Friday, August 10, 2007

Desert Island Discs, part Eight – Europe ’72 by the Grateful Dead

I got to see the Grateful Dead three times while I lived in Denver, in '79, '80 and '81 and I really got to enjoy their songs and the improvisational nature of their shows. (That might be why, a few years later I was intrigued by Phish.) And as every Dead fan knows it's really all about the shows and tapes of their concerts, not about their albums. Now I really like their albums (especially Workingman's Dead and American Beauty) but their three-album, two-disc live collection from that era, Europe '72 is perhaps an even better record of those years. The recording is crystal clear and the band, who recently added Keith and Donna Godchaux to the mix, was in fine form. This was the last tour with Ron "Pigpen" McKernon, who was dying from liver failure, and he's pretty quiet throughout. In fact, his organ parts were replaced in the studio later by Merl Saunders. But even with that studio trickery (which is really foreign to what the Dead are all about) this album is a wonderful collection of songs played well and recorded beautifully.

I have a clear memory of working on a crew mowing lawns on my second summer in Denver singing these songs to myself. "Cumberland Blues," "Ramble on Rose," and "Jack Straw" are among the highlights for me but the song that really caught my ear as a college student was "China Cat Sunflower." This performance absolutely sparkles and the interesting counterpoint between Bob Wier's running guitar figure and Jerry Garcia's vocal is always entertaining. I have LOTS of live Dead on my shelf but this version of "China Cat," and the wonderful collection of songs here puts Europe '72 at the top of the pile.

There are four friends joining me on my Desert Island journey. Check their lists:

My Complete Desert Island List (so far):

1 comment:

exnihiloman said...

I have fond mezmoriez from the early 1980's cruzing in my '73 Chevy Caprice listening to this album at full volume.