I Love The Dead

 Posted by
Oct 142011

Well, no, actually I don’t love the Grateful Dead, but there are plenty of people around that do, and those Deadheads will tell you that Europe ’72 (issued in November 1972) is one of their best albums. The band was arguably it its strongest and Jerry Garcia was still vertical at this stage. As far as live albums go, this triple-LP or two-CD set is pretty good and makes for a quite sufficient introduction to the Dead to mere mortals like me. However, the true adepts are always wanting more grateful death, and even 30 years of trading concert tapes and purchasing all 2,387 Dick’s Picks CDs didn’t quite satisfy their junkie cravings.

Like all good pushers, Grateful Dead Productions and Rhino Records arrived with the goods last month to ease the cold sweats and shakes of these product-starved Deadheads by offering what might be the most mega box set of all time: Europe ’72: The Complete Recordings. Along with books, maps, and other paraphernalia, the massive wooden box consists of 73 CDs documenting 22 complete European concerts. Although I’ve not seen a complete track listing, I assume that means 22 versions of “Truckin'” and “Sugar Magnolia”. Funny me, I though that having only one version of each would be well more than adequate.

Again, like the good pushers they are, GDP and Rhino knew to keep the supply limited and the prices high. The price of the box set was $450 and only 7,200 copies were issued. Is it a surprise to anyone that every single one was sold within 4 days? The pusher guys came to the rescue once again with the recent announcement that the 72 CDs would be available to all without all the limited-edition nonsense. The price for the less-deluxe edition? Still an eye-watering $450.00, bless their rapacious little hearts. If you still can’t sleep at night without one of the full-luxoid packages, they’re now available on eBay with Buy-It-Now prices up to $1,200.00.

There has to be at least one hardcore Deadhead out there in RTH-land. What’s the buzz on the box set? Is it worth the legendary reputation and the equally legendary price? Have you purchased it or are you planning to? Inquiring minds want to know! As for everyone else, what other totally outrageous box sets come to mind?


  32 Responses to “I Love The Dead”

  1. Happiness Stan

    Apologies for going slightly off-topic, but I saw The Grateful Dead film at an all-niter about thirty years ago, was it called “Live” or “In Concert” or something? Unfortunately I’d taken some stimulating substances to stay awake for “Head” which followed it at about 4am so wasn’t able to sleep through it. I had never heard the Dead before that, and can remember absolutely nothing about the music other than it was very, very, very, very boring and it felt from about ten minutes into the action that the film would never end.

    I’m a very open minded chap, and I’m prepared to give them another go. I’m prepared to listen to up to two sides of an album (up to forty-five minutes worth) and prepared to try to get myself into any state of mind reasonably achievable while sober.

    So for the benefit of myself, and others equally baffled by the Dead, which should it be, and how should it be approached?

  2. 2000 Man

    I’ve got a Grateful Dead album and it sucks, so I don’t think you’re missing anything. Buy yourself a new Terry Jacks record, instead.

    Another band I don’t like has an amazing boxed set that I always thought was funny. It was limited to 150 copies, and I’m pretty sure they really barely got 100 out. It’s a 70 lp set of Led Zeppelin bootlegs, which were from a whole bunch of different labels, but they were apparently pressed with the original stampers (there were less people involved in the bootleg scene than you might think, but that’s still impressive). They put it in some funky black plexiglass case, which was brittle and the reason a whole lot of the 150 didn’t make it. One sold on ebay back in April for 5600 bucks. http://www.goldminemag.com/tag/the-final-option#ixzz1U5piAcUu

    The Stones are reissuing Some Girls and once again, the vinyl version completely doesn’t understand the vinyl collector. The 12 bonus tracks aren’t included on the vinyl release, it’s just the original album, remastered. I’ll bet it doesn’t improve on the original sonics at all, so you can just buy an original in the color scheme of your choice for a couple of dollars.

  3. Speaking for myself, it’s only a 4-CD box set, but Monster Box, I think that’s the title, a collection of David Thomas’ solo works, may be the most extravagant box set I own.

    There was a multi-CD box set of previously unreleased live VU stuff that a young Robert Quine recorded on a cassette or something. Remember that? I luckily got to sample it. I’m glad I didn’t pull the trigger on buying more versions of the Live 1969 album, with more pointless versions of “The Ocean.”

  4. If you can’t get Lucille Ball back on the vinyl reissue cover what’s the point? (Isn’t she the celeb whose image they had to pull after the initial pressing?)

  5. tonyola

    First of all, the Dead live and the Dead in the studio might as well have been two different bands. They were famous for marathon 3+ hour sets where they’d take a song that might be 4 minutes in a studio and extend it out to a 30 minute workout. The live shows were what the Deadheads lived for and the group even allowed taping and trading of their shows. The epic-length live songs might be a problem for you if your attention span is limited to 45 minutes. As for their studio records, if you like country-ish rock with short songs, you might enjoy Workingman’s Dead or American Beauty. My personal favorites for studio Dead are Blues for Allah and Terrapin Station.

    I’ve known lots of Deadheads but I had no liking for the group because all I had heard were their records. Finally I was dragged to a Dead show in 1982 and I must say that they were pretty impressive live. I’m still by no means a Deadhead of any sort, but I now understand their appeal to the hardcore fans.

  6. BigSteve

    You mean the most extravagant box until that new Smiths box with all of the original albums remastered, right?

  7. tonyola

    You’ll be pleased to learn, I’m sure, that the Beach Boys are supposed to be officially releasing the five-CD plus two-LP The Smile Sessions box set next month. The fifth CD contains nothing but various takes of “Good Vibrations”. We can’t wait for the next Mike Love rant.

    The only box sets I own are the four-CD Rhino Nuggets set and the four-CD Great Deceiver set from King Crimson, which documents their live shows from 1973-1974. Great stuff.

  8. BigSteve

    I guess I’m the resident Deadhead. I love Europe 72, the sound of it. They were still in that Americana vein then with the barrelhouse piano and one of their best batches of new songs.

    I should say that I think the two albums sides with twenty-minute jams on a single song are ok, but for me the Dead are a song band, especially the Hunter/Garcia songs. So I like them recording the new songs live when the band was hot, but the extended improvisations work in the moment, though less so on record.

    So I don’t see any particular need for the new boxset. I assume they picked the best versions of the songs for Europe 72, so multiple versions of the songs don’t excite me. I bought Hundred Year Hall, the 2-CD release of a recording of a single night on the 72 European tour. It had a few songs not on Europe 72, but it definitely did not whet my appetite to acquire recordings of every night of the tour.

    Now let me say that I have no quarrel with those Deadheads who do want to listen to multiple versions of these songs. Classical music fans happily listen to multiple recordings of individual works. My decision is based my desire to spread my listening around to more artists.

    And for Stan or anyone else who wants to check out the Dead, Workingman’s Dead and/or American Beauty would be the place to start, especially if you have some affinity for Americana. If psychedelia is more your thing, I would recommend later albums like From the Mars Hotel or Blues for Allah. Live/Dead if you want long-form playing.

  9. 2000 Man

    Yeah. Lucille, Farrah Fawcett and Raquel Welch all didn’t want to be on it. I’ve always been kind of surprised that the Reconstruction cover hasn’t gone up in value over the initial pressing. I think there are less of those with the die cot outer cover and new inner sleeve than the original cover.

  10. I heard that Elvis Costello is going to release a box set containing all of the versions of his previous reissues. The set will also include exclusive, never before seen photos.

  11. What he should do is release a box set covering Bowie’s entire previously reissued catalog – and Bowie should do likewise with Costello’s previously reissued catalog!

  12. Happiness Stan

    Wow, I like Zep, so probably wouldn’t mind hearing at least one side of one of those bootlegs. There was a blog I found a year ago or so which offered just about every floor sweeping from every studio recording they did, although I can’t remember what it was called and can’t find it again now.

    Strangely enough I’ve never thought of looking for more Terry Jacks albums, (the one always seemed enough somehow), although your comment sent me scurrying to check on Wikipedia and I think I might have a look and see if I can’t find a copy of “Y’ Don’t Fight The Sea”.

    I thought that in the spirit of the Dead I would probably see if I could download the taster album for less than actually buying one would cost. I see that the 72 cds are available for slightly less than the cover price already in certain circles.

  13. Happiness Stan

    I don’t listen to it often, but the 5 CD Beefheart “Grow Fins” set, with booklet by John French is a lovely thing indeed.

  14. As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve seen the Dead live somewhere around 30 times or so, although even in the middle of it all I never considered myself a deadhead.

    They could turn in a great show or a crappy one and even vacillate just as widely over the course of a song. I think the Dead are about moments, and at their best, they could cough up some great due to their willingness to keep things loose. But sorting through the chaff in search of some wheat lost a lot of its luster for me. And living on Haight Street in SF for several years cured me really quickly.

    After a 20 year break from them, I’ve recently started throwing on an album or two when doing some chores around the house. So for me, they’re not bad every now and then.

    As for the albums, I agree with Workingmans Dead and American Beauty. Europe 72 has some good stuff, as does the untitled double live album referred to as Skull and Roses. There are some varied opinions about their debut but I like it. It is pretty garagey and several tracks would not sound out of place on the Nuggets box.

    As for Zeppelin bootlegs, one of my college roommates had a bunch of them and they pretty much all sucked it. I’ve heard a few decent live Zeppelin track but on the whole, as near as I can tell, they were horrendous live.

  15. hrrundivbakshi

    Ay-yi-yi! cdm, you *need* to grab a copy of the 3-DVD Zep live box. It will cure you of your “Zep sucked live” misapprehension. Huge swaths of it may be the best live anythings by any band I’ve ever seen.

  16. tonyola

    I wholeheartedly agree. Led Zep live could be great and the DVD set is a fine introduction to the band.

  17. Happiness Stan

    Thanks guys, so (wandering down the road marked Americana) that’s two votes for Workingman’s Dead and American Beauty – so which one is the one to go for?

  18. tonyola

    Take your pick – they both explore the same musical territory. I have a slight preference for American Beauty, mainly because it doesn’t have the always-lame but ultra-popular “Casey Jones”. However, it also doesn’t have “Uncle John’s Band”, which is a quite decent signature song for the group.

  19. Tru dat! It’s a shame that the horrible performances of The Song Remains the Same was the sole public record of the band’s live shows for non-fans of our generation. I thought they SUCKED when I saw that. Then, years later, after I’d realized that the band was actually great, I bought that DVD set and saw much better live sides of the band.

  20. jeangray

    Aren’t all box sets over the top???

  21. Happiness Stan

    American Beauty it is, then…

  22. I have a bunch of box sets and on the best you can write off about 75% of the song (No Thanks, Nuggets 1&2, Stax, Byrds, Howlin’ Wolf) The best box set by far is the Atlantic records. 8 or 9 discs and virtually no needle lifters.

  23. Oops! I meant you can write off only about 25% of the songs.

  24. tonyola

    The problem with most of the single-artist box sets is that they include inferior (usually meaning later) material for the sake of completeness. One can easily dispose of the last CD or two of the sets without really missing anything.

  25. 2000 Man

    Whoa. I was gonna ask why you bought No Thanks! if 75% was throw away. Glad you clarified that, cuz I think that box is just the ginchiest.

    May favorite Boxes are Damnation of Adam Blessing and Steely Dan. They both provide all their best material in the best sound, at a more than fair price (although the Damnation one is out of print and some tool on Amazon wants 500 bucks for one). But Tony is dead on – some of those have third and fourth disks that look so dull I’ve passed on the boxes. Like The Pretenders, or that huge live Tom Petty thing. Too much stuff that came out way after I lost interest.

  26. I agree for the most part.

    To be clear, I am definitely not one of those guys who needs everything by an artist that I like. I don’t think that I have the complete catalog by anyone except Robert Johnson and the Raspberries.

    But box sets are often a good way for the mildly (as opposed to completely) obsessed rock nerd to fill out an artists catalog with out having to sit through a bunch of stuff that was rightfully left of the cutting room floor. So, the Byrds box set for instance is four discs. The first three are stellar. The last one had some worthy tracks and then some filler and reunion stuff. So the whole package is about 75-80% worthy stuff. I’ve bought albums knowing that they were far less consistent than that.

  27. Happiness Stan

    There are some artists whose work is so hard to find that the only way to obtain it is in a box set.

    I’m very excited at the moment because I’ve just found a Frank Sidebottom box set, (and bought instantly – in twenty years I’ve only managed to ever find one 7″ single by him, despite his making several DIY albums which he then made virtually impossible to obtain).

  28. Good Pick. My guitar player was a Deadhead and most of what he played me was pretty bad. Those 3-4 “americana” records are the only ones I could ever stand. Jerry’s solo band stuff is way better and stays in the bluegrass / americanna / acoustic vein that I prefer

  29. Steely Dan and Police are my favorites, but I wish that they would not have an album cross onto the next CD. The Simon and Garfunkel one does a good job of this.

    I was a fan of the Rod Steward Box set when it came out in 1988. I didn’t know much about Faces or Jeff Beck Group and didn;t have those 1st few solo records yet. It also showed how bad he got in the 80’s. The last disc is just not somehting you can play.

    I listen to The Byrds box set all the time. I don’t own anything else besides Sweethearts and Best Of , so this does the trick.

    Springsteens TRACKS is another fave, since I only had heard 5-6 of these songs before and had NONE on CD. It was like getting four new double albums at once and most of it is fantastic.

  30. misterioso

    Back during the approximately 10 minutes during college when I thought there was a slight chance of my views on the Dead changing, having heard the really nice version of “I Know You Rider” on Europe ’72, I borrowed the double lp from a friend and quickly realized that it wasn’t going to happen. I still like that performance of “I Know You Rider,” though.

  31. Happiness Stan

    That film was my introduction to Zep, I’d never heard anything by them, not even Stairway to Heaven, and I really could not believe that the drummer in our (punk) band had dragged me along to the local fleapit to watch THAT

  32. I completely agree!

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