Road Trips, Vol. 4 No. 2: April Fools’ ’88



After years of struggles with drug abuse and poor health, Grateful Dead guitarist and singer Jerry Garcia slipped into a diabetic coma for five days in July 1986. When he awoke, he found that he had to re-learn how to play guitar, a process that took months. In 1989, during the making of the Dead’s final studio album, Built to Last, he relapsed into drug abuse and continued to fight his addictions until his death from a heart attack in 1995 at age 53. But as this collection of material from two shows at the Brendan Byrne Arena (now the Continental Arena) in East Rutherford, N.J., demonstrates, between those two dark periods the Dead enjoyed at least a brief moment during which Garcia and his bandmates were still flying at full steam.

Astonishingly, given the sheer amount of live Dead that has seen release, this 14th edition of the from-the-vaults Road Trips series represents the first official presentation of music from the group’s 1988 shows. Recorded on March 31 and April 1, this three-disc volume finds the Dead in typically rambling and expansive form. Four songs from the Bob Dylan songbook turn up, as well as tunes from throughout the Dead’s own long career—although of course the meat of the matter is in the improvisations, which are as adventuresome as ever. April Fools’ ’88 is a monument to perhaps the final period during which one of rock’s most beloved acts was the best it could be. –Chris Neal

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