Grateful Dead

Dick's Picks, Vol. 1: Tampa, FL 12/19/1973

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Named after the Grateful Dead's vigilant vault keeper Dick Latvala, the Dick's Picks series ultimately encompassed three dozen entries spanning 23 years (1968 -- 1991) of live concert recordings. Inside the debut installment are over two hours of highlights from the band's final 1973 gig (December 19) at the Curtis Hixon Convention Center in Tampa, FL. With a surfeit of options to inaugurate the ongoing project, Latvala cited his desire to disseminate items that were "lesser known" by Deadheads and to reveal the sonic splendor of the opener "Here Comes Sunshine" when asked the reasons that he chose this specific date to christen Dick's Picks. It was clear that the entire evening could not be presented on two CDs. Therefore, Latvala -- with input from a variety of sources, notably bandmember Phil Lesh (more about that in a moment) -- selected representatives from the first and second sets. Deadhead purists were initially displeased that the concert had been condensed and/or resequenced. Meaning, they wanted every note. In addition to the sublime "Here Comes Sunshine," a potent "Weather Report Suite" and "Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo" are worthy of investigation. The former for its incisive instrumental explorations, while the latter is notable for the conspicuous absence of the typical "Upon the Rio Grande-O/Upon that lazy river" refrain. The late 1973 lineup of the Grateful Dead is minus contributions from Donna Jean Godchaux (vocals) -- whose final trimester of pregnancy was not conducive to life on the road. A further point of contention between connoisseurs of the music was the out and out hatchet job done to "Playing in the Band" at the behest of Phil Lesh (bass/vocals). A caveat of including the performance was the removal of his bass solo. The centerpiece of disc two is 50 minutes of vintage, uninterrupted and nonstop musical interaction from participants Jerry Garcia (guitar/vocals), Keith Godchaux (keyboards), Bill Kreutzmann (percussion), Bob Weir (guitar/vocals), and Lesh. An above average "He's Gone" and "Truckin'" (will Weir everlearn the words?) land into a rare overhaul of Blind Willie Johnson's "Nobody's Fault but Mine." The short but effective detour through the "Other One" is both preceded and followed by some transcendent spacy jamming that ultimately dissolves as Garcia tugs at the heartstrings with the ballad "Stella Blue." Rounding out Dick's Picks, Vol. 1 (1993) is a typical closer of the era -- an energetic update of Chuck Berry's "Around and Around."

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