Tuesday, January 14, 2014

European Road Trip: Truckin'

Grateful Dead: Truckin'
[more free media from this same concert @ the Internet Archive]

Give or take a year, most aficionados (even Deadheads) would probably agree that 1972 marks the high point of the Grateful Dead’s career. Always renowned for their live shows, they toured (western) Europe in 1972, and came out with an album – actually a double/triple album (depending on the medium) - appropriately named  Europe ’72.  

By ’72, the Dead had refined their sound/show. That said, while it was billed as a “live” album, the originally marketed version of Europe ’72 was heavily over-dubbed before it was released. Personally, I don’t think that the dubbing detracts from its value: quality music doesn’t always have to be “pure”- as in “live only” – just so long as it isn’t billed mistakenly. In this case, for a “live” recording, the quality is darn good: they took some quality equipment on tour with them and the studio dub after the tour seems to have enhanced the result. 

Although the band remained quite active, releasing new albums into the 90s, most living members staying and playing together until Garcia’s death in '95, the death of “Pigpen” in 1973 may have been the start of the end. He was an eratic member of the band: kicked out, brought back, and while he was in the band, an integral part: many live shows concluded with what was his "signature" piece: Turn On Your Lovelight

Their music from the period exudes a sense of unity and harmony (both in terms of aural and aura/karma) that goes beyond the vocal harmonies: they sound comfortable and happy. More often than not, they even manage a loose jam that is fairly coherent/cohesive (a major feat, perhaps, considering the reputed extraneous influences).  

Truckin' may have been one of the band's lasting memes: the image on the cover of the band epitomizes the idea: a "cat" moving on- on foot. Originally released on their "American Beauty" album in 1970, the song has been accorded the status of "national treasure" by the Library of Congress.

For more details about the dead, check out one of the best Dead-related online links I have ever seen: http://deadessays.blogspot.com/

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