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Fans Album Reviews For:
THE Grateful Dead
(3 reviews sent in so far)
By Zack Taylor
Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter recalls that he couldnt believe his good fortune at the groups musical transition in 1969. Suddenly, this machine eating psychedelic monster was singing songs. Early studio fiascos had taught the Dead that to survive, they had to make cutting records a much cheaper proposition. For inspiration, they needed only to observe Bay-area cronies Crosby Stills, and Nash pulling in pots of money with just acoustic guitars and three-part harmonies. Giddy at the new tranquil settings for his Americana-seeped tales of fugitive desperados and dicey card games, Hunter, went on a roll, composing Ripple, Brokedown Palace and To Lay Me Down in a single evening. The latter put aside, the others became key tracks of American Beauty, the second of two acoustic Dead albums that mark their most fertile period.
As inspiration struck, so did tragedy. Bob Weir lost both adoptive parents; then Jerry Garcias mother was fatally injured in a car crash. Phil Lesh too lost his father. Sharing his grief with Hunter, Lesh strummed some changes and hummed a melody, and got back solace: Maybe youll find direction, around some corner, where its been waiting to meet you. The end result was Box of Rain, about the most poignant Dead song among many. Friend of Devil was catchy ditty about a guy on the run from a girl and the law who got no help from the big guy downstairs. Hunter shared the bounty with Weir too, collaborating on the sunny Sugar Magnolia. With principal partner Garcia, Hunter maintained the tone and quality of his imagery through the elegiac campfire ballad Candyman featuring pedal steel guitar, Ripple with some nimble finger work by Jerry, the stately Brokedown Palace, and harmony tour-de-force Attics of My Life. Proceedings came to a close with Truckin, the Deads signature story-of-our-lives tune. American Beauty contains much of the groups most enduring material, tinged with a wistfulness conveyed through Hunters empathy with the grieving musicians. Hes the real the star of this show, the zenith of the Grateful Dead.
To listen to some soundclips from American Beauty or to purchase it click on: American Beauty CD w/ Bonus Tracks
Anthem of the Sun
By Zack Taylor
October 22, 2007
Bob Weir has referred to the second Grateful Dead second album Anthem of the Sun as a monument to itself. Indeed, there is no other record like it, where layers of live performances are mixed in and out of studio recordings. In 1968, new harmonic and structural vistas blossomed in the bands collective mind under the influence of LSD, creating a new powerful psychedelic sound around Jerry Garcias spiky lead guitar, Phil Leshs improvisational bass playing, and Weirs staccato rhythms. Legend has it that Warner Brothers engineer Dave Hassinger fled the studio after the latter requested thick air be part of a backing track.
Left to their own devices, the Dead pieced together a collage called Thats it for the Other One, which in various incarnations would be played more than any other number in the bands 30-year career. These strange proceedings get even weirder as they yield to some John Cage-inspired prepared piano by Tom Constanten, Leshs music school buddy recruited to add keyboards to the aural assault the musically-limited Ron "Pigpen" McKernan couldnt handle as a prelude to New Potato Caboose, a great Lesh number soon banished from live performance like many of his compositions for its extreme complexity.
Side 2 kicks off with the Pigpen-led jam Alligator, which features the first lyrical contribution to the Dead oeuvre by Robert Hunter and showcases the bands dueling drummers. The wryly-titled Caution (Do Not Stop on Tracks) has actual railway origins: Lesh and drummer Billy Kreutzmann were on a train tripping out as usual hearing the clack-clack of the wheels on the track. Hey man, we can play that! said one to the other, begetting a new rhythm, over which Pigpen rap-sung his trademark ad-libs about a meeting a gypsy woman looking for a touch of mojo hand.
While this fantastic, original piece of psychedelia is absolutely product of collective psychic exploration, none of it would have been possible without the bands musical and spiritual leader Garcia, whose virtuoso guitar defined the groups sound and fertile mind its vision. However unwittingly, the Dead became guardians of the psychedelic flame for a generation.
To listen to some soundclips from Anthem of the Sun or to purchase it, click on: Anthem of the Sun
By Zack Taylor
September 10, 2004
We play better to people than to machines, man, Jerry Garcia once famously said, attempting to explain why the Grateful Dead could never muster a definitive studio album. Goodness knows what Jerry was on at the time, but he was right. For most Dead fans, their defining Moment came at a live show, a bootleg, or one of the eight live officially released live albums. But only the first of those, 1969s Live/Dead, is a masterpiece. An accidental masterpiece, though, devoid of any overdubs or meticulous post-production--they couldnt afford any of that stuff at the time. The Deads first album was cut in two days, and sounded nothing like they ever would again; the second and third albums found the Dead assaulting the studio on their own terms, and failing, earning them little but massive debt. On the ropes, the bands only hope was an attempt to capture the incendiary energy of their live shows on vinyl. From the opening track, it was clearly a bold gambit. Around a single riff and two vocal snippets lying around called Dark Star, the band improvised jazz-tinged improvisational odyssey at that slows to a crawl then builds slowly to a dizzying climax over 23 minutes. Myriad subsequent versions of this song have since been recorded, but none touches the magic of thisfinally-definitive performance. Next, they rescue the great Saint Stephen from the obscurity Aoxamoxa, and couple it with The Eleven (so named for its unusual 11/4 time signature), a raging beast of a number by bassist Phil Lesh. Side three is all Pigpen, the groups blues conscience, who ad-libs through Turn on Your Lovelight as the band jams tirelessly behind him. Dark blues follows, with Garcia delivering an intense Death Dont Have No Mercy, which is followed by some designer feedback, and signature signoff And We Bid You Goodnight. This album is among the great live albums ever. It defines the Grateful Dead of that era as Ya Yas defined the Stones, and Leeds defined the Who. Its that good, man.
To listen to some soundclips from Live/Dead or to purchase it, click on: Live/Dead
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