Stormy Mondays | Grateful Dead 1973 Retrospective Pt. 1

The fall of 1973 is a much and justifiably lauded touring year for the Grateful Dead. Having shifted gears early in the year, adding many new songs that would become both staples and fan favorites in the months and years to come, and mourned the loss of Pigpen just days before the spring tour began, the band found itself, over the course of the summer, growing into some sort of amalgamation of all they’d been before. They were able to tap into the Americana vein, but the songs felt less folky and more like something distinctly Dead in nature; they were able to soar through long, exploratory jams, but the music was as likely to melt down in howling, screechy madness as it was to bliss out.

By the time fall tour rolled around, the band had recorded and released Wake of the Flood and was bubbling over with confidence and energy as they headed from the Midwest to the Left Coast, dipping South for a moment before hopping to the Northeast and heading down the coast to Florida. The tour is very well documented on official releases, including a box set (11/9-11), an installment of the oft forgotten Download Series (12/10), a Road Trips (11/21), a Dave’s Picks (11/17), Bonus Discs (12/4 & 12/16), and three volumes of Dick’s Picks (10/19, 11/30 & 12/2), including Volume One, 12/19.

So much fantastic listening, but there’s always more to be had, so this week is the first of a three-part Stormy Mondays retrospective on the tour. We’re starting off with one of my all-time favorite suites from '73, from the middle night of Boston, which was not included on Dick’s Picks Volume 14 (which has some great liner notes, by the way). From the middle of the second set we have "Mississippi Half Step" > "Playing in the Band" > "Uncle John’s Band" > "Playing in the Band." There’s a comfy but muscular quality to the "Half Step" before it swells into a rich "Playing" that spirals off almost immediately, winding through the space ways. The transition to "Uncle John’s" is especially fun because the song starts to take shape, but the band seems to wrestle with actually bringing it together as Jerry trills and Billy surges, but then they pop into a pristine, gorgeous intro. The bookend "Playing" steps right off the edge, plunging into a prehistoric chasm before rising triumphantly back to the finale. Prime psychedelic Grateful Dead here. As always, enjoy, and come back next week for Part II.


Written By: Dan Alford

[Published on: 11/25/13]

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