Never knowingly under-represented with regards to output, both studio and live, this double-CD set (three if you plump for the Amazon exclusive) accompanies the recent six-part, four-hour documentary: the length of an average gig. Eschewing another greatest hits or yet-more-live-rarities approach, it pulls back the focus with a cherry-picked career overview.
Collated and produced by filmmaker Amir Bar-Lev and band archivist David Lemieux, it’s a perfectly judged collection brimming with exquisite performances. The unreleased 23-minute live version of Dark Star from the Fillmore East, 1970, is the carrot dangling over your average bootleg-hoarding Deadhead’s head, along with a sublime Dear Mr Fantasy/ Hey Jude from Foxboro, 1989.
Studio high spots Uncle John’s Band, Candyman and Ripple provide some crisp and compact ballast to the live meanderings, and it’s a waste of time to quibble about sins of inclusion and omission in a planet-sized canon. As if.
Other highlights include the MTV-leveraged Dire Straits-esque Touch Of Grey and the poignant ‘Fare you well…’ of album closer Brokedown Palace.
The real gold, however, is the trad/Rev. Gary Davis cover Death Don’t Have No Mercy from Fillmore West, 1969. An emotional and scuffed blues workout, it retrospectively illustrates where the band came from and where they were heading: that long, strange trip.