To Terrapin: Hartford, May 28, 1977
by Blair Jackson
And the whistle is screaming...
3 Disc Set
Whether or not the fabled spring tour of 1977 was, as many Dead Heads believe, the strongest Grateful Dead tour ever, it was unquestionably a magical time stuffed-to-overflowing with amazing shows. Say the word “Cornell” to any hardcore Head and it means one thing—the 5/8/77 show at Barton Hall on the august school’s campus. But there were numerous other stops on the tour that produced monster shows, as well, from the five-night run at the Palladium in New York, to the incredible Fox Theatre in Atlanta (5/19 was part of the two-show Dick’s Picks #29), to the two Florida shows—Lakeland and Pembroke Pines (Dick’s Picks #29 and Dick’s Picks #1, respectively)—Tuscaloosa, Richmond… the tour was a scorcher from beginning to end.
What was up? Well, by the spring of ’77, the Dead had been back on the road for nearly a year following their famous performing hiatus, so Mickey Hart was thoroughly re-integrated into the band, and the septet was hitting a new stride. There was a handful of great new songs being integrated into the repertoire, including Garcia and Hunter’s complex, epic “Terrapin Station” suite, Weir and John Barlow’s cool, off-kilter reggae tune “Estimated Prophet,” and Phil and Peter Monk’s rollicking “Passenger.” Those songs would form the core of the album that the Dead were recording in the winter of ’77 with producer Keith Olsen down in Los Angeles. Olsen was a sharp guy with good ears (as they say in the biz), and he worked the Dead hard in the studio, forcing them to play perhaps a bit more precisely than they were accustomed to. Now, one can endlessly debate whether the result of Olsen’s approach was ultimately an album that was a tad too precise—a criticism even the band leveled at Terrapin Station—but all the laboring over parts and arrangements in the studio seemed to have an extremely positive impact on how the band played live that spring.
Which brings us to Hartford, Connecticut on the night of May 28, 1977—the final night of this Tour for the Ages, and the source of our latest release, To Terrapin. You’d never know from listening to this show that the band had been on the road for more than a month and 25 previous concerts, because it has that sparkle and intensity the band only had when it was fresh, feelin’ good and in full exploration mode. From the rippin’ “Bertha” > “Good Lovin’” > “Sugaree” trifecta opening, through the spectacular second set sequence comprised of “Playing in the Band,” a brisk and buoyant “Terrapin,” a fantastic one-of-a-kind “Not Fade Away,” “Wharf Rat,” and the “Playing reprise.” Definitely the band at its best!
So, why put this out now? Why the hell not? And what’s with all the questions? Just enjoy it. OK, aside from it being a classic show worthy of release, we thought it might be fun to revisit a concert played in one of the venues The Dead are hitting this spring on their tour—that would be the Hartford Civic (now the XL Center) on 4/26/09… why, that’s the 31-year, 11-month, 2-day anniversary show of this epic ’77 show! Anyway, this three-disc complete show release has been lovingly mastered to HDCD specs from the original reel-to-reel tapes by Jeffrey Norman utilizing the usual array of mysterious black boxes and sonic tools unavailable to us mere mortals. Artist Scott McDougal, who’s done such a bang-up job for us on the Road Trips series, has designed a beautiful package, and the always erudite Gary Lambert has contributed a fine essay which is accompanied by glorious photos of the band in Hartford in 1977. And because we know that in these tough economic times everyone could use a bargain, we’re offering To Terrapin at the very low price of $17.98 for all pre-orders placed on dead.net before the April 7th release date. That’s $2 under the suggested retail price. For the complete track listing and ordering info, click here.
I've only listened to the previews on Amazon, but what a show!!! The sound is great, and they really played it tight (and loose I guess). I'm putting together a best of 2000's list, and I want to throw in a token Grateful Dead show release. This might be the one.
I've always been kind of partial to 5/5, probably because it has been so easy to get (in good quality). I do hope that one is on the horizon at some point, but this show may be the cream of the crop from May '77. What an awesome tour that was. The Sugaree alone on this set is worth the price.
1977 was a really good year...kind of like 1971 but '71 featured raw power whereas '77 was a polished power. My one drawback of '77 was a general lack of real exploratory jamming thus keeping the second sets significantly shorter than other periods. The pre-'76 jams seemed to be a vehicle to break in new song structures as much as space exploration. The above comments not withstanding, this was one fine show. Thanks to the powers-that-be for releasing it!!
Is a veritable jewel box of a show & document.
If there was ever anything to love about this band, it's all on display in spades here.
With every player giving it his (or her) all, all night long & the strength of the material, this is why we ever cared at all, & kept coming back for more.
& the recording quality & sound profile of this particular outing is about as good as we could hope for.
Yup, they really were as good as I thought they were at the time, it wasn't just the drugs;-o
Great job all around--one for the ages.
if your order's still MIA, send me a PM with the order number etc. and I'll pass it to the folks who can tell us what's what. Sorry for the delay. As others have noted, this really is a lovely show and the sound is pretty stunning, so it is a drag that you're going without.
I would say a few of us here have experienced a delay in shipment of the Hartford cds. I preordered on 2/24 and just received mine yesterday (4/23 ... the day after I received a ship confirmation email on 4/22). Don't waste your time trying to ask customer service. All that will get you is frustration. So, all I can say is try to be patient. The cd's will eventually arrive. And now that I've had a chance to listen to the entire show I can say that it was well worth the wait. Although next time I will order from Amazon instead.
I'm still waiting for my order that I placed over six weeks ago. Has anyone else had this problem?
Hey now ... I just received a shipping confirmation that my Hartford '77 order from Feb 24 has shipped. This is encouraging news.
Last week when I actually received a voice mail from customer service saying that my pre-ordered Hartford was going to ship and that I would receive a ship confirmation on Friday I kinda got my hopes up. Well, tis Tuesday and no further correspondence from customer service. Has it shipped? Has it not shipped? Don't know. I'm gonna give it till Friday then I'll probably just order it from Amazon and if Hartford ever does show up from my pre-order then I'll give it to a friend.