The Grateful Dead whip up a worthy successor to 'Europe '72'
By NICK TAVARES
STATIC and FEEDBACK Editor
In terms of marketing, the Grateful Dead estate will never be accused of resting on their laurels.
For more than two decades, the powers that be within the band have released a succession of live albums from their vaults, capturing what so many loved best about the band — their interplay on stage. They topped themselves this year with the release of the Europe ’72: The Complete Recordings box set, a mammoth 73-disc collection documenting the entire tour that begat perhaps their finest moment, the live album Europe ’72.
All these ambitious projects, though, have been geared towards the most dedicated fan, the ones who have spent years trading shows, breaking down Jerry Garcia’s solos and arguing about keyboard players. That box set, while admirable, plays to a very select crowd, even among the diehards.
So what, then, for the casual fans? Certainly, there are a number of people who enjoy the Dead while owning only a couple of records or a few songs. And there are also a number of people who listen to the band quite a bit, have most of the records and a few live recordings, but would never be able to commit the time, energy and money needed for a 73-disc box set.
For those many folks, the band has assembled a successor to the live album that started all this, Europe ’72, Vol. 2, a two-disc set that serves as a brother to the original album in sound and feel. And like the original, there are plenty of sounds and styles that clash and bond with each other.
The first disc has some of the better folk-country tunes of the Dead’s repertoire, and 1972 saw the band in solid form. “Black-Throated Wind” is a highlight that doesn’t pop up too often in Dead releases, but popular songs like “Bertha” and “Deal” are given excellent readings on this set.
As he was on the original record, Pigpen is sturdy, with “Chinatown Shuffle” and “Next Time You See Me” serving as reminders of the power and groove of the Dead’s original leader. And for those looking for another spacey jam to add to the collection, there’s plenty of creative playing on “Playing in the Band” to close the first disc, as well as the entire second disc.
The second disc offers up some familiar sounds, with the program dedicated to two long jams, one that runs from “Dark Star” through “Sing Me Back Home” and the second, the common “Not Fade Away > Going Down the Road Feeling Bad > Not Fade Away” medley. To the seasoned fan, this may seem a bit redundant, but it’s not hard to see why their inclusions are present and, after a listen, welcome.
First, producer David Lemieux wanted to get the best bits from the European jaunt without duplicating any tracks from the original Europe ’72, leaving these likely the best jams that didn’t meander into “Truckin’” or “Morning Dew.” Second, this isn’t just a set for the well-seasoned fans, the ones who likely have a number of the Dead’s vault releases, in addition to tapes, CD-Rs and downloads. This set has been crafted and marketed as the next classic Dead live set, aimed at all crowds.
To that end, Lemieux and company were successful. Vol. 2 is a worthy edition to the catalog, one that will certainly please those fans in the middle, but will still be intriguing enough to both the casual listeners and those diehard Dead Heads who didn’t buy the full-scale box set. It should enter the club of exclusive Dead live albums, along with Live/Dead and Skull & Roses. And Europe ’72, Vol. 1, of course.
E-mail Nick Tavares at email@example.com