The Grateful Dead rolled into San Francisco riding a long streak of hot-damn shows during the spring of 1977, a legendary road trip that many Dead Heads agree was a tour for the ages. The band didn't disappoint the hometown faithful when it took to the stage June 7-9 at Winterland Arena—the Dead’s spiritual home—for one of the group's most beloved hometown runs. As veteran Dead archivist David Lemieux puts it, "A lot of Dead Heads say '77 is their favorite year. And of these shows, the first night is a Top 15, the second is a Top 10, and the third is a Top 3."
WINTERLAND, JUNE 1977: THE COMPLETE RECORDINGS packs every note from those three transcendent nights into nine discs that encompass what might be some of the greatest live Dead ever. A worthy successor to last year's extraordinary Winterland 1973 collection, this set surges and sighs with the inspired sound of rock’s most unpredictable dance band hard at work, in peak communion.
WINTERLAND, JUNE 1977 is presented in HDCD, mastered from the original soundboard reels and enhanced using cutting-edge audio engineering technology including Plangent Processes' state-of-the-art audio-time alignment procedure. Handsomely packaged in a custom archival box, the set contains 68 previously unreleased tracks as well as an extensive, full-color booklet featuring rare photos, a thoughtful essay by Rolling Stone senior editor and Winterland veteran David Fricke, and a few other surprise goodies.
During these Winterland performances, the band previewed all but one song from Terrapin Station, its then-forthcoming ninth studio album. Among the highlights are Bob Weir and John Perry Barlow's "Estimated Prophet"; Phil Lesh's locomotive "Passenger"; and the title track, a beautiful marriage of ideas by Jerry Garcia and his lyricist-soulmate Robert Hunter.
Fricke nominates the second set from June 9 as the band's best ever, calling it: "an instant opera of spiritual biography ("St. Stephen" from 1969's Aoxomoxoa), non-denominational salvation (Buddy Holly's "Not Fade Away"), tumult and wonder (a big chunk of "Terrapin Station") and, finally, sunshine and daydreams (American Beauty's "Sugar Magnolia"). It is, in a sense, all of the Deads in one—the lysergic delirium; the country-rock comfort; blues-party time, the electric seeking—making split-second choices in tone and parable with confidence, on the run."
At the time of these recordings, the band included guitarist Jerry Garcia, singer Donna Jean Godchaux, keyboardist Keith Godchaux, drummers Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann, bassist Phil Lesh, and guitarist Bob Weir.