Acoustic Dead Album Puts You Right On Stage

Who knew vinyl lovers were such Deadheads? The labels doing the reissuing hope you are. There are recent studio reissues from Warner Brothers/Rhino and Analogue Productions and live recordings from Mobile Fidelity and Analogue Productions including this one from AP.

All of these releases (with the exception of AP's reissue of Terrapin Station, which is easily among the worst Dead album ever and I have no idea why they bothered) are considered prime Dead, especially this one from 1981 originally issued on Arista Records (A2L 8604) that may have been overlooked by some fans.

The Dead played a series of shows at smallish venues: Radio City Music Hall in New York and the Warfield Theater in San Francisco even though by then they were stadium sellouts literally and figuratively, in order to produce and record intimate acoustic sets featuring bare-bones acoustic instrumentation.

Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir played on acoustic guitar, Brent Mydland played piano and Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart limited their set-ups to smaller drums. Phil Lesh's bass was the only heavy electric instrument so he turned down the volume.

The group played inspired sets of tightly crafted, mellow original and classic acoustic country/folk/rock that had the crowd going wild. The recording is nothing short of sensational. It's everything one could ask for in an acoustic live recording: breathtaking transparency and three-dimensionality, natural instrumental timbres and soundstaging that makes you feel as if you're sitting up there at the musicians' feet.

If the rambling, noodling Dead gives you the willies, that's your loss but this double set is then surely your gain. If I had to pick one live Dead album as an introduction to the group it would have to be this one, though the two from Mo-fi that we'll review soon are equally vital, though very different.

The original's low grade pressing and packaging have been replaced with high quality from the 200g LPs to the gatefold packaging.

Recommended without hesitation for both the musical craft and especially the recording that's nothing less than astonishing, as is the depth of the pressing blackness behind the music. There's no contest between the original pressing and this reissue cut by Kevin Gray from the original analog tapes and pressed at Quality Record Pressing.

Music Direct Buy It Now

dhyman's picture

you know how i feel!  although i might argue that "go to heaven" is equally as bad. remember this cover?

MikeT's picture

While I agree that the new pressing of Reckoning sounds great, don't dismiss Terrapin Station so fast.  Granted it was not prime studio Dead (nothing really was after Blues for Allah - with maybe the excepton of In The Dark).. yet the Analogue Productions vinyl reissue of Terrapin Station sounds PHENOMENAL!!  It isn't as terrible (musically) as you state in passing Michael, and AP's pressing really makes it shine sonically. 

Did you actually listen to the AP Terrapin Station? Your opinion of the music aside, what did you think of the sonics?

Michael Fremer's picture

Yes, I agree the sound is fantastic. But musically I though it was I really want to hear limp reggae from the Grateful Dead? No. I don't. But some might I will review it at some point but I don't think you'll like what I write!

jhannigan's picture

Totally disagree, and I normally like your taste Michael. I think side 2 is one of their best studio performances. Powerful. Passenger, Estimated Prophet, good stuff. Shakedown was weaker by far in my opinion.

DeadFish's picture

Fellas, not to step in where I'm not wanted, but I bought almost all of the Grateful Dead albums on the day or week they came out, since 1970.  I never EVER liked any of them without repeated applications, but then again, I never listened to radio or most anyone else for about 3 decades.  If you have an album that doesn't smell good to you, it might just take some serious listening to get 'the idea' of what was going on with the recording.  Honest.  There isn't a one I don't love like family, even though I admit, they may not be everyone's cup o' tea.   Trust me!

vinyldaze's picture

Yikes, Mikey!!! The second side of "Terrapin" has always impressed the hell out of me. I also love "Estimated Prophet" and "Samson And Delilah," a very creative take on the Rev. Gary Davis version. The whole record isn't "Dancing In The Streets." 

sluggobeast's picture

I always thought the original pressing of Reckoning sounded quite nice. I had the good fortune to attend two of the Radio City shows, which were wonderful thanks to the acoustic sets and the Music Hall's unparalleled ambience. As for Terrapin -- I still enjoy Side 2, with the Terrapin suite, despite it being way overproduced. I can't remember the last time I played the first side. Well recorded overall.

joshua27's picture

Qatar yesterday shrugged off fears of searing summer heat to become the first Arab, Middle Eastern or Muslim country to be awarded the right to stage football’s World Cup.-Joe Aldeguer

JMCanalog's picture

Somewhat surprisingly there are still some copies of this AP issue on Acoustic Sounds own website.