Among the finest of rock's live documents, LIVE DEAD is a snapshot of the Grateful Dead circa 1969, applying the free-jazz lessons of John Coltrane to their finely-tuned, manic, and flowing boogie. It was the first released piece of evidence that the live Dead were a wholly different, multi-headed animal than the one that recorded in the studio. LIVE DEAD was also the culmination of the group's evolution into what'snow considered the vintage San Francisco sound--having perfected it, the Grateful Dead would soon leave it for fresher musical pastures. While each of LIVE DEAD's selections calls to mind a specific trick from up the band's sleeve, the opening four songs (later dubbed "the holy quartet" by Deadheads) best indicates the Dead's burning trajectory. "Dark Star" lays out a wide-open musical terrain, allowing the band to leap anywhere from its minimalist-riff launching pad and its two verses of T.S. Eliot-inspired psychedelic prose. Here, it is a dark-hued and majestic sea of ambience and intensity. "St. Stephen" explodes like a shiny metallic cloud-burst, Bob Weir's fervent vocals carrying it like a holy torch. "The Eleven", a thunderous fury of a composition based on "The Twelve Days Of Christmas" and played in 11/4 time, continues the rumbling. By the time Pigpen ends the continuous sermon with a raucous sci-fi-R&B take on Bobby "Blue" Bland's "Turn On Your Lovelight", the Dead have seemingly sailed every corner of their musical universe and crash-landed with aplomb.