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
It's not '73, but I listen to the April Fools RT all the time. I love their sound then. I can't believe someone doesn't like it. Inconceivable.
RT 4.5 has made it to Buffalo, NY, along with 4/14/72 (couldn't afford the big cahuna, so I'll get 'em one at a time). Needless to say, RT 4.5 is going to have to wait. I'm sure it's great, though.
As to 4/14/72--Jesus!! Wow! Holy crap! The best "Me and My Uncle" ever! The best everything so far! (I've made it to track 6).
I might have to hock this disc on amazon and just charge the whole suitcase after all.
I was going to take this Road Trips release on a road trip but as usual my plans and reality did not play well together. So far I've only been able to listen to the first CD but the music and the discs themselves are just fine!
It's a shame they didn't use the audience recording to patch the beginning of St. Stephen.
What a weird transition from 2 months with Europe 72 into June of 76. These discs sound amazing!! I LOVE the Crazy Fingers, St Stephen>Eyes>Let It Grow and just about everything else!! After being knee deep in 1972 and then popping in these discs, it is amazing to see the difference in this band. I can't wait for The Richmond 77 discs to make their way to my mailbox (I lived 3 blocks from the Mosque and my dad took me to this show when I was just a kid)!!
Man I love the Grateful Dead!! Keep them coming guys!
Got mine today!!!
I've been running to the mail box every day and today it finally arrived. Furthur at MSG on Thursday!
Yesterday, my copy finally arrived. I`ve been listening to `72 Dead since I received my trunk back in September (in fact, I finished listening to the box set last weekend) and this is a great change, obviously. I love the Dead live in 1976. Donna sounds really good and mellow in this recordings, Keith's piano is loud in the mix, Phil background vocals are missed, but his bass guitar is as astounding as always, Bob shines with his newly-found Ibanez sound, and Jerry is Jerry, and that is enough. Regarding drums, I consider both Hart and Kreutzmann great drummers, but many of the songs that come from the '71-'74 period sound better with one drummer only. Listening to Bill being everywhere at the same time (especially during '72-'74) was simply fantastic. It just seems that some songs lose some subtlety and poly-rhythm quality, the drums sound more steady and predictable when compared with recordings of previous tours. Anyway, Mickey is an outstanding drummer and some tunes are revitalized with his presence. .
The sound quality is top-notch, as you can imagine. All the instruments come through the speakers loud and clear, and that does not happen with the live releases of every band, as we all know. These Dead's soundboards sound better than some other bands' multitrack recordings.
Summing up: beautiful music from a band that was coming back to the road having a great time, and all beatifully recorded. A sweet ending for the Road Trips series, which I will personally miss.
nice timing as I'm about midway through E72 and can use a break...
snip, snip, snip
Mmmmm.... scissor hash...
Got mine yesterday-let me say I love 1976 in general. This show is great and the sound is wonderful. I always liked the Travis Bean guitar sound. I saw the boys when they played the outdoor show at Colt in Hartford that summer. There is a clean precision to my ears of their playing as they reinvent themselves in front of audiences and Mickey is being integrated back into the music. The "electric string quartet" idea is somewhat apt, I think to this period. But they can still snort and snarl. BTW, saw Furthur at UMASS Sunday-absolutely the best I have heard from Furthur-the setlist DOES NOT tell the story. John has really steppedup and Phil was tremendous(not to discount Bob, Jeff and Joe and the singers who had their A game).