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
I'm sorry but some complains that people had were valid. The first Road Trips had major pitch/speed issues and some of those highlights releases were so chopped up that it wasn't funny and throw in bad package design for getting the discs out unscratched. Then the really bad idea about limiting bonus discs to boot. In spite of it all I've been a supporter of the series and bought every one although I don't bother to listen to the choppy ones or the ones that no one bothered to fix the pitch/speed issues. Here's hoping that those in charge learn from their mistakes and then I'm sure there will be less complaints.
One annoying side effect of releasing partial shows officially is that the whole show is then normallly (but not always) removed from archive.org.
RT 2.3 is a case in point. I agree with LIG71; it was a real shame only to release parts of these 2 shows, but also now the soundboards of 6/16/74 and 6/18/74 are no longer available in any form on archive.org. So unless you want to go (semi) illegal in torrent land, those tracks are lost to the public.
I concur w CB and LIG71 regarding concern and disappointment over the partial releases of both 6/16 and 6/18/74: Certainly legendary performances. Perhaps the Rhino evolution will give us these 2 gems in their entirety someday.
Totally agree about partial 6/18/74. It's one of my top tens and should be available in full form either through dead.net or archive.org.
A good choice for a final RT, i agree about the 74 shows some others have mentioned, 6/16 & 6/18, and I'd love to see a boxed set of the July '76 Orpheum shows.
This tour coming back from time off has grown on me over the years, while not as powerful as the Spring 77 East Coast tour, there were a lot of highlights. Living in the NY area I was blessed to see shows in Boston, NYC, Passaic & Philly on this tour, just as I was graduating from HS.
A long strange trip ago...
First, GRATE choice, I haven't heard this in about 10 years I think, since I ditched my cassettes.
Second, I have to agree, that 6.18.74 show should not have been sliced and diced. However, I'm in the camp that was okay with the meaty nugs from shows and don't need a full show every time. Seriously, no more M&MU please! The best part about the original series though was the full show downloads. So you could buy the compilation CD, then get two complete shows via download. As for the bonus discs, some missed out, but my theory is the more music officially released the better - hint - always buy something that offers a bonus disc (you can confirm this on eBay). I have never sold a bonus disc on eBay, but do check the prices for kicks.
I will garuantee, whatever the new format/series is, it will include (but not be limited to) downloads. Check out the site FAQs, they mention new "High Def" pages "Coming Soon."
One nice subscription idea would be to allow us to download say the Jam of the Week or Taper's Section for a yearly fee.
kaustin7 - I've been emailing TPTB every few months for over a year now and they keep telling me all the DPs will be coming back in stock. I actually just sent Mark Pinkus another note yesterday. (Personally, I still need 7 DPs to finish the series.)
Hopefully, the Pure Jerry series releases will be re-stocked and more will follow soon. (Missing 4 of those.)
I'd advocate a "Bonus disc" box set, too, but that's not likely to ever happen. It would be sweet though. I'd certainly buy it, even if it meant some duplicates.
Thanks for the info! I will keep checking back to see when they restock.
I would, of course, encourage anyone else who still wants the DPs and other series to voice your request to Mark and the Rhino crew. They've been very friendly about it, and it would probably help to know that the demand is there.
In the very least I know it's on their radar, I just don't know what the priority for restocking these things is at present. The last communciation I got from Mark said they were shooting for the end of the summer, but that didn't happen. Hopefully in time for the holidays this year!
I am not sure on this, but I heard around here that there's a release plan for out-of-print Dick's Picks releases through 'Real Gone' music (is that right?). I also understand the prices have been jacked a bit. Someone back me up on this.