Grateful Dead - Three From the Vault (Rhino, 2007)

This is a very well remastered two disc set of a concert during the Dead's legendary 1971 run in Port Chester, NY. It's nice to hear this music after speed and pitch correction, my old tape always ran a little bit fast and sharp. A year after the twin acoustic triumphs of Workingman's Dead and American Beauty, the band was at a live peak blunted only by the departure of percussionist Mickey Hart for a five year leave. The band comes out very strong with well played renditions of standbys "Truckin'" and "Loser" before turning the microphone to organist and R&B fanatic Ron "Pigpen" McKernan who oozes bluesy authority all over the standards like Elmore James "It Hurts Me Too" (which also features some great slide guitar from Jerry Garcia) and "Smokestack Lightnin'" where his gruff growl aptly fits a Howlin' Wolf classic. He also rolls through an unstoppable version of "Good Lovin." On disc two, the band has a blasting version of Chuck Berry's "Johnny B.Goode" and fine version of "Deal" before settling into the long improvisatory section of their performance, including "That's It for the Other One" and the nightly drum solo. It's in this section of the concert that Hart's absence is most deeply felt. Where previously the twin drummer lineup turned this section into a polyrhythmic whirlwind, now, Bill Kreutzmann struggles to bear the load on his own. The tight song forms of "Wharf Rat" and "Casey Jones" get the band back on track for a solid finale. This is a fine example of the Dead's live show of the period and justly one of their most well revered performances. Combining a good performance with excellent sound quality makes for a solid package which is a fine addition to the collection of any classic rock fan.

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