Day 114: Morning Dew, 4/29/71

Ladies and Gentlemen The Grateful Dead

There are two things that I don’t tire of very easily in the world of the Grateful Dead. Morning Dew and 1971. This selection mixes both, and of course it’s helped that this version comes from one of the hottest runs of the year and one of the best live albums the band ever released, IMO. It is solid from beginning to end.

In fact, Ladies and Gentlemen, might be the perfect primer for introducing someone to live Grateful Dead music. I’d throw Without A Net and Reckoning in the mix too, so as to cover more eras. But all three are compilations and very strong at that, showcasing a different aspects of the band. Some might be aghast that I would leave out Live/Dead or any of the other full show releases, but I would argue a carefully curated compilation is a better introductory tool than a full show that may have hits and misses. Less risk with these. Live/Dead is amazing, but in my opinion is a second-tier introductory launching pad, once a newbie is ready for something a bit more out there, but still not ready for a 30 minute Dark Star or Other One.

You can hear Jerry fiddling for a brief moment before someone counts the band in and the big opening blast of Morning Dew takes hold. Jerry delivers the words peacefully amidst the occasional organ swirl. That Vox has a totally different sound from the B3 that really suits this song well. By the 4:30 mark all the singing is pretty much done, as marked by the staple walk up, from there it’s jam time!

Jerry starts his flight of fancy wrapped within the warm confines the Vox organ. After testing the waters for a minute or so they bring it down, its back for one more verse. The quiet calm of the verse provides a much different launching pad for the next instrumental section. Here the whole band lays back and Jerry slowly carves out a space for himself. Each run through the chord progression sees the pace and tempo quicken. The climb is long and slow but the journey is fascinating in its own right. A flurry of crunchy notes from the big man signals that the band has summitted the mountain. And as proof that the journey, not the destination is the important part, almost right away after reaching the top Jerry offers the closing line of the song and like that…. it’s over.

Complete Setlist 4/29/71

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2 Comments
  1. Lunchbox,
    Absolutely love Morning Dew and this is a great version, but not sure your view of essential dead releases is what I would steer folks non acclimated to to dead to first. The easy route would be the two great studio albums Working mans and American beauty would be a great start and then the jump to Europe 72 would be easier for most, but following those it would probably depend on how far someone’s experimentation capacity was.
    For most I might suggest The closing of the Winterland or the GD movie Soundtrack. Both are great values and a lot of very polished Dead recorded well on 18 track with a band that is very polished compared to 71 Dead. I love a lot of the earlier stuff, but was not ready for a lot of it until I had a solid appreciation of the evolution of the band. Really enjoying the latest Dave Pick, but would not have enjoyed it earlier, without a better understanding of the evolution of the band. I would also steer folks to most 77 stuff, as it’s got a lot to offer and has an energy that is easy to understand.
    One man’s opinion who loves getting new folks excited about the band.

  2. By this time, the Dead had recognized that slowing a tune down could render it more dramatic. Such is the case with this one, formerly a snappy-but-stiff (and dated-sounding) rocker, now a silky ballad with balls. Check out Pigpen’s organ stylings here. Garcia’s vocals are impassioned, with some sacrifice to accuracy. And it sounds like Weir’s guitar has at least one string wound to an unbecoming tension. But such were the minor failings of this mighty band. We can forgive them, especially since the guitar solo is generous and moving. The song gets way down to a whisper after the last verse and slowly gains power right up to the end, though not to the extreme found in later versions. Since there are way better ones out there, this one resides as a reminder of the transitions the song underwent during its long career as a staple of the live repertoire.

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