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
New York--Beacon Theatre
Sorry for creating all the download panic... was simply a suggestion for a way to get very good quality shows out rapidly and at less expense and less whining about packaging ripping, delivery problems and defective discs.
Anyway too each his own. Sorry Blair had to calm down the masses over my suggestion :-)
The way I look at 1976 is how bad a year could it be when the dead were playing St. Stephen and Mission in the Rain. Also for anyone who has never seen the dead or jerry at the orpheum it is a pretty small place and it would have been fantastic to catch this run of shows there after the '75 layoff.
Thanks Blair for giving us whatever information your able to. I realize that you can't please all the people all the time. Personally I'm not locked into it has to be a certain era show. Like someone else mentioned it can't all be about 73-74, although that may be my favorite era! Still I dig what Mickey brought as well as Brent and well Pigpen, what can I but one of a kind. I kind of lean towards the who shows but having so many taped/cd sbds and audience recording I didn't mind the original idea of the Road Trips tour highlights. Keep em' comin'!
Again, I am pretty excited for this release. I love '76 because it's got a bit of that pre-retirement "Good Old Grateful Dead" in the first sets, and an occasional full first set Playin'. Plus their second set setlists are so varied and the transitions are probably the strongest in the bad's whole career. Listen to the Dancin>Wharf Rat>Dancin from the Day on the Green shows, and you'll see what I mean. I also like 76 because Donna usually sounds really good,, and Jerry's voice was still classic. (I think it already started to change by 77). Some shows are a little on the slow side (Chicago, Tenn. Jed opener), but most of it is pretty swingin'. The Eyes and Let It Grows are blazing this year. Plus, 1976 is so great because you get great versions of Might As Well, Crazy Fingers and Help>Slip>Frank.
I think that this is a great release! It always intrigues me why people are so scared of this year (I used to be), it's got a little of the old and a lot of the new. 1984, that is a year I am definitely scared of. Never came across a show that blew me away (although the BCT run could change that).
Anyway, get out your Dicks's Picks and give this year a whirl, or dig up some shows online. I think you'll find 1976 surprisingly digestible and appealing.
Oh, and be sure to turn it up nice and LOUD!
It was a nice run. Hey Blair, how about selling a box to keep them all in? That would be cool.
I received a response from Mark Pinkus regarding the restocking of Dick's Picks. He said:
"We will definately be bringing them all back. It's just taking longer than we thought."
Patience continues to be a virtue, but well worth the wait.
Thanks Lunchbox! Will these be through the new company re-issuing 34,35 and 36 do you think?
I get the impression that these are for distribution here, not a third party. But I cannot confirm that at this point.
I guess we'll have to wait and see, but this is good news! Downloaded the 4 oop volumes I needed, then I found the volume 19 I needed at a reasonable cost. Pre-ordered 34 and 35. I just need 32, but I refuse to pay those prices on eBay. This is encouraging to say the least and goes a long way in restoring my faith in Rhino.
I think Rhino should just stick to an anthology series from here on out, maybe an occasional whole show once or twice a year. There is a ton of great stuff that was included on all the bonus CDs, and I think Rhino could have a winner if all that stuff was eventually included, even piece meal and as filler on new reissues.
And I definitely would like to be able to buy some top quality video content, even if its very short, on my iPhone and iPad.