Grateful Dead

Dick's Picks, Vol. 26: 4/26/69 Electric Theater, Chicago, IL/ 4/27/69 Labor Temple, Minneapolis, MN

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By 1969, the Grateful Dead had become two different bands. Their folkie acoustic side would later re-emerge with a southwestern flavor on American Beauty (1970) and Workingman's Dead (1970). Simultaneously, they were continuing to develop their progressive and often stretched-out electric psychedelia. On this 26th entry in the Dick's Picks series of archival releases, Jerry Garcia's undeniable brilliance as a multifaceted and rarely equalled string man is both literally and figuratively amplified on "Dupree's Diamond Blues" and "Mountains of the Moon." These two unplugged tracks ironically hail from the Electric Theater (April 26, 1969) in Chicago. Both feature Garcia's inimitable -- and all too rare -- acoustic guitar leads. His intonation retains the acidic and trippy edge of its electric counterpart; however, the backdrop is much more intimate and rightfully consecrated. Also unique to this era are the keyboard contributions of Tom Constanten. Although often drowned out during the electric sets, Constanten hauntingly augments Garcia's rich acoustic guitar with an ear toward the Baroque. Garcia deftly switches axes -- without stopping the proceedings -- and the band diverges into the powerhouse combo of "China Cat Sunflower" and "Doin' That Rag." This is followed by an epic "Cryptical Envelopment"/"The Other One." Although the Dead continued performing the suite into the early '70s, 1969 reigns as the apex of this live centerpiece, with this reading being no exception. Also of note is the astonishing diversion into the blues standard "I Know It's a Sin" -- which was rarely performed by the band and makes its first appearance on this archival Dead release. The meat of the two-disc volume is the complete 100-minute set from the Labor Temple (April 7, 1969) in Minneapolis. The blues rave-up "Turn on Your Love Light" bookends the performance, featuring two equally uncompromising 15-plus minute readings. The primal Dead that exists between them include inspired and unexpected sidetracks into "Me and My Uncle" and "Sitting on Top of the World." These sinuous sonic diversions serve as prologue to the equally intense yet supple execution of a textbook 1969 rendering of "Dark Star"/"St. Stephen"/"The Eleven" -- known to Deadheads as the "Live/Dead sequence." The bombastic sonic energies are dispersed during the "Morning Dew" encore -- perfectly capping what by all accounts should be considered a "must- own" volume in the Dick's Picks series.

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