Dick's Picks Volume Two

Grateful Dead

Grateful Dead Records, 1995


REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Any true fan of the Grateful Dead will freely admit that Jerry Garcia and crew had good nights and bad nights. What you would get at a particular show was a crap shoot. (I only attended one Dead show - the last night in Chicago prior to Garcia's death in 1995 - and it was beautiful, despite lyrical flubs.)

So, as tape archivist Dick Latvala continues to comb through the Dead's numerous shows, we're bound to get a few shows here and there that don't live up to the incredible head-trip mind-blow. Such is the case with Dick's Picks Volume Two, taken from a show in Columbus, Ohio on Halloween 1971. It's not a bad set, just a little weird in some ways.

Comprising of only six tracks (c'mon, Dick, you didn't have a full show to put out? Sorry, but I'm a bit of a purist in this regard), Garcia and crew were still adjusting to new keyboardist Keith Godchaux. (Original keyboardist Ron "Pigpen" McKernan died in 1973.) So the feel on some of these songs is a bit slow, like the traditional crowd-pleaser "Dark Star". Comprising of only one verse before branching out into a jam, the tempo is far too slow on this one for my tastes; it almost seems like a jazz beat gone a tad wrong. Oh, it's still a decent enough rendition, and the jam more than makes up for the minor complaints, but I found it to be a difficult adjustment.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Likewise, there's something missing from this version of "St. Stephen," though I can't easily put my finger on it. It just doesn't sound as comfortable as it has in shows past - and this was a staple of their set for a long time. However, Bob Weir's performance on "Sugar Magnolia" helps save face in between these two tracks.

For me, the highlight of Dick's Picks Volume Two is the montage of "Not Fade Away" into "Going Down The Road Feeling Bad", then going back into "Not Fade Away" to close the show. It's an interesting twist on things, and the band is able to keep me interested all the way through. This is noteworthy because "Going Down The Road Feeling Bad" is not one of my all-time favorite Dead songs.

The one regret I have with this disc is that it's too damned short. Just when I started to really get into things, Weir was bidding the crowd good night. (This is, so far, the only volume in the set that was a one-disc release; Latvala must have realized that less isn't always more.) Although I don't have my battered copy of DeadBase in front of me at this moment, I would think there had to be a solid enough set to complement what is already released.

Of course, Deadheads who don't already have this disc will be running out the door to pick it up. (Arista Records recently released the first six volumes of Dick's Picks on the market; they were previously available only through Grateful Dead Merchandising - where volumes 7 through 12 are still only available.) It's still a worthy enough effort for you to spend an hour with, and Deadheads will thrill to hear Garcia's playing again, but this disc leaves me with a serious case of the musical munchies.

Rating: B

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© 1998 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Grateful Dead Records, and is used for informational purposes only.