Grateful Dead: All the Years Combine: The DVD Collection

On April 17 the Grateful Dead will be celebrated with a 14-DVD box set titled All The Years Combine: The DVD Collection, to be released by Shout! Factory in collaboration with Rhino Entertainment. Conceived as the ultimate tribute to the band’s legendary on-stage prowess, the set includes 12 concert films; a 40-page booklet containing rare photos and new liner notes by Blair Jackson; and all bonus features from previous releases of the DVDs in the set. As a special treat for fans, it also includes an exclusive bonus disc containing five previously unreleased live performances from the Grateful Dead archive, Backstage Pass, the 1992 documentary directed by Justin Kreutzmann, and a brand-new interview with Grateful Dead archivist David Lemieux.

Fans who preorder All the Years Combine: The DVD Collection directly from Shout! Factory will receive an exclusive bumper sticker with their order, while supplies last. More information here.

Despite an ambivalent attitude to using television as a promotional medium, the Grateful Dead’s creative genius and interest in filming their live shows resulted in what is now an extensive catalog of live performances on video. Included in All The Years Combine: The DVD Collection are The Grateful Dead Movie, The Closing Of Winterland; Dead Ahead; Truckin’ Up To Buffalo; Ticket To New Year’s; Downhill From Here; View From The Vault; View From The Vault Vol. 2; View From The Vault Vol. 3; View From The Vault Vol. 4; and So Far, a 1987 film that has previously only been available on VHS and laserdisc.

In 2011 Shout! Factory released The Grateful Dead Movie on Blu-ray, in a deluxe 2-disc set that included a DVD loaded with an extensive slate of bonus features. All The Years Combine: The DVD Collection will contain the DVD version of the film as well as the accompanying DVD of bonus features.

The 12 films in the box set begin with The Grateful Dead Movie, filmed in 1974 when the band hired a crew to film 5 pre-hiatus shows at San Francisco’s Winterland Ballroom. The film was released in 1977 after more than 2 years of work with a team of editors led by Susan Crutcher. In the liner notes of All The Years Combine, Blair Jackson writes “The Grateful Dead Movie may be the single greatest document of the totality of the Grateful Dead experience. Even though it is really just a slice in time showing one incarnation of the group, it completely captures the group’s magical essence — that joyous and strange mystical spirit that was a part of everything they did, from the Acid Tests in 1965 to the last concert at Soldier Field in Chicago in 1995, a month before Garcia’s death.”

Filmed in the same location just a few years later, The Closing Of Winterland was filmed during the Dead’s annual New Year’s Eve concert in 1978, which was to be the final show at the venerable arena. Featuring friends like Lee Oskar (War) and Matthew Kelly (Kingfish); John Cipollina (Quicksilver); Greg Errico (Santana) and author Ken Kesey with his Thunder Machine, the playing is loose but intense, the frequent peaks reliably transcendent. The sound — mixed from the 24-track master reels — is superb. The Closing Of Winterland DVD is also packed with bonus features galore, including “Winterland: A Million Memories” Documentary Film; Blues Brothers: “Soul Man” & “B Movie”; New Riders Of The Purple Sage: “Glendale Train”; “Making Of The DVD” Featurette; 2 a.m. Interview with Bill Graham by Scoop Nisker; Detailed Chronological History of Grateful Dead at Winterland; and an Alternate Camera Angle Option (“Wharf Rat,” “St. Stephen” & “Good Lovin’”).

Dead Ahead, recorded at Radio City Music Hall in 1980, is the next DVD in All The Years Combine. Celebrating their 15th anniversary, the Dead played 15 shows at the Warfield in San Francisco, followed by eight concerts at Radio City Music Hall. In addition to their usual two sets, the Dead opened each night with an acoustic set as well. The final concert fell on Halloween, and was simulcast as a closed-circuit pay-per-view event at 20 movie theaters across the country. Dead Ahead is comprised of songs from the final show and the previous night’s show interspersed with comic bits from the Saturday Night Live comedy team of Al Franken and Tom Davis (both big Dead Heads).

The award-winning 55-minute conceptual video So Far makes its maiden appearance on DVD in this box. The video contains footage from private sessions taped in Marin County, portions of the 1985 New Year’s Eve concert at the Oakland Coliseum Arena, and psychedelic visual material. Of the film, Garcia said “The video is the Grateful Dead way of doing things, which turns out to be expensive, difficult and unrepeatable. If we went back to do this again, we’d come out with a different finished version. We couldn’t repeat it. If you’re going to do something, it’s important — for me, at any rate — to shoot high, even if you miss, or even if you’re accused of being pretentious. . . . We were after the idea of electronic mind-altering and consciousness-altering. And on that level, I think it’s pretty successful.”

Ticket To New Year’s, filmed at Oakland Coliseum on New Year’s Eve 1987, was also a national pay-per-view telecast. Once again the Dead rose to the occasion and gave the fans in Oakland and many thousands across the country watching in their living rooms a very well-played and energetic show.

Truckin’ Up To Buffalo is the complete show from Rich Stadium in Buffalo on July 4, 1989, and it’s a hot one. Len Dell’Amico’s direction really lets us see the communication between the players when they’re “on” — the subtle cues, the quick exchange of glances and smiles as they dig into a tune or jam. It’s really like eavesdropping on the band from an onstage perch.

Two weeks and seven shows after the Buffalo extravaganza, the Dead returned to one of their favorite Midwest haunts, Alpine Valley Music Theatre in East Troy, Wisconsin, for three shows. This scenic amphitheater has a covered seating area and a huge, steep back lawn section that the Dead had no problem filling by the late ’80s. Downhill From Here, which consists of the entire July 17, 1989, Alpine show — save for three songs at the end of the first set that were swapped out for three from the first set of the concert two nights later — was one of the first commercial videos the Dead released in the years right after Garcia’s death, and it still stands as one of the best.

The View From The Vault I release (recorded July 8, 1990, from the now-demolished Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh) gets off to a rollicking start with “Touch Of Grey” and “Greatest Story Ever Told” and keeps grooving with the old British folk number “Jack-A-Roe.” Phil does a great job singing Dylan’s “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues,” and the encore is an emotional “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door.” Also worth noting is this disc’s bonus material — from the more intimate Cardinal Stadium, in Louisville, Kentucky, two nights earlier (July 6, 1990). Two of the best numbers on View From The Vault come from this addendum: a magnificent “Standing On The Moon,” sung with tremendous passion and nuance by Garcia; and a hot, bluesy 13-minute excursion labeled “KY Jam.”

View From The Vault II brings us a show from (long-gone) RFK Stadium in Washington, DC, on June 14, 1991. A few months after Brent Mydland’s death in the summer of ’90, the Dead had returned to the road as a septet, with the keyboard slot occupied by two players — Vince Welnick and Bruce Hornsby. This DVD’s bonus footage returns to RFK a year earlier for a portion of one of Brent’s last shows. We get a very different-sounding “Dark Star,” as well as “Victim Or The Crime,” “Foolish Heart” and Phil leading the group through a reassuring and hopeful “Box Of Rain”: “Believe it if you need it; if you don’t, just pass it on . . . ”

The show that dominates View From The Vault III took place on June 16, 1990, at Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View, CA, south of San Francisco. This turned out to be the last tour for Brent Mydland, who died in late July 1990, but here the sextet is still going strong, with no hint of the calamity to come. This particular concert is revered for its the extraordinary second set, which includes solid versions of “China Cat,” “I Know You Rider,” “Estimated Prophet” and “Terrapin” before the band launches into one of their most interesting and exploratory jams during this era. The first set is also loaded with goodies, and bonus footage on the DVD consists of the first six songs from the October 3, 1987 concert at Shoreline, and is perhaps most notable for the N’awlins funk rave-up “Hey Pocky Way” and one of the few extant video versions of Weir’s slithery “My Brother Esau.”

View From The Vault IV captures the complete Grateful Dead sets from two shows in a series of sold-out stadium concerts backing Bob Dylan in the summer of 1987, where the band played their own sets too. The concert from Oakland Stadium is an exceptionally lively and high-spirited affair. Two days later the tour moved to Anaheim Stadium in Southern California, and the group hit a series of completely different high notes with their set lists.

Wrapping up the box set is an exclusive bonus disc containing five previously unreleased and never before seen live performances from 1987-1991, sourced from the Grateful Dead archive, as well as Backstage Pass, the 1992 documentary directed by Justin Kreutzmann, and a brand-new interview with Grateful Dead archivist David Lemieux.

Jackson writes in the All The Years Combine booklet, “You can find nearly the whole history of American music spread across these discs, with music encompassing rock, folk, blues, jazz, country, ragtime, soul, funk, modern classical and avant-garde elements. Where else can you hear songs by Chuck Berry, Merle Haggard, Bob Dylan, Howlin’ Wolf, Johnny Cash and Buddy Holly, unifying anthems, party rave-ups, songs of existential longing, murder ballads, cowboy tunes, love songs, primal drums and dissonant electronics all in one place? The Grateful Dead created a rich and sumptuous psychedelic patchwork quilt stitched together with magical golden thread. Sad to say, we’ll never see anything quite like them come this way again — but at least we have the recorded footage, reminding us that it wasn’t just a beautiful dream . . .”

ALL THE YEARS COMBINE: THE DVD COLLECTION Includes:

· The Grateful Dead Movie (2-DVD)* (Theatrical film, originally released in 1977)

· The Closing Of Winterland (2-DVD)* (Winterland Ballroom, San Francisco, CA, December 31, 1978)

· Dead Ahead* (Radio City Music Hall, New York, NY, October 1980)

· So Far (Originally released on VHS and laser disc in 1987 — first time on DVD!)

· Ticket To New Year’s* (Oakland Coliseum, Oakland, CA, December 31, 1987)

· Truckin’ Up To Buffalo (Rich Stadium, Orchard Park, NY, on July 4, 1989)

· Downhill From Here (Alpine Valley Music Theatre, East Troy, WI, July 17, 1989)

· View From The Vault* (Three Rivers Stadium, Pittsburgh, PA, July 8, 1990)

· View From The Vault II* (RFK Stadium, Washington, DC, June 14, 1991)

· View From The Vault III* (Shoreline Amphitheatre, Mountain View, CA, June 16, 1990)

· View From The Vault IV (Oakland Stadium, Oakland, CA, July 24, 1987, and Anaheim Stadium, Anaheim, CA, July 26, 1987)

*includes all bonus features from previous release

Exclusive bonus disc contains:

· Five previously unreleased live performances from the Grateful Dead archive

· Backstage Pass, the 1992 documentary directed by Justin Kreutzmann

· Brand-new interview with Grateful Dead archivist David Lemieux

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