Four years after the pioneering psychedelic-rock outfit disbanded, a
five-CD set of Grateful Dead material will give the group's die-hard fans
40 tracks of live, unreleased and rare material chronicling the band's
The sprawling So Many Roads (1965-1995), more than three-quarters
of which is taken from live shows, will also contain previously unreleased
studio rehearsals for what would have been the group's final album. It
also includes what is believed to be one of the last Dead songs penned
by late singer/guitarist Jerry Garcia.
"The notion of creating a deep historical retrospective of the Dead's
30-year career has been floating around the organization for a couple of
years," one of the album's co-producers, Steve Silberman, said. The
41-year-old Wired magazine editor said the original idea was to
do three 10-CD box sets, each representing a decade of the band's career
which, he said, would still not have sufficed.
The set kicks off with "Can't Come Down" and "Caution (Do Not Stop on
Tracks)," a pair of songs recorded in November 1965 by the band's early
incarnation, the Warlocks. It ends with a live take of "So Many Roads,"
recorded at the band's final performance, at Soldier Field in Chicago on
July 9, 1995, a month before Garcia died.
"To do a retrospective of their career in five CDs is like doing a history
of Western cinema in an hour and a half," Silberman said. But, along with
Mix magazine editor Blair Jackson and David Gans, host of the
syndicated show "The Grateful Dead Radio Hour," Silberman said he began
the process earlier this year.
The results, he said, show the band evolving from one influenced by R&B
and jug-band music, through frantic, almost punk-sounding tracks such as
1966's "Cream Puff War," into an ensemble of improvisatory "scientists"
who used the live arena as their laboratory.
Among the rarities on the set is a lengthy jam treasured by Deadheads as
one of the holy grails of live taping, according to Silberman. It's from
a rehearsal for a July 1973 rock festival in Watkins Glen, N.Y. "They
turned up the day before the show," Silberman said of what was then the
largest rock concert ever held in the United States. "And they played
an exuberant set of spontaneous music that tapers revere as one of their
Other rarities include two unreleased outtakes from the sessions for the
band's last studio album, Built to Last (1989) "Believe It
or Not" and "Gentlemen, Start Your Engines." The latter was played live
only twice, according to Silberman.
The set's final CD showcases six songs intended for an album that was
never completed because of Garcia's death.
The unreleased songs range from live versions of "Way to Go Home,"
"Liberty" and the title track, to rehearsal takes of "Lazy River Road,"
"Eternity," a jam on "Days Between," a rehearsal of that song, and the
traditional folk tune "Whiskey in the Jar."
The band's longtime spokesperson, Dennis McNally, said he was not involved
with the creation of the set, but he thinks fans will likely find material
on it that's missing from their collections.
McNally called the tracks "odd stuff that's never quite been on record
like this before, and it's the cool stuff."
The set's release will come nearly four months after the Aug. 6 death of
the group's 56-year-old legendary archivist, Dick Latvala. The longtime
Grateful Dead fan archived the band's music through his popular Dick's
Picks series of remastered live recordings. The 15th volume of the
series is slated for release in the fall.
The group's fans, known as Deadheads, are a notoriously loyal bunch,
known for following the Dead around the world to catch their shows and
for their epic parties/bazaars held in parking lots before, during and
after concerts. Some have continued to follow the band's various offshoots
including the Other Ones, Mickey Hart's Planet Drum and guitarist
Bob Weir's RatDog since Garcia's death.
The group, which originally comprised Garcia, guitarist Weir and late
keyboardist Ron "Pigpen" McKernan, first took root as Mother McCree's
Uptown Jug Champions in 1964 in Northern California. With the addition
of bassist Phil Lesh and drummer Bill Kreutzmann, they became the Warlocks
in 1965, emerging as the house band for Ken Kesey's Acid Test LSD happenings
in San Francisco at the time.
They renamed themselves the Grateful Dead later that year and became one
of the leading lights of 1967's Summer of Love with their blend of
communal ideology and improvisational, psychedelic rock epics. For the
next three decades, the band crisscrossed the country playing expansive
sets of such originals as the epic "Dark Star" (RealAudio
excerpt) as well as such cover songs as the traditional bluegrass
number "I Know You Rider."
Mark Kraitchman, an Oakland, Calif., veteran of more than 400 Dead shows
and the owner of more than 1,000 live tapes, said in an e-mail that he
would have loved to see a more comprehensive multivolume set.
"Not only will the box set be a great collection of music from soundchecks,
concerts, demos and studio recordings," wrote Kraitchman, who contributes
to the live-show archive site DeadLists, "the hardcover booklet will be
worth having due to its unpublished photos and essays by scholarly
The full track listing for So Many Roads:
Disc One: "Can't Come Down," "Caution (Do Not Stop on Tracks)," "You
Don't Have to Ask," "On the Road Again," "Cream Puff War," "I Know You
Rider," "The Same Thing," "Dark Star/China Cat Sunflower/The Eleven,"
"Clementine," "Mason's Children" and "To Lay Me Down"
Disc Two: "That's It for the Other One," "Beautiful Jam," "Chinatown
Shuffle," "Sing Me Back Home," "Watkins Glen Soundcheck Jam" and "Dark
Star Jam/Spanish Jam/U.S. Blues"
Disc Three: "Eyes of the World," "The Wheel," "Stella Blue," "Estimated
Prophet," "The Music Never Stopped" and "Shakedown Street"
Disc Four: "Cassidy," "Hey Pocky Way," "Believe It or Not," "Playing in
the Band," "Gentlemen, Start Your Engines," "Death Don't Have No Mercy,"
"Scarlet Begonias/Fire on the Mountain," "Bird Song" and "Jam Out of
Disc Five: "Terrapin Station," "Jam Out of Foolish Heart," "Way to Go
Home," "Liberty," "Lazy River Road," "Eternity," "Jam Into Days Between,"
"Days Between," "Whiskey in the Jar" and "So Many Roads."