Before this album was released, I suspect much of the world didn’t realize what the Dead actually sounded like. After all, they had only been around for a couple of years and their studio albums to this point didn’t exactly give you an idea of what they were like on stage – the studio albums released before this one had lots of studio tinkering or short songs without too many solos, either way not representative of their live shows.
I don’t think it’s hyperbole to rank this among the greatest live rock albums ever made: no official live rock album had ever sounded like this before – nothing contained such long performances, nothing contained so much improvisation (and of such a high quality). This feels like the birth of the jam band movement – though obviously the Dead and other bands had been jamming on stage for a few years already – at least as far as most of the public were concerned.
I have barely heard any live Dead, so I have no idea how this compares to other shows of the era released later, or other performances throughout their career (beyond their Spring 1990 ones), but they don’t really matter anyway, because they weren’t released as an album in 1969.
A fundamental jazz rock album and perhaps the fundamental jam band album. Absolutely essential.
- “Dark Star” (Garcia, Hart, Hunter, Kreutzmann, Lesh, McKernan, Weir) 27 February 1969, Fillmore West 23:18
- “St. Stephen” (Garcia, Hunter, Lesh) 27 February 1969, Fillmore West 6:31
- “The Eleven” (Hunter, Lesh) 26 January 1969, Avalon Ballroom 9:18
- “Turn On Your Love Light” (Deadric Malone, Joseph Scott) 26 January 1969, Avalon Ballroom 15:05
- “Death Don’t Have No Mercy” (Reverend Gary Davis) 2 March 1969, Fillmore West 10:28
- “Feedback” (Constanten, Garcia, Hart, Kreutzmann, Lesh, McKernan, Weir) 2 March 1969, Fillmore West 7:49
- “And We Bid You Goodnight” (Traditional, arr. by Grateful Dead) 2 March 1969, Fillmore West 0:35
- Tom Constanten – organ
- Jerry Garcia – guitar, vocals
- Mickey Hart – drums, percussion
- Bill Kreutzmann – drums, percussion
- Phil Lesh – electric bass, vocals
- Ron “Pigpen” McKernan – vocals, congas, organ on “Death Don’t Have No Mercy”
- Bob Weir – guitar, vocals