Grateful Dead “Dick’s Picks Volume Five” Oakland Auditorium Arena 12/26/79 – 3CD’s www.RealGoneMusic.com
This full concert is taken from the first of the Grateful Dead’s run-up to New Year’s Eve at the Oakland Auditorium Arena; it also includes a hot preview of “Alabama Getaway” that preceded its appearance on the “Go To Heaven” album by four months. As usual; the reason Dead tape archivist Dick Latvala selected this show is for its second set excursions – needing two entire discs for its capture. The second set bookends “Uncle John’s Band” (making its first appearance in a Dead concert in more than two years,) kicks-off the proceedings and closes them nearly two hours later. In between these two Uncles, there is also a good amount of inspired second-set jamming.
Disc One is the entire first set, opens with a clunky “Cold Rain and Snow” that offers interesting interplay. “C.C. Rider” swings in a bluesy tone, but first set offenders “Dire Wolf,” “Me and My Uncle,” now regularly paired with “Big River,” “Brown Eyed Women,” and “New Minglewood Blues” have long ago worn-out their welcomes. Yet there’s a surprisingly sharp (but slow) rendition of Garcia’s “Friend of the Devil” heats up when Brent Mydland takes a heady electric piano solo that inspires Weir to lift the tempo with boisterous vocal support that lights up Garcia’s guitar solo. Weir’s “Looks Like Rain” has its moments but is too long at (8:14.) The set closes with a rush with the aforementioned “Alabama Getaway” that roars from end to end and further erupts when they rip into Charles Berry’s “Promised Land.” Whew.
Disc Two starts the second set with a pretty solid and lengthy “Uncle John’s Band” that makes its way to “Estimated Prophet” where Mydland is given ample solo time to show his sharp pianistic wares, this version morphs into a really neat jam titled “Jam 1” with moog like sounds from Mydland seemingly excites Garcia and the entire band as they fly low-to-the-ground at soft volume but at very high speeds soaring through uncharted quadrants, speed racing and at times reminiscent of “Caution Do Not Stop On Tracks” with Lesh’s reliable walking/throbbing bass-lines. Out from “Jam One” emanates a awkward and uneventful “He’s Gone” that ignites near its ending into a relatively short (9:38) “The Other One” that’s’ fiery, but is followed by the dreaded dual drumming (six minutes) that ends disc two.
Disc Three: Opens with the continuation of the drummers soloing for yet another four minutes followed by “Jam 2” that gets very spacey resembling the Jefferson Starships antics on their inaugural “Blows against the Empire.” Yes we have liftoff Houston, as they enter into a single chorus of “I’m Gonna Tell You How It’s Gonna Be” with a clunky version of “Not Fade Away” that eventually grooves than crashes into Garcia’s “Brokedown Palace” that’s fortunately less than five minutes in length. You know it’s almost time to head home when Weir calls on Chuck Berry again for a rousing “Around and Around” that is arguably outdone when Garcia leads the band to (more Berry’s) “Johnny B. Goode,” ending the second set. But there’s more – encoring with “Shakedown Street” that’s pretty shaky taking its time (13:52) to find footing, that’s not at all like previous live performances that were righteously funky and at times had a disco edge. But nearly fourteen minutes of this Shakedown there’s yet another shift back to the second set opener “Uncle John’s Band” (less than three minutes) ending the festivities of the evening.
This is fifth consecutive Dick’s Picks album from the 1970’s, but this was the first Dick’s Picks edition featuring keyboard player Brent Mydland offering the first peak into the (than) latest Grateful Dead evolution/next era. That next ‘80’s era had fine moments especially during the earlier portions of the decade, but unraveled as the ‘80’s trudged midway and on…
Musicians (alphabetically) Jerry Garcia – lead guitar, vocals, Mickey Hart – drums, Bill Kreutzmann – drums, Phil Lesh – bass, Brent Mydland – keyboards, vocals, Bob Weir – guitar, vocals
The rear cover of Dick’s Picks 5 carries the following message. Caveat Emptor: “This compact disc has been digitally remastered directly from the original half-track stereo analog tape. It is a snapshot of history, not a modern professional recording, and may therefore exhibit some technical anomalies and the unavoidable effects of the ravages of time.”
For almost 17 years Bob Putignano has been pivotal at WFDU with his Sounds of Blue radio show (Wed. & Fri. 9am-1pm) www.SoundsofBlue.com – http://wfdu.fm Previously a contributing editor at Blues Revue, Blueswax, and Goldmine magazines, currently the Music Editor for the Yonkers Tribune www.YonkersTribune.com & www.MakingAScene.org Bob was also the 2003 recipient of the “Keeping the Blues Alive” award (given by the Blues Foundation in Memphis) for his achievements in radio broadcasting. Putignano can be contacted at: BobP@SoundsofBlue.com