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
I actually laughed out loud at his comments, kind of funny! It's also funny how riled up people get ...
Awww, I was just messin' with Big Donnie. Actually his view of '76 is not that uncommon. I disagree, but I understand where the anti-'76ers are coming from.
The hostile attitude gets a little tiresome around here, though...
(There's a fairly vociferous anti-'76 camp over in the Jerry Garcia Band world, too. I disagree with them, too...)
It will for sure be interesting to see where they go from here. Obviously, the Europe '72 box was a great success, which does suggest that there's a market for big boxes of longer runs. However, Europe '72 is so unique as a tour, and it would be difficult to think of a run that would be as attractive. "Europe '74" would be a cool follow-up, though; but it's unlikely, I think. Although "France '74" would work pretty well as a ten-disc set...
One thing that I have appreciated about the Europe '72 box is the variety that the different locations bring - not only in terms of acoustics, but also in the band's performance. For example, I liked how they brought out their bittersweet ballads like "Comes a Time," "Looks Like Rain," and "Brokedown Palace" in Newcastle, a town with a strong folk music tradition. In this sense, thinking about how location affects performance, it would be cool to have a regional run in the U.S., like "Mid-West '73," or "Down South '77"... Actually, I think there's a lot of potential in the geographical approach. How about "Out in the West Texas Town of El Paso '73"? Or "Alaska '80" as a whole run? What about "Spanish Jam: Barcelona '80," the only time Garcia played in the land of his paternal ancestors (with a pretty cool "Scarlet/Fire")?
I think '76 is a pretty fun year. They did a lot of creative segueing and played some great tunes. The only knock on it I can understand is that the whole year seems a half a step slow. Even when they are rockin', it's still a little slow. But I like that.
Blair, I think most of us here appreciate what you and David L. and the rest of the gang do. It's the unfathomable miscues by the fulfillment company that make some of us wonder if we want to be supporting this economic franchise. But the music, the writing, and the packaging in general is very enjoyable.
I like 76. They seem to be precisely developing the tunes and listening to eachother very closely. I would like to see other runs from 76, along with the Colt Park show released. Re: downloads-they should be offered as another choice-not the EXCLUSIVE choice. I personally won't go with downloads any more-digital content is easily lost with hard drive failure,, failed back-up, etc. I like to have the physical product including notes, photos, artwork, disc artwork, etc. OFF TOPIC: does anyone out there know anything about future Jerry releases? Are these over for all intents and purposes? Why?
Please don't go only download. Personally I don't buy the downloads. $17.00 or more for a 16 bit flac isn't a deal to me. $23.00 with pressed discs essays and artwork is what I expect when "purchasing" music. And while I don't condone illegal downloads, I see no benefit to paying for the exact same product that
Will be widely available for free download...
Keep the hard copy releases comin' and I certainly will support the effort but I grew up in the 70's where groups put thought and care to come up with a suitable creative package that fit the music, complete with notes and photos and an artistic vision. The Dead was no exception and provided up with some iconic covers. Why not continue that legacy.
One other thing I hope Rhino considers and that is the scope BEYOND the next series. If for instance a complete set of Europe 74 is a possibilty, please don't run a partial set or show or two and then release them same material within a broader scope. Come up with a long term plan and look at individual shows or small runs that might be fitting but not to only be re-released in another form later.
That said, I was pretty happy with the Road Trips and Dicks Picks series and look forward to the new series.
DEFINITELY be CDs in the new series, so everyone can relax about that issue. Haven't heard anything one way or another about downloads yet...
I would also like to know what happened to the Pure Jerry series. First, there was this long pause, and then we got two releases: Garcia/Kahn '86 and Bay Area '78. But now it looks like the series is on hiatus again. It's odd, since there would seem to be such potential with solo Jerry, due to the variety of configurations he played in.
Finally, just thinking about future GD releases... What I find long overdue is some kind of Pigpen-themed release. What about a set that compiles stellar and previously unreleased performances, along with some rare cuts? Or what about solo material? In the original "Europe '72" tour program, it is mentioned that Pigpen is recording a solo album. Are these the recordings that already circulate (which seem to be home recordings), or are there actually unreleased Pigpen solo sessions still in the vault?
Based on your description, I think I’ll spin Bongo Fury and pass on the Zappa website! Quite enough antagonism here in our sunshine daydream (peace, love, and I want mine) community, thanks.
Regarding the complete-show camp, maybe they didn’t call those who disagreed silly names ~ and maybe some did, or worse ~ they successfully lobbied the Road Trips concept out of existence, for the most part. So being called “knuckleheads” isn’t a great price to pay for demanding & getting what you want. Indulge the voice of the disenfranchised, was my point ~ the compilation advocates have been pretty meek, compared to the complete-shows-or-bust camp.
But do want to say that while there are certainly some knuckleheads on these boards, you, snafu, aren’t one of them. (Though I may very well be…….. ; )
Glad to hear there'll still be a "hardcopy" cd series ~ I love artwork and liner notes. But I liked the Download Series, too, because it helped get some more tapes out into the world, in a cheaper & faster way. Maybe downloads wouldn't even need to be mastered to the same degree as the cd releases (a la Taper's Section), buy at your own risk. That said, I may ride into the sunset with this last RT....subscription ended, Europe '72 steamer in tow, this is a good time to relax and fully enjoy what I've got. (Ha, unless there's a 66, 67, Fall 68, Fall 70, 84, 85, or show-I-was-at release.....!) Seriously, next time I can afford a Europe box, I think I'll go to Europe instead.