Grateful Dead

From the Vault, Vols. 1-2

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This four-disc package contains the two entries in the Grateful Dead's short-lived " ... From the Vaults" collection of vintage archival concerts. Prior to the voluminous Dick's Picks series and while the band was actively touring, their live audio engineer and producer Dan Healy began trolling their massive vaults for complete concerts suitable for public consumption. As Healy was a stickler for details, he narrowed his initial choices down to a handful of properly documented performances worthy of mass distribution. Volume one is from August 13, 1975 at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco -- the third public appearance the Grateful Dead made at the end of their 19-month-long sabbatical from the road. The proceedings were likewise aired throughout North America via the Metromedia Radio Network, resulting in many industrious enthusiasts recording the show off the radio and trading it amongst the faithful. It also became the subject of an early double-LP bootleg titled Make Believe Ballroom that surfaced shortly after the broadcast. By all accounts the contents are uniformly inspired as the newly reformed septet of Jerry Garcia (lead guitar/vocals), Phil Lesh (bass/vocals), Bob Weir (guitar/vocals), Bill Kreutzmann (percussion), Mickey Hart (percussion/crickets) -- who had been AWOL since 1971 -- and the husband and wife team of Keith Godchaux (keyboards) and Donna Jean Godchaux (vocals). The gig was held to premiere material from the forthcoming Blues for Allah (1975) long-player, their first studio outing in over a year. As such, they perform the entire effort. Most notably this is one of just five times they unleashed the extended and free form "Blues for Allah" suite and the third (of only six) live renderings of the intricate and tricky instrumental "King Solomon's Marbles" (aka "Stronger Than Dirt"). Rarer still is Weir's debut of the lovely and lilting guitar composition "Sage and Spirit." The only other time he unveiled the melody was during the final evening of the legendary multi-night run at Radio City Music Hall that saw the combo play 'unplugged' [read: acoustic] before their two usual electric expeditions. Other top-shelf and not-to-be-missed offerings include "Eyes of the World," and the note-perfect "It Must Have Been the Roses," as well as the funky and driving staple "Goin' Down the Road Feeling Bad." The second From the Vault hails almost exactly seven years earlier on August 24, 1968 at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. This incarnation featured Ron "Pigpen" McKernan (vocals/keyboards) who opens the festivities in grand style on the walloping cover of Sonny Boy Williamson's "Good Morning, Little School Girl." The song list is typical for the era, with a set similar to those that would turn up on the Live/Dead (1969) album. The primary exception being the half-hour "That's It for the Other One"/"New Potato Caboose" concatenation from Anthem of the Sun (1968). Granted, Deadheads and hard-core fans probably have these in their collections. However, potential consumers and curious parties should consider From the Vault, Vols. 1 -- 2 an appropriate place to start their own long, strange trip.