Top positive review
58 people found this helpful
Does justice to the Dead's best, most consistent latter-day tour
on September 18, 2012
For much of my 17 years of Grateful Dead fandom I was, admittedly, what Deadheads refer to as a 60's & 70's snob. Out of my massive collection of live tapes and Dick's Picks, only a handful were from the Brent Mydland years of '79-'90 or later. It took me rediscovering--five or six years back--1990's 'Without A Net,' with it's excellent versions of "Bird Song" and "Eyes of the World," for me to rethink my stance. Through Archive.org, I've now come to appreciate every era of the Dead, and I believe the Spring 1990 tour to be their most consistently stellar since '77. They've had other runs in that span that may have had higher peaks but, with this tour, one could basically pick any show at random to listen to and it's virtually guaranteed to be a winner.
'Spring 1990: So Glad You Made It'--a compilation whittled down from the 18-disc box set released last month--is an excellent companion piece to the aforementioned 'Without A Net,' featuring highlights from six of the best shows in March. We finally get an official release of the legendary Albany "Loser" from March 24th, and the Brent Mydland-sung "Blow Away" from March 16th in Landover, MD. Brent, without a doubt, had the best pure singing voice of anyone in the Dead at this point, and its a shame he died a few scant months after these shows. Even though he was their longest tenured keyboardist, I would love to have heard more from him, considering the band were in the middle of a live mini-renaissance beginning the year prior, which was unfortunately cut short by his untimely death. He's one of the most talented backing keyboardists of all-time, imo, even if it did take me a while to get used to the (at times) "carnival-ish" sound of his keys.
Elsewhere we get 14-plus minute versions of "Bird Song" and "Eyes" that rival 'Without a Net's.' I know it's hard to top Branford Marsalis's sax-laden version of "Eyes," but I almost prefer this one, as Jerry's precise noodling comes through more, along with the interweaving of the various instruments. Then again I could just be burnt out on the other due to a ridiculous amount of repeated listens. The "Jack-a-Roe" is one of the best electric versions I've heard, and Bob sounds positively possessed on one of the more exploratory latter-day "Estimated Prophet"s. Also included is one of the most powerful, heartfelt "Morning Dew"s of the era, which slowly builds and builds, Jerry pouring his soul into each and every verse until the song erupts into all-out bliss.
The only negative for me is that the sound-quality is a little underwhelming--with less clarity and less "oomph" in the bass compared with other releases--though it's still loads better than any soundboard tape you can get from this tour. It's just weird to me that I have many 40 year-old, 2-track live recordings of the Dead that sound crisper than these 22 year-old shows. I know the band recorded some of their 80's and 90's shows straight to cassette as opposed to reel to reel, which affected the sound-quality in some cases. I'm not sure if that's the case here, but it's still just a minor complaint, as it's definitely better than most live albums by other bands from this era.
'Spring 1990: So Glad You Made It' is absolutely essential for Deadheads, and for fans of just-plain great music in general. You get the best of both worlds here--from upbeat, head-bobbin' numbers to deeper, more tripped-out jams--and therefore it would serve as a great introduction to later-period Dead, if you are (like I once was) hesitant to explore this era. It still blows my mind that, with the wealth of live material released year after year by this band, that there are still these amazing gems that are just now getting released.
And I have a feeling that these past 20 years of archival releases may be just the tip of the iceberg. I may not be the religious sort, but...thank God for the Grateful "goshdarn" Dead.