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Published: 2002/03/20
by Dan Alford

Dicks Picks 23 & 24

Business stuff:
Welcome back for another month of live music captured for your listening pleasure. This month focuses on highlights from the two most recent Dick Picks releases. Both are exceptional in terms of choice and performance and deserve a listen. Next month will focus on Eric Krasno, both with and without Soulive, followed by another installment in our ongoing discussion of Miles. As always keep in touch!
Sing Me Back Home from Dicks Picks Vol. 23
It is admittedly strange to focus on a tune like the prison ballad Sing Me Back Home from a show that boasts many other fine performances, including an 18 minute Playing and a 50 minute Hes Gone > Other One, but this version is so incredibly heartfelt and potent that it deserves the highest distinction. It is actually the culmination of the aforementioned monster jam from set II, a destination worth traveling for. Jerrys vocals quaver with such authentic emotion that when he peels out a solo 6 minutes in, it is like a punch in the gut. Its not over-long, but each note shines like diamond or a tear. And the repeated final verse features a howl from Garcia thatll just about stop your heart.

Playing > Uncle Johns > Morning Dew > Uncle Johns > Playing from Dicks Picks Vol. 24
This centerpiece from the Wall of Sound sound check at the Cow Palace is a truly fun filled moment in the history of the Grateful Dead. Its the sort of piece that should be documented by an archival release series (now were just waiting on a full recording of 7-25-75). Despite the much ballyhooed 8 million vocal speakers in the monstrous PA system, Bobbys vocals disappear less than a minute into Playing. As it is just a test, the band actually restarts once the vocals reappear, this time tearing into to the classic tune with renewed vigor. The rhythm devils set a quick pace as Phil dances around the edges. As the jam settles, he takes charge, building the energy with a small cluster of bombs. This is entire jam segment is a great example of Phils lead-bass style. While Garcia is in a full space wobble almost immediately, the rest of the band forces him to maintain some sense of direction. Playing over and off of Bobbys clever rhythm structures, Jerrys lead finds a nice line about 9 minutes in. It flares up, a strip of white-hot light that cuts through the goopy groove. Phil rises up with another, more aggressive, more evenly spaced series of rumbles that rekindle Garcias flame and send him spiraling off toward the sunset. Its a splice transition to Uncle Johns Band.
Again the tempo is up and somehow the song is immediately clean and warm, as though the previous 14 minutes never occurred. Keith does some neat sing-along work on the piano through the early verses. Phil and Jerry cascade against one another during a short guitar solo, rippled reflections. Phil chimes in on vocals, suddenly usurping the stage. Its not the prettiest singing, but what it lacks in harmony, it makes up for in grit. The jam drops back effortlessly to the spacey regions of Playing, Phil even teasing the reprise early on. He and Garcia continue their conversation, a wooly mammoth, albeit an agile one, and a sparrow at play. The transition to Dew is smooth.
The band finally slows down, but you can tell they dont really want to. Garcia shows great range in his singing, Phil now playing off the vocals rather than the leads. As the first solo approaches, the band is back to its earlier pace. They all crash into it, Jerry unleashing a rhythm burst at the outset while Phil bombs and Keith bounces somewhere in between. The start is so big that the jam can only wind down from there- a solo in reverse.
In contrast, the second solo is intensely delicate in its youth, although everyone is very distinct in the mix, Phil facilitating the eventual holocaust. Riding the mushroom cloud, Garcia deftly slides in front and slips open another smooth segue, this one back to Uncle Johns Band.
Tagging the final verse, the band is off again, racing through the byways of the solar system. Again it seems as if Garcia would be happiest with a full Meltdown, but the rhythm section keeps the groove forward focused. Bobbys rhythm beds stand out like horn arrangements, one eventually oozing back into Playing to end the major jam of the night.

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