When last we spoke about 1972, I warned you that September was chock full of incredible Grateful Dead music. Exhibit A – tonight’s show, the first of three nights in a row at the Stanley Theatre (people in Jersey can’t spell too good), is the worst of the three and it’s still amazing from start to finish.
Things get off to a fast start with The Promised Land, Cold Rain and Snow and Me and My Uncle, but it’s when the boys slow things down on He’s Gone where you really start to get the sense that something is in the air. In later years, the band would lean heavily on dirgey vocal improvisations at the end of this song, but during 1972, and at this point in 1972 in particular, the closing jam was all guitar, with Jerry and Bob lashing back and forth while Phil scurries around on the notes in between them. Tonight’s jam strikes that tenuous balance between fragile and fractured that makes the best He’s Gones so gripping.
Skipping ahead to Deal, you hear just how confident everyone is. This isn’t the best version you’re going to hear, but Jerry rips off several tight solos and lifts the band with him. Big River, sometimes just a vehicle for tight bursts of Jerry’s manic guitar wizardry, chortles down the tracks like a train on a schedule, with everyone pulling their weight and the engine in perfect time. The first solo in Sugaree comes in hot, almost feeding back, but when Jerry pulls it together, it’s a brilliant thirty seconds of music. It’s interesting to hear it in its raw state. Ditto Around and Around, which had not been played too much yet. It sounds amped up yet cautious, as if the Dead are still figuring out the best way to make it their own. (Maybe they should have stuck with this version).
We’re missing the second set opening Bertha, one of several flaws with this recording including major cuts in Cumberland Blues and The Other One. But nothing is missing from Playin’ in the Band tonight – it’s a twenty-two minute barn burner that achieves great things three quarters of the way through. (And if you think this one is good, wait until the 28th). A few songs later, we get one of the Dead’s ten versions of Tomorrow is Forever, and a good one at that. This tune really shows off Donna’s ability as a background vocalist and is much more in her range than most of the other songs that she sang with the Dead. The second major piece of the second set is Truckin’>The Other One. It’s not possible to write about these extra long segments of music without listening to them ten times, and I don’t have the capacity to do that. So just plug in and enjoy the ride on this one – it gets better as it goes, that’s for sure. At the end of The Other One, we end up with It’s All Over Now Baby Blue, which fits in perfectly here. The Dead had played this tune off and on in 1966 and then again in 1969-70, but they would only play it twice in ’72 and once in ’74 before setting it aside until the 80’s. So enjoy it while you’ve got it.
The next two days of music are even better than this one, so if I don’t make it back to 1972 this week, and if you have the extra time, sample those shows, too. Otherwise, enjoy this one here: https://archive.org/details/gd1972-09-26.sbd.unknown.sbexx.16755.shnf