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A Pivotal Moment,
This review is from: Europe 72 (Audio CD)
I have to say that I agree with absolutely EVERY word in EVERY other review, bad and good. Europe 72 was the end of the beginning. Arguably, it was produced to fulfill the Dead's contract with Warner Bros. Records at a time when the band was launching its own record label. Its proponent revere it for capturing the band at a zenith of its middle "Americana" period. And they're right.
To hear it in context, don't compare E72 to Dick's Picks (some of which *do* indeed offer better performances of the same material). Rather listen to it with the two releases that preceded it and the two that followed it.
Although most discographies show "Skull & Roses" and "American Beauty" coming before, there were two studio LPs released earlier in 1972; they were Bob Weir's "Ace" and Jerry Garcia's "Garcia" (released in Feb). Some of the songs heard here on "Europe 72" (released in Nov) appear on those two LPs.
"Wake of the Flood" and "Mars Hotel" came after.
The two earlier albums updated the Dead's exploration of American Roots music with a then-contemporary treatment with what was to that point the band's most successful studio recordings. The next two albums reveal a startlingly new direction for the band.
Perhaps by releasing Europe 72 as a three-LP set, the band bought the time they needed to move beyond country-rock formulas into new directions with more musical discipline including extended suites (on Wake) and songwriting structure (on Mars). It all came to a head on 1975's Blues for Allah. And then it came to an end.
The late 70s transition from Keith and Donna to Brent marked the next era in the Dead's long strange trip. So, Europe 72 can be seen as a fulfilling end to one Dead era, or as the transitional beginning of another.