First Appeared in The Music Box December 2000, Volume 7, #12
Reviewed by John Metzger
Just in time for last year's holiday season, the Grateful Dead released So Many Roads, a box set that touched upon the sum total of the band's career. This retrospective captured the essence of the group quite well, outlining its multifaceted stylistic approach while showing how this organic entity changed over time. The collection served as a great introduction to the band by highlighting outstanding renditions of some of its best-known and least-known songs.
One thing that So Many Roads lacked, however, was the cohesiveness that the Grateful Dead brought to each of its concerts. The group was always about being in the moment, and the band members routinely linked songs together in order to make a statement -- whether musical or lyrical. Sometimes it was apparent. Other times it was more cryptic. But the continuity was always there.
That, of course can be said for many artists, but the Grateful Dead were true masters of this, using spontaneity and improvisation to weave their brand of mystical wonder. Everything from a song's placement in a show to the inflections in the vocals to the extent and interaction of the jams tended to change from night to night -- causing each concert to be its own unique and living being.
Unfortunately, the best way for one to begin to understand this statement is to see, hear, and truly experience the Grateful Dead in a live setting, and today's jam bands just don't cut it. Often at a Dead concert, there were occurrences that transcended both band and audience and played into the atmosphere of a show. While these happenings simply could not be captured by a recorded medium, the music that evolved from these relationships was -- making CDs, tapes, and videos the next best thing available.
Fortunately, there have been many releases put forth that more than adequately demonstrate the Grateful Dead at its best, of which Ladies and Gentlemen...THE GRATEFUL DEAD is just the latest installment.
Read the rest of this review at Musicbox-Online this month