LP1: 44 minutes
- Bertha (Roanoke, VA 7-27-74)
- Deal (Seattle, WA 5-21-74)
- Jack Straw (Roanoke, VA 7-27-74)
- To Lay Me Down (Miami, FL 6-23-74)
- Peggy-O (Springfield, MA 6-30-74)
- Ramble On Rose (Vancouver, BC 5-17-74)
- Let It Rock (Miami, FL 6-23-74)
- Casey Jones (Santa Barbara, CA 5-25-74)
LP2: 43 minutes
- Cumberland Blues (Springfield, MA 6-30-74)
- Dire Wolf (Springfield, MA 6-30-74)
- It Must Have Been the Roses (Seattle, WA 5-21-74)
- The Race is On (Vancouver, BC 5-17-74)
- Tennessee Jed (Santa Barbara, CA 5-25-74)
- One More Saturday Night (Springfield, MA 6-30-74)
- Ship of Fools (Chicago, IL 7-25-74)
- Brokedown Palace (Roanoke, VA 7-27-74)
(12 of these songs come from previously-posted curations of individual shows, and the other four are new to this blog. All from unreleased shows, as of May 2017.)
This second “best of shortlists” is a little different from the first one. Instead of pulling particularly excellent performances from across 1972-1974, I’ve tried to distill something specific that I like about the middle of 1974. The performances here come from May, June, and July.
To emphasize this thing I like, I’ve selected mostly compositions that they started playing when they were the country and western band and the tight Europe ’72 unit.
By 1974, on the right night, any one of these songs could shed its habituated execution and become a pliable, loping groove, the band locked into a magical zone of easy-going syncopation, inspired detailing, and sweet singing. It’s 1974 Dead at their fluid best, taking full possession of these older “small numbers.” Five players listening intently to each other, and strolling, striding, or bounding across the compositions with patience and joy.
(The "Sugar Magnolia" on my first "best of" mix would fit right in here, too.)
In pursuit of my goal, I’ve included some songs with minor vocal flubs (“Bertha,” “Dire Wolf,” “Ramble on Rose," "Casey Jones"), but these moments didn't deter the band, so they probably won't deter you.
This mix also features songs that were rarely played during the Spring/Summer ’74 tours: “Brokedown” (once), “Dire Wolf” (twice), “Cumberland” (three times), and “Peggy-O” (four times). This is the only time they played “Let It Rock.”
In short, this is an imaginary 90-minute album of an imaginary mid-1974 first set that I would jump the watchman for, right outside the fence.