Grateful Dead : Dick’s Picks Vol. 34—Rochester, NY 11/5/77

Back in the day, before inexpensive, on-the-fly recording, and before the proliferation of digital downloading that now delivers complete performances from bands like Phish within 24 hours of the show’s end, there was this thing called a compact disc. Yes, kiddies, this was before brought full tours via electronic delivery; back in the old days when live shows were traded and live album releases were carefully selected, remastered, and delivered with the same hype as a new studio release.

The Grateful Dead changed the way we viewed live releases with the Dick’s Picks series, whereby archivist Dick Latvala mined the expansive collection of live recordings by the band, selected stellar performances, mastered them, and released them to the masses on the Grateful Dead Records imprint.  The Dick’s Picks series included 36 releases between 1993 and 2005, after which the branding was laid to rest in favor of a new Road Trips series. Since then, these releases have fallen out of print, but Real Gone Music is reviving the series beginning with Dick’s Picks Vol. 34—Rochester, NY 11/5/77.

To put it simply, this performance captures the Grateful Dead in all of its late-‘70s glory. Augmented by keyboardist Keith Godcheaux and his wife, vocalist Donna Jean, the core group – Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, Mickey Hart, and Bill Kreutzmann – hits on all cylinders, delving into untethered explorations early on with the 12-plus minute “Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo,”  riding Garcia’s nimble fretwork on “Looks Like Rain,” and easing into the playful amble of “Candyman.” “Eyes of the World” is an early standout from the second set, but things truly get heavy through the middle passage of “Estimated Prophet,” “He’s Gone,” “Rhythm Devils,” and “The Other One,” which threatens to spin wildly out of control, before being guided back to safety by the deft touch of the band.

The Dead doesn’t skimp on the meat on this three-disc release, and Dick’s Picks 34 includes not only the entire 11/5/77 show, but discs two and three include portions of the 11/2/77 show from Seneca College Field House, Toronto, Ontario.

The featured show sounds immaculate, given that it is mastered from the original two-track analog reel-to-reel tapes, although it is complimented by the PA cassette master tapes to account for a missing reel. Unfortunately, the sound quality on the filler segments pales in comparison, but the inclusion of these tracks gives additional context of the band during that November run.

Technological advancements have allowed live shows from artists across the music world to flourish, but the business model owes a great deal to the Grateful Dead and its various archival projects that document the band’s long, strange career. Dick’s Picks Vol. 34—Rochester, NY 11/5/77 will put a smile on your face, a swing in your hips, and, thanks to Real Gone Music, it delivers an air of excitement and anticipation for additional re-issues from the series.

Dick’s Picks Vol. 34—Rochester, NY 11/5/77 is out now on Real Gone Music.