Adhering to his unofficial mandate to release rarely traded nuggets from the Grateful Dead's voluminous tape vaults, Dick Latvala chose to unleash the core of the combo's second (of two) set from Halloween, October 31, 1971 at the Ohio Theater in Columbus, OH on Dick's Picks, Vol. 2 (1995). The lineup consists of Jerry Garcia (lead guitar/vocals), Bill Kreutzmann (percussion), Phil Lesh ( bass/vocals), Bob Weir (guitar/vocals), and new recruit Keith Godchaux (keyboards) -- who is replacing the ailing Ron "Pigpen" McKernan (organ/harmonica/vocals). In fact, the show excerpted here is from Godchaux's tenth performance with the band. All but the most astute Deadhead would be hard-pressed to tell, as his style of improvisation is faultlessly suited to the Grateful Dead's sonic scrutiny. This disc serves up nearly an hour's worth of their innate compatibility, commencing with a lengthy and intricately indulgent exploration of the psychedelic portal "Dark Star." As Godchaux's presence in the audio mix is deficient at times, it is difficult to thoroughly assess his contributions. Just as the interplay begins getting really interesting, the trippy ambiance is sonically sideswiped as Weir segues the combo's into an unexpected but nonetheless spirited "Sugar Magnolia." Less inspired is the perfunctory "St. Stephen," whose saving grace is that it provides a launch pad for the tasty "Not Fade Away" sandwich to follow. Instrumentally, Garcia's crystalline tone and fluid fretwork -- particularly during the meaty "Going Down the Road Feeling Bad" -- is rhythmically countered by Kreutzmann's jazzy timekeeping. While certainly an all-around solid selection, Dick's Picks, Vol. 2 doesn't present a profound portrait of this transitional phase in the Grateful Dead's three-decade long journey. Parties wishing to hearing more circa the Fall of 1971 tour are encouraged to discover the Grateful Dead Download Series, Vol. 3: 10/26/1971 (2005). The October 26 Palestra gig in Rochester, NY is offered in mp3 and the high quality lossless FLAC formats.
AllMusic Review by Lindsay Planer