The Grateful Dead's new box set costs a fortune, but at least the playing is stellar

Grateful Dead take Manhattan on 17-CD live collection In And Out Of The Garden: Madison Square Garden ’81, ’82, ’83

Grateful Dead: In And Out Of The Garden: Madison Square Garden ’81, ’82, ’83 cover art
(Image: © Rhino)

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Recorded during protracted sessions that eventually saw the light of day as The Grateful Dead's 1987’s In The Dark album, and including contemporary versions of their sardonic hit single Touch Of Grey plus the more incendiary Throwing Stones from that late renaissance, this 17-CD box set will set you back plenty in both money and time. 

Well-loved and well-worn in New York City, their spiritual East Coast home, the Dead are seldom in a hurry, meaning Estimated Prophet and the Middle Eastern snake charm-spiced Slipknot and Franklin’s Tower meander at length; Spanish Jam is positively tapas at under three minutes. 

What were they thinking?! It’s mostly pluses, since Garcia’s voice hadn’t broken down yet, guitarist/vocalist Bob Weir remained a force of cowboy nature on El Paso and Me And My Uncle, and even Brent Mydland reins in his vocal excesses. The playing is stellar Dead, with the drum twins and Phil Lesh’s bass cranked up tight. 

Given that Dead fans probably know the material off pat, it’s worth exploring the surprises in this collection. Their versions of offshoot group Kingfish’s Lazy Lightning and Supplication are pick of the bunch, and the night draws in with a lumbering but oddly effective reading of The BeatlesRevolution. It was forty years ago today, etc. Scary.

In And Out Of The Garden: Madison Square Garden ’81, ’82, ’83 is limited to 12,500 copies and is available exclusively from dead.net (opens in new tab).

Max Bell worked for the NME during the golden 70s era before running up and down London’s Fleet Street for The Times and all the other hot-metal dailies. A long stint at the Standard and mags like The Face and GQ kept him honest. Later, Record Collector and Classic Rock called.