Grateful Dead concerts released in DVD set

by Jonathan Takiff

Philadelphia Daily News (MCT)

19 April 2012


PHILADELPHIA — What a week for Deadheads! More than 38 hours of Grateful Dead concerts are newly gathered and available on a DVD box set. There’s a just-opened Dead exhibit at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. And on Thursday the tribes will gather at theaters nationwide for a “Meet Up at the Movies” concert special.

Out from Shout! Factory, the 14-DVD, 38-hours-plus Grateful Dead box set “All the Years Combine: The DVD Collection” gathers everything the band ever officially issued on VHS, Laserdisc and DVD, packed into a compact box and (relatively) bargain priced at $99. Special come-ons include the DVD premiere of the hour-long conceptual video “So Far,” a program book with notes by Blair Jackson and a bonus video disc. The latter boasts five previously unreleased performances, plus Justin Kreutzmann’s 1992 documentary about drummer-dad Bill’s band, “Backstage Pass,” and a new interview with Grateful Dead archivist David Lemieux. The latter hints, as does Jackson, that there’s still “thousands” of hours of performance audio and video footage hiding in the vaults.

Wanna try before you buy? Shout! Factory has kindly posted a bunch of videos from the box set. “Uncle John’s Band” is a personal fave and leads to the others.

Thursday night’s second annual “Meet Up at the Movies” will spotlight a previously unexposed video of the second night from the band’s July 1989 stand at Alpine Valley in East Troy, Wis. Most of the first night and clips from the third comprise the box-set entry “Down Hill from Here.” Given how that disc plays, you can expect a good quality stereo house mix and the same basic video you’d have watched from the lawn on big screens at the amphitheater: Kinda grainy and old school but at least well-lit. The real bonus Thursday is you’ll get to hang at the movie theater with kindred spirits. Tickets at fandango.com and other online sources.

The band’s Deadication to great concert sound always spoiled me and does again taking in the new box set. Especially those releases with surround-sound mixes: “The Grateful Dead Movie,” “The Closing of Winterland,” “Dead Ahead” and “Truckin’ Up to Buffalo.” So I’m glad to hear that some of the band’s audiophile-quality gear — built in Binghamton, N.Y., by the esteemed McIntosh Laboratory brand — is part of the “Grateful Dead: The Long Strange Trip” exhibit at the Rock Hall. Maybe reason to truck on out to Cleveland?

The compelling two-plus-hour DVD documentary “Dawn of the Dead — The Grateful Dead & The Rise of San Francisco Underground” (Sexy Intellectual Productions) focuses on the formative years and boasts a treasure trove of rare, home-movie-grade clips, new reflections from band insiders such as publicist Dennis McNally and rock critic “dean” Robert Christgau, plus sonic samplings of the band from their earliest jugband phase to “Workingman’s Dead.”

Yeah, this project feels “authorized.”

Also, current guardian of the vaults Lemieux is freshly represented with “Dave’s Picks, Volume 1” (Deadnet.com/Rhino). It’s a good-sounding (except for the occasionally distant vocals) board recording from the Mosque in Richmond, Va., circa 1977, featuring an especially sweet (and rare) Jerry Garcia rendering of “Peggy-O.” Copies of this “limited edition” are already hard to come by; Volume 2 is on the way.

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