The Grateful Dead presented this nearly 80 minute "Bonus Disc" as a gratis premium for parties who purchased one of the first run pressings of Road Trips: Vol. 1, Number 2 (2008) from their merchandising website. The concerts were compiled into 100-percent Grade A cuts circa the band's October of 1977 sweep through the South and Midwest United States college circuit. More precisely, the University Arena on the campus of the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque on October 7, the University of Oklahoma's Lloyd Nobel Center in Norman, OK one week later on October 14, and two days after that (October 16) at the Hofheinz Pavilion at the University of Houston, TX. While presumably time constraints kept these nine selections off of the main release, it should be noted that much of the so-called "bonus" fodder arguably surpasses that of specific tunes chosen for the larger Road Trips: Vol. 1, Number 2 package. The band were a septet consisting of Jerry Garcia (lead guitar/vocals), Phil Lesh (bass/vocals), Bob Weir (guitar/vocals), Bill Kreutzmann (percussion), Mickey Hart (percussion), and the husband and wife team of Keith Godchaux (keyboards) and Donna Jean Godchaux (vocals). The opening trifecta formerly circulated from broadcasts on the Grateful Dead Radio Hour in the '80s and are well worth their inclusion as each is executed with just enough of that 1977 exploratory magic to make them better than a majority of the readings that would follow. The stand-alone "Estimated Prophet" lurches to a cold start out of a practically 20 minute "Scarlet Begonias"/"Fire on the Mountain." It doesn't take much to get up to speed as Weir -- whose birthday just so happens to fall on the date in question -- rolls and tumbles with his trademark vocal-chord scraping falsetto yelps. The Garcia-led "Loser" is one of those rarest of treats as keen-eared listeners are sonically absorbed by the ebb and flow of the tune's intensity between the verses and chorus. Donna Jean Godchaux's beguiling ballad "Sunrise" is offered at its most heartfelt, plaintive and respectful, remaining as a tribute to the Grateful Dead's roadie Rex Jackson. In subsequent years, The Rex Foundation would honor Jackson's memory as the namesake of the Dead's philanthropic organization. The latter half of the Road Trips: Vol. 1, Number 2 (Bonus Disc 2008) is dedicated to segments of a rarely circulated soundboard tape from the Albuquerque show on October 7. The post-"Drums" contents are served up in all their uninterrupted entirety. The second ever version of the Crescent City staple "Iko Iko" still retains much of the gritty gris-gris that it would lose in subsequent years. It appears majestically syncopated with Keith Godchaux clearly having been influenced by Dr. John's FM radio turntable hit off of the good doctor's indispensable Gumbo (1972) LP. "The Wheel" evolves into a lovely and lilting rendition with Donna Jean and Garcia's voices effortlessly blending behind some tricky percussive fills from rhythm devils Hart and Kreutzmann. The combo keep both the emotive and musical levels at their peak during prime renditions of the staples "Wharf Rat" and a rousing "Sugar Magnolia" that seems to linger a little longer than your average rendition. And even the most cynical of Grateful Dead enthusiasts will have to admit that's a very good thing!
AllMusic Review by Lindsay Planer