on 3 February 2008
This is the third and final instalment of the Vault series - the first two came out in the early 1990s (volume 2 is certainly worth getting if you like the extended jams of the late 60s Dead). In the 15 or so years between vol 2 and vol 3 there have been over 50 other concert CDs from the Dead (including 36 in the Dick's Picks series) including some absolute gems, but also some mediocre performances.
Three from the Vault was recorded on the second night of a 6 night run in February 1971. They were using multi-track recording with the aim of putting together a live album. This was released as a double LP (now a single CD) `Grateful Dead' a.k.a. Skull & Roses, although the performances that they actually used for the record are from two months later, April 1971.
Three from the Vault was recorded on their first concert after Mickey Hart left the band (he returned a couple of years later.) So they are down to a five-piece. Also they have a load of new material - there are quite a few songs here that are being played live for only the first or second time. So the concert is hugely significant, even if some of the performances are a bit shaky or under-developed. For example Playing in the Band is just 5'15", shorter even than the studio version that appears on Ace, let alone the lengthy concert versions that developed subsequently.
The Grateful Dead Skull & Roses album (the one that starts with Bertha) seemed a bit odd at the time. There's some great stuff on there, but relatively few of the songs were penned by the band. This has to be partly because at the time they did not want to duplicate tracks from recent studio albums, but it must also be because they were holding back songs for the first solo albums by Garcia (later that year) and Bob Weir the following year (I think it was that way around). Most of the new songs on Three from the Vault ended up on those solo albums, while Bertha and Wharf Rat did make it onto the live LP. The China Cat > Rider combination had been in their live repertoire for some time (it's on Dicks Picks 4 recorded a year earlier) but that was also held back from the Skull & Roses release.
Three from the Vault is a pretty good concert - there is energy and some strong playing here, and Bill Kreutzmann is doing a great job considering that this is the first concert without Mickey Hart. If you already have some concert recordings from 1971 you'll certainly find this interesting even if there are better recordings available for the new songs. The long tracks, by the way are Smokestack Lightning, Good Lovin' and The Other One.
An alternative to consider (apart from Skull & Roses) is the Ladies & Gentlemen: Live at the Fillmore East concerts which comprises of 4 CDs recorded over a few nights in April 1971 (recordings that didn't make it onto Skull & Roses) - the half hour sequence on CD4 from Alligator through to Cold Rain & Snow is certainly worth hearing.
on 1 September 2007
Ok there are a lot and I mean a lot of Grateful Dead live albums out there but this one is special. The atmosphere feels electric and totally gets the feet tapping!
Yes, there are much longer sets out there with more tracks but this one just seems to get it right all the way through.
This has some great tracks on it with a good mix of country and blues and a little 'spacey' jamming. No Dark Star though and even much more to my chagrin - no 'Lovelight' - stick the amazing Two from the Vault 'Lovelight' onto this set and I'd be in Dead Heaven.
I've bought a few Dead live albums before and since Three from the Vault - but this is the album I keep coming back to.
Pigpen is still in the band for this 1971 set which enhances the great bluesy feel although the mixture of blues/country/folk is just about right and even tempered throughout the album.
Highlights are a solid 'Truckin', 'It Hurts Me Too' a relatively short but to the point 'Playing in the Band', 'Greatest Story Ever Told', 'Easy Wind', an amazing and coherent performance of 'Good Lovin' and to cap it all an absolutely rocking 'Casey Jones'. Despite no 'Lovelight' and the relatively and I do mean relatively short set (It's only 2hrs22mins long!!) this is my favorite live Dead album yet, just for the consistency of great tunes - smokin'.