Ron "Pigpen" McKernan - vocals, organ, harmonica
Jerry Garcia - lead guitar, vocals
Bob Weir - rhythm guitar, vocals
Phil Lesh - bass, vocals
Bill Kruetzman - drums
Mickey Hart - drums, percussion
Recorded at one of the Grateful Dead's earliest performances at Winterland, a venue that would become the group's hometown venue of choice during the next decade, this is a superb example of the group during that pivotal year of 1967, when San Francisco was becoming an epicenter of musical and social experimentation. The Dead's repertoire at this point still emphasizes the covers that fueled their early dance-hall gigs and first album, but a major shift was also taking place. Not only where the band members beginning to compose original material, but the core lineup was now augmented by a second drummer and percussionist, Mickey Hart, who had joined several weeks prior to this performance.
This recording is a perfect example of the primal early Grateful Dead just beginning to venture beyond their first album material. Featuring three 1st-LP selections, two bluesy romps from front man Pigpen, plus two embryonic examples of the yet to be recorded Anthem Of The Sun material, this recording clearly shows the band venturing well beyond the snappy, dance-oriented music they had been playing during the previous year. Garcia's slicing guitar leads were rapidly developing and the group was now propelled by a rhythm section featuring double drummers. Although the core primal sound is still very much intact, the Grateful Dead were now developing a new sound, ripe with possibilities.
The relative simplicity of their first album is well represented with the set opening "Morning Dew," as well as the band's electrified jug band arrangements of "Cold Rain And Snow" and "Beat It On Down The Line." It takes several minutes for the recording mix to be queued in, but by the end of "Morning Dew" this becomes a truly outstanding listening experience that all these decades later still crackles with raw energy. Fans of Pigpen's blues excursions will be delighted with his takes on "It Hurts Me Too" and on what would soon become his signature set closer, "Turn On Your Lovelight." The latter, although incomplete, is full of fire, with Pigpen's vocal improvisations propelling the band higher and higher.
However, the two most fascinating tracks here are very early live readings of "New Potato Caboose" and the multi-dimensional "That's It For The Other One," both performed here as standalone selections. Considerably different from the versions that would become extended suites for their next album, these are exciting glimpses into the early creative process of the Grateful Dead as they develop original material on stage. "New Potato Caboose" clearly shows the band heading toward more unusual and complex song structures. "That's It For The Other One," the middle section of which would become the most enduring jam vehicle of the group's entire career, is still in embryonic form here. The three primary sections ("Cryptical Envelopement"->"The Other One"-> "Cryptical reprise") are indeed represented, but the band is just beginning to feel out the possibilities. This highly unusual suite clearly shows the Dead venturing into new territory. lso of interest are radically different lyrics at this early stage. Both of these selections, which would later merge to create most of side one of Anthem Of The Sun, demonstrate the Grateful Dead becoming far more original. On these numbers they are embracing challenge, taking a much more sophisticated approach with their music and discovering new possibilities for improvisation and adventure.