Fillmore West 1969

Grateful Dead

In the nonstop cavalcade of live releases from the Grateful Dead camp, Fillmore West 1969 is a stand-out collection. Taken from the same four-night run comprising the legendary Live Dead album, this three-CD set captures the early Grateful Dead in their most pristine element. Though it doesn’t necessarily conform to the exact setlists of the four nights, there’s enough material here to emulate a full evening of music. "Morning Dew" takes your breath away; snappy renditions of "Good Morning Little Schoolgirl" and "Turn On Your Lovelight" remind you of the energetic musicality Ron "Pigpen" McKernan brought to the proceedings; and the 55-minute "Alligator > Drums > Jam > Caution" transports you to another dimension. Once "We Bid You Goodnight" crackles out of the speakers, you might feel like you've lived among the tribal freaks who used to frequent Bill Graham’s famous underground living room.

Orginally recorded using a 16-track machine and 2-inch tape, producers David Lemieux and Jeffrey Norman upgraded the mixes to create a clean and gigantic sound that certainly rivals any live album of today -- without the ambient noise. The packaging willfully ties the whole set together, and is jammed with plenty of Herbie Greene and Rosie McGee photos to accompany the obligatory essay written by the Dead’s resident publicist/biographer Dennis McNally. Of course, if you really want to relive the moment, the 10-CD Fillmore West 1969: The Complete Recordings, from which this set was derived, might be more to your liking. Its limited release of 10,000 copies, however, has turned it into a collector’s item currently fetching hundreds of dollars on e-bay. Ten years after their demise, the Grateful Dead are still very much in demand and impossible to duplicate.

~ Shawn Perry

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