Steve S. (Reno-ness) from ARROYO GRANDE, CA Reviewed on 11/4/2008...
This is truly representative Dead during the "healthy" Pigpen era. Tracks 1,6 and 7 are fine Pig and the other tunes are just as great. Bob Weir handles "Dark Hollow" to signature song effect, giving the listener the acoustic Dead that would not be heard until the Warfield shows, where Weir reprised the tune. The same with Garcia's take on "I've Been All Around This World," but the difference is ten years! The youth of the Dead supply an energy that trumps the experience. "Black Peter" is the best song on this set, and the smouldering angst of the singer yearning for redemption makes it an all-time Dead favorite.
A Great Dead Blues Show
Christopher | Cohoes, New York | 10/30/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is one of my favorite Grateful Dead Live discs. There's only 7 songs but its 45 minutes plus of Pigpen, Jerry, Weir, Lesh, and Bill the Drummer. This show is from February 13th and 14th 1970, at the Fillmore East. 1970 is a great year for the Dead. (my favorite Dead era lies/lays within 1967-1972). Bear's Choice starts off with a bluesy Pigpen lead, Katie Mae. Katie Mae alone is an awesome blues song. Give Pigpen a guitar and the spotlight, you got one of the best blues performances ever. He starts the song off with a good humored argument from someone in the crowd or on stage....Katie Mae then goes to Dark Hollow. Dark Hollow is an awesome bluesy song with a hint of Country (kinda puts me in mind of Ripple in a Dead way)with Weir on lead vocal...so far, Katie Mae and Dark Hollow are among my favorite Dead songs. The next song is Jerry's turn with: I've Been All Around This World, a great slow ballad with great rythm. A Deadsized Wake Up Little Suzie follows All Around this World, a great jam and a great rocker, yet it's the shortest song on this disc. Track five is a Workingman's Dead hit, Black Peter, yet another slow bluesy jam. At 18:00 minutes long, Pigpen and the Dead jam through Smokestack Lightning. Smokestack's sound kinda resembles CCR's Susie Q, great tune with different jams throughout. The last song is Hard To Handle...sung by Pigpen. Hard To Handle, much like its' name and with Pigpen's vocals is a hard rocker, a great closer for this particular set.1. Katie Mae-4:46 2. Dark Hollow-3:30 3. I've Been All Around This World-4:40 4. Wake Up Little Susie-2:40 5. Black Peter-7:20 6. Smokestack Lightning-18:00 7. Hard To Handle-6:14Overall, this set does include a reaction from the audience during each jam, however, you can tell that it's not just one big medley jam/set. At the end of certain songs (ie-Katie Mae>Dark Hollow) you can hear the difference in audience reaction levels; just a note for fans of Dead-Sets-With-Audience-Interaction (thats all) but the crowd can be heard... This particular set is one of my faves (along with Dicks Picks 8 and Ladies and Gentlemen...) to play on Wine Nights (which are quite frequent) This album came out the year Pigpen died :( The album cover is 'perhaps' the origin of the infamous Beanie Bears that are collected today-for Dancing Beanie Bear collectors-Dark Hollow is one of the newest in the latest series, and it's from this particular show/set......."
An unusual album
Christopher | 08/07/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"There is no other Dead album remotely like this, both in content and production. Bear (whom I believe was the great Owzely Stanley, an early Dead patron)-- who chose these pieces -- clearly had great taste. This album was a seminal one for me -- steered my interest from rock and roll to roots folk fifteen years ago (just like Garcia's Old and in the Way introduced me and lots of other people to bluegrass). Side one (at least on the record version) is the Dead at their most acoustic -- alternating between Pigpen accompanying himself on the guitar and Garcia and Weir performing folk duets -- old Appalacian tunes (no twang here at all, though -- which made this kind of music accessible to me for the first time); a loping cover of "wake up little susie," and a very slow and affecting version of the Garcia/Hunter dirge "Black Peter." These tunes have a wholly different sound than many of the Dead's later (large stage) recorded acoustic sets: Garcia and Weir don't play at all fancy -- their licks are straight-ahead, simple bluegrass runs (none of the Garcia's trademark noodling arpeggios) and feel totally elemental, and their vocals from this period are neither affected nor out of tune. The effect is uniquely intimate -- feels like you're sitting around a campfire with them. Side two consists of two great Pigpen tunes -- Hard to Handle is probably my favorite Pigpen number anywhere. This recording finds the Dead at their least psychodelic (at least in their live recordings), but it's got some really nice moments."
Get the remastered version instead
kireviewer | Sunnyvale, Ca United States | 01/15/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)
"If you really want to buy this, get the remastered version instead. It has nicer packaging, better sound quality and 30 minutes of bonus material. To find it, search on History of Grateful Dead (it won't show up if look for Bear's Choice)."
Tony Musto | Pittston, PA United States | 10/01/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is a Grateful Dead album that you can't live without. The honest, down to earth feel on this live recording is beyond description. And Pigpen is here too! What more could you ask for? Buy this!"
One of the BEST dead ever, pig pen makes me shiver!
email@example.com | OHIO | 10/30/1998
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I am a big dead-head, and love this album for its atypical content and bluesy rhythm. Its like love ballads for the nerves. You get lost in the howls!!"