R2 74401 History of the Grateful Dead, Vol. I (Bear's Choice)
Produced by Owsley Stanley
Released on July 6, 1973
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.


  1. KATIE MAE    (Sam Hopkins)    4:44
  2. DARK HOLLOW    (Bill Browning)    3:52
  3. I'VE BEEN ALL AROUND THIS WORLD    (traditional arr. by Jerry Garcia/Mickey Hart/Bill Kreutzmann/Phil Lesh/Ron McKernan/Bob Weir)    4:19
  4. WAKE UP LITTLE SUSIE    (Boudleaux Bryant/Felice Bryant)    2:31
  5. BLACK PETER    (Jerry Garcia/Robert Hunter)    7:28
  6. SMOKESTACK LIGHTNIN'    (Chester Burnett)    17:59
  7. HARD TO HANDLE    (Otis Redding/Alvertis Isbell/Allen Jones)    6:15

    CD reissue bonus tracks
  8. GOOD LOVIN'    (Arthur Resnick/Rudy Clark)    8:57
  9. BIG BOSS MAN    (Al Smith/Luther Dixon)    4:54
  10. SMOKESTACK LIGHTNIN' (VERSION TWO)    (Chester Burnett)    15:11
  11. SITTING ON TOP OF THE WORLD    (Walter Jacobs/Lonnie Carter)    3:20


JERRY GARCIA -- acoustic guitar, lead guitar, vocals
MICKEY HART -- 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

return to GRATEFUL DEAD discography

US July 6, 1973 Warner Bros. LP BS-2721  
UK/ITA 1973 Warner Bros. LP K-46246  
JPN 1973 Warner Bros. LP P-8362W  
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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