THe GrATeFUl DeAD
Cornell 5/8/77 rHiNo 9/10 A canonical live tape finally goes legit, on three CDs “With Cornell finally coming out on Cd and vinyl,” read a wry tweet from dead archivist david Lemieux last month, “I’m really going to miss being asked ‘When are you going to release Cornell?’” In the band’s complex and expansive campaign to move live shows out of the bootleg hinterlands and into an official canon, Cornell 5/8/77 is a critical moment. If the deadhead hivemind ever comes anywhere near consensus, it is that this New york state show might just be the band’s best. Initially, it’s hard to see why, as the first set shapes up a bit slicker and funkier than usual (the band recently tightened up by Fleetwood Mac producer Keith Olsen), enjoyable but not exceptional. The fireworks really start in set two, with a 26-minute stretch incorporating “Scarlet Begonias” and, freshly arrived in the set, “Fire On The Mountain”: Garcia’s solos are a kind of ecstatic needlepoint; among inspired support work, Keith Godchaux’s Latin-tinged piano harmonies stand out. “Morning dew”, meanwhile, is at its most lyrical and soulful. Exploratory but not intimidatory, reverberant with good times, you can understand the
Cornell hype: a fine entry point into the daunting world of Live dead.