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Grateful Dead: Fillmore West 1969

No sooner did I state in a recent review of the Jerry Garcia Plays Dylan CD-"I expect the flow of live material to keep coming from the vaults of the Grateful Dead," then do I find myself holding this gem. Fillmore West-1969 is a moment frozen in time, and a spectacular one at that. To think that the Dead had only a few studio albums behind them at the time, and they would only get better simply amazes me. What I heard on these three CDs was an incredible live band totally in command of their presentation. Their ability to improvise would make every live show they ever performed an entirely different experience. For this very reason, the resulting floodgates have opened to countless live recordings. And there is certainly enough fans of the Dead worldwide more than willing to gobble them up as soon as they hit the streets, legitimate or bootlegged, it does not seem to matter.

Rhino makes every effort to impress by offering Dead Heads a beautifully put together package. The three CDs come housed in a heavy duty cardboard mini book style case, which includes several pictures in both black and white and color from the era, an excellent write up, a picture of the original hand written set list, and each CD comes in a quality sleeve with nice b/w shots of each band member. Those are the bonuses. The music is unbelievable.

As my education continues regarding the Grateful Dead and their amazing guitarist Jerry Garcia, my fascination and hunger for their music increases. Now I finally understand how this band created an entire culture by themselves with their legendary live shows. Monster jams like "That's It for the Other One" run for nearly 24 minutes, almost equal to an album's worth of music (based on LP day standards). Normally if hear a song that goes on for that long there is some flash, pompousness and boredom, never have I experienced this listening to the Dead. Every song is a journey within itself and it was because they had this guy named Garcia that could take them down any road he chose. I know I place a lot of the focus on Garcia and that is probably not fair, the rest of the people in the band were equally talented, they had to be, otherwise jams would never develop as they did.

The Grateful Dead invented the term jam band, and they clearly defined it every time they took the stage. Just one listen to a magnificent set like this on their home turf in San Francisco tells the story.

Track Listing
CD 1
1. Morning Dew (11:05)
2. Good Morning Little Schoolgirl (11:00)
3. Doin' That Rag (6:56)
4. I'm a King Bee Moore (7:31)
5. Cosmic Charlie (6:02)
6. Turn on Your Lovelight (19:09)

CD 2
1. Dupree's Diamond Blues (4:48)
2. Mountains of the Moon (4:52)
3. Dark Star (19:43)
4. St. Stephen (7:51)
5. The Eleven (15:13)
6. Death Don't Have No Mercy (9:58)

CD 3
1. That's It for the Other One (23:30)
2. Alligator (4:00)
3. Drums (6:52)
4. Jam (25:31)
5. Caution (Do Not Stop on Tracks) (9:13)
6. Feedback Grateful Dead (7:54)
7. We Bid You Goodnight (2:01)

Added: November 10th 2005
Reviewer: Keith Hannaleck
Related Link: Grateful Dead Website
Hits: 2693
Language: english

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Grateful Dead: Fillmore West 1969
Posted by Pete Pardo, SoT Staff Writer on 2005-11-10 06:39:22
My Score:

Now this is what the "jam band" genre is all about, by the originators of the term, The Grateful Dead. Rhino Records has raised the bar with this one, 3 CD's of music recorded at the Fillmore West in 1969. The Fillmore has been one of the most historic concert venues in the history of rock music, and the Dead played there on many an occasion. This collection of songs from their February 27-March 2 run there in 1969 is a must have for Dead-heads, psychedelic, prog, and fusion fans alike. 3 CD's of sprawling jams, blues, trippy psychedelic jaunts into outer space, and jazzy interludes fill the grooves here, and the packaging is superb. Rhino have presented the set in a digi-book format, complete with mounds of black & white and color photographs from the era, and plenty of commentary on the band and the situation surrounding the recording.

As for the songs, this is a real treasure chest. Considering this was 1969, the sound is pristine, and the performances remarkable. Jerry Garcia's liquid yet biting guitar tone leads the band through many lengthy pieces like the classic "Dark Star", "That's It for the Other One", as well as bluesier numbers like "Im a King Bee", "Morning Dew" and one of my favorites "Good Morning Little School Girl". Long time Dead favorites like "Turn on Your Lovelight" and "St. Stephen" breathe and sway, and there's even an extended 25-minute jam and a long drum solo from Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann. While Garcia and rhythm guitarist Bob Weir always seem to be the focal point of the band, I must point out the excellent organ work from Tom Constanten, Ron "Pigpen" McKernan's vocals and harmonica, and the stellar bass grooves from Phil Lesh. This line-up was a band of young but soul searching players, and Fillmore West 1969 is a near perfect example of their powers.

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