Dave's Picks Vol. 7

Recorded at the Horton Field House, Illinois State, Normal, IL (4/24/78)

Released: 2013


Promised Land [5:14]
Ramble On Rose [8:07]
Me and My Uncle > [3:10]
Big River [6:21]
Friend of the Devil [9:33]
Cassidy [5:38]
Brown-Eyed Women [5:57]
Passenger [5:45]
It Must Have Beem the Roses [8:07]
The Music Never Stopped [8:51]

Scarlet Begonias > [12:55]
Fire On the Mountain > [11:08]
Good Lovin' [7:06]

Terrapin Station > [10:51]
Rhythm Devils > [13:53]
Space > [6:41]
Not Fade Away > [11:19]
Black Peter > [11:47]
Around and Around [9:11]
Werewolves of London [7:46]


Liner Notes:

Let It Burn, Let It Burn, Let It Burn!

Nineteen seventy-eight gets a bad rap from some Dead Heads. It will forever live in the shadow of the rapturously adored (with good reason!) 1988, and there’s no questions that in the second half of ’78, particularly, there’s a lot of sloppy and borderline uninspired playing, as if you can hear the warm but intense glow of ’77 fading away and being replaced by something edgier, less focused, and not as compelling overall. There are shows where Garcia sounds downright goofy, exaggerating his vocals (see Dick’s Pick’s Vol. 2, from 5/10 and 11/78) when he isn’t missing lyrics altogether. But there are also shows where he dials back that “enthusiasm” a tad and unleashes some of his most emotive singing ever. Don’t get me wrong; I loves me a lot of ’78 shows, but they are not consistent night to night, and they’re more hit-and-miss within each show.

But let’s not get hung up on the artificial demarcation of the Grateful Dead by years, because not only do “all the years combine,” some of them aren’t tremendously distinguishable one to the next, except by sometimes minor changes in repertoire. Along these lines, I’d proffer the notion that the first four months of 1978 are essentially a continuation of 1977--and you love ’77! Dick’s Picks 18, culled mostly from February 3 and February 5, 1978 (Madison and Cedar Falls), has long been a favorite of mine, and it definitely has a lot of that ’77 vibe to it.

So does this show, at the tail end of a jaunt that began in early April in Florida, and which took the band to various sports around the South and a couple in the Midwest, including this one at Illinois State University in the unfortunately named town of Normal. (Why the town of North Bloomington took that name in the mid-19th century is not a particularly interesting story.) The Dead played three other college on that spring tour--Duke, Virginia Tech, and William & Mary--so the 8,000-capacity Horton Field House at Illinois State (home of the Redbirds basketball team!) fit in nicely with the shows that preceded it. Falling on a Monday night, the concert probably didn’t have much competition from other activities on campus (“Let’s blow off studying and go see the Dead!”), and no doubt there was also an influx of fanatical Heads from Chicago, two hours north, and Champaign (University of Illinois), just an hour’s drive away. Wherever they cam from, the crowd was treated to a killer show, arguably the best of the tour.

Even thought I’ve talked about this being a lot like a classic ’77 show--the set list, except for the encore, could have come from almost any show after mid-May ’77--there are some notable differences that give the show a different feel. The first is the DRUMS! Now, I don’s know what got into Micke and Bill this night, but they are on fire from the first downbeat of the kick-ass “Promised Land,” and their savage rhythm attack drives just about every song. This was the first tour where the drum solo in the second set took on a lot of the characteristics of the variegated, world music-style “Rhythm Devils” jams that would become more formalized in the spring of ’79, with their greatly expanded onstage percussion world. The drum solos on their tour often featured members of the crew (and occasionally the band) joining Mickey and Bill on various shakers and cowbells and such, so the polyrhythmic assault often took on an exotic tribal character. That was certainly the case this night, as we’ll see momentarily.

Another difference between shows in this period and ones a year earlier is that Bob is playing lots more slide guitar. That can cut two ways. On a show like this one, he’s in great form most of the night, and his slide accents add a slippery, quicksilver feel that contrasts nicely with Keith’s block chording, Phil’s thundering and swooping bass lines, Jerry’s articulated leads, and the insistent pounding of Mickey and Bill in the back. Bob was a still novice slide player at this point, however, so in other shows you might encounter moments where it devolves into a painful squeal that leaps out of the mix.

The first set features a fairly pedestrian set list (YMMV; we all have our favorites we hope to hear), but the playing and singing seem to have a little extra juice throughout. “Promised Land” is cranked to the max, especially during the long closing rush, where Phil is playing fast, high bursts against Jerry’s strumming, “Ramble On Rose,” normally a pleasant amble, has an almost ferocious quality in places, with extra-punchy drums, some excellent slide work by Mssr. W (evening during Jerry’s solo), and a very expressive lead vocal--listen to Jerry roar “Good-bye”, Mama and Papa…”

That tune is followed by something that Dead Heads who know this show have talked about for years: it just happens for a few seconds, really, but the band falls into the main riff of what is, unmistakably, the Bee Gees’ “Stayin’ Alive,” which was inescapable at the time. The hit disco film that showcased that song, Saturday Night Fever, had come out in December ’77, and by February ’78 the song had ascended to the top of the singles chart. Of course, the Dead had already embraced disco back in the 1976 with their revamped “Dancing In The Street,” so this wasn’t completely out of left field, but it’s a funny tease just the same, and it’s a shame they never actually covered the song. Instead, the band plays a charged “Me and My Uncle”; however, when that transitions into “Big River,” you can hear the “Stayin’ Alive” riff assert itself again before the first verse. This “River” smokes too, with Keith providing some of the fireworks courtesy of a great, rolling solo and some sparkling interaction with Jerry.

Friend of the Devil” features bubbly syncopated interplay from Bob, Phil, and Jerry, and more inventive slide from Bob. Then “Cassidy” showcases the pretty tandem vocals that Bob and Donna brought to that tune. But check out the drums on that one: they explode during what is usually a quiet interlude in the song and take the whole number up another notch. Another unusual twist appears here too, after the jam, when Bob and Donna don’t come back for the final “Flight of the seabirds” reprise.

Following a vocally flawed “Brown-Eyed Women” (cool guitar solo, though), Jerry gets to flex his slide chops on another furious “Passenger,” which never failed to light up a crowd in this era. I’m a sucker for “It Must Have Been the Roses,” so I love the way that song’s sad country lilt changes the energy of the set momentarily. Even so, it’s still intense, and Jerry’s lead vocal is one of his best of the night, particularly on verse two, where he’s clearly feelin’ it.

The set closes with one of the true highlights of the show, a stirring “Music Never Stopped” that’s about as good as you’ll ever hear. Bob and Donna punctuate their vocals with soulful little asides, and the ending jam has Garcia fanning furiously build a magnificent crescendo. Whew!

The good news is that the “Scarlet Begonias” > “Fire On The Mountain” that opens the second sets is every bit as exciting. The “Scarlet” is more chunky than bouncy--again, the drummers are in control--but it hits all its marks beautifully, and then the jam after the verses goes to all sorts of interesting places. Donna’s part is more signs and moans than wails (that’s good); Mickey rides a cowbell for a spell as Weir adds yet more tasteful slide; and it’s left to Jerry to skitter and leap up to a couple of peaks before the ja falls into a powerful “Fire.” There another surprising burst of drums craziness after the first verse, and Bob’s metallic slide sounds like gull cries as it matches Jerry’s high runs. After the final verse (in those days there were only two), Jerry really gets into the final “Fire, fire on the mountain” chorus too, at one point shouting between lines, as if possessed: “Let it burn, let it burn, let it burn!”

Fire” slams right into “Good Lovin’,” and this too is a cut above; in fact, it practically sounds like an encore, with a long, crashing finale that sounds like the end of the world (or at least the end of a set). But no, “Terrapin” follows, and despite some minor lyric amnesia, it’s solid and well-paced. By time time the band gets to that tune’s big instrumental coda, Mickey and Bill seem to already be eyeing their upcoming solo, and the drums briefly spin out of control--in a good way, of course.

The drum solo is a world in itself. Stretching to about 14 minutes, and with people other than Mickey and Bill clearly shaking and banging things and adding animal-like yips, yelps, and other vocalizations, this portion of the show has a number of distinct sections. The first part has a steady underlying disco kick drum beat, cowbell, what sounds like a ringing steel drums and/or gamelan, and some strange electronics. At one point it sounds like they might go into Babatunda Olatunji’s “Jin-Go,” but it passes quickly. Are those howler monkeys, or macaws? Or just members of the road crew chiming in? We may never know. But it sounds like the Brazilian rain forest has been transplanted to central Illinois!

“Space” starts with Jerry in the deep wah zone, then gets weirder as each of the other players joins the jam. Then the drums come back to the fore to introduce “Not Fade Away.” To call this a “leisurely” version might sound too negative, but clearly they are in no hurry. After the second verse there’s a brief passage where all hell breaks loose, and it sounds like they’re going to really let it fly, but it never quite achieves total liftoff, and eventually it all sort of peters out.

Black Peter,” that is. Jerry’s in peak vocal form on this superb version, and the crowd is hanging on every word. The big solo at the end is an emotional blues plea and, mercifully, the segue into the crowd-pleasing set-ender, “Around and Around,” is smooth and natural. Chuck Berry to open, Chuck Berry to close.

The encore is just the third version of Warren Zevon’s “Werewolves Of London” (it debuted in Columbus, Ohio on 4/19/78), and it’s a hoot! This is the one song of the night where Bob’s slide playing is perhaps a bit over the top, but what the hell--the song is just an excuse to mess around and have some fun, which the band and the crowd obviously do. After all, it’s not every night you get to Jerry howl and growl.

Nope, nothin’ “Normal” about this night.

--Blair Jackson



Grateful Dead

JERRY GARCIA: Lead Guitar, Vocals
PHIL LESH: Electric Bass
BOB WEIR: Rhythm Guitar, Vocals

Produced for Release by DAVID LEMIEUX
Executive Producer: MARK PINKUS
Associate Producer: DORAN TYSON & RYAN WILSON
Art Direction and Design: STEVE VANCE
Archival Research: NICHOLAS MERIWETHER/USCS Grateful Dead Archives
Special Thanks: Kate Dear, Julie Temkin, Steve Woolard



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This album was released in September 2013.

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