The Grateful Dead’s Dick’s Picks reissues just keep on coming from Real Gone Music. The latest in the 36 volume series to see the light of day again is number 27, which presents the entire Oakland Coliseum Arena, Oakland, California concert from December 16, 1992. Also included are four songs from the following evening at the same venue, which are welcome since they were not repeats.
The Dick’s Picks series followed the band through 24 years of their existence beginning in 1968. That made this release unique in that it was the latest of the 36, having been recorded in late 1992. As such it captures the last incarnation of the band, which included lead guitarist Jerry Garcia, rhythm guitarist Bob Weir, keyboardist Vince Welnick, bassist Phil Lesh, and drummers Bill Kreutzmann & Mickey Hart.
The sound is surprisingly good for a recording that was never meant for release. It was recorded from a tape machine connected to the sound board and while it has been scrubbed as clean as possible, there are still defects here and there.
The Grateful Dead were at their best live and this is one of the better perfomances I have heard. I always appreciate entire, unedited concerts as the present an artist as they really were on a specific date and time. The Dead are at their improvisational best and many of the songs are extended with solos, which take some surprising twists and turns. There are no short, tight tracks as 12 of the 18 clock in at over eight minutes and none are shorter than five minutes.
Sometimes The Grateful Dead would ease into a concert, but here they cook from the very beginning. The nine minute-plus “Feel like a Stranger” finds the band moving out into unexplored territory several minutes into the song and never looking back.
The legendary “Dark Star” received a short (nine minutes) 1990s update that included a little jazz. My only complaint is that I wish they had stuck with the song a little longer. They performed the Young Rascals hit, “Good Lovin,’” live for decades. Pigpen provided the vocals early on and this performance made me recall his time with the band. Two Bob Dylan compositions are highlights. “Stuck Inside Of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again” and particularly “All Along the Watchtower” take Dylan’s material on a journey that it has rarely traveled. The triumvirate of “Playing in the Band,” “Drums,” and “Space” helped the band explore the outer edges of their sound and musical vision.
The four songs included from the following evening began with “Throwing Stones” and an extended version of “Not Fade Away.” The surprises were covers of the Lennon/McCartney tune “Tomorrow Never Knows” and The Who’s “Baba O’Riley,” which I don’t think I have ever seen on an official Grateful Dead release. Again, the only problem is their shortness.
Dick’s Picks 27 is one of the better and more interesting releases in the series. The concert catches the band near the end of their long strange trip and is a fine listen for Deadheads and music fans alike