Road Trips Vol. 4 No. 5
Road Trips Series Ends with Boston ’76
1976 was a pivotal year for the Grateful Dead. After an 18-month hiatus that saw just four Bay Area appearances by the band, but also a phenomenal studio album, Blues for Allah, and a slew of solo projects, the Dead returned to the road at the beginning of June ’76. Mickey Hart was officially back in the fold after a long absence, and the band came back with a batch of new songs and fresh approaches to playing their old ones. It was the summer of America’s much-ballyhooed bicentennial, the country was still going through Watergate withdrawal, and we needed our Grateful Dead back!
During their time away, the Dead radically simplified their stage setup. They put their remarkable (but cumbersome) Wall of Sound P.A. out to pasture, in favor of a more conventional (but still great) system. And, as a treat to their fans, they booked their entire first post-hiatus tour into acoustically solid small theaters, eschewing the large arenas that their snowballing popularity and their massive sound system had forced them into. They hit the road well-rehearsed and refreshed; clearly thrilled to be out there playing Grateful Dead music onstage again. And we were, needless to say, psyched to be seeing them again!
This latest—and last—edition of our Road Trips series (more on that in a moment), ingeniously labeled Vol. 4 No. 5, was drawn from two shows early on what was dubbed by many Heads at the time as the Dead’s “comeback” tour. It contains the truly awe-inspiring complete June 9, 1976 Boston Music Hall show (just the third of the tour, but you’d never guess that), and also a handful of hot tracks from the June 12 show at the same venue. The 6/9 show has long been a personal favorite, so I’m really delighted that it is finally being released! It’s definitely one of the strongest of ’76.
The first set includes stand-out versions of then-new songs such as “Crazy Fingers” and “The Music Never Stopped,” just the third version of “Cassidy,” a neatly jammed “Scarlet Begonias” and a potent “Ship of Fools,” among other gems. The second set opens with a long, circuitous “St. Stephen” (the first in five years!), then goes into a tremendous “Eyes,” followed by “Let It Grow,” which was now independent of the first two parts of “Weather Report Suite.” “Samson and Delilah” and “Lazy Lightning” > “Supplication” were brand-new to the Dead repertoire, while the bevy of rearranged songs included “High Time” and the famous disco-influenced “Dancing in the Street.” The encore was another recent one: “Franklin’s Tower” (which would never be played in that slot again). For a band that hadn’t played together in eons, the Dead sound remarkably self-assured and on-the-ball throughout. The 6/12/76 songs include one of only five versions of “Mission in the Rain” the Dead played, “The Wheel” (a few years old, but new to the stage), the revived “Comes a Time” (last played in ’72) and a “Sugar Mag” sandwich with a great “U.S. Blues” as the meaty filling.
As with all the previous Road Trips releases, this final entry comes with a colorful booklet containing an essay and period photos. And needless to say it has been mastered to HDCD specs by Jeffrey Norman. You can find the complete song list for all three discs, as well as ordering information, by clicking here.
So, what’s all this talk about the end of Road Trips? Well, we figured that four years and 17 releases was a pretty good run for that series, and now it’s time to try something new. Don’t worry, there is definitely going to be another release program dedicated to putting out the best material in the vault. We’ll be revealing details of the new series very soon, so stay tuned!
— Blair Jackson
...there's room for both complete shows and compilations. I think a few of those early RT compilations were great! When I put 'em on I don't even think about which shows they were taken from; I just enjoy them for what they are.
I wouldn't call the complete-show purists "knuckleheads" (as sffct does above) by any means, but I do think their incessant negativity poisoned the series in the minds of many people who might have otherwise enjoyed it... That's just my opinion, not any kind of authorized statement from TPTB... I'm confident that whatever comes next will match the best of RT, and hopefully not incur so much negative baggage right out of the gate.
I''m thrilled the releases will continue- Sad to see Road Trips go, and excited for what's next. As far as compilations and whole shows, it's relatively clear to me- If only a portion of a show exists in the Vault, and this performance is magnificent, then it's a prime candidate for a compilation. If the whole show exists, then release the whole show- We're never going to hear it sound as good as it can unless it's released.
Only the first two Road Trips really took the idea to heart...select nuggets from several shows during a tour.
Starting with 1.3 through 2.4 each release generally focused on the good parts of 2 shows.
From 3.1 on it was generally a complete show with substantial part of a second show.
Curious to see what the next release "banner" will be.
I will be buying this, I have been clamoring for more '76.
I do hope you can find more versions of Help On The Way > Slipknot to release from '76 and '77. Beside great composition, I feel strongly these performances often showed the band's greatness and passion. I don't have anything handy to check this, but my impression is that over the course of the four vault series (FTV, DP, DS, RT), Help>Slip from the first post-retirement era has been overlooked. Actually though, it wasn't really performed all that often, which made it all the more special. Thanks GDM, well done over the past 18 years, amazing dedication to Deadheads. We are blessed.
While I agree that the packaging in the cardboard sleeves is not the most elegant, if it keeps the price down I'm all for it.
The value is in the music and if the standards for remastering and disc reproduction remain as high as they have been then I can live with the cardboard.
...cut on the master reel to the beginning of St. Stephen. Nice release. I always like me a little '76 vintage...
I have been writing annually I think with such a request. I had those tapes in college, I was in the front row at the Fox on 11/30 (trying not to tumble into the pit), I get it. And I would say the Deal and Bird Song from 11/30 HAVE to be released too along with most of the 2nd set. That Scarlet Begonias > Fire On the Mountain is a winner.
Really dug the Road Trips series and look forward to how future releases in new series. Tours or runs would be awesome!
I second the CD option.
Will any of the OOP Dick's Picks be reissued? I am missing number 34 and View From the Vault 2 and I don't want to pay ebay prices.
"Knuckleheads" is perhaps a teeny, tiny bit much. Perhaps not.
Yes, both complete shows and compilations are of interest. But it was the volume and vehemence of the so-called "purists," intolerant of anything less than yet more perfunctory first set LRRs, Sugarees and Mama Trieds, that shouted down the original Road Trips idea, which was brilliant. GDM has to consider marketability but you took too much to heart the complaints and chickened out on the RT concept. We missed out on what could have been a most effective presentation of the music.
To be sure, a lot of great stuff came out in that series, but it would have been better if you'd stuck to your plan. The first RT release was a great example of the form. It caused me to reconsider the era.
I hope that the new series will have low and medium priced offerings and will not all be 20-disc complete run releases. I know! How about selected 2nd set jams and connected songs from otherwise inconsistent shows... Oh, right...
Great series. Still miss DPs but looking forward to next