Flashback album of the month
Europe ’72: Vol. 2
Many feel the Grateful Dead are perhaps the most famous biker band ever. The band’s Bay area (Frisco) roots crossed paths with the Hells Angels on more than one occasion. The Hells Angels would often show up at Dead concerts, sometimes to party and other times to provide a sort of “people’s security force” for the the Dead’s sometimes impromptu one-off gigs with other San Francisco bands like Jefferson Airplane, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Big Brother & The Holding Company, and others.
It was widely known that Jerry Garcia was good friends with the Angels’ Ralph “Sonny” Barger.
Together with Ken Kesey’s Merry Pranksters, the Dead set the psychedelic-tinged tone for the beginnings of the counterculture movement, even giving birth to the term “hippies.” And then there was the infamous Altamont Rolling Stones concert where the Dead was originally supposed to play but backed out due to the increasing threat of violence. Many are of the opinion that this concert marked the end of rock’s innocence.
Rhino has been actively mining the entire Dead catalog and now they’ve released a companion piece to Europe ’72, the Dead’s historic foray across the pond nearly 40 years ago. This latest Volume 2 set contains 20 songs on two CDs, complete with new cover art by Stanley Mouse who created the iconic artwork for the original three-record set. If you’re given to long rides requiring extended musical accompaniment, this is your ticket.
Recorded at various locations on the band’s 22-show tour, the performances feature Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, Bill Kreutzmann, and Ron (Pigpen) McKernan. Also along on the tour and included here are pianist Keith Godchaux and his wife and singer Donna Jean Godchaux.
There’s no repetition of songs from the original Europe ’72. The best moment is an hour-plus jam that has “Dark Star” segued with “The Other One.” Other standouts include “Bertha,” “Sugaree,” “Playing in the Band,” “Beat It On Down the Line,” and “Good Lovin’,” all showcasing the improvisational nature of the band at its best. The sound quality is stellar, and if you can’t get enough of these recordings there’s also a 73-CD collection (yes; that’s not a typo) of Europe ’72: The Complete Recordings. This one will be out before Thanksgiving and you’d better be ready because it’ll be available in limited quantities. That’s enough music to get you to Sturgis and back!
Road Trips Vol.4 No.4
Another three-CD set, Road Trips Vol.4, No.4 was recorded live at Philadelphia’s Spectrum in April of 1982. By then, The Dead had signed on with Clive Davis’ Arista Records, which would eventually result in the band’s first top-10 single, “Touch of Grey.” Jerry’s voice was getting a little ragged but the band was still on fire. Unlike most bands, each live Dead show was never like another; the band would usually not have set lists, rather decide on the fly, feeling the energy of the crowd and themselves. Here, disc three begins with “Truckin’” that seamlessly segues into “Morning Dew,” “Sugar Magnolia,” and Dylan’s “It’s All Over Now Baby Blue.” When and where song changes would occur on the fly was not often contrived. It’s why guys like Toph have seen over 50 live Grateful Dead shows; and believe it or not that’s not many for older fans. It wasn’t unusual to attend multiple shows in a row; in a week you’d rarely hear many repeated songs.
In all their various incarnations and personnel changes, it’s easy to understand why The Dead stood at the pinnacle of American rock bands. It’s difficult to actually profile a fascinating band of this magnitude in a couple of reviews but thankfully they have a vast vault of works that are easily accessible. Take your time because the music only gets better when you make it your travelling companion.