The Grateful Dead commemorated their first extended European tour with an extravagant triple-LP set appropriately enough titled Europe '72
. This collection is fashioned in much the same way as their previous release -- which had also been a live multi-disc affair. The band mixes a bevy of new material -- such as "Ramble on Rose," "Jack Straw," "Tennessee Jed," "Brown-Eyed Woman," and "He's Gone" -- with revisitations of back-catalog favorites. Among them are "China Cat Sunflower" -- which was now indelibly linked to the longtime Dead cover "I Know You Rider" -- as well as "Cumberland Blues," "Truckin'," "Sugar Magnolia," and "Morning Dew." With the additional album the band was able to again incorporate some of their exceedingly stretched-out instrumental improvisations -- titled "Epilogue" and "Prelude" here. Since their last outing, the group had expanded to include the husband-and-wife team of Keith Godchaux
(keyboards) and Donna Jean Godchaux
(vocals). Sadly, this European jaunt would be the last of its kind to include the formidable talents and soul of founding member Ron "Pigpen" McKernan
(organ/mouth harp/vocals), who was in increasingly fragile health. Although few in number, his contributions to Europe '72
are among the most commanding not only of this release, but of his career.