Sound: If there ever was a Grateful Dead musical CD that was indeed a trip, Rocking The Cradle: Egypt 1978 would be the one. This is the type of release that will probably best be appreciated by the fans who were there, following The Dead from the late 1960's on up. With 2 CDs and 1 DVD, Rocking The Cradle is a pretty good buy for the amount of material you get - not to mention the nostalgia value. However, if you're used to a certain quality of live DVD from your favorite contemporary bands, you might not be quite prepared for the back-to-basics quality of the video portion.
Before we even get into the music, it's understandable why the Grateful Dead would want chronicle it's show from September 15-16, 1978. After all, you rarely see any band broadcast anything from the Sphinx Theatre in Giza, Egypt. While the dramatic scenic value is only captured during the DVD, one of the songs included on the CD does relay somewhat of an Egyptian vibe. It is only when the Nubian Youth Choir comes out to join the band on Ollin Arageed, a primal, percussion-driven song, that you get a sense that this is not just any ordinary Dead show. You get a good feel of the surroundings, and the DVD editors did themselves a favor by highlighting that moment on both the CD and the DVD.
For the remaining portion of Rocking The Cradle, you'll get plenty of classic Grateful Dead material. The 2 CDS do include Truckin' and Candyman, but the band is at it's strongest in the funky Shakedown Street. Equally impressive is their low-key take on The Dixie Cups' hit Iko Iko. There is jamming galore in pretty much every track, with I Need A Miracle closing with an impressive 2-minute guitar solo.
Before any jabs are made at the DVD, you have to take into consideration that the footage is from 1978. Rocking The Cradle's DVD does include several camera angles and gets quite a few close-ups of the band and audience, but usually it happens at the wrong times. For example, Keith Godchaux might be laying down a fantastic solo in New, New Minglewood Blues. Well, the camera operator will be fixated on some other random member - and it's usually an out of focus shot to boot. You have to give the guys slack because it was done in the 1970's, but just be prepared to see a less-than-perfect depiction of a Dead concert. // 8
Lyrics: Essentially Rocking The Cradle features a best-of collection of the Grateful Dead's music, but you're also getting quite a few covers as well. It's a pretty wide mix, and you'll hear everything from emotional outcries (Looks Like Rain) to the ever-popular road song Truckin.' This is classic material for Deadheads, and you'll likely hear few complaints in terms of the material chosen for the Giza concert. // 8
Overall Impression: The novelty of playing at the Sphinx Theatre is definitely worth reviewing after 30 years, and you should check out the DVD's bonus section (The Vacation Tapes) to get some behind-the-scenes photos. While there aren't any interviews in the extras, the extensive liner notes give insight into what intrigued the band about the Northern African country and it's relationship to the Dead's music. The DVD might not do the concert the justice it deserves because of the older video quality, but there is still plenty of well-mixed audio to be heard on CD portion. // 8