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Published: 2011/04/11

Grateful Dead’s Road Trips Looks Back on 1973

The next installment of the Grateful Dead’s Road Trips is the first in the archival series to document 1973. Road Trips Vol. 4 No. 3 captures the band’s entire November 21, 1973 performance at Colorado’s Denver Coliseum, as well as highlights from the previous night’s performance at the same venue. Dead scribe Blair Jackson explains:

Colorado has been fertile Grateful Dead Territory since the band’s first foray at the short- lived Denver Family Dog in 1967, and by the time 1973 rolled around, the group had built a large and loyal following there the old-fashioned way—by playing killer shows! Y’know, we often talk about the deluge of great tunes that came into the Dead’s repertoire during that fabulously fecund 1969-70 time period, but from the summer of ’72 through the summer of ’73, there was a veritable psychedelicornucopia of wondrous new Dead tunes introduced, including a handful that appear on this edition of Road Trips: “Here Comes Sunshine,” “Mississippi Half-Step,” “Weather Report Suite,” “They Love Each Other,” “Stella Blue”; each a classic in its own way, and indicative of some of the exciting new directions the Dead’s music was heading.

All of those except “They Love Each Other” turned up on the Dead’s exceptional Wake of the Flood album, released in mid-October 1973. It was the band’s first studio record since American Beauty three years earlier, and also the maiden release on their own Grateful Dead Records label, so they were way jazzed to be out there on the road digging into their recent tunes, several of which proved to be fine jamming vehicles and were instantly popular with the group’s ever-growing fan base.

The first set of 11/21/73 is a rock-solid and varied collection of tunes, including several “western” numbers (“Jack Straw,” “Me and My Uncle,” “Mexicali Blues”), a lovely “Brokedown Palace” (remember when that could turn up almost anywhere in a show?), a lilting and crystalline “Here Comes Sunshine” and a beautifully developed “Weather Report Suite”—already a monumental song after just three months!

The second set is where the fireworks really go off, however. It’s dominated by a spectacular hour-long medley that begins with “Half-Step,” segues into “Playing in the Band,” travels 715 miles due south for a little gunplay in “El Paso,” dips back into the “Playing” jam for spell, then into a superb “Wharf Rat,” back to a dynamic “Playing” reprise, and is topped off by one of the best versions of “Morning Dew” from this period. Nice! There’s plenty of show after that, too, with “Truckin’” rolling into a rare “Nobody’s Fault But Mine,” then “Goin’ Down the Road” and “Saturday Night” as the rockin’ capper. “Uncle John’s” is the perfect anthemic encore.

Filling out Disc Three is a meaty triumvirate from 11/20 consisting of “Truckin’,” a typically convoluted and exciting “Other One,” and then a lovely “Stella Blue” that ends this Road Trips on a particularly poignant note.

Here’s a look at the album’s track lists:

CD 1:

1. Me and My Uncle
2. Sugaree
3. Jack Straw
4. Dire Wolf
5. Black Throated Wind
6. Big Railroad Blues
7. Mexicali Blues
8. They Love Each Other
9. Looks Like Rain
10. Here Comes Sunshine
11. Big River
12. Brokedown Palace

CD 2:
1. Weather Report Suite
2. Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo
3. Playing In The Band
4. El Paso
5. Playing In The Band
6. Wharf Rat
7. Playing In The Band
8. Morning Dew

CD 3:
1. Truckin’
2. Nobody’s Fault But Mine
3. Goin’ Down The Road Feeling Bad
4. One More Saturday Night
5. Uncle John’s Band
6. Truckin’
7. The Other One
8. Stella Blue

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