Grateful Dead

Spring 1990: So Glad You Made It

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By 1990, the Grateful Dead's endless touring that had been rolling on for decades was unknowingly just a few years from its conclusion with Jerry Garcia's death in 1995. While their 1987 studio album In the Dark had scored the band an unlikely hit with single "Touch of Grey" and its accompanying video, making albums had been a secondary concern for the Dead for years at that point, with a focus on touring eclipsing writing new material for much of the '80s and the remainder of their existence. Thusly, the band became a live institution, with any growth coming in the form of new jams and developments in their epic stage sets. Spring 1990: So Glad You Made It is whittled down from an 18-disc box set, paring down that tour-spanning document to just two discs of unreleased highlights. Some seasoned Deadheads consider the 1990 spring tour to be one of the best of the band's legendary live history, citing consistently strong shows and a renewed sense of fire. Certainly by this point, their musicianship was second nature, and set lists on this tour were more inspired and fluid than on weaker tours. The song selection on So Glad You Made It emphasizes how tuned-in the sets were, with a wide cross section of crowd favorites like "Playing in the Band," later-period compositions like "West L.A. Fadeaway," and deep jams on songs like "Eyes of the World" and "Bird Song." Beginning with a playful take on Sam Cooke's "Let the Good Times Roll," the scene is set for impassioned performances and full-hearted playing from the band. The band's sense of dynamics is locked in tightly, with energetic numbers like "The Last Time" flowing full-force and ballads like the gorgeous and rare "Attics of My Mind" finding the bandmembers in some kind of near-telepathic state of playing together. Despite their well-honed performances, by this time in their evolution the Dead had embraced MIDI technology to expand their keyboard and guitar tones on-stage. The results on the well-recorded So Glad You Made It serve to highlight keyboardist Brent Mydland's playing with jarringly cheesy digital piano tones as well as convert a few of Garcia's guitar solos into cringeably computeristic flute sounds. There's a fair amount of cornball percussion peeking through on some of the jams as well. Looking past some of the unfortunate technological choices that date the recording, the band's force and spirit come through loud and clear. Religious Grateful Dead fans will always have their favorite shows and eras for the band, and this collection offers some strong evidence as to why the spring of 1990 is a favorite for many.

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