Part 1 (56 minutes):
- Greatest Story Ever Told
- Mississippi Half-Step
- Brown Eyed Women
- Jack Straw
- Bird Song
- China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider
- One More Saturday Night
Part 2 (55 minutes):
- Playin’ in the Band (15:09)
- Dark Star > (13:01)
- Space > (8:39)
- Jam > (4:26)
- Interlude > (1:06)
- Morning Dew (13:04)
- Sing Me Back Home (9:56)
Six months ago, when I posted highlight reels of the first two (of four) August 1972 Berkeley shows, I lamented the fact that I wasn’t able to process all four shows into a fake “Road Trips” “boxed set.”
At the time, I didn’t have access to a SBD of the entire final/fourth show, and I judged the third one to perhaps be so good (performance/mix/recording) that it would become a “Dave’s Picks” release someday.
Six months later, on my birthday, no less, Dave did me one better by dropping the complete fourth show into my mailbox, complete and meticulously mastered! And, boy, it really does cap a fantastic run.
Since there’s obviously no “Berkeley ‘72” box in the offing, I figured I’d go ahead and post my favorite stuff from the third one, so that the three Berkeley shows that Dave didn’t pick have good representation on this blog. You can make your own bonus disc(s) for “Dave’s Picks #24.” I’m reasonably sure that I haven’t left off anything that is for the ages, from the first three shows.
Context: After taking a week off, and having played only one show in three weeks, The Dead played five shows in seven days, culminating in the famed 8-27-72 Veneta, Oregon performance: San Jose on a Sunday, the four Berkeley shows across the following workweek, and then Veneta the next Sunday. (After Veneta, they took another week off.)
So, the Berkeley stand constitutes almost all of the prologue to Veneta: An extended, Bill Graham-sponsored, small theater, home-town residency for The Dead, in the midst of a very busy year. All things considered, it must have been a chill, comfy week for the band, and the high quality of playing suggests that they were both relaxed and focused over four nights at the community theater – very into it. And then, with only a day’s break, they moved from San Francisco/Bill Graham territory to an open field in the northwest, with their old acid test buddies, at an acid-test-level event. Additionally, the first Berkeley show is also just the 9th show after Pigpen’s last show, so we’re listening to the next phase of The Dead hitting its stride – the initial stage of the metamorphosis into 1973 Dead, two “Wake of the Flood” songs already clicking strongly, and jamming mutating in certain places to fill the Pigpen-song improvisational gaps.
Would Veneta have been played the same way, if The Dead had come straight off of a random tour of sports stadiums in some region of the U.S.? I have no idea, but the character of Berkeley ’72 certainly seems to support the idea that it was the incubator of that transcendent Oregon afternoon.
Compared to each of the first two shows of the run, I’ve held onto many more minutes from this one, totaling somewhat over two hours. As Dave noted about the next night, there are a lot of crackling smaller songs in this show, in both sets, and I’ve brought those together for the first part of this mix.
You can tell that I feel good about the vocal mix of this show’s recording, as I’ve led both “discs” with full-throated Bobby and Donna songs, and I haven’t truncated anything into an “instrumental edit.” Loud Garcia vocals on “China Cat” make all the difference; when he’s quiet, the momentum goes completely out of the song. Group vocal songs, like “I Know You Rider” and “Truckin’,” really benefit from this mix, too. The harmonies go wrong in a few places, as you’d expect, but not so that it distracts from the overall impact of these performances.