The Dead Cow Palace

A Grateful Dead concert, recorded New Years ’76 at The Cow Palace, was recently released by Rhino Records. The sound quality is excellent. Though there are thousands of bootlegs on sites like archive.org, the majority don’t sound half as crisp as this. Like the majority of Grateful Dead concert recordings, this one has it’s hits and misses. But, when you roll with the punches, sometimes you get hit real good. Here are some highlights for me: Mama Tried (disc 1). I just love this old Merle Haggard song. The lyrics: “I turned 21 in prison, doing life without parole. No one could steer me right. Mama Tried. Mama Tried.” are just classic. Scarlet Begonias (disc 2). I have never heard a version of this song played like this. When you listen to it, you will instantly notice that the guitar hook that Jerry Garcia usually plays is absent from the song completely. I have listened to older versions of Scarlet Begonias and newer ones too. But never without this signature repeating hook. For that reason alone, Dead Heads should check this out recording. Additionally, Donna Jean plays a minor role in this concert (which should please almost all Dead fans). Overall, the CD is enjoyable, though I don’t feel it can compare to concert recordings from 1972 or 1977- my favorite years for Dead recordings. However, it is among the best concerts from ’75-’76 era. Overall, I prefer Europe ’72, Reckoning, and Hundred Year Hall to this recording.

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