Grateful Dead: One From the Vault & Two From the Vault


The reissue of the Grateful Dead’s very first two archive titles, simultaneous with the release of Three From the Vault, reaffirms how endlessly fascinating it is to follow this band. And it’s not just the music, but also the way the group meshed aesthetic and business activities.

One From the Vault is a recording of a 1975 show presented at The Great American Music Hall in the Dead’s home town of San Francisco by long-time business partner/friendly adversary, the late Bill Graham. Right on the heels of the studio sessions that produced Blues for Allah and just prior to the launch of Grateful Dead Records, the band played all the new material, interwoven with songs in their repertoire for some time: the slightly too careful means by which the septet renders "Help On the Way"/"Slipknot"/"Franklin’s Tower" is in marked contrast to the ease and surety by which they sail through "Sugaree" and "Big River."

Brave and ambitious marked Grateful Dead’s foray into independent record distribution, it ultimately did not flourish to the same degree that Grateful Dead’s archiving has over the years, the continuity of which these titles reaffirm. Packaging of the new editions is virtually identical to original cd digi-paks and, crucially, the remastered sound (by Joe Gastwirt) on both is full, deep and broad (tape archiving itself courtesy the late Dick Latvala).

The triple disc Two From the Vault is a composite of 1968 recordings from Los Angeles’ Shrine Auditorium, the expanded content of which has previously appeared on the expanded version of Anthem of the Sun. It bears notable similarity to the Live/Dead Warner Brothers release of a year later as the group was exploring the outer limits of their improvisational skill. With both keyboardist/vocalist/harpist Ron "Pigpen" McKernan and inscrutable innovative keyboardist Tom Constanten in tow, the easygoing shuffle of "Good Morning Little Schoolgirl" is ultimately–and miraculously– of a piece with "The Eleven" and "St. Stephen," two of Grateful Dead’s earliest original compositions (soon to become centerpieces of the legendary performances in early 1969 at Fillmore West).

Not every Grateful Dead archive title released since 1991 has been absolutely essential, but this pair of selections From the Vault carries distinction on more than one front.

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