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Albums Of The Week: Grateful Dead | In And Out Of The Garden: Madison Square Garden ’81, ’82, ’83

The psychedelic superstars' latest mammoth undertaking is a 17 (yes, 17) CD set that compiles six complete unreleased shows from the venerated New York City arena.

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THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “They got on the bus to the Port Authority, rode in on the Long Island Railroad and the New Jersey Transit line. They traveled north, south and west on the subway lines, their numbers growing as they descended upon Penn Station. Some rolled up in those iconic New York yellows. Some walked excitedly through the bright lights of Broadway and Times Square, meeting up with old friends on the way and picking up a few new ones too as they ascended the Garden stairs.

If you were there, now you can recapture that MSG magic — and if you weren’t, you can hear what it was all about — on the typically epic new Grateful Dead box set In And Out Of The Garden: Madison Square Garden ’81, ’82, ’83. Numbered and limited to 12,500, this 17-CD set celebrates the band’s rich history at “the world’s most famous arena,” introducing six previously unreleased shows recorded at MSG between 1981 and 1983. It offers a front-row seat to the Dead in the early 1980s, an overlooked and underestimated era of rebirth for the band.

Madison Square Garden was a home away from home for the band, a reliable sanctuary where the band would ultimately play 52 shows, a record at the time. The venue’s fine acoustics, combined with the fans’ unbridled energy, consistently brought out the best in the Dead. At the band’s 2015 induction ceremony into Madison Square Garden’s Walk Of Fame, Bobby Weir said, “This place was both horrifying and titillating with an audience that was discerning but ravenous. We had to rise to the occasion every time.”

Explains Grateful Dead archivist David Lemieux: “As Jerry Garcia famously said, Madison Square Garden was ‘juiced.’ It had an energy unlike any other venue The Grateful Dead played, particularly of this size, owing to the symbiotic relationship between the Dead, the Dead Heads, and New York City itself. The Dead didn’t play the Garden until 1979, almost the midpoint of their performing career. but once they got rolling, they made it a home away from home, playing 10 shows in the next 15 years. These performances from 1981, 1982 and 1983 are six of the best the Dead played at the Garden, any of which could have been released on their own. We’re thrilled, though, to allow these six complementary shows to be housed together, each one its own story, its own event, but all contributing to the story that is the entirety of the Dead’s 52-show run at Madison Square Garden.”

In And Out Of The Garden (aptly named after the line in St. Stephen, which the band played live for the first time in four years at the Oct. 11, 1983, MSG offers a front-row seat to the Dead in the early 1980s, an overlooked and underestimated era of rebirth for the band. At the time of the recordings, the group consisted of singers-guitarists Jerry Garcia and Weir, bassist Phil Lesh, drummers Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart, and, on keyboards and vocals Brent Mydland. Mydland’s vocal power and colorful keyboard palette energized the band, invigorating older material like The Wheel, Truckin’ and Eyes Of The World. He also gave the band more musical flexibility, which encouraged them to dust off rarely aired treasures like Dupree’s Diamond Blues and Crazy Fingers.

In And Out Of The Garden touches on the three-year period after 1980’s Go To Heaven was released, a time when the Dead were constantly on the road, playing more than 200 dates. While they were in no rush to return to the studio during this time, they continued to write new music. In 1982 and ’83, the band performed most of the songs that would appear on 1987’s In The Dark, a Top 10 double-platinum album that stands as the group’s biggest commercial success. The new collection includes performances of four songs from that album — Touch Of Grey, Hell In A Bucket, Throwing Stones and West L.A. Fadeaway – plus the B-side My Brother Esau.”