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Extended Analysis

Grateful Dead: Dave's Picks Volume 3

By Published: September 22, 2012

Grateful Dead

Grateful Dead: Dave's Picks Volume 3

Grateful Dead/Rhino


Previous entries in Grateful Dead archive series have documented the quietly courageous, not to mention authoritative, fashion, by which keyboardist Keith Godchaux made a place of himself in the iconic band's lineup late in 1971, having been enlisted when charter member Ron "Pigpen" McKernan became too ill to tour regularly. But neitherDick's Picks #35 Grateful Dead/Rhino, 2005) nor Road Trips Volume 1 Number 3: Summer '71 (Grateful Dead/Rhino, 2009) made the case so vividly as does this latest entry in Dave's Pick's Volume 3.

Yet the recordings contained on these three discs carry a cache of their own, having become something of a hidden treasure of Grateful Dead lore over the past forty years plus. As unabashed fan Blair Jackson enthuses in his otherwise reasoned historical essay, the first night of the two was set to be broadcast on radio, as were a number of shows on this tour, to meet the demand of the band's ever-expanding fanbase. Yet technical difficulties delayed it one night, thus causing a conflict leading to the lack of documentation even in the most trusted databases of the group's live history.

Based on the aformentioned archive titles, Keith Godchaux asserted his own personality within the Grateful Dead, with no apparent hesitation, playing mainly on acoustic piano that effected such delicious contrast with Jerry Garcia's lead guitar. Performing alongside Phil Lesh had to be daunting, based on the bounces, swoops and slide the bassist launches with such aplomb during the "Truckin'" on disc three, yet Godchaux sounds both comfortable and confident as the group patiently wends its way into the song's structure, after which he then contributes his proportionate share of the necessary energy as the intensity of group improvisations rise and falls.

There is, however, no better illustration of Godchaux's individual presence appears than on the extended interpolation of "Dark Star" with "Sittin' On Top of the World." The quintet takes the latter at a jubilant tempo, in keeping with the heartily good-natured repartee with audience from guitarist/vocalist Jerry Garcia, so this blues standard becomes a stark contrast to the ominous atmosphere of the aforementioned early Dead classic, here making one of its very rare appearances in the wake of the more concise writing and arranging within the 1970 Warner Bros. studio works, Workingman's Dead and American Beauty.

The quintet reaffirms the impact of this juxtaposition as "Brown-Eyed Woman" precedes another cull from early Dead collaborations with lyricist Robert Hunter in the form of "St. Stephen." Representing something of a microcosm of the band's overall live approach at this juncture of its career (rearrangements and other repertoire adjustments reflecting Godchaux's enlistment), the content on the other two discs of this Dave's Picks consists of the complete concert from the subsequent night.

During the course of two-plus hours, the Grateful Dead imparts a ramshackle charm to originals such as "Bertha" and covers like "Me & Bobby McGee:" the band could afford to be loose because it had already honed its fundamental bond playing as a quartet just prior to this tour. It's a special delight to hear drummer Bill Kreutzmann swinging through tunes like "Beat It Down the Line," though, in contrast, the strain is obvious in the voices of guitarists Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir during "Cold Rain and Snow" (suggesting perhaps why Godchaux's wife Donna Jean was asked to join the band as a vocalist the next year).

Grateful Dead archive titles customarily boast well-designed graphics, but Dave's Picks Volume 3 is particularly pleasing to the eye, even apart from the blue-green color scheme on the outside. The insides of the triple-fold digipak feature reproductions of newspaper articles vividly evoking the times at which the concerts were held, while the previously referenced essay from Grateful Dead historian Jackson further places these shows into accurate perspective within the band's history: not only do they constitute a missing link in its evolution, but clearly depict Keith Godchaux's welcome into the fold as a logical extension of the group's sound as captured on the now long famous Grateful Dead, aka "Skull & Roses," (Warner Bros. 1971).

Tracks: CD1: Bertha; Me and My Uncle; Tennessee Jed; Jack Straw; Loser; Playing In The Band; Sugaree; Beat It On Down The Line; Black Peter; Mexicali Blues; Cold Rain and Snow; Me and Bobby McGee. CD2: Comes A Time; One More Saturday Night; Ramble On Rose; Cumberland Blues; That's It For The Other One/Cryptical Envelopment/Drumsiii; The Other One/Cryptical Envelopment; Deal; Sugar Magnolia; Casey Jones/Johnny B. Goode. CD3: Truckin'; Big Railroad Blues; Frozen Logger; Dark Star/Sitting On Top Of The World/Dark Star/Me and Bobby McGee; Brown-Eyed Women; St. Stephen/Johnny B. Goode.

Personnel: Jerry Garcia: vocals, lead guitar; Bob Weir: vocals, rhythm guitar; Phil Lesh: vocals, bass guitar; Keith Godchaux: piano and organ; Bill Kreutzmann: drums.

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