Top positive review
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The Dead from their finest era
on 14 February 2011
OK, there are two clear ways of appraising this offering.
1) If your appreciation of the Dead lies in their later work and you are accustomed to high quality, professionally produced recordings then this is absolutely NOT for you. Previous reviews have identified the obvious flaws in this release. The editing is a mess, the actual live footage of the band is limited and horrible things have been done to it. And yeah - Pigpen is seen at the mic when Garcia is singing "Casey Jones". A bit of a dog's breakfast and daylight robbery you might conclude given the price. On the other hand....
2) The above accepted, these two discs combined represent the band at a historic moment. Their first appearance on British soil and still tight in the groove of their most inspired stage of evolution. Only six months since the release of 'Live Dead' and still performing the classic improvisational sequence that was "Dark Star" / "St Stephen" / "Lovelight" - all of which are here in, to my mind, decent sound quality. Furthermore, for serious Deadheads who have appraised the countless audio versions of "Dark Star" and particularly those from this (1969-1972) their finest era, this version is arguably right up there with the very best. Garcia's guitar (that stinging psychedelic tone that was never quite the same when he substituted his Gibson SG for the Stratocaster) is here at it's most majestic. Note also that though limited, the visual footage DOES assist in evoking a strong sense of this historic occasion.
So, the choice is yours. For me, as disjointed and amateurish as this release appears, it represents an invaluable record of the Dead at the peak of their collective powers. For "Dark Star" alone, this is worth the expense. Don't get bugged about the repeating photographic stills on your screen, just sit back and revel in the brilliance of the playing. The band's reputation expanded well beyond this point in time, but for my money, this and "Festival Express" - capturing the Dead just 4 weeks later (and with complete versions of "New Speedway Boogie" and "Easy Wind") evoke that spirit of the band's music that still sends a cold chill down the spine. Thanks to those at OZIT that put this one together. I just wish I'd been there.