Monday, February 16, 2009

Box of Rain - Grateful Dead Song Review

Box of Rain is an inimitable Grateful Dead song that has earned a pretty legendary place in Grateful Dead lore. For one thing - it is a "Phil song." There aren't that many Phil songs, and some shows would go by when Phil wouldn't sing a tune. Another reason it is noticeable is that it has really great lyrics. There is the very memorable refrain:

What do you want me to do,
To do for you,
To see you through?

also, less memorable but very powerful lines like:

..this is all a dream we dreamed one afternoon long ago


A box of rain will ease the pain and love will see you through

and how about

Such a long long time to be gone, and a short time to be there

These are deep, emotional lyrics and clearly Robert Hunter at his best. This song has grown on me through the years - the lyrics are more poignant as life goes on and people and love are lost forever. I think that I probably just used to fast forward through Box of Rain when I would listen to my cassette copy of American Beauty in high school (I said the same thing about uber-favorite Attics of My Life when I reviewed that song last month).

There was a special on MTV about one of the early Dick's Picks (hosted by Bill Walton) and it coincided with a documentary called "From Anthem to Beauty" which chronicled this period of the Dead's history. In one of those specials, Phil Lesh talked about Box of Rain and the passing of his father to cancer. this is no run of the mill "generic" rock song... I think we've established that.

One thing that I like about Box of Rain is that it has a very "open" and unstructured intro - not a recognizable riff (like He's Gone or Loose Lucy). This makes me feel like I never really know for 100% what song it is until Phil steps up and sings that legendary line:
Look out of any window, any morning, any evening, any DAY. Jack Straw also has this kind of a "loose" intro.

I also really like the way the rest of the band joins in with Phil as the song progresses.

Box of Rain is a song that no one was ever disappointed to hear at a Dead show (to my knowledge). Indeed I remember it fondly from the one time I heard it (during my favorite Dead show I witnessed 6-26-1994 in Las Vegas).

Box of Rain Song Rating on a Scale of 1-10: 8.2

Disclaimer: This is part of my review of every Grateful Dead song from A-Z. Music is a beautiful thing because it is so personal and subjective, so keep in mind that this is one man's opinion (and be sure to read my blog manifesto to understand a little more about where I'm coming from).

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