Thursday, October 2, 2008

Grateful Dead | Rocking The Cradle: Egypt 1978

Not even the best packaging these eyes have ever seen can save this record. A fold out of a desert scene gives way to a moon-bathed pyramid adorned with the Grateful Dead's Egypt logo. Across the sand version of steal your face is the Sphinx and behind it the eclipsed moon. This dazzling package holds a 2CD/1DVD compilation of the Dead's only shows in Egypt. The band played at the Giza Sound & Light Theater, a majestic open-air venue within meters of the Sphinx and the Great Pyramids. Yes, these gigs are legendary, though often not for the music, but for the spectacle.

When the band realized that the tapes for the first two nights were largely unusable, they went all in for the third and last show, on September 16.  For that reason, most of this comp, excluding "Jack Straw" and "Stagger Lee," came from the last night. The problem is that the tunes are out of order, so the natural flow of this brilliant Dead show is absent. The second disc tries to recreate the last night's second set, and it mostly succeeds. All the necessary highlights are there: a seamless "Ollin Arageed" (with Hamza El Din, Nubian singer and oud/tar player) into "Fire on the Mountain;"a monster "Shakedown Street;" and an acid country "Truckin'." Inexplicably, two second set songs were included in the first disc and two others, including the encore, were omitted. Perhaps a better alternative to mangling this concert would have been to release a complete performance from the last night. Thankfully, we have to satiate that need.

Spanning thirteen songs and almost 100 minutes, the most essential component of this comp is the DVD. For the first time we're able to see drummer Bill Kreutzmann playing with one arm, since he had broken his left hand before the concerts. Jerry Garcia looks positively enchanted. He's clearly enjoying himself, molding a heartfelt and lyrical solo in "Candyman" and surrendering to the polyrhythmic freedom of "Ollin Arageed." Watching the greatest band in the land perform during their career peak is an absolute joy. It is precisely this, and only this, that makes this set essential. If you want to enjoy a soundboard recording of the entire, unedited final show at Egypt, click this link.

1 comment:

Mona said...

Yeah...but if you can get away from the fact that it's NOT a complete concert it's not too bad and the DVD is great.