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Issue: December 2009

Uncovered and Complete

Winterland June 1977: The Complete Recordings (Rhino)
Grateful Dead

Following hot on the heels of the spring release of the three-CD set To Terrapin: Hartford '77 is a gorgeous nine-CD box set containing the entire three-night run on the Dead's home turf, Winterland, San Francisco, June 7-9, 1977.

Terrapin Station, the band's 1977 studio album, had been recorded but not released, although The Grateful Dead Movie had recently premiered. An enthusiastic audience and a well-oiled band combined for a series of concerts that have been fan favorites for years through the trading network. The lineup was Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir, guitars; Phil Lesh, bass; Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann, drums; Keith Godchaux, keyboards and Donna Jean Godchaux, vocals.

Each night's performance is contained on a three-CD foldout sleeve within the box, and the sleeves placed together make an enjoyable piece of visual art; there are some fun mementos included as well, but the music is the main attraction.

The opening night's first set is enjoyable but not special. But the second set . . . oh my! A jazzy "Scarlet Begonias" flows into "Fire on the Mountain" (a pairing which would remain in their repertoire until the end), and then segues into "Good Lovin'." "Candyman" allows the band and audience to catch their collective breath, before "Estimated Prophet" (from Terrapin Station) ups the ante and transitions into a long, well-played "He's Gone," followed by a drumming segment.

The third disc, concluding the second set, opens with a rocking version of the gospel song "Samson and Delilah," followed by a beautiful pairing of "Terrapin Station" with "Morning Dew," which leads into Chuck Berry's "Around and Around." A lengthy "Uncle John's Band" illustrates how the acoustic studio mariachi version transformed into a vehicle for jamming; "U. S. Blues" closes the evening's festivities.

The following night has another well-played first set, followed by a smoking second set. The highlights are a reprise of "Estimated Prophet," which this time morphs into a 19-plus minute Dead-style samba, "Eyes of the World," followed by a drum duet. The set concludes on the third disc with a lengthy medley of "The Other One"/"Wharf Rat" (with beautifully melodic bass work by Lesh)/"Not Fade Away"/"Goin' Down the Road Feelin' Bad"/"Johnny B. Goode." A gentle encore of "Brokedown Palace" ends the second night.

To quote from the band's "Black Peter," "See here how everything/lead up to this day."  On the third and final night, the Dead simply knock the ball out of the stadium on their closing set. After a rousing "Samson and Delilah," equipment difficulties led to a rendition of "Funiculi Funicula," following which the spaceship leaves the planet.

A 32-minute exploration of "Help on the Way"/"Slipknot!"/"Franklin's Tower" shows more of the jazz influence which permeated this era of the Dead's playing. But they're not finished yet! The final segment of the second set, on the third CD, opens with another rendition of the 7/4 "Estimated Prophet," this time leading into an unhurried "Saint Stephen"/"Not Fade Away"/"Drums"/"Saint Stephen"/"Terrapin Station", returning to Earth with "Sugar Magnolia, "U.S. Blues" and "One More Saturday Night."

Over the course of the three nights captured here, the band played its collective heart out to a stoked hometown crowd. Garcia's guitar work is sparkling and crystalline, and his voice had not begun to crack. Weir's intricate "rhythm guitar" (a misnomer on the adventurous numbers, as it is more of a chordal counterpoint) interlocks with the poly-rhythms of the drummers. Keith Godchaux's keyboard work was still focused and ranged from competent to inspired improvisational playing. Donna Jean Godchaux had good monitors, the lack of which had hindered her in some prior years, and contributes eloquently to the sound of the band.

For Deadheads, this is a must-get. For those curious as to why the 1977 tours were so well loved, both in the moment and for decades to follow, but who are gun-shy of the box, the Hartford set mentioned above would be a good place to start.

Ordering information is available online at www.dead.net.

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