I just received some great news! My boss has made me his sexual consultant. Well, his exact words were: “When I want your fucking advice, I’ll ask for it!”
Another day, another blog post, another live album, and more specifically, another Grateful Dead live album! Their third record to be featured here, and a triple one to boot! Europe ’72 was released in November 1972 and it covers the band’s tour of Western Europe in April and May that year, and showcases live favourites, extended improvisations and several new songs including “Jack Straw” and “Brown Eyed Women”. The album was the first to include pianist Keith Godchaux and his wife, Donna Jean Godchaux and the last to feature founding member Ron ‘Pigpen’, who died shortly after its release. The European tour was expensive and logistically complicated, and the band’s record company hoped that a live album would recoup its costs. Consequently, the entire tour was recorded, with highlights making it onto the final release. Europe 72 was a commercial success, remaining in the US album charts for 24 weeks. It has since become one of the most successful Grateful Dead albums in terms of sales, and has been certified Double Platinum, selling over 1,000,000 copies.
The album was well received by music critics. Tom Dupree’s contemporary review in Rolling Stone praised the sound fidelity and musicianship, especially Garcia’s lead guitar playing: “He displays more sheer savvy of the guitar fretboard and its incorporation — but not sublimation — into the rock milieu than anyone I can think of.” He also said “there are riffs of all kinds liberally scattered throughout.”
This was another album that I owned when I was younger but it seemed to wash over me, like their previous two live records, maybe I was not really ready to appreciate them; they weren’t loud enough or flashy enough or fast enough for this young, early 80’s rocker (I definitely couldn’t hear bang to them!) so I was not looking forward to revisiting this and I was not sure whether to feature yet another GD live album. Well fortunately for me, and you dear readers, I’m glad I did because this is probably my favourite live Dead album I’ve listened to, so far. The songs featured here are excellent, the relative shortness of them allow the band to show their strengths and diversity; the crisp, clean guitar riffs and solos, the vocals, and indeed the production let the listener hear the band in top musical form. There are some outstanding performances here, He’s Gone and Hurts Me Good are particularly sublime and even the two long tracks (Truckin and Morning Dew) show off the band’s chops without outstaying their welcome (the Epilogue and Prologue tracks however are a different kettle of fish altogether). My only minor complaint is the lack of crowd noise and the very quiet ending to the album, it just kind of fades away. Still, for a triple record it puts its best foot forward and doesn’t feel like an arduous endeavour.
Is it excessive? No, for a triple Grateful Dead album this is surprisingly tight and direct. Only two of the 17 songs are over 10 minutes and even they seem to fly by. Were the critics right? Yup, for me this is a great example of the Dead’s musical chops and in particular Garcia’s soloing. Would I listen to it again? Certainly, this and the previous Dead live album are fine examples of the band. Would I recommend it? Abso-damn-lutely! Is there a drum solo? No, but this is the one time I wish there was one! (See below for details!)
So my score for this album is a very high 9/10. If it was just a double album, without the jams on side 5 and 6, it would be a straight 10, an absolute cracking double album. However, the track after Truckin is a little jammy and although it kinda flows it does seem a little unnecessary to me; and track before Morning Dew (Prologue) is just a mess; the sound of a band just tuning up and mucking about before launching into a stupendous rendition of Dew. I’d happily accept a drum solo in its stead, that’s how bad it sounds to me! So the third live album by the Dead is deemed, by me and despite a little hiccup, to be their best I’ve heard so far and it shares joint top spot in our chart with the Allman Brothers. Tune in next time for some more double live album re-evaluation, in the meantime I’m off to build a flux capacitator and travel back to let the 14 year old me to embrace the Dead. TTFN!