The Grateful Dead - Europe '72 (1972)

The Grateful Dead were an American rock band renowned for their lengthy musical improvisations in concert.

1971's Skull & Roses had given the Grateful Dead a chance to showcase the wide range of their sound on record, incorporating both the live improvised jam side and the rootsy Americana side of their music into a signature package. It's follow-up was another live album, taken from their 1972 tour of Europe, and it finely honed this form into perfection. By now they had been joined by second keyboardist Keith Godchaux, plus his wife Donna as a backing vocalist, giving them the line-up of Jerry Garcia (lead guitar/vocals), Bob Weir (rhythm guitar/vocals), Phil Lesh (bass/vocals), Ron McKernan (organ/harmonica/vocals), Keith Godchaux (piano), Donna Godchaux (vocals) and Bill Kreutzmann (drums).
Europe '72 is often seen as the band's greatest live record, being perhaps the one which best represents the sound of the Grateful Dead over their entire career (the only vital ingredient it misses is the dual drums of Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart, the latter being on a break from the band at the time). Whilst its predecessor was heavy on cover material, Europe '72 introduced a lot of excellent new original songs, ones which hadn't been recorded in the studio beforehand. The few old songs included were transformed through their live renditions, and there were a few covers in Hank William's "You Win Again", Elmore James' "It Hurts Me Too" and Bonnie Dobson's "Morning Dew". Being a triple album, it gave the band plenty of room to jam, and showcased some of their most exciting playing. In particular Godchaux's piano added an important new element to their sound.
The album was successful, reaching #12 on the pop album charts. With its fusion of rock, folk, blues, jazz, country and improvised jams, it has come to define what the Dead were all about, and remains their best to this day.
Sadly it turned out to be their last tour with founding member Ron McKernan. His contributions had been lessening over the years, and with the exception of the few songs he sang and played harmonica on, his organ was now in the shadow of Godchaux's piano. He was ill, and gradually getting worse, no doubt sped along by his drinking. He died in 1973 shortly after retiring from touring.

Skull & Roses (1971) <|> History Of The Grateful Dead, Volume One (Bear's Choice) (1973)
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