Dozin' At The Knick

Grateful Dead

Grateful Dead / Arista Records, 1996

http://www.dead.net

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 03/01/1997

Since the death of Jerry Garcia in 1995, fans of the Grateful Dead like myself have been lost. We've been able to get through the last year and a half with tapes made at shows and the promises of a final Dead album to be released from the few studio sessions the band did.

Instead of that album materializing, three multi-disc sets have appeared on the commercial front. (One of these, The Arista Years, is a blatant ripoff, featuring no new or rare tracks, and I refuse to buy it or review it, Deadhead or not a Deadhead.)

The latest set, Dozin' At The Knick, is a three-disc package compiling the Grateful Dead's 1990 stand at the Knickerbocker Arena just a few short weeks before keyboardist/vocalist Brent Mydland overdosed. (Just a question - why hasn't the band released any material with their final keyboardist Vince Welnick?) While this set has some minor flaws, it captures the early-'90s Dead almost perfectly.

The first disc features several songs that became show standards for the latter-day Dead, such as "Hell In A Bucket," "Walkin' Blues" and "When I Paint My Masterpiece." One track, "Dupree's Diamond Blues," is a surprise inclusion, but it also shows the track has lost the magic of the studio version (off of my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Aoxomoxoa).

Garcia's vocals seem strong, as does his playing - his fluid leads seem to serve as an extra voice in the light, airy pop of the Dead. Mydland's vocals, sorely missed after his death (not a criticism of Welnick), show strength for the band - as well as a rare obscenity that made me check that track twice in disbelief.

In one sense, you could view disc one as a representation of a typical first set from the Dead - I was there for the final show at Soldier Field, and damned if they didn't do "When I Paint My Masterpiece" in the first set.

Discs two and three, then, make up the typical second set. The second disc features some real gems, as well as some disappointments. "Playin' In The Band" has always been a great track, but this version seems to be missing something. The same can't be said for "Uncle John's Band," which is just as powerful as it was when it came out in 1970. One of the two gems on this set is the live "Terrapin Station," a song which only in the past few years have I really grown to appreciate. "Drums" sounds like quite a bit got cut from it, as does "Space" - even near the end, it wasn't unusual for the Dead to noodle around with this portion of the show for a half hour.

The final disc brings the second set to a close, and leaves us with a great encore. Leading out of "Space" is "The Wheel," long a favorite of mine. Garcia brings the tempo to a crawl with "Stella Blue," one of the better versions I've heard of a track I am not especially fond of. But the versoin of "Not Fade Away" fading into just the audience chanting the refrain - and then leading into "And We Bid You Goodnight" is just incredible.

But the real special moment on Dozin' At The Knick is the appearance of "I Will Take You Home," a track that often brings me to tears because of its beauty. Mydland was at the top of his form when he co-wrote this one, and this version shows why it is my favorite Dead song.

Dozin' At The Knick has its good and bad moments - much like a typical Dead show - but this one is the best Dead live album to come out since One From The Vault popped forth in 1990. This will definitely feed the appetites of my fellow Deadheads - but we haven't forgotten about the studio album.

Rating: B+

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© 1997 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Grateful Dead / Arista Records, and is used for informational purposes only.