Of the literally hundreds of potential dates that could have been chosen for this package, there were multiple factors that made the band's August 13, 1975 show the best candidate for the debut installment in the Grateful Dead's One from the Vault series. For starters -- as is evident by the outstanding fidelity -- the audio quality of the master tapes was excellent. Another obvious plus is that the entire band are eager to dig in, dust off their collective chops, and prove that their 19-month sabbatical hadn't made them rusty. Deadheads concurred as the temporary cease in touring increased speculation as to the Grateful Dead's future. So it was with great anticipation that Jerry Garcia (lead guitar/vocals), Phil Lesh (bass/vocals), Bob Weir (guitar/vocals), Bill Kreutzmann (percussion), Mickey Hart (percussion/crickets) -- who hadn't been a participating bandmember since 1971 -- and the husband and wife team of Keith Godchaux (keyboards) and Donna Jean Godchaux (vocals) took to the stage of The Great American Music Hall in San Francisco -- for what was only their third public appearance in over a year-and-a-half. Add to the equation that they were not only going to preview material from their new album Blues for Allah (1975), but most every Deadhead in North America would hear the gig via broadcast on the nationwide Metromedia Radio Network. Proof that the Grateful Dead were still in demand was evident by the double-LP bootleg Make Believe Ballroom, which was lifted right off the radio and offered for sale within months.
In terms of content, Disc One is heavy on Blues for Allah, commencing with a flawlessly and passionately executed "Help on the Way" and the tricky syncopated instrumental link "Slipknot!" that connects it to a prototypical "Franklin's Tower" preceding a note-perfect take of "The Music Never Stopped." The latter two tunes would become permanent fixtures in the Grateful Dead's repertoire for the remainder of their existence. Most notably, this is the third (of only six) live rendering of the intricate instrumental "King Solomon's Marbles" (aka "Stronger Than Dirt") that evolves out of the excellent "Eyes of the World" via a feisty percussion duet between Hart and Kreutzmann. It should be mentioned that producers took the liberty to resequence the running order to accommodate the time considerations of the CD medium. Whereas the actual first set concludes here and would pick back up with a version of Chuck Berry's "Around & Around" to begin the second set, the song is tagged onto the end of Disc One. Disc Two opens with the familiar favorites "Sugaree" and the cover of Johnny Cash's "Big River" -- both part of the Grateful Dead's songbook since 1971. Rarer is the inaugural performance of Weir's beguiling acoustic composition "Sage and Spirit," which had grown from a finger exercise the guitarist used when warming up. In fact, the only other time he unveiled the melody was during the final evening of the legendary 1980 multi-night run at Radio City Music Hall that saw the combo play unplugged (read: acoustic) before their two usual electric expeditions. Other top-shelf and not to be missed offerings include "Eyes of the World," a note-perfect "It Must Have Been the Roses," as well as the funky and driving staple "Goin' Down the Road Feeling Bad."