Sunday, August 2, 2015

Grateful Dead: “Dave’s Picks Volume 15” (2015) CD Review

The newest Dave’s Picks set arrived on July 31st, just in time for me to listen to it on Jerry Garcia’s birthday (August 1st). It contains the complete show the Grateful Dead performed on April 22, 1978 at the Nashville Municipal Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee. Like a lot of fans, I think 1973 was probably the best year for the band, followed closely by 1977. This show from early in 1978 has some of the feel of those great 1977 shows.

Disc 1

The first disc contains the first set, and begins with “Bertha,” always a great opener. It’s an interesting version. The “test me test me” line doesn’t have nearly as much power as in a lot of other versions, but the groove is still really good. And it leads directly into “Good Lovin’” (a pairing that was fairly common that year). That is a song the band had been doing even in the early days, but in the late 1970s it certainly had a different feel. This was the song that would lead off the band’s 1978 release, Shakedown Street, an album that wasn’t appreciated by all Dead fans, but one which I always enjoyed (it was one of the first four Grateful Dead records I purchased). The version here has a fast pace and a lot of energy. It’s fairly short, at only six minutes or so, but hey, the show has just begun.

The band then relaxes things a bit with a pretty rendition of “Candyman.” This is a really good version, with some wonderful moments both vocally and on guitar. Bob then leads the band into “Looks Like Rain,” sticking to the mellow vibes for the moment. Things then pick up again with a fun rendition of “Tennessee Jed” and a nice “Jack Straw.” There is a lot of energy to this “Jack Straw” toward the end. And one of the highlights of this first set for me is “Peggy-O,” which features a nice jam. The first set wraps up with a cool “New Minglewood Blues,” with Bob nearly howling at moments, and a good “Deal” (which is particularly fun at the end). And rather than the normal line about taking a short break, Bob says, “We quit, see you all later.”

Disc 2

The second disc contains the first part of the second set, beginning with “Lazy Lightning” into “Supplication,” the songs that kicked off the self-titled 1976 debut album from Kingfish. The jam here has a lot of fire, and “Supplication” totally cooks. This rendition of “It Must Have Been The Roses” has a distinctly country flavor, which at first caught me off guard, but I kind of like it.

For me, things really get going with “Estimated Prophet” into “Eyes Of The World,” one of my favorite pairings (they played those two at my very first show). There is a bit of stage banter before “Estimated Prophet.” “Estimated” includes a great jam, but a very sloppy transition into “Eyes.” This “Eyes” is a fast-paced romping good time, absolutely delicious. And the jam after the last verse is pretty good, leading into a nice, long “Drums” (in fact, this is the longest track on the three discs).

Disc 3

The third disc contains the rest of the second set and the encore, beginning with the very end of “Drums” just before they start to go into that “Not Fade Away” beat. And man, what a great rendition. You’re going to want to turn this one up and move any breakables out of the way. And then the transition into “Wharf Rat” is smooth and perfect. “Wharf Rat” has always been one of my favorite Grateful Dead songs, and this is an excellent version. The second set then concludes with an energetic “Sugar Magnolia.” The encore is “One More Saturday Night.”

CD Track List

Disc 1
  1. Bertha >
  2. Good Lovin’
  3. Candyman
  4. Looks Like Rain
  5. Tennessee Jed
  6. Jack Straw
  7. Peggy-O
  8. New Minglewood Blues
  9. Deal
Disc 2
  1. Lazy Lightning >
  2. Supplication
  3. It Must Have Been The Roses
  4. Estimated Prophet >
  5. Eyes Of The World >
  6. Rhythm Devils
Disc 3
  1. Not Fade Away >
  2. Wharf Rat >
  3. Sugar Magnolia
  4. One More Saturday Night
Dave’s Picks Volume 15 is limited to 16,500 copies. 

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