The Grateful Dead have announced their latest deep-dive box set release, Pacific Northwest '73-'74: The Complete Recordings, which will feature six complete shows recorded during those years. Today the band is previewing the set by unveiling a 26-minute medley including the American Beauty closer "Truckin'" and Buddy Holly's "Not Fade Away" – from a May 1974 at the Portland Memorial Coliseum – that's long been prized among aficionados.
The version finds the band blasting off from the loose, shuffling five-minute Bob Weir–sung original, quickly building to a wild, trilling climax after the six-minute mark. Then the players strip the song down to its bare elements, before ramping up again to a funky backbeat section featuring fiery interplay between Jerry Garcia's guitar and Keith Godchaux's keyboard. Around the 19-minute mark, drummer Bill Kreutzmann kicks into the distinctive tom-tom rhythm of "Not Fade Away," signaling a transition to one of the Dead's most-performed covers.
"In the 1974, the Grateful Dead performed several of the most inspired improvisational jams of their entire 30 touring career, jams that are described by many as some of the finest, purest music the Grateful Dead ever created live on stage," Dead archivist David Lemieux tells Rolling Stone. "At the top of the list, most Dead Heads consider the 5/19/74 Portland jam out of 'Truckin'' to be the best of the best, and this restored and remastered release has this show sounding better than we ever could have imagined. It's majestic, and soars to heights that were reserved for the best Grateful Dead shows ever. Including Portland '74 amongst the Best Dead Show Ever, up there with Harpur College, Veneta, and Cornell, is not a stretch; after you hear this performance, you'll know why it's so highly revered."
In addition to the Portland '74 show, Pacific Northwest '73-'74 also includes June 1973 shows from the P.N.E. Coliseum in Vancouver, the Portland Memorial Coliseum and the Seattle Center Arena, as well as May 1974 shows from the P.N.E. Coliseum and the Hec Edmundson Pavilion in Seattle. The shows were mastered from the original tapes in HDCD by longtime Dead associate Jeffrey Norman at Mockingbird Mastering, and transferred and restored by Plangent Processes. The set will be available on September 7th in both a 19-disc physical edition – limited to 15,000 copies, housed in an ornate box and featuring a 64-page book – and as Apple Lossless and FLAC downloads. A three-disc compilation drawn from the six shows, Pacific Northwest '73-'74: Believe It If You Need It, will also come out simultaneously for purchase and streaming, and the complete Portland 1974 show will be released on vinyl as a limited-edition six-LP set. All versions are now available for preorder.
"This boxed set includes six shows of which any could have been released on their own as stand-alone archival releases, several of which very nearly were over the past few years," Lemieux explains. "We always decided to hold off on any of them being released separately in the hopes and expectations that we'd release them all together as a magnificent boxed set from two of the Dead's best touring years. We're thrilled it's now happening, one of the most exciting, exceptional, and dynamic boxed sets the Grateful Dead have ever released."
The lineup featured on Pacific Northwest '73-'74 includes Garcia, Weir, Godchaux, Kreutzmann, bassist Phil Lesh and singer Donna Jean Godchaux. The 1973 shows date from a few months before the release of Wake of the Flood, their first studio album without co-founder Ron "Pigpen" McKernan, while the 1974 shows closely preceded the release of the band's following album, From the Mars Hotel.
Bob Weir, Bill Kreutzmann and fellow Dead member Mickey Hart will be on the road with Dead & Company through August, concluding with two sets at Lockn' on August 25th and 26th. Phil Lesh will perform with his Terrapin Family Band at the Peach Music Festival in Scranton, Pennsylvania, on July 19th.