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Killer Classics and Vintage Vinyl: Europe ’72

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Okay. I’ll admit it – I’m a Dead Head. I love their music and the culture and ideals they write about. I often wish I could have followed them on tour years ago. By many fans judgment “Europe ‘72”  is the seventh album by the Grateful Dead, though it is their fourth professional album. The album serves as recorded proof of the Dead’s live abilities.

The history of the album goes like this: members of the band decided they wanted to go on tour in Europe. Their plan was to record some live performances and sell the recorded concerts on records to offset the cost of travel. Warner Brothers, their record label, sent them abroad with a 16-track mixing board and recording system, and the album it produced was stunning. Unlike bootleg tapes of live concerts, the album’s tracks are crisp, in stereo, and void of any noise from the crowd. An untrained ear may even think these are studio recordings. Some tracks are only found on this album and nowhere else in the Dead’s discography. “Jack Straw,” “Ramble on Rose,” and “Tennessee Jed” are just a few of these pseudo-studio tracks.

“Jack Straw”

When you look back at the Grateful Dead’s numerous years of live performances, the ‘70s served as a peak for the majority of the members, including guitarist Bob Weir. Weir was already a talented songwriter and guitarist, and “Jack Straw” cemented his name in the history books. Stunning vocal harmonies and Weir’s complex and innovative rhythm style make the track more than just the incredible lyrics.

Favorite lyric: We can share what we got of yours, ‘Cause we done shared all of mine”

“Ramble on Rose”

When this song was recorded in 1968, it was not truly mastered. Members of the Grateful Dead were not yet well-versed in the art of recording. Bob Weir is known to have described their earliest albums as “rough.” By the time “Europe ‘72” came around though, “Ramble on Rose” had been fully mastered. Jerry Garcia’s vocals and smooth guitar licks combined with recently-added keyboardist Keith Godchaux’s fantastic piano fills make for an easily enjoyable song.

Favorite lyric: “Just like New York city, just like Jericho, Pace the halls and climb the walls and get out when they blow.”

“Tennessee Jed”

Many people overlook this live-only classic. With a combination of refreshing piano solos, Weir’s unique chord voicings and Garcia’s almost comical lyrics, “Tennessee Jed” is one of my personal favorites. The fact that this song sounds so good while being recorded live is not something to disregard. Being able to play good music in a controlled environment is one thing, but being able to make four musicians sing in harmony on stage is a level above that.

Favorite lyric: “Tennessee, Tennessee, there ain’t no place I’d rather be. Baby won’t you carry me, back to Tennessee.”

James Keller is a Copy Editor for The Patriot and jcpatriot.com

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Killer Classics and Vintage Vinyl: Europe ’72