Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Grateful Dead - Sunshine Daydream (Grateful Dead/WEA/Rhino, 2013)

Sunshine Daydream chronicles a Grateful Dead benefit concert held on August 27, 1972 at the Old Renaissance Faire Grounds in Veneta, Oregon. This concert was filmed and recorded and is something of a legend among the cognoscenti. Finally seeing the light of day, released as a three CD + one DVD set. The audio disc present the whole concert in excellent clarity and the video features excerpts of the concert, along with some documentary elements. The band was at a crossroads at this time, having just returned from a very successful spring tour, chronicled on the Europe '72 album and then in a massive boxed set. The bluesy authority of Pigpen was lost with his death earlier in the year, and the group had replaced him with the husband and wife team of Keith Godchaux on keyboards and Donna Jean Godchaux on background vocals. The core group remained Jerry Garcia on guitar and vocals, Bob Weir on guitar and vocals, Phil Lesh on bass and Bill Kreutzmann on drums. Second drummer Mickey Hart was on sabbatical during this period. The majority of the concert is very well played considering it was an outdoor afternoon performance in the blistering heat of over 100 degrees. Disc one contains very concise versions of their more well known material, easing into the concert with a nice cover of Chuck Berry’s “Promised Land.” after that they trade off alternating material by both Garcia and Weir sounding particularly good on Garcia’s patient and laconic “Sugaree” and the medley of “China Cat Sunflower” and “I Know You Rider.” Disc one ends with an exciting uptempo version of the Dead concert staple “Bertha.” They begin to stretch out into more free-form structures on the second disc, beginning with a nearly twenty minute version of “Playing in the Band.” To the group’s credit they keep the performance under control, playing tightly and never resorting to mere noodling. Garcia’s stripped down “He’s Gone” follows, his softer, slower delivery bringing out the emotional context of the lyrics and music. The group truly breaks out on the final disc with a thirty minute plus version of their famous song “Dark Star” which weaves a hypnotic texture of music, interjected by subtle, haunting lyrics. The remainder of the final disc features in interesting version of Merle Haggards gospel gong “Sing Me Back Home” and then the concert concludes with upbeat version of Dead staples “Sugar Magnolia,” “Casey Jones” and “One More Saturday Night.” It is an exhausting amount of music to listen too, but both the concert and the film retain interest throughout making this a must-have for fans of this venerable band. Sunshine Daydream - amazon.com

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