|History of the Grateful Dead, Vol. I (Bear's Choice)|
|Produced by Owsley Stanley|
|Released on July 6, 1973|
|US CHART POSITION #60|
|Find it at GEMM|
|R2 74401 cover
[high resolution scan]
K ronomyth 9.0: A BEAR’S HITS (IN THE WOODS). The third live Dead album released in a row, this one features primarily Pigpen (who had recently passed away) at a handful of shows in February 1970 at the Filmores East and West. Bear’s Choice is otherwise notable for being the first Dead live disc to focus on their acoustic show; the amps aren’t turned on at all until the second side. Now, you don’t give a crap about my Grateful Dead reviews and I’m not a Deadhead, so let’s not lie to one another: this is not the first Dead live disc you need to own. And the death of Pigpen, while tragic on a personal level, didn’t represent a crippling blow to the Grateful living. However, you don’t need to be a Deadhead to appreciate the history lesson. The original elpee is light on material, but the 2001 remaster adds four more tracks and contains some smokin’ playing, now anchored by two weighty versions of “Smokestack Lightnin’.” Pigpen, apologetic on guitar and unapologetic in his howlin’ delivery, is the bluesiest of the bunch, a point underscored on the twin smokestacks and the classic “Hard to Handle.” There’s plenty of amazing picking and drumming behind it all, from the early version of “Good Lovin’” to the electric solo on the second Smokestack. Since I find the electric Dead more interesting, I wouldn’t bother much with the original elpee version, which is half acoustic curios and half Pigpen tribute. The expanded remaster has a better balance and gives a more accurate impression of the Dead’s live show around 1970. If you’re looking for classic Dead, you won’t find it here; only “Black Peter” will be familiar to the casual fan. Otherwise, this is part of the great American songbook that the Dead hauled with them from place to place, which on a given night might range from Bill Monroe to the Everly Brothers. Bear’s Choice is better than I expected, but in the wake of so many archival live releases it’s really your choice.
JERRY GARCIA -- acoustic guitar, lead guitar, vocals
MICKEY HART -- drums
BILL KREUTZMANN -- drums
PHIL LESH -- bass
RON "PIGPEN" McKERNAN -- acoustic guitar, organ, harmonica, percussion, vocals
BOB WEIR -- acoustic guitar, electric guitar, vocals
Bill Graham -- introduction (10)
Bear -- engineer
David Singer -- poster
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|REGION||RELEASE DATE||LABEL||MEDIA||ID NUMBER||FEATURES|
|US||July 6, 1973||Warner Bros.||LP||BS-2721|
|US||1978||Warner Bros.||LP/CS||BS/M5-2721||palm tree label|
|US||2001||Rhino||CDX||R2 74401||digital remaster w. bonus tracks|
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