The Road Trips series, which debuted in late 2007, was a fantastic idea, as it got more unreleased live Dead material into the hands of the band's freakishly completist fans.
But the execution of the first five releases — which compiled tracks from multiple shows and edited them into single "concerts" — left something to be desired. It seriously pissed off some Deadheads. And that's a hard thing to do.
The series' curators, thankfully, listened to the fans. This sixth Road Trips release, which features a Feb. 14, 1968 gig — the official grand reopening of San Francisco's Carousel Ballroom, later known as Fillmore West — is the first in the series to offer a complete show.
But things are still a little screwy. The full show is included, but it's interrupted on the first disc by four bonus tracks (recorded at various shows in January and February 1968).
Maybe that's being a bit nit-picky — the first full set is presented uninterrupted, followed by the bonus tracks tacked on to the end of the disc — but it gives the 2-CD set a lack of continuity. They could have just done without the (so-so) bonus tracks, as there's a full CD's worth on the bonus disc.
As for the show itself, it's prime early Dead — loose, exploratory and a little rough around the edges. The concert draws heavily from the first two studio albums — all five cuts from Anthem of the Sun are in the house — and also includes a relatively short "Dark Star," which had yet to morph into the lengthy, fluid psychedelic jam it became.
The seven-track, hour-plus bonus disc is highlighted by a lumbering 22-minute version of "Viola Lee Blues," peppered by some fiery psych-rock soloing, from a Jan. 23, 1968 Seattle show. Worth the trip for sure.