Grateful Dead

Road Trips: Vol. 1, No. 1: Fall 1979 [9 Tracks]

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This nine-track premium was offered to parties pre-ordering copies of Road Trips: Vol. 1, Number 1: Fall 1979 (2007) from the Grateful Dead's online store. Like the main two-CD feature, all of the music on the "bonus disc" is from the Grateful Dead's American East Coast tour during the fall of 1979. The concept behind Road Trips is to present particularly strong performances during a specific tour. One impetus of focusing on the Grateful Dead circa late 1979 is capturing the combo shortly after the departure of the husband-and-wife team of Keith Godchaux (keyboards/vocals) and Donna Jean Godchaux (vocals) -- who had been with the Dead since 1971. Brent Mydland (keyboards/vocals) -- whose entree was working on a Bob Weir (rhythm guitar) solo side project -- had only been an active member for about six months. But the average listener would probably never know because of Mydland's steep learning curve and in part due to the strength of the core lineup consisting of Weir, Jerry Garcia (lead guitar/vocals), Phil Lesh (bass/vocals), Bill Kreutzmann (drums/percussion), and Mickey Hart (drums/percussion). On the whole, these are strong renditions of seven songs and two instrumentals that presumably were second tier choices for the inaugural Road Trips installment. The master tape of "China Cat Sunflower"/"I Know You Rider" appears to be missing the first few moments as it quickly fades in. Although the vocals are a bit hesitant, the instrumental interaction is solid throughout. The primordial reading of Weir's "Lost Sailor"/"Saint of Circumstance" would undergo a few lyrical alterations prior to appearing on the Go to Heaven (1981) long player. The wordless "Jam" that follows is marked by some brilliant interplay from Mydland before Kreutzmann and Hart's nightly percussion duet. The haunting and cautious ballad "Althea" is another tune that was ultimately destined for Go to Heaven. While the pace teeters between lethargy and subdued inspiration -- as was often the Grateful Dead's forte -- they were able to get the most emotion into and out of every beat with several of Garcia's guitar passages achieving truly transcendent status. The final half-hour segment is devoted to the frequent pairing of "Estimated Prophet" and "He's Gone" that detours briefly through a "Caution"-like groove and lands into an unmistakable "Gloria Jam" -- based on the Van Morrison-penned classic rocker.