NEW YORK (Reuters) - The Grateful Dead’s long strange trip keeps on truckin’ this month. After 39 years, the Dead’s seminal live album “Europe ‘72” has a proper follow up culled from that same tour.
Simply dubbed “Europe ‘72 Vol. 2” and due out September 20th, the collection highlights more material from the band’s historic run in April and May of 1972. Guitarist/vocalist Bob Weir told Reuters that the band’s fruitful live performances during that time stemmed from their dedication to practicing as a group and the lack of jet lag.
“The first couple of times we went over there, we felt kind of like a novelty act,” Weir said of shows prior to the 1972 European tour. “We went over there and did one-offs, and we were thoroughly jet lagged; we never really had a chance to settle in and pound it out, like we were used to doing.”
At the time, the Dead were one of the only bands that played different sets with a sizable repertoire, of which their label, Warner Bros, was well aware. As a result, they had them record every show.
Three songs on “Vol. 2” were selected for possible inclusion on the original set, but didn’t make the cut: “Next Time You See Me,” “Sing Me Back Home,” and “Beat It On Down the Line.” The rest were handpicked by producer David Lemieux after listening to the original tour masters.
Lemieux was mindful in constructing the sequence of songs on “Vol. 2” to reflect what a Dead concert would be like from start to finish at that time period. He also consciously chose not to repeat any songs that appeared on the original release.
Early versions of Dead classics such as “Bertha,” “Loser” and “Sugaree” highlight the first part of the album. As the set continues, songs heavy on improvisation such as “Dark Star” and a 30-minute version of “The Other One” show off their experimental tendencies, a notion that was relatively absent on the original “Europe ‘72.”
“We were having fun,” Weir said. “One of the things about that run, we were playing to new faces. That’s both challenging and rewarding. There’s a fun factor involved with that, especially when you’re lighting them up. And we were doing that with pretty good success.”
Casual Deadheads will appreciate “Vol. 2” as a continuation of one of the band’s more popular albums. But Deadheads aren’t known for the casual approach to fandom.
To satiate their rabid fanbase that still exists today, the Dead also bundled every note from that tour into a massive, 73-CD box set dubbed “Europe ‘72: The Complete Recordings” that covers all 22 shows. The collection was limited to 7200 copies and preorders sold out in less than a month.
“When your focus is to record all these shows and mix a live album, you really don’t think there’s any historical or otherwise commercial value down the road,” Lemieux said. “The Dead’s legacy shifted in 1995 from being a live band to one that’s represented by the archival output, it’s (now) represented by what goes on with the archival tapes.”
Lemieux, who has worked as the band’s archivist and producer since 1999, pitched the project four years ago. “This was one that I truly had no doubt. If we were ever going to do anything this insane, it’s this tour.”
Initially, Weir was skeptical. “There was a little bit of incredulity at first,” he said. “I remember wondering who’s going to buy 73 CDs and actually listen to them? Then I quickly wondered are they going to make this in vinyl too? It’s going to take listeners awhile to plow through that.”
At the time, the band members were all in their mid 20s to early 30s and knew they had little options a far as other career choices. Weir credits the band’s dedication to their jobs as a reason that made this tour special.
“I cast my line as a musician at the age of 16 and ran off with a band at age 17,” he said. “It’s not like I was biding my time, waiting to go back to school and work on my law degree. The other guys were in the same boat. And now, we were serious about it. We practiced a lot, we listened a lot and learned everything we could learn.”
Editing by Bob Tourtellotte