Grateful Dead: Dave's Picks Volume 10 Thelma, Los Angeles CA 12/12/1969
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One of the great virtues (and there are many) of the Grateful Dead's archiving projects is that research regularly unearths 'lost' recordings about which little or nothing may be known but that, when brought to the light of day, fill in crucial links in this iconic group's history that further illuminate their evolution.
Dave's Picks Volume 10, like the so-called 'Houseboat Tapes' that comprise Dick's Picks #35 (Grateful Dead, 2005), is just such a title, with its first reel in place (from, as essayist Gary Lambert recounts, an LA venue of otherwise hazy distinction) now capturing a complete show by the band almost exactly at a turning point in its career as they moved from the largely improvisational music- arguably perfected earlier in this same year as documented on The Complete Fillmore West Recordings (Grateful Dead, 2005)) into the more structured likes of original material such as "Cumberland Blues" and "Black Peter."
The former catches the ear immediately in the way guitarists Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir, along with bassist Phil Lesh, sing full-throated harmony: not usually so prominent in arrangements, vocals came to the fore through association with Crosby Stills & Nash to be utilized extensively on the next Grateful Dead studio album Workingman's Dead (Warner Brothers, 1970). The latter represents a narrative in song the likes of which Garcia's writing partner Robert Hunter would eventually perfect through his artful use of vivid images and poetic turns of phrase that matched the melodies supplied by his collaborator.
All the tunes from the forthcoming studio album save one ("New Speedway Boogie") appear across the span of these three discs, juxtaposed with what would come to be permanent inclusions in the band's repertoire over the remainder of its thirty-year career. John Phillips' "Me and My Uncle" is a story of its own told over a brisk clip much like that which the Dead apply to Merle Haggard's "Mama Tried," but the latter appears smack dab in the middle of a suite of tunes featuring original vocalist and keyboardist Ron "Pigpen" McKernan: thirty minutes of "Turn On Your Lovelight" bookends "Good Lovin'" and "I'm A King Bee" (its wailing harp reminding of the man's blues roots), during much of which the band winds out in such a way as to suggest they're warming up for the extended, abandoned jamming to come.
Segues through "Alligator," "Drums," "Caution (Do Not Stop On Tracks" and the de rigeur conclusion of "Feedback" plus "And We Bid You Goodnight" capture the Grateful Dead in the expansive mode they had featured on their groundbreaking concert album earlier in the year Live Dead (Warner Bros, 1969). It's a mark of Owsley "Bear" Stanley's original recording expertise, coupled with engineer extraordinaire Jeffrey Norman's mastering that, at moments of near silence on "High Time" or the ensemble romp near the end of this show, the sound is pure and clear.
As such it's emblematic of the intent of a group that, as much as it would surrender to serendipity on and off stage, could think and act with an authoritative purpose that now evinces itself in titles (and ongoing series) like this.
Track Listing: CD1: Cold Rain And Snow; Me And My Uncle; Easy Wind; Cumberland Blues; Black Peter;
Next Time You See Me; China Cat Sunflower; I Know You Rider. CD 2: Turn On Your
Lovelight; Hard To Handle; Casey Jones; Mama Tried; High Time; Dire Wolf; Good
Lovin’; I’m A King Bee.
CD 3: Uncle John’s Band; He Was A Friend Of Mine;
Alligator>Drums>Caution (Do Not Stop On Tracks)>Feedback>And We Bid You
Personnel: Jerry Garcia: vocals, guitar; Bob Weir: vocals, guitar; Phil Lesh: vocals, bass; Tom
Constanten: keyboards; Ron (Pigpen) McKernan: vocals, harp, keyboards; Bill
Kreutzmann: drums, Mickey Hart: drums.
Record Label: Grateful Dead/Rhino