This is NOT an April Fools joke!
Quite frankly I’m shocked that I’ve made it to day 60 of this project and only now selected a Dark Star. That seems almost criminal.
For many Dark Star is the quintessential Grateful Dead song. Well, song may be a somewhat liberal term here. To say it’s an anything-goes jam held together by a few key riffs might be more accurate, but regardless of the label you use to describe it one this is clear: Dark Star is awesome.
The only real issue I have with this recording is that Keith is virtually absent. I assume he was there that night, but I listened to this on good headphones and could detect nary a hint of piano, keys, anything. This is especially disappointing because we’ve already seen how well Keith integrated with the band (see yesterday’s Bertha post).
One of the main Dark Star riffs finally makes an appearance around the 4:30 mark, but Jerry makes the statement and then moves on to say something else. It seems like everyone is listening to each other very carefully. You can almost feel them listening. Another familiar theme crops up right around the 7 minute mark, and Jerry delivers the first verse. Phil plays some eerie chords on his bass during the “transitive nightfall of diamonds” section.
Now that the singing is out of the way Jerry is on a mission to find the sound again. Just after the 9 minute mark everyone reaches for the upper register. Phil stays there a little longer and seems to inspire a new direction. Jerry’s found his thread and everyone follows along as the pace quickens. As one peak is summited the band descends back to the valley, only to rise again. “Rise and fall…” Indeed…
A new theme emerges right before 13:30 – I love this section of this version, especially Bobby’s guitar part. It almost sounds like a Tom Jones type of song, but it just works and gives the rest of the band something to groove on for a while. Around the 19 minute mark the once cohesive jam devolves into the ether once again. At about 22:15 the pace quickens and it seems some direction is identified, as teases of the dulcet tones of Sugar Magnolia can start to be detected.