I first heard this CD in the mid '90s when a friend of mine -- a Dead Head whose taste in music I usually respected -- thrust it into my hands and said, "You must hear this." I heard it. But I didn't like it -- then.
Today, nearly 10 years later, I'm amazed that I didn't like Hundred Year Hall. I guess my taste in music has changed a great deal over the years. Thank heavens!
Now, I'm into jam bands, progressive rock and other long-form music of high quality.
So, naturally, when I recently got into the Grateful Dead I started buying everything I could get my hands on -- especially their live material -- because I was blown away by the musicianship and "vibe" of it all.
Of all the Grateful Dead live CDs I own, I think Hundred Year Hall ranks in the top five. Perhaps even in the top three. The sound quality (on this remastered HDCD Rhino release from 2004) is astounding. But more than that, this is a smokin' live set that never lets up. It's one fantastic song after another, played by musicians at the top of their game.
My favorite song on this set is "I Know You Rider." They do this many times, on many of their lives CDs, but it's this version that I can put on "repeat" and listen to all day long.
Other standout tracks include "China Cat Sunflower," "Goin' Down the Road Feeling Bad," "Truckin'," and of course, the 36 minute "Cryptical Envelopment."
This is a very solid performance from the Grateful Dead from (I think) a 1972 show. Every song is great. Not a weak one in the bunch. And the sound quality -- thanks to Rhino's meticulous remastering -- has never been better.
With all of the Grateful Dead live releases out there (especially now with Dick's Picks), it's possible to overlook this CD. But do yourself a favor and don't. Buy Hundred Year Hall and enjoy one of the best concerts the Grateful Dead ever recorded.