Wish I could stream the whole show on Soundcloud, but you can find it below.
After the Grateful Dead played Brown Eyed Woman on May 28, 1977, it was only a few months until the Hartford Civic Center roof caved in.
Sugaree might be the best ever. Only time the Dead ever played Bertha>Good Lovin>Sugaree. First time I saw the Dead open up Estimated as it flowed into Playin' in the Band (only time Dead ever did that). To Terrapin Official release. Went to the show with the fastest kid at Andover Emile Zen (right Ed and Andy?). We had a great time hitchhiking down, having to sleep next to the freeway after the show and getting back to Massachusetts on Sunday afternoon. I doubt I did homework that Sunday. The end of four Saturday nights in six weeks. Would have to wait until Englishtown for my next show. Excellent review by Hartford's own J. Greg Robertson. RIP J. Greg, quite a story of your own http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/hartfordcourant/obituary.aspx?pid=180267737
You can download this show from Amazon for $14 if you don't have it. Or even better buy a CD at dead.net for $19.99. Support your boys :) http://www.dead.net/store/1970s/terrapin-hartford-77-cd
Second set jam is included in the famous top-31 jam segments of the Grateful Dead Projects
Estimated Prophet>Playin'>Terrapin>drums>Not Fade Away>Wharf Rat>Playin>Saturday Night
I love listen to this. Gary Lambert wrote some great notes to the CD (see below). The last night of the Spring tour was played "tighter , and with more apparent concentration" according to Hartford's Robertson. I'm glad I wasn't the only one that called it "California>Playing in the Band".
Imagine for a moment that you've been asked to pinpoint, to the day, the absolute creative zenith of the Grateful Dead's career. Could there be a more maddening challenge? There could never be anything approaching consensus on such a question, especially among an audience as large, diverse and opinionated as the Dead Heads. No two people have the same criteria. Everyone's got a favorite era, keyboard player, favorite Garcia guitar, favorite you-name-it. The band had many career peaks and valleys over the years--how could anyone choose? Well, just for the hell of it, let's say that your life depended on it… that you absolutely had to name the peak moment in Grateful Dead history.
One could do a lot worse than to impulsively blurt out: "May 28th, 1977!"
Why May 28th? That was the date that the Grateful Dead came to Hartford, Connecticut to play the final show--the very performance, fortuitously enough, preserved for the ages on this recording--of a marathon Spring Tour that many informed observers consider the single greatest sustained burst of creativity in the band's long performing career. One thing that makes this particular show all the more extraordinary is that it came at the end of such an exhausting and wide-ranging trek--26 shows in 37 days--yet it betrays not a trace of physical or artistic fatigue. This recording reveals the Dead playing with unparalleled energy, wit, passion and power--a band at the very top of its game, even by the high standard of a tour that was characterized by a thrilling consistency of excellence.
The beginning of 1977 found the Grateful Dead at a major career crossroads. The band's ambitious attempt at total autonomy earlier in the decade had taken a toll, both psychically and fiscally. Efforts were being made to pare back to the bare essentials, and to get back in earnest to the primary mission of making music. To that end, the Dead had taken a nearly two-year vacation from touring, mothballed the magnificent but insanely expensive "Wall of Sound" P.A. system and folded their Grateful Dead/Round Records company, an inspirational template for many artist-owned indie labels (though it would eventually relaunch and flourish as the source of the Dead's archival releases). They found a home for their recorded work at Arista, a new label started by former Columbia Records head Clive Davis, and began developing material for a studio album, which they would record in the early months of the year before heading out on Spring Tour. Jerry Garcia would do some additional multitasking during this period, racing to complete the concert documentary The Grateful Dead Movie, which he co-directed and which would have its premiere in New York City just four days after the tour ended. During breaks in the film editing sessions, Garcia would grab his guitar and labor over a major composition he and Robert Hunter were developing for the new record, which would eventually supply the album's title: Terrapin Station.
The Dead, at Davis' urging, had agreed to put their Arista debut in the hands of a producer from outside the band's tight circle of creative and technical allies--the first time they had done so since an exasperated Dave Hassinger fled the studio in the early stages of the Anthem of the Sun sessions in 1967, driven away by the Dead's anarchic, wildly experimental indulgences. Chosen to helm the project was Keith Olsen, a newly hot commodity by virtue of his role as co-producer of Fleetwood Mac's eponymous, career-redefining 1975 album. Olsen's creative choices for the Dead--which included lounge-jazzish saxophones, a full choir and ornate orchestral arrangement by longtime Elton John associate Paul Buckmaster--would become the subject of more than a little controversy, not just among fans and critics but within the band itself. However, once the Dead took the songs written for Terrapin Station out on the road there was no denying their power as live performance pieces. This was especially true of the album's two most musically ambitious works, which would instantly become beloved staples of the Grateful Dead repertoire and remain so for the rest of the band's touring life. The first of these was "Estimated Prophet," Bob Weir and John Barlow's portrait of a particularly California breed of delusional would-be visionary, which managed to be at once uplifting and disturbing thanks to the incantatory lyric and to Weir's ingenious musical setting, a sinuous Reggae-flavored groove knocked beautifully off-kilter by a 7/4 time signature. The second major new piece, which took up the entire second side of the LP, was utterly unlike anything the Dead had attempted before: the epic, allegorical "Terrapin Station" suite--as felicitous a marriage of music and storytelling as was ever accomplished by Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter in a the course of their long and fruitful collaboration. While "Terrapin," in its studio incarnation, struck many listeners as a little too… well… tasteful, it became a whole other kind of beast when let loose in front of a live audience, driven by power guitar hooks, thunderous percussion and bone-rattling bass licks.
As the new album would not be released for another couple of months (and since live show recordings didn't get circulated with anywhere near the speed that they do today, in this age of MP3 files delivered to your desktop before the band gets back to the hotel), these new pieces were still unknown to most of the Dead Heads attending shows on this Spring Tour, and their impact upon those unsuspecting ears was immediate and profound. Unlike many of the Dead's earlier works, which started their performance histories as bare sketches and were developed by trial and error into full-bodied songs on the road, the Terrapin material had been nurtured in private, during an intensive rehearsal process as the band prepared to make the album. As a result, the new tunes were first apprehended by live audiences as surprisingly mature works, and they would get even better with time. As compositionally intricate as anything in the Dead's book, these songs would also quickly take their place among the band's most satisfying points of departure for collective improvisation.
By the time the tour reached its triumphant finale in Hartford on May 28th, it was readily apparent that the new songs--including, in addition to "Terrapin" and "Estimated Prophet," the Phil Lesh/Peter Monk rocker "Passenger" and Bob Weir's red-hot reinvention of the Rev. Gary Davis gospel-blues classic "Samson and Delilah"--could proudly take their places with such longstanding pillars of the Dead cannon as "Bertha," "Sugaree," "Jack Straw," "Candyman," "Playing in the Band," "One More Saturday Night" and other standbys heard on this recording.
On this spring night in New England the Grateful Dead, as fully and faithfully as they ever did in their long and glorious history, heeded the clarion call in Robert Hunter's lyric to "Terrapin":
"Inspiration, move me brightly."
Well before the near 20-minute version of "Sugaree" included here is over, any thoughts of hype surrounding the Grateful Dead archive camp around this release has dissipated. The sense of direction and collective eye for detail that the band displays on the track permeates the whole of To Terrapin - Hartford '77.
Weaving in and out of the alternate vocal and instrumental improvisation sections on "Sugaree," one of guitarist/vocalist Jerry Garcia and lyricist Robert Hunter's most famous collaborations, illustrates how the Dead were at the absolute peak of their powers in the mid-to late 1970s. Rhythm guitarist Bob Weir never contributed more to the navigation of the group when jamming, and while keyboardist Keith Godchaux and spouse Donna Jean on vocals were to leave the group within a year, their subtle contributions add considerably to the sound of the core group: the piano is as bright as the harmonies.
Naturally, as always, Garcia's contribution is the benchmark of the level of Grateful Dead performance. His engagement is obvious in his vocal on the opener "Bertha," but no less so than when he solos in his inimitably relaxed manner on "Good Lovin.'" He takes notes at angles as he approaches and departs. And in contrast to his gallant but frail presence in the group's later years, he sounds the essence of strength, albeit a vulnerable one, in the slow-motion ballet that is "Row Jimmy."
The stars were all aligned in favor of the Dead at this point in their career, if only precariously. The self-imposed hiatus of two years prior had allowed them to streamline their approach and attitude, to devote their collective energy to their music rather than those pursuits indirectly related to it such as the (in)famous "wall of sound" system. As with the operation of their own record label, that natural outgrowth of devotion of impeccable audience audio had drained their resources financially and otherwise, as was eventually the case with The Grateful Dead Movie (at the time of this May 1977 concert days away from premiere).
But the group had reassimilated drummer Mickey Hart into the band, so that his partnership with founding percussionist Bill Kreutzmann was a tremendous asset on powerhouse rockers like "New Minglewood Blues." More significantly, the Dead had a clutch of new material to intersperse with the likes of "Wharf Rat" and "Playing In The Band," self-created standards since the beginning of the decade. Bassist Phil Lesh's "Passenger" is an aggressive rocker that plays off sharply with "Candyman" from American Beauty (Warner Bros., 1970) and "Brown Eyed Woman" from Europe '72 (Warner Bros., 1972). Weir's collaboration with his own wordsmith John Barlow was also peaking with the likes of "Estimated Prophet." The character depiction in the words is as vivid as the unusual time signature that offered such fodder for improvisation; here it's the first extended departure into deep space.
A reworking of the traditional "Samson and Delilah," spearheaded by Weir as his prominence grew on the frontline (prior to his predilection to oversing), matched the highs-spirits injected into the proceedings via Chuck Berry's "The Promised Land." In a live setting, "Terrapin Station," the centerpiece the studio album the group had been laboring over prior to this marathon tour of 26 shows, always came off superior to the recorded version. Without strings but complete with drum interlude excised from the take preserved on the album, Garcia's regal chord changes, navigated so gracefully by the whole group, gave life to Hunter's slightly precious lyrics and kept the story in its proper perspective.
It's a further tribute to the Dead's clarity of group mind at this time that a total of just less than thirteen minutes suffices to tell this tale. The discipline necessary in the studio informs the band's immersion in spontaneity, thereby preventing purposeless jams or miscues within any more structured pieces like "Tennessee Jed."
Jeffrey Norman ensures the clarity of Betty Cantor-Jackson's soundboard recording remains preserved and the entire May 28th performance is collected on three CDs packaged in eye-catching graphics that function almost like good animation: the more you look at it the more you see. Reading Gary Lambert's effusive liner notes could provoke some skepticism about what's to be heard within, but that disappears whenever (or wherever) you start listening.
There simply is no denying the fact that as the Grateful Dead neared the end of each of its seasonal sojourns, it routinely had a tendency to give tepid performances that killed time more than anything else. Even in its heyday, when the group bestowed everything it had to its fans, it typically was quite weary when it was wrapping up an extended series of shows. In 1977, however, something different was afoot. On April 22, the Grateful Dead had settled into the Spectrum in Philadelphia. Five weeks later, on May 28, after winding its way along the eastern seaboard and also visiting portions of the Midwest and the Deep South, the band descended upon the Hartford Civic Center for the tour-ending concert memorialized on To Terrapin: Hartford ’77. Miraculously, the ensemble sounded as energized as ever, too.
Save for the perfunctory rendition of U.S. Blues that brought the Hartford concert to its conclusion, the rest of the material featured on To Terrapin: Hartford ’77 is indisputably first-rate, even amongst the other terrific concerts that the Grateful Dead delivered throughout the spring of 1977. For the most part, the songs sung by Bob Weir injected a jolt of energy into the proceedings, as he rummaged through the hard-edged rock songs in his repertoire. Covers of The Olympics’ Good Lovin’ and Chuck Berry’s Promised Land were blazing blasts of pure, unadulterated joy, while Samson and Delilah was fueled as much by Jerry Garcia’s assertive guitar playing as it was by Weir’s exuberant vocals. Even the tricky time signatures of Estimated Prophet and Playing in the Band were navigated not just skillfully but also forcefully by the collective.
Not surprisingly, considering how often they played these same roles, Garcia’s laid-back presence provided the perfect counterpoint to Weir’s exhilarating enthusiasm. Taking the lead, Garcia stretched songs like Brown-Eyed Women, Row Jimmy, and Tennessee Jed to their limit. Threading his silvery guitar solos through the interlocking ebb and flow of the rhythmic cadences, he underscored and accented the emotional centers of the compositions. Beginning with American Beauty and Workingman’s Dead, Garcia had begun to refine his vocal approach. Around the time of Europe ’72 through the Grateful Dead’s spring tour in 1977, he increasingly found the sense of maturity that he had been seeking to embrace. Throughout To Terrapin: Hartford ’77, he delivers the lyrics as if his very life depended upon getting them just right.
If any song could have been considered a bellwether for the Grateful Dead during its spring sojourn in 1977, it was Sugaree. The rendition featured on Terrapin: Hartford ’77 surely ranks among the finest versions that the outfit ever managed to perform. Although it runs roughly 19 minutes in length, the tune never seems to meander. It lingers in places for a while, as the band fully explores its surroundings, but it never overstays its welcome. During this era of the Grateful Dead’s history, Garcia, in particular, was completely connected to Sugaree, and he habitually made a finite number of note sequences and chord patterns feel as vast and open as the cosmos. There was a genuine ache to his guitar solos, but as Sugaree progressed, he shrugged off his gentle sorrow and transformed the composition into a tumultuous firestorm of fury.
Quite frequently, the Grateful Dead’s creative flair frequently would wax and wane over the course of a performance. To Terrapin: Hartford ’77, however, bears proof that occasionally the band remained remarkably consistent for an entire show. Neither peaks nor valleys were present during the concert; instead, on song after song, the Grateful Dead remained focused on and committed to the task at hand. There are numerous entries from 1977 in the outfit’s ever-expanding series of archival releases. To Terrapin: Hartford ’77 not only outflanks them all, but it also just might speak to the unconverted. starstarstarstarstar
Read more: Grateful Dead - To Terrapin: Hartford '77 (Album Review) http://www.musicbox-online.com/review/07142009/terrapin-hartford.html#ixzz4hvuizX6u
|Billboard issue dated this day May 28, 1977|