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- Senior Boarder
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Re: Favorite Dead era?#190402 1 year, 10 months agoeasy question, but not an easy answer. if I could only pick one era as my favorite it would be the Brent years, but my favorite years from each era (in order of preference) are...
- Brent era, 1985 & 1989
- Keith & Donna era, 1973-74
- Pigpen era, 1969-70We will all be together for ever and ever when we make it to the promised land
- Fresh Boarder
Re: Favorite Dead era?#190634 1 year, 10 months agoI see it as 4 distinct variations of the band:
66-70 - Early Psych, Bluesy rock, epic, primal Dead (Dark Star, Other One, St. Stephen)
71-74 - Strong songwriting, Cowboy songs, really solid output defines what we know as Grateful Dead. Jerry singing and playing at his peak. Mickey dropping out for the period, in my opinion, really allowed the nuances of the compositions come forward, Billy really cooks on the jams. Solo works and studio albums (Wake, Mars, Allah) are amazing. (Playing in the Band, Eyes of the World, 1/2 Step, Loser ... too many to name!)
75-79 - Taking a bit of a break form live shows really helps the band create a new focus, I think. once they started playing shows again there was a new fire under their playing, Mickey comes back, new songs are fast and funky, set style really takes shape. 1976 shows at smaller theaters were amazing. Studio albums well received. (Shakedown Street, Sampson, Terrapin, Estimated Prophet)
1980-1995 - Many will argue that there are two waves here, Brent era and post Brent, but really the band didn't change sound all that much, or really its just that the 90's Dead were not that great (sorry!). Once Brent died they just never got back on track. 80s were pretty ripping, especially the early years. But the 90 were not that great, (new box set of Spring 1990 has some great stuff, but not enough IMHO). I did a bunch of shows in 1985, Dylan tour and spring in 1986 and did the 1987 summer tour (Telluride!), Super fun, great times, but not the strongest musically.
If I had to pick the best 10 year span of the Dead, it would be 1969-1979 hands downMore Cowbell!
- Fresh Boarder
Re: Favorite Dead era?#243328 1 year, 4 months agoThis is strictly a list for "live performances" exclusively. The list would be a little different if the studio were included.
In the order given:
1971 - 1972 (Dead at their best ever, hands down. Light years ahead of the years before or after).
1980 - 1981 (Beginning of their new, refined sound. Jerry's guitar gets the classic "bell tone." The band's sound is at its best. Crisp, clear - and the vocals are still very strong and clean. IMO, it's all "downhill from here" - with a few sporadic spurts of magic over the final 13 years - but was hit and miss.)
1977 (Jerry's virtuosity on the guitar peaks at this time)
As far as live shows, 90% of the Dead I listen to can be found in one of those years listed above. This is not because I specifically look for shows to listen to from those years only. I've circulated through hundreds and hundreds of shows over the years from every year evenly, and the chips just seem to fall that way.
That being said, there are of course a few isolated exceptions. One exception is a performance in 1983. It wasn't an entire concert, but a "Scarlet/Fire" played on 10/21/83 at the Worcester Centrum. This is the most amazing performance I've ever heard from ANY era. It was way, way beyond what the Dead usually do, even at their best - especially the jam between Scarlet and Fire. Jerry and Phil's collaboration in that jam are remarkable, and there's a crescendo in the middle that I've yet to see repeated in hundreds of shows. I'm still puzzled as to why the rest of the 10/21/83 show was just average. How can that be? It defies all logic. Anyway, the only other "superhuman" performance that seemingly surpassed even the Dead's own abilities was the 09/03/77 Englishtown, NJ "Eyes Of The World", but that 'Eyes' was in '77, which was included in the list above, so it is not counted as one of those isolated exceptions to the list.
The studio recordings are different however. I think "In The Dark" is their best overall studio album. Other albums have songs that are just as good, even better. But on the whole - as far as sound quality, energy, dynamics, etc., I think it is their best. Of course this doesn't include Europe '72, Reckoning (For The Faithful), Dead Set, etc, which I do not count as studio albums, even though some people do. "American Beauty" is their masterpiece as far as songs and writing. If the energy and dynamics on American Beauty weren't so static (a problem with almost all Dead studio albums), it would be the best studio album IMO ("Workingman's Dead" being next in line in that respect.)
The complex musicianship and vocals were fantastic on their studio albums, but the lack of energy and dynamics just killed them, except for "In The Dark." It's the only album where a little bit of that live energy and magic was captured in the studio (along with the jam on Alabama Getaway maybe, and perhaps the crescendo in the middle of Unbroken Chain).
- Junior Boarder
Re: Favorite Dead era?#243638 1 year, 4 months agoThe Brent Mydland Era. I think Brent's playing gave them a different and better sound. Both keyboards and vocals.
That said, there was great variance during that time. But I'll take a Brent show over most other shows.
I did like how they sounded with Marsalis in those MSG shows in the early 90s and of course there were multiple great shows in the 70s.