Grateful Dead

Dick's Picks, Vol. 7: Alexandra Palace, London, England 9/9-9/11/74

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The seventh volume in the Grateful Dead's no-frills Dick's Picks series of live albums is a three-and-a-half-hour, triple-CD distillation of three shows played at the Alexandra Palace in London on September 9, 10, and 11, 1974. The location is a good clue to what makes this a pick: Presumably, few Deadheads have tapes from the group's short, unheralded 1974 European tour. (Deadhead surveys of favorite tapes list these shows among the least frequently mentioned for the year.) Coming only a month before the Dead retired for a year and a half, these performances mark the end of a chapter in the band's history and help to eviscerate the memory of the 1976 Steal Your Face concert album, recorded in October 1974, which is generally considered the worst Dead album ever made. Nevertheless, the group still sounds listless, hobbled by its single drum set and the inappropriate team of keyboardist Keith and vocalist Donna Jean Godchaux. The Dead's most recent studio album at this point, released a little over two months previously, was Grateful Dead From Mars Hotel, and that record's most memorable songs, "Scarlet Begonias" and "U.S. Blues," bookend this set. Otherwise, the set list is fairly typical of the early '70s with such familiar songs as "Playing in the Band," "Jack Straw," "Brown-Eyed Women," and "Truckin'." And there is a performance of the Dead's signature song, "Dark Star," that weighs in at 24-plus minutes. Sound quality is OK, with the vocals sometimes coming off as compressed and boxy. Like most of the Dick's Picks albums, this one is for the cognoscenti not the neophyte.

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