I have listened to this band for about 33 years now, and have found most folks either: (1)dislike them for their somewhat rambling, often mediocre concerts; or (2) LOVE them for their distillation of SO MANY TYPES OF American and other musics that they find them to be a band "unlike no other" and "beyond description." I'd been listening to bootleg Dead concerts for three or so years before "Europe '72" was released, and noticed that even the people listed under category (1) above still enjoyed that live album distilled from the GD European tour that year (typically along with albums like "Workingmans' Dead" and "American Beauty" (both grand additions to the body of great American music, to be sure.)) Some of the BEST GD concerts I've ever heard have been from those 1972 European shows (5/3/72 - Olympia Theatre, Paris, FR and 5/26/72 - The Lyceum Theatre, The Strand, London, England (one of my ALL TIME TOP GD live concert picks), in particular, if forced to single out one or two).
This is why I rank "Steppin' Out" extremely highly (4 1/2 stars) - it includes examples of some of the finest Dead tunes (extremely well played, with the Deads' great capability for excellent use of dynamics showcased) with a band line-up that they were never able to match again, much to my (and probably theirs as well) DISMAY. The twin keyboard sound of Keith Godchaux (grand piano) and Ron "PigPen" McKernan (Hammond B-3 organ - along with his masterful harmonica,percussion, and amazing singing & "rapping)added a tremendous "extra dimension" to the bands' sound, which they were never again (as hard as they tried) able to duplicate.
In addition, the songs picked for the 4 (four) disc set represented all five (Garcia, McKernan, Weir, Lesh, and Donna Jean Godchaux) singers at their near peak (well, perhaps except for the ailing McKernan, and, considering his BAD NEDICAL CONDITION at the time, his vocals were quite respectable.) This is ESPECIALLY IMPRESSIVE for a band not generally known for their vocal prowess. Furthermore, the songs selected were very "all inclusive," touching comprehensively on almost ALL PHASES of the GDs career songwriting output (including two never before "released (officially) McKernan tunes ("The Stranger - Two Souls in Communion" ( a very "soulful", touching tune) and "Chinatown Shuffle" (which showed McKernans great humor through the lyrics and exemplified the great "funkiness" he imbued ALL his selections with (Ref: "Mr. Charlie"; "Big Boss Man"; "It Hurts Me Too"; "Good Lovin'"; "TOYLL"; etc., etc., etc.))
And finally, as if I haven't bent the readers' ears enough, "Steppin Out" also included some rarely played GD originals AND covers, and ALL VERSIONS of almost every tune were performed beautifully, as can be heard by both the listener and the very appreciative audiences' reception.
To sum it all up, THIS FAN would love to see HIGH QUALITY Dick's Picks (or whatever the heck you want to call them) versions of EVERY Europe '72 CONCERT released officially (I believe they may have numbered about 20 or 30 over a two month period). The late 1971 and most of '72 and (even a little of '73)timeframes remain for me "Jewel Box period" Grateful Dead. My only bit of sadness related to this is that we weill never see and hear that music again - excepting, thank God/Buddha/J-W-H/Allah/(or your spiritual inspiration of choice) that ALL THE SHOWS FROM THAT Spring, 1972 Tour WERE TAPED FOR POSTERITY.