Grateful Dead

Rocking the Cradle: Egypt 1978

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In 2008, the idea of a rock band doing their proverbial thing in Egypt holds far less cache than it did 30 years prior. However, it was unquestionably a novel notion when the Grateful Dead sought to begin diplomatic talks between the U.S. Government and Egyptian officials to allow for the band to bring their "long, strange trip" to Cairo's Gizah Sound & Light Theater in mid-September of 1978. Considering the precarious political state of the world at the time, it is a minor miracle that these shows came off at all. Rocking the Cradle: Egypt 1978 (2008) gathers two-and-a-half hours of highlights from the September 15 and 16, 1978 performances -- with the vast majority coming from the latter date. While they played on the 13th (as a sort of sound check) and the 14th as well, there is no music from either date located here. In terms of the set list -- and in particular the contents of this title -- the combo stick pretty close to their concurrent late-'70s repertoire. The obvious and notable exception being highly-truncated remnants of "Ollin Arageed" featuring Hamza El Din and the Nubian Youth Choir. Otherwise, half of the band's yet-to-be released studio album Shakedown Street (1978) is represented by way of "New, New Minglewood Blues," "Stagger Lee," "I Need A Miracle," "Fire on the Mountain," and the title track "Shakedown Street." As was typical, the Grateful Dead chose to road test and woodshed much of their "new" material prior to committing it to tape in the comparatively sterile studio confines. In fact, it is the more recent selections that seem to give this double-CD package its brightest moments. Disc One's rousing opener, "Jack Straw," boasts some stellar interplay between Bob Weir (guitar/vocals) and Phil Lesh (bass), while Jerry Garcia's emphatic fretwork stands the finale of "Deal" in good stead. More substantive are the thoroughly jammed-out contents of Disc Two. The percussion-intensive opener -- the aforementioned "Ollin Arageed" -- yields to thoughtful, if not slightly meandering readings of "Fire on the Mountain" and "Iko Iko." The quarter-hour plus workout of "Shakedown Street" then leads into a short "Drums" and "Space" excursion. Lovely and poignant as ever, "Stella Blue" is sandwiched between the otherwise standard fare of "Truckin'" and their tried and true take of Chuck Berry's "Around and Around." The bonus DVD is more of a curio than a significant contribution to the Grateful Dead's musical canon. The footage is fairly well shot and thankfully bereft of the untenable graphics that all but ruined most of the in-house video of the band circa the '80s and '90s. As an added bonus, there are several minutes of silent Super 8 mm film shot by the combo's then-road manager Richard Loren. Sadly, the packaging -- replete with a pop-up cardboard Sphinx -- offers no protection for the playing surface of the CDs or DVD. Therefore scratches are inevitable. Deadheads seeking similar performances by the Grateful Dead during this same era are encouraged to check out either Dick's Picks, Vol. 18 (2000) or Dick's Picks, Vol. 25 (2002), as well as the multimedia Closing of Winterland (2003) from December 31st, 1978.

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