Grateful Dead -Dick’s Picks Volume 15 – ‘Lazy Summer Home’ Englishtown September 3, 1977

by | Jan 1, 2018 | 0 comments

Inspired by
news that the next Grateful Dead vault release will hail from the Fall of 1977
(Binghamton November 6, 1977), today in the ‘rock room’ spins
Dick’s
Picks Volume 15
, immortalizing the groups famed September 3, 1977 performance
in Englishtown, N.J., long a favorite of Deadheads and myself. The soundboard recording is
retrieved from one of the Dead’s most beloved and discussed touring years. As
such, 1977 is very well represented with numerous official releases, most of
them ‘Betty Boards’ coming from the legendary spring tour and from the month of November.

This particular concert is nestled in the middle and follows the Grateful Dead’s June Winterland shows, in addition to an unplanned three-month break that followed when Mickey Hart was injured
in an automobile accident. Their return to the stage after foregoing a Summer
tour was met by a collection of rabid fans that numbered between 100,000 and
150,000. Contrary to the band’s penchant for failing to live up to large
concert expectations, on this particular night the Grateful Dead matched the
crowd’s energy and then surpassed it with an performance for the ages.

For the astute Dead listener, Dick’s Picks Volume 15 features the
band exhibiting the huge electric orchestra aesthetic that would carry the band
through the end of the 1970s. During this period, the Grateful Dead gained a
kinetic edginess to their performances, the improvisations became somewhat
truncated, but the energy was dispersed in such a way that all of the songs
performed contained a concentrated power. Bombastic drumming and crushing
instrumentation was the hallmark of the Dead during the late 1970s.

This Englishtown, N.J. concert is a high water mark for the second phase of
the band’s post retirement touring career, and a hallmark for their new
approach and continued relevance. Dick’s Picks Volume 15 contains some
of the finest versions of the Grateful Dead’s most beloved songs, many arguably
the best they performed in the post-1974 era. ‘Eyes of the World,’ ‘Not Fade
Away’ and ‘Truckin” all feature unique and inspired playing, as well as
instrumental passages never to heard from again.

The enormous raceway was lassoed by tractor-trailer boxes to help reign in
the swelling crowd, as they enjoyed preceding Indian summer sets by the New
Riders of the Purple Sage and Marshall Tucker Band. When the Dead finally took
the stage, they revealed a dominant and authoritative first set where they
played like a steel jack hammer shaking off the rust from a three-month respite.
In fact, the Grateful Dead explodes right from the beginning, starting with a
stone-cold rock and roll ‘Promised Land’ and do not let up for the remainder of
the set.

Even the usually calm and collected ‘They Love Each Other’ displays an
aggressive embrace and tight squeeze. The first set feature heavy-footed stomps
through the flower bed, highlighted by a titanic ‘Mississippi Half Step’ that
reached its musical maturity during this era. The concluding ‘Music Never
Stopped’ revealed a small glimpse into what musical magic awaited the crowd in
the upcoming second set.

Phil Lesh is especially ‘on’ this evening, detonating charges throughout the
performance and driving the drummers into thunderous exclamations. The second
set illustrates this perfectly as the band sprints into an incendiary pairing
of “Bertha” and “Good Lovin.’” From there, the set continues building in
momentum, stretching and expanding like a water balloon about to reach its
nexus. The first example of this expansive ideal is the following “Estimated
Prophet/Eyes of the World” pairing.
“Estimated” has an exploratory, but somewhat compact, outro jam that
suddenly dissipates into one of the finest takes on “Eyes of the World” you
will ever hear. Featuring an extended introduction, Jerry Garcia in particular
elicits a melodic expressiveness that inspires chills in the listener. Each
solo segment is highlighted by exclusive guitar excursions where Garcia slowly
constructs a musical story, building in dynamics and culminating in all
proponents of the band gathering in celebratory expression. This version
spotlights some of Garcia’s most inspired guitar playing ever on the Grateful Dead standard.

Another highlight featured in this special second set follows a window
smashing and brick throwing “Samson and Delilah.” The Grateful Dead take a
brief breather and discuss the upcoming set before embarking on a 40-minute
segment of music that once again finds members mining and then revealing some
of their finest playing of the era.

The segment of music begins auspiciously with a slightly confused version of ‘He’s Gone’. Garcia humorously mixes up the verses and the drummers plod along
tentatively, until just following the vocal reprise the musical stew begins to
thicken. The band coagulates and drifts away from the song form before locking
into a distant relative of the Bo Diddley beat. The musicians’ soon begin to
mirror statements from each other before collaboratively merging in a glorious
improv.

What happens next is the stuff concert dreams are made of. A long and patient
introduction to ‘Not Fade Away’ develops and eventually elicits a strummy,
scrubbing percussion driven extravaganza. Segments of this 20-minute version
bring to mind The Who illustrated by lush Bob Weir chording and a driven Garcia
ringing big bells by hitting extravagant chords. Similar to the preceding
“Eyes,” Garcia is a wealth of melody, pulling out endless variations on the
theme. The band moves deftly through a syncopated Lesh/drummers breakdown where
Garcia completely unravels in a multicolored rainstorm of phased notes. The
Grateful Dead is balancing on the edge of magic and are no longer in control:
The muse is directing the beast.

After this extraordinary reading of ‘Not Fade Away’ which could very
possibly be the best of all time, where else could the band possibly go? In
typical mind-blowing Grateful Dead fashion, an on stage whistle blows and the
band as one, turn the key and enter the first take on ‘Truckin’’ in some three
years. The crowd erupts and the band soon responds in kind bringing the ‘Truckin’’
jam to not one imposing explosion, but to multiple peaks so raucous that it
seems the group may fall apart from the power dispersed. Holy Shit.

Following such a legendary display, both Garcia and Lesh thank the crowd, a
somewhat rare occurrence, with both men usually quiet from the stage. Lesh
introduces the rare encore choice as ‘a ditty from our new record,’ and with
that the band leaves the swelling crowd with a perfect and regal ‘Terrapin
Station.’ The song is a fitting send off, and this majestic rendition caps off
one of the most special evenings in the Grateful Dead’s long and storied
touring history. One of the early pulls from the Grateful Dead vault, Dick’s Picks Volume 15 finds rough and ready rock and roll rebels
the Grateful Dead blowing away the big crowds.

Englishtown 1977

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