Grateful Dead: Here Comes Sunshine 1973 (Rhino) - review | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Grateful Dead

Here Comes Sunshine 1973


Jul 13, 2023 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

Those who see 1973 as a golden period of live performance for Grateful Dead will find the 17-CD box set Here Comes Sunshine 1973 to be an embarrassment of riches. Whether compared to the peaks reached during their 1977 shows or the evolutionary joy committed to tape in the ’60s, Sunshine offers some of the very best live Dead yet to emerge from their vault. An easy case could be made to even call some of this material defining.

This set includes five complete shows from a four-week span in the spring of 1973 (5/13 to 6/10), along with excellent essays focusing on the state of the Dead in 1973-74, the relationship and influence between the Dead and The Allman Brothers Band, and producer’s notes regarding show selections for the Dead’s archival releases. By the fall of 1974 the band would decide that a break was needed, but they were so active during those weeks of Sunshine in ’73 that Jerry Garcia even managed to squeeze in shows with his bluegrass group Old & In the Way and with the band he co-led with organist Merl Saunders.

As the 5/13/73 set gets started at the Des Moines Fairgrounds with “Promised Land,” the listener gets a bit of a treat. In the first minute, as the sound settings are settling in place, there’s a clear separation and isolation of Phil Lesh’s bass along with Bob Weir’s vocals, briefly spotlighting Lesh as an amply capable lead player. But even when all instruments have launched into the fore before the first minute, the clarity between players is still remarkably clear, providing a sumptuous audio treat throughout this epic four-hour show. The quality of the recordings throughout Here Comes Sunshine, handled on these dates by Kidd Candelario, Betty Cantor-Jackson, and Owsley “Bear” Stanley, is consistently amazing.

In Des Moines, the threat of rain didn’t stop Grateful Dead from exploring “Playing in the Band” for nearly a half-hour, or for ripping into “Mexicali Blues” like the world’s greatest bar band. Regarding the weather, the rain arrived around the time of “Looks Like Rain” and stopped during “Here Comes Sunshine,” after which a double rainbow appeared with the show-closing “Sugar Magnolia.” For the band, perhaps that seemed like a reward for the highlights sparked during the third set’s “He’s Gone”>”Truckin’”>“The Other One”>“Eyes of the World”>“China Doll.”

The shows are all infectiously spirited, and the length of these performances and rich groupings of songs for each set provide plenty of memorable moments. Some of the most fascinating interplay between the guitars of Garcia and Bob Weir and Lesh’s bass come during multiple sequences that join “The Other One” and “Eyes of the World.” Drummer Bill Kreutzmann is great throughout at setting just the right rhythmic tone, and Keith Godchaux has a natural feel for how his keyboards could mesh with and enrich these songs. Along with her backing vocals, Donna Jean Godchaux also takes a lead on Loretta Lynn’s “You Ain’t Woman Enough,” and Lesh also steps up to the mic for “Box of Rain.”

The Dead co-headlined back-to-back dates with The Allman Brothers Band at Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium in Washington, D.C., and both complete Dead shows from 6/09 and 6/10 are included here. This was only the second time those bands had appeared on the same bill, the last being when the ABB and Love opened for the Dead at the Fillmore East in 1970. ABB guitarist Dickie Betts and drummer Butch Trucks joined the Dead for the last set of the five-hour 6/10 show, and the spectacle of Betts trading licks with Garcia while Trucks played alongside Kreutzmann wrung new energy from a crowd that had just witnessed a 26-minute “Dark Star.” (

Author rating: 8.5/10

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Average reader rating: 8/10


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