Grateful Dead

Hundred Year Hall: 4-26-72

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For many Deadheads, the release of Hundred Year Hall: 4-26-72 (1995) in September 1995 is inextricably linked with the passing of Jerry Garcia (guitar/vocals) a few weeks earlier. This double-CD features just under two-and-a-half hours of highlights from the Grateful Dead on April 26, 1972 at Jahrhundert Halle in Frankfurt, Germany. The band was in the midst of its Europe '72 excursion, not to mention a state of transition. Chronic health issues would force co-founder Ron "Pigpen" McKernan (vocals/organ/harmonica) off the road for good in less than two months. Ultimately in his stead was the recent arrival of the husband and wife team Keith Godchaux (piano) and Donna Jean Godchaux (vocals), who are joined by mainstays Garcia, Bill Kreutzmann (percussion), Phil Lesh (bass/vocals), and Bob Weir (guitar/vocals). While there is no typical Grateful Dead concert, the contents admirably represent the septet's strengths, as well as providing an adequate cross-section of material unique to the era. The two discs are sequenced to loosely replicate two respective sets. The first is filled with shorter and self-contained tunes and the second opens up an opportunity for outings of a comparatively expansive nature. The youthful exuberance empowering the songbook staples "Bertha," "Me & My Uncle," and the "China Cat Sunflower"/"I Know You Rider" medley is complemented by a thoughtful "Playing in the Band" -- heard in its exploratory infancy. Disc One then closes with a slightly above average reading of the R&B rave-up "Turn on Your Lovelight" that glides effortlessly into a fair to middlin' "Going Down the Road Feelin' Bad." Weir has obviously been conserving his energies as the party is shifted into overdrive. Although lyrically a train wreck, "Truckin'" develops nicely with Garcia and Lesh standing out for their melodic counterpoint. "Cryptical Envelopment" -- which should be ID'ed as "The Other One" -- is an improvisation lover's dream with the machine hitting on all cylinders. The exchanges range from delicate to impassioned, weaving an aural tapestry that unravels into the arresting and rarely unveiled ballad "Comes a Time." The emotional zenith is capitalized upon by Weir as he sends home the whole affair with a suitably hot and sweaty "Sugar Magnolia." Parties interested in hearing additional selections from the show should check out the 2001 Europe '72 CD reissue "bonus track" with McKernan wailing on an exemplary "Two Souls in Communion" -- one of only a dozen times it was played.

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