Recorded in the summer of 1974, marking the initial use of the famed "Wall of Sound" system, this latest edition of the Grateful Dead archive series finds the band scaling what may be the pinnacle of its performing powers. At the same time, the group was devoting its organization's resources of time, money and expertise to the massive sound system that offered them and their audiences the most realistic sound imaginable.
Secure in the knowledge that one of their primary concerns as musicians was being successfully addressedat least technically speaking)it only makes sense, then, that the group, at this point an instrumental quintet plus Donna Jean Godchaux on vocals, would play with such a relaxed confidence. That mindset allows for some minor loose ends, as on the tempo shifts of "I Know You Rider," but such sloppiness has always been a part of Grateful Dead live.
And perhaps it's the acceptable margin of human error allowing for true brilliance, such as the angular approach to the improvisation at the heart of "Eyes of the World," where Phil Lesh's bass flutters, but decisively so, as the first round of vocals ends and it sound like he and Bill Kreutzmannon his own as drummer, with Mickey Hart temporarily out of the foldare, for all intents and purposes, almost literally picking up the rest of the groupguitarists Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir plus keyboardist Keith Godchauxto proceed into the jam.
Rhythm guitarist and vocalist Weir often lauds how nimble was the Grateful Dead in the more compact configurations, and such collective ease of motion is apparent throughout this set. The interplay between Weir and leader Garcia is lightning quick, and while Godchaux, alternating between electric piano and organ, tends to take a back seat, his intuitive sense remains impeccable and only furthers the harmonic development.
At any given time in the five-way conversations at the heart of this three-disc set, taken from two different locales, everyone's being heard: by themselves, their peers and presumably everyone in the audience. As one time publicist Dennis McNally so gleefully relates in his essay , next to multiple photos of the massive structure, the beauty of the "Wall of Sound" was its distortion-free efficiency, corresponding to the nightmarish impracticality of setup and breakdown. It only stands to reason that the Grateful Dead's musicianship evinced an almost feather-light touch when it was in use.
So it is that with the overall familiarity of the material (seasoned with the relative novelty of "It's a Sin" and "The Race Is On,"), plus the well-established style of playing individually and collectively, Road Trips Volume, Number 3 becomes an immediate standout in this series of Grateful Dead live recordings that began seeing release in 2007.
Track Listing: CD1: Recorded live at State Fairgrounds, Des Moines, Iowa, 6/16/74: China Cat Sunflower;
I Know You Rider; The Race Is On; Eyes Of The World> Big River; U.S. Blues; Playing In The
Band. CD2: Recorded live at Freedom Hall, Louisville, Kentucky, 6/18/74: Loose Lucy; Eyes
The World>China Doll; Weather Report Suite>Jam> Other One>It's A Sin Jam>Stella Blue.
CD3 (Bonus Disc): Morning Dew; Around and Around; Deal; Greatest Story Ever Told;
Truckin'>Nobody's Jam>Wharf Rat; Going Down the Road Feeling Bad; Sugar Magnolia.
Personnel: Jerry Garcia: lead guitar, vocals; Bob Weir: rhythm guitar, vocals; Phil Lesh: electric bass,
vocals; Bill Kreutzmann: drums, Keith Godchaux: keyboards; Donna Jean Godchaux: vocals.