Sunday, July 30, 2017

Grateful Dead: “Road Trips Vol. 4 No. 5: Boston Music Hall 6-9-76” (2011/2017) CD Review

After the Dick’s Picks series ended, and before the Dave’s Picks series began, there was the Road Trips series of live Grateful Dead recordings. Originally released from 2007 to 2011, and available only through Grateful Dead Merchandising, the series is now being re-issued by Real Gone Music and available in stores for the first time. Like Real Gone’s re-issues of the Dick’s Picks series, they’re starting at the end and working their way backward. Thus, the series’ final release, Vol. 4 No. 5, has been re-issued first. Unlike many of this series’ releases, this one contains a complete show (most contain selections from certain tours). This three-disc set contains the entire show the Grateful Dead performed at the Boston Music Hall on June 9, 1976, and a few selections from June 12, 1976 at the same venue. The June 9th show was only the third show the Dead performed after the hiatus, and the first east coast show, so the audience must have been pretty damn excited.

I always thought “Cold Rain And Snow” was a good choice for a show opener, and the Dead deliver a pretty sweet rendition here. Sure, it’s a bit mellower than earlier versions, but Jerry’s vocals sound great. That’s followed by one of my favorite Grateful Dead tunes, “Cassidy,” a song with excellent lyrics. When I met lyricist John Barlow, I told him as much, and he told me it was one of his favorites too. These days Dead & Company really jam on this one, but back  in 1976 it was delivered in a more straightforward manner. Still, this is a pretty good version, and Bob and Donna’s vocals blend well. “Let your life proceed by its own design.” The Dead then play the always-appreciated “Scarlet Begonias.” Check out what Phil is doing on bass. It seems more exaggerated than usual, playfully, or maybe I’m just more focused on it for whatever reason. Ah, some forgotten lyrics. But no matter, this is a fun rendition, and the jam is particularly delicious, with Jerry’s guitar flowing beautifully. The band keeps things moving with “The Music Never Stopped.” And then Donna has a strong vocal presence on this smooth version of “Crazy Fingers.” It gets interesting toward the end, as the band jams a bit. But right as it seems ready to take off toward points unknown, the jam comes to an end. Still, it’s one of the highlights of the first set. That’s followed by a good “Big River” and a really nice “They Love Each Other.” The version of “Looks Like Rain” on this disc is beautiful, even delicate at times, then rising to some wonderful heights, another of the first set highlights. It’s followed by another pretty tune, “Ship Of Fools,” and Jerry delivers an excellent rendition here. Ah, when Jerry still had thirty years upon his head. Now we’re approaching what would have been his seventy-fifth birthday. Can you believe how quickly time’s been going? The first set ends with Chuck Berry’s “The Promised Land.”

It might just be my copy, but I had some trouble getting the second disc to come free from its tray. Anyway, the second disc contains most of the second set, and it starts with fan favorite “St. Stephen.” It must have been something to see the band play this song. There were rumors in later days that the band was playing it during soundchecks, but it did not make its way back into a set list during the time when I was seeing the band. This “St. Stephen” is the first performance in nearly five years, so the crowd must have been particularly thrilled to hear it. It feels like we’re missing the first several seconds of the song on this disc. It just starts right up, and we don’t hear the audience’s reaction to the opening notes, which is a shame. Still, this is a really good version, with a nice solid jam. The jam never gets into any strange territory, but it’s good, and the sound is crisp and clear. It leads right into “Eyes Of The World,” another of my favorite songs. Something about the sound of this one never fails to make me happy. The playing always flows so well, with Jerry’s guitar sounding like a joyful friend, and there is that wonderful, steady groove beneath it all. This song was particularly delicious in the 1970s, totally fun to dance to, and this version begins with an excellent jam. For me, this is the best part of this three-disc set. “Sometimes the songs that we hear are just songs of our own.” The jam mellows after that final verse, and the band eases into “Let It Grow.” But this is certainly not a mellow version of “Let It Grow.” There is a power here. Listen to Bill and Mickey keeping it moving, and there is even a drum solo in the middle of this fantastic jam. What an excellent version of “Let It Grow.” It’s followed by a good rendition of “Brown-Eyed Women.” During the band’s break, the members kept busy. One of the side projects Bob Weir was involved with was Kingfish, and two songs from the band’s self-titled debut album found their way into the Dead’s set lists – “Lazy Lightning” and “Supplication,” usually paired together (though if memory serves, I think I saw “Supplication” by itself at Shoreline once). That’s followed by a wonderful “High Time,” which builds beautifully toward the end. Then, after “Samson And Delilah,” Jerry delivers another moving performance with “It Must Have Been The Roses,” which concludes the second disc.

The third disc contains the rest of the second set and the encore, as well as a few tunes from June 12, 1976. It begins with “Dancing In The Street,” which has a very different sound from the way the band performed it in the 1960s. It has more of a disco flavor, and this version has a fun, groovy jam. It leads into a really good “Wharf Rat,” and the band ends the second set with “Around And Around.” It’s a slightly slower, mid-1970s-style version of “Around And Around.” It then picks up in pace several minutes in for the jam. The encore if “Franklin’s Tower.”

The rest of the third disc is music from the show the band did on June 12, 1976. It’s not a solid chunk of the show, but rather songs from throughout the performance, beginning with “Mission In The Rain” from the first set. This is a song from Jerry Garcia’s Reflections, an album released during the band’s hiatus (and featuring members of the Grateful Dead). Though the Jerry Garcia Band played this song quite a bit, the Dead didn’t do it very much. It’s an excellent song. Check out these lines: “Ten years ago I walked this street, my dreams were riding tall/Tonight I would be thankful, lord, for any dream at all/Some folks would be happy just to have one dream come true/But everything you gather is just more that you can lose.” That’s followed by a cool rendition of “The Wheel,” which opened the second set. This is another that was performed slightly more slowly during this time period, but I like it. “Comes A Time” also comes from the second set, and is a pretty version, especially toward the end. The third disc then concludes with the encore from that show, “Sugar Magnolia” into “U.S. Blues” into “Sunshine Daydream.” Yeah, right when you expect “Sunshine Daydream” to start, the band surprises you by going into “U.S. Blues.” And then they go into “Sunshine Daydream.”

CD Track List

Disc 1
  1. Cold Rain And Snow
  2. Cassidy
  3. Scarlet Begonias
  4. The Music Never Stopped
  5. Crazy Fingers
  6. Big River
  7. They Love Each Other
  8. Looks Like Rain
  9. Ship Of Fools
  10. Promised Land
Disc 2
  1. St. Stephen >
  2. Eyes Of The World >
  3. Let It Grow
  4. Brown-Eyed Women
  5. Lazy Lightning >
  6. Supplication
  7. High Time
  8. Samson And Delilah
  9. It Must Have Been The Roses
Disc 3
  1. Dancing In The Street >
  2. Wharf Rat >
  3. Around And Around
  4. Franklin’s Tower
  5. Mission In The Rain
  6. The Wheel
  7. Comes A Time
  8. Sugar Magnolia >
  9. U.S. Blues >
  10. Sunshine Daydream
Road Trips Vol. 4 No. 5: Boston Music Hall 6-9-76 was released on June 2, 2017 through Real Gone Music.


  1. These were my first shows 6-9 and 6-12. Thanks for your great reviews Dave Davis

  2. I forgot, get any of the good audience versions to listen to the audience reaction to the return of St Stephen; I was very sad this wasn't added onto the offical version