Thursday, May 24, 2012

Live/Dead 1969 - Grateful Dead Album Review

If you separate the Grateful Dead into the studio act (not their native environment) and there more "natural" state as a live improvisational band, then this is kind of like their "debut" album as a live act. 

This album captures the band as they were during their formative years in San Francisco. You can imagine this album being the soundtrack for The Acid Tests and the Summer of Love. This incarnation of the band is the one that put the Grateful Dead on the map and Live/Dead is just a really great psychedelic rock album.  It actually got a lot of critical acclaim which The Dead would not always enjoy.

The whole band is great, but what I especially listen for when I put this album on is the frenetic and youthful playing by Jerry. Jerry's tone is treble-y and if I had to guess I would say he is playing a Gibson SG which is a guitar that he did not play much in the grand scheme of things. His playing at this stage still draws a lot from the blues tradition, but he definitely "steps out" extensively and you have to love the twangy sound and the rapid vibrato of a young master with a lot of energy.

The centerpiece of the album is the St. Stephen->The Eleven medley and the St. Stephen is probably the seminal version of the song on a major label release (because we're still waiting for Cornell 1977 and of course that version has Donna's errors on it).  Even so, I think The Eleven is even better than St. Stephen.  This track shows the band in a free form intro jam before Phil leads the way in to the 11/12 meter of The Eleven (a really impressive transition).  This is my favorite part of the album and never fails to give me chills.  There is definitely a little editing trickery of mixing different performances if you listen close enough to this recording, and there are overdubs on the album as well.

The rest of the album is filled with classics, Pigpen's Turn on Your Lovelight and Jerry's Death Don't Have no Mercy.  Of course, there's a 23:18 version of Dark Star and a soulful And We Bid You Goodnight.  There's no misses on this album, even the 8 minutes of Feedback has to be appreciated for how daring and unconventional it is.

I once had the vinyl of this album and it was really artistically done -  a great collector's album for those who have it.

Live/Dead Album Rating on a Scale of 1-10: 10.0

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).


Sundar said...

Hey old friend. I read your posts frequently and commented on them often back in 2009-10..when the Dead did their tour. Soon after you fell off the plant, I stopped checking your blog, but wow! I just came to this site, and I find you alive. I am happy that you have kept this alive. really love your writing. i have read a lot of dead literature, but the sensibilities in your writing I can relate with the closest. !

- Sundar

GDmike said...

Nice just figured out this comment reply system, as I said I'm loving seeing you here again and just saw a recent post that was dynamite I will respond to.