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Published: 2002/11/23
by Pat Buzby

Dick’s Picks XXVI: 4/69 – The Grateful DeadGo To Nassau: 5/80 – The Grateful Dead

Grateful Dead Records 4046

Arista Records/Grateful Dead Records 4085

Another month, another dual review of Grateful Dead archival releases in However, though the chronological gap between these two sets
('69 to '80) is a year shorter than last month's pair, the musical gap is
much greater – these two bands have nothing in common besides a name, five
players and one song ("China Cat Sunflower"). A bit of a challenge for the
reviewer, but it does point to two reasons why the market for these releases
remains alive: because so much different music existed under this name, and
because a significant portion of us are interested in observing the growth
of this ensemble.

The Dead grew very rapidly, musically, in 1969. Over the course of three
official releases, we can hear the Dead hitting upon a strong song sequence
(disc two of Fillmore 2/11/69), perfecting it (Live/Dead), and
beginning to tinker with it on this new release. The 4/26/69 material finds
the band veering from the expected "Dark Star" to "China Cat"/"Doin' That
Rag" after the usual acoustic "Dupree's Diamond Blues"/"Mountains of the
Moon" intro. The other inclusion from this show is a rare "Other One"/"The
Eleven" sandwich (with a long transition jam which includes some of the most
genuinely "open" playing this reviewer has heard from the GD of early '69).
Later on disc one we also get one of the very first glimpses of Cowboy Bob
on "Me & My Uncle", hinting at the country/rock pursuits just around the

Disc two of DP 26 is more typical early '69 Dead, and few Heads will
consider that a bad thing. Like most '68 and '69 performances, the main
feature here is Garcia, playing with a full, high-wired, 150% energy
commitment that reminds the devoted Dead listener what the real deal is
about after spending hours trying to enjoy those tepid latter-day
performances. Here and there one can hear the others, mainly Lesh and Weir,
reaching for some harmonic or rhythmic advances in the music that don't
quite make it, but if this playing lacks the erudition of '72-'74, it makes
up for it in raw power.

Without hearing a note, many hardcore Heads will regard DP 26 as
manna from Heaven while considering Go To Nassau to be close to the
opposite, simply because the setlist of the latter set includes very little
room for exploratory playing. However, the 1980 set is never less than
enjoyable, and it fills a gap in the discography (to this writer's
knowledge, there are few high-quality recordings from this period in the
vault aside from the fall '80 Warfield and Radio City runs) and it may be a
better choice than DP 26 to convert your mainstream rock-fan friends
— with the caveat that the 1980 Dead tended to take Fleetwood Mac or the
Doobie Brothers as musical role models more often than, say, Bruce
Springsteen or the Clash.

That being said, Go To Nassau is a snapshot of the band at a good
juncture, in the throes of the Brent Reinvigoration and still safely away
from the Garcia Decline. The "Feel Like A Stranger"/"Althea" combo opening
disc two is a minor revelation hinting at the Dead's own lost porno-funk
era, with some of the sleekest slow grooves imaginable with two drummers
(conversely, the set's weakest points are the somewhat forced and unsteady
fast tempos of "Alabama Getaway" and "Goin' Down The Road Feeling Bad").
There's not much here beyond what meets the eye in the track listing, but
the good news is that Garcia is still fully present, surprisingly fresh
vocally and never slacking on the guitar — perhaps not 150%, but definitely

Two more chances to observe a growing band, and many will still have an
appetite for more. How about a complete fall '71 show, guys? Or one of the
saxophone shows from the '90s, perhaps?

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