Road Trips Vol. 1 No. 2 is the second installment of the recently conceived Grateful Dead archive series in conjunction with Rhino Records. This three-disc set captures the band luxuriating in expansions of all manner of their material - and often on unusual choices.
The bonus disc is worth the price of the set itself. Comprised of a series of brilliant revelations‚ the peak experience is its conclusion. Instead of rendering "Wharf Rat" as its customary set piece‚ Jerry Garcia leads the band through a 13-plus-minute exploration of the song. The late rock icon's singing touches every level of emotion in Robert Hunter's vivid lyrics‚ and the two instrumental breaks are equally full of nuance and drama.
The gentle segue in "Sugar Magnolia‚" from the same 10/7/77 show‚ allows the Grateful Dead to move from the somber reflection of the one tune into the absolute jubilance of the second. In a vibrant performance‚ the whole band lets loose to extract every bit of high-spirited joy possible from the oh-so-familiar song. It is the exact counterpoint of that which immediately precedes it.
Similar epiphanies occur elsewhere on this disc - such as in the slow motion morph of "Scarlet Begonias" into "Fire on the Mountain" - as well as on the other two CDs in the package. The music is purely professional and distinguished. "Sugaree‚" for instance‚ goes almost 18 minutes‚ and "Mississippi Half Step Uptown Toodleoo" also finds the group pushing the 12-minute mark with virtually no wasted notes to speak of.
The dynamics are virtually seamless‚ demonstrating how expertly and intuitively archivists David Lemieux and Blair Jackson know their Grateful Dead music. Yet it doesn't quite match the expert flow of the bonus.
David Gans' great essay titled "Grateful Dead Concerts Are Like Baseball Games" could well apply to Road Trips Vol. 1 Number Two. Read that and get this.