Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Laid Off Loser Album of the Day: "To Terrapin: Hartford '77"

Grateful Dead

Grateful Dead and Simpsons fans have at least one thing in common: They can argue endlessly about the best show ever. In both cases, the discussion ultimately hits on overall quality, uniqueness and nuance. Unless you're the Comic Book Guy, such elements are difficult to qualify because, in the end, it's about feeling. And many Dead fans feel this concert, a May 28, 1977 gig at the Hartford Civic Center and final show of the band's spring '77 tour, is one of their best, if not the best. We'll leave that to the hardcore Deadheads to hash out, but To Terrapin certainly presents a good case. The 21-song set list, mixing old favorites with a preview of tracks from Terrapin Station, released two months later, is killer. The playing is tight, the singing is on-key and there are few flubs overall. The jams simply sparkle, particularly the seamless 19 minutes of "Sugaree," the patient stroll through "Row Jimmy" and the two-part "Playing in the Band," which sounds more '67 than '77 on this night thanks to Keith Godchaux's kaleidoscopic keyboard work. And if you've ever found the string-laden studio version of "Terrapin Station" slightly syrupy, the stripped-down, almost aggressive take featured on this three-CD set is worth the price of admission alone. Thank you, come again.

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