Grateful Dead

Winterland June 1977: The Complete Recordings

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As the title of this package intimates, Winterland June 1977: The Complete Recordings (2009) contains a full run of shows at the San Fran-based Winterland Arena in early June 1977 -- the 7th, 8th and 9th, to be exact. Listeners are treated to a trio of consecutive Grateful Dead performances, during one of their unquestionable zeniths as a live combo. The warts 'n' all presentation provides the further intimacy of hearing -- in real-time -- the crests and ebbs of each individual evening on its own or when sized up beside the other evenings. Boasting a whopping nine CDs -- or ten if you count the bonus disc -- there is ample opportunity to compare and contrast versions of Dead set staples. "Bertha," "Jack Straw," "Looks Like Rain," "Good Lovin,'" "U.S. Blues," "Not Fade Away" and, appropriately enough, "The Music Never Stopped" sit comfortably alongside newer catalog titles "Estimated Prophet" "Samson and Delilah," "Terrapin Station," and Donna Jean Godchaux's haunting ballad "Sunrise." There are even a pair of fully fleshed-out excursions into the familiar Italian melody known as "Funiculi Funicula" -- which the band used upon occasion as they were tuning their instruments and allowing the house PA and/or their stage audio monitors to warm up. As inspired as many of those selections are, the heart of Winterland June 1977: The Complete Recordings lies in the consistently innovative interaction occurring as they collectively craft near-faultless versions of tunes only toted out once during the series. Key offerings from June 7 include -- but are certainly not limited to -- an aching beauty of "Peggy-O," the comfortably stretched-out "Friend of the Devil," a monstrous "Scarlet Begonias"/"Fire on the Mountain," "Candyman," "(Walk Me Out in The) Morning Dew," and despite an off-kilter vocal here and there an "Uncle John's Band" that one wishes would go on for another ten minutes. Stronger still, the 8th contains arguably one of the most inspired renderings of "Sugaree" to make it out of the Grateful Dead's tape vaults. Equally worthy of many re-visitations is the Disc Five sequence starting with the solid "Ramble on Rose," and continuing through the fiery "Estimated Prophet" into an energetic and magically delicious "Eyes of the World." The latter is of the caliber of renderings some three years earlier, when it was -- among other things -- an improvisational showcase for Phil Lesh. For many longtime Deadheads, it is the Thursday, June 9, 1977 show that holds a special place in their hearts and collections. Thanks to the Plangent Processes audio restoration, the fidelity is richer and even more three-dimensional than ever before. What the first set -- presented uninterrupted on Disc Seven -- might lack in raw energy, it more than resolves with additional intensity. The jam during the second half of "Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo" creates an atmosphere primed for the music telepathy the unit are known for. "Loser" and a thoroughly explored "The Music Never Stops" set the scene for an action-packed Set Two. The rambunctious, sacred celebration of "Samson and Delilah" through to an all-time great "Help on the Way"/"Slipknot!"/"Franklin's Tower" all point toward an epic non-stop medley that ultimately combines "Estimated Prophet" with "Saint Stephen," "Not Fade Away," a brief "Drums" interlude prior to the reprise of "Saint Stephen," "Terrapin Station," and "Sugar Magnolia" The aforementioned bonus disc -- which was only available for a limited time -- contains over an hour of music from the Auditorium Theatre in Chicago, IL on May 12, 1977 and the entire package comes along with other Dead-related ephemera including a 28-page liner notes booklet, a badge promoting the Grateful Dead Movie -- which had its premiere right before these shows -- and a few additional surprises.