Grateful Dead

Fillmore West 1969

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This is a triple-disc distillation of the limited-edition ten-CD Fillmore West 1969: The Complete Recordings box set. The material was taken from the Grateful Dead's run of eight shows over four nights (February 27 through March 2, 1969) at the Fillmore West in San Francisco. These were the same concerts that yielded most of the definitive Live/Dead (1969). By the spring of 1969, the ever-evolving personnel had grown to include Mickey Hart (percussion) -- whose contributions began in September of 1967 -- and six months later, Tom Constanten (keyboards). They joined co-founders Jerry Garcia (guitar/vocals), Ron "Pigpen" McKernan (vocals/organ/harmonica), Bill Kreutzmann (percussion), Phil Lesh (bass/vocals), and Bob Weir (guitar/vocals). Collectively they created an incendiary ensemble embracing R&B with the same passion and sense of intrepid experimentation as they did their own unique imprint of sonic psychedelia. And nowhere is that seemingly odd amalgam as evident as it is here. According to Dennis McNally's liner essay, Live/Dead was "the first live 16-track album ever made." Three and a half decades later those tapes were revisited and revitalized by longtime Grateful Dead producer Jeffrey Norman. He has done a yeoman's effort, drawing out the warmth and subtle interplay occurring deep within not only the lengthy acidic "That's It for the Other One" suite, but the exhaustively jammed covers of "Good Morning Little School Girl," "Turn on Your Lovelight," and "Morning Dew" as well. Somewhat darker yet no less intense is the edgy update of blues staple "King Bee" and the sanctified "Death Don't Have No Mercy." The latter was one of several Rev. Gary Davis compositions that the Dead worked into their repertoire over the years. Although it hadn't even been released at the time, Aoxomoxoa (1969) produced a sizable number of selections here. Notable among them are "Doin' That Rag," "Cosmic Charlie," "Saint Stephen," and "Dupree's Diamond Blues" -- a tune twisted out of the traditional ballad "Betty & Dupree." Another title that surfaced on Aoxomoxoa was the stylish, acoustic-based "Mountains of the Moon." The combo took full advantage of the song's meditative ending to segue into the lysergic-influenced exploratory anthem "Dark Star." As alluded to above, the audio remastering is virtually perfect. One major caveat can be heard during the nearly half-hour instrumental "Jam" on disc three. According to Norman, the master tape ran out and "the only thing we had as a patch was a cassette...mix from the show. So when I edit in the cassette piece...the end result is like a big ol' audio band-aid." While that isn't the sole place that similar problems had to be addressed, it is the most noticeable. That said, the drastic change in sound quality is a small price to pay in order to hear the performance in its entirety.

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