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Sherman, set the Wayback machine for the second week of November, 1973. The Grateful Dead are on a roll…yes, again! The summer had seen the band playing triumphant mega-shows with the Allman Brothers at RFK Stadium in D.C. and at Watkins Glenn in upstate New York. With their popularity seemingly still escalating by the month, fall tours took them to various East Coast haunts and all over the Midwest. On October 15, they released Wake of the Flood, their first album on their own independent record label, and copies were flying out of stores coast to coast. So the mood in the band was WAY UP when their incredibly busy schedule brought them home for three shows at Winterland in San Francisco November 9, 10 and 11—before they set off again for points East.
Winterland always brought out the best—and the beast—in the band. Located across Geary Boulevard from the Fillmore Auditorium, the one-time home of the Ice Follies had hosted dozens of amazing rock shows since Bill Graham started putting on shows there in the late ’60s. It’s where the top tier of Bay Area bands would get together occasionally for marathon shows, and it’s where the most popular out-of-town acts—from The Doors, to Hendrix, to The Who, to the Rolling Stones—would play in the era before faceless sports arenas became an unfortunate fact of concert-going life. But nobody played Winterland as often as the Dead. By the time they’d trucked their ever-expanding sound system to the venue for their November ’73 shows, they’d already logged 31 concerts there—and there would be another 28 eventful Dead nights at Winterland before the old place was closed after the Dead’s New Year’s Eve show in 1978, and eventually reduced to rubble to make way for condos. Sure, the 5,000-capacity hall was acoustically challenging and a little frayed on the edges. But with its narrow open floor, shallow lower balcony that encircled the entire venue, its deeper back balcony chill zone, and serpentine walkways between floors, it was a tremendously fun and entertaining place to see a show—especially a Dead show.
Winterland 1973: The Complete Recordings captures the Dead during one of their peak years and absolutely at the top of their game. Spread over nine discs, it includes every note of three complete consecutive shows (save for the encore of November 9, which was not recorded), so there’s plenty here to satisfy every fan: magnificent jams on “Dark Star” (which sprawls to 35 completely compelling minutes!), “Playing in the Band,” “Eyes of the World,” the still-new “Weather Report Suite” and more; kick-ass rockers of every variety (“Sugar Magnolia,” “Casey Jones,” “Johnny B. Goode,” “Truckin’,” et al); haunting ballads including “China Doll,” “Stella Blue” and “To Lay Me Down”; a truly spectacular “China Cat”; and the first of just three versions ever of the dazzling sequence of “Playing in the Band” > “Uncle John’s Band” > “Morning Dew” > “Uncle John’s” reprise > “Playing” reprise. (For a complete listing of the contents of the nine discs, go here.)
All the music here was drawn from Grateful Dead crew member Kidd Candelario’s crystal clear and wonderfully present 2-track soundboard reels of the shows, and enhanced by the mastering work of the always reliable sonic wizard Jeffrey Norman, who used all sorts of arcane processes to bring it all into the glorious world of HDCD sound. This stuff will rattle your bones! The beautifully designed box also comes with a colorful booklet containing scads of great photos and a fine essay by Grateful Dead historian Dennis McNally.
We like to think of Winterland 1973 as being part of the noble tradition established by the ecstatically received Fillmore West 1969: The Complete Recordings, and as a precursor for other complete-run boxes to come. So clear out a chunk of space in the ol’ CD case, ’cause this mutha’ is a BIG ONE!
Don’t delay! You can order Winterland 1973: The Complete Recordings right now by clicking here !
(To help get you in the mood, you can preview some of the music on the Winterland 1973 box by clicking here. And to give you a little glimpse of what Winterland was like, check out this video montage with audio from the ’73 shows and visuals from The Grateful Dead Movie, shot at Winterland a year later!)