Grateful Dead: Road Trips, Vol. 4 No. 4: Spectrum 4-6-82 (2011)
As the Grateful Dead was rediscovering its roots, its own canon of self- composed material remained static. As Blair Jackson relates in his liner essay, there was little new original material to be offered in 1982, which explains the appearance of covers like "C.C.Rider" and "Man Smart Woman Smarter," neither of which may hold any particular cachet for the band or its audience. ("It's All Over Now," on the other hand, might have been self-referential, given the group's status in the culture at this period in time).
It's clear that more focus would have benefited the group, as well as its audience at the time, and the same might also be said for this edition of Road Trips. It took two years for the original concept of the series to morph from offering highlights of various phases of the band's career to delivering complete shows like its famed predecessor Dick's Picks. The former approach of selected highlights would have markedly benefited this particular release.
Genuine surprise appears relegated to a truncated "The Other One," where the band slides somewhat abruptly into "Morning Dew," itself a precursor to the similarly melancholy likes of Bob Dylan's "It's All Over Baby Blue." The impact of the traditional "Jack-a- Roe" and "Deep Elem Blues" becomes diffuse when intermixed with "Shakedown Street" and "Terrapin Station." Still, to hear Jerry Garcia clearly intone "Candyman," or to note Bob Weir being genuinely caught up in the emotional moment that is "Looks Like Rain" sounds like an implicit proclamation of pride in their work.
Yet, as the Grateful Dead had no great innovations to display, such as the Wall of Sound, and their instrumental lineup had remained stable (keyboardist/vocalist Brent Mydland was now three years into his tenure with the group), the first set's closing "Might As Well" just about sums up their zeitgeist of the time. "Ship of Fools" would punctuate that pronouncement, had some different logic been applied in sequencing of the two April nights of recordings from the Spectrum in Philadelphia.
At a time when the DIY/alternative musical culture was beginning to take hold, the deceptively laconic approach of rock's greatest psychedelic warriors seemed a thing of the past. Yet this seemingly reasonable conclusion couldn't foretell their massive connection with the mainstream five years later via "Touch of Grey." So, like the Grateful Dead's improvisations, in 1982 and at many other junctures of their career, Road Trips Vol. 4 No. 4 makes a statement by suggestion rather than declaration.
Track Listing: CD1: Cold Rain and Snow> Promised Land; Candyman; C.C. Rider; Brown-Eyed Women; Mama Tried>Mexicali Blues; Big Railroad Blues; Looks Like Rain; Jack-a-Roe; It's All Over Now; Might As Well. CD2: Shakedown Street>Lost Sailor>Saint of Circumstance>Terrapin Station>Rhythm Devils>Space; Deep Elem Blues>Althea>Man Smart, Woman Smarter. CD3: Truckin'>The Other One>Morning Dew>Sugar Magnolia; It's All Over Now, Baby Blue; Bertha; Playing in the Band>Ship of Fools>Playing in the Band.
Personnel: Jerry Garcia: lead guitar, vocals; Mickey Hart: drums; Bill Kreutzmann: drums; Phil Lesh: electric bass; Brent Mydland: keyboards, vocals; Bob Weir: rhythm guitar, vocals.
Record Label: Grateful Dead/Rhino