The Grateful Dead's ongoing series of releases of archival live recordings, which was called Dick's Picks until the death of archivist Dick Latvala and has since been renamed Road Trips, continues with the third release of its first year under the new title, which contains two concerts performed in the summer of 1971, July 31 at the Yale Bowl in New Haven, CT, and August 23 at the Auditorium Theatre in Chicago, IL. Each of the two discs runs 77 minutes, which, in the case of the Yale show at least, means some editing has been done to fit it onto a single CD. Curiously, annotator Blair Jackson inadvertently reveals this by making specific reference to two songs not contained on the disc, "Mr. Charlie" and "Sugaree." (There is a version of "Sugaree" on the second disc, however.) He also acknowledges that a bit of the 22-minute "Dark Star" was lost in the switching of reels at the mixing desk, but it has been replaced seamlessly by drawing on an audience tape. The Grateful Dead of this period in 1971 were reduced to the original quintet that had come out of Menlo Park, CA, in 1965, with the departure of Tom Constanten and (temporarily) Mickey Hart. The band consisted of Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir, Ron "Pigpen" McKernan, Phil Lesh, and Bill Kreutzmann. This is the unit that had just made the live recordings soon to be heard on the September 1971 double-LP album Grateful Dead (aka Skull & Roses), and these recordings constitute something of an alternate version of that collection. At Yale and Chicago, the Grateful Dead performed a number of songs that would have their recorded premieres on Grateful Dead, including the original composition "Wharf Rat" and covers of "Big Railroad Blues," "Me & My Uncle," "Me & Bobby McGee," "Johnny B. Goode," and a medley of "Not Fade Away" and "Goin' Down the Road Feeling Bad." The performances also included two songs that would appear on Garcia's debut solo album, Garcia, when it was released in January 1972: "Bird Song" and "Sugaree." And Pigpen's bravura showcase "Hard to Handle" had not been consigned to vinyl yet, either. Although the Grateful Dead had made a leap in popularity with the release of their 1970 studio albums Workingman's Dead and American Beauty, they were not featuring that material much, including only three songs here from those LPs, two of them as encores. Rather, this double collection serves as a wide-ranging showcase of the Grateful Dead past, present, and future, as they include lengthy improvisatory favorites like "Dark Star" and "The Other One" along with songs at least some in the audiences hadn't heard before, and ranged from the melodic folk-rock of those few 1970 songs to the old-time rock & roll of "Johnny B. Goode," country of "Me & Bobby McGee," and the R&B of "Hard to Handle," when not wafting off into spacy instrumental passages. The compilers have achieved a good aural snapshot of the Grateful Dead of 1971, one more comprehensive than that on the Grateful Dead album.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2