Sunday, December 23, 2012

Hell in a Bucket - Grateful Dead Song Review

Everything works about this song, Hell in a Bucket is Grateful Dead magic.

This song came out in the mid 80's when a lot of bands from the Grateful Dead era were putting out some real garbage  (hello Starship "We Built This City" and Neil Young "rockabilly and electronica experimentation"). In fact, the entire music world was generally putting out crappy music during the greedy Reagan era. Hell in a Bucket might have never been a radio worthy track but who cares? It rocked the opening to many shows.

I like that Brent is credited for the music (along with Bobby of course), and the enigmatic John Perry Barlow penned the words.  Some of the lines seem "groan worthy," but as a whole it really works.

The spirit of this line:

There may come a day I will dance on your grave
If unable to dance I will crawl

reminds me of the rebellious and humorous spirit embodied in songs like Saint of Circumstance and Touch of Grey (which is the opening track that precedes Hell in a Bucket on In the Dark).

Hell in a Bucket is very consistent and a great opener.  Jerry would usually play incredibly great (and fast) on Hell in a Bucket, and then as soon as it's over -  it's Jerry's turn to pick a song so Bucket sets up a strong 1st set by priming Jerry for an energetic and well played 2nd song.

There's some great tunes that comprise the group of songs the Grateful Dead regularly opened with: Jack Straw, Mississippi Half Step, Touch of Grey, etc.  In my opinion Hell in a Bucket holds it's own with these.

I've included a live performance video below from a show that I was actually at - Las Vegas, Sunday June 26th, 1994. This video brings back great memories from that night.  I believe this is the exact a feed from the video screens the Dead used on that tour - and some very creative intermingling of footage can be seen.

There's an "MTV" style music video for this song, do yourself a favor and DO NOT seek it out.  You will be disappointed.

Hell in a Bucket Song Rating on a Scale of 1-10: 9.3

Disclaimer: This is part of my blog that reviews all things Grateful Dead for fun. Music is a beautiful thing because it is so personal and subjective, so keep in mind that this is one man's opinion.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Greatest Story Ever Told - Grateful Dead Song Review

Moses came ridin'  up on a quasar

How I Learned About Greatest Story
Greatest Story Ever Told is a "first set" rocker that smokes.  This Bobby song was introduced way back in 1971 and played all the way through 1995. But for some reason I associate this song with hot 1980s shows (with Brent) that I would listen to on low quality cassette tapes that I would get from friends, so I always hear this song as low quality and "treble-y" when I hear it in my mind's eye (ear).

This song would always appear in the 1st set (sometimes the opener) and be  smokin'. It has a revved up beginning that is a "Chuck Berry" style riff (chords that are played by Phil!) and then just tears into its faced paced verses. The band punches through accents while Bobby spits the lyrics out and Jerry wails with his dynamic filter sound.

Greatest Story Ever Told appeared on Bobby's first solo album Ace, which was really a Grateful Dead record because the entire band was involved in providing the music that backed up Bobby's vocals.  That album by the way is a "must have" with 7 of the 8 songs becoming Grateful Dead concert favorites (including Cassidy and One More Saturday Night).

Some Crazy Lyrics in Greatest Story

There's not too many Bob Weir songs that feature lyrics written by Robert Hunter.  I must say, this song highlights the difference between the way that Bobby would use lyrics versus the way Jerry would.

For instance, some lines in Greatest Story really ring out and remind me of the cleverness of Robert Hunter lyrics that are in Jerry tunes:

I asked him for mercy, he gave me a gun


I asked him for water, he poured me some wine

But other lines sound like nothing of Hunter that Jerry ever sang:

Moses come riding up on a quasar 
His spurs was a-jingling, the door was ajar


Abraham and Isaac digging on a well
Mama come quick with the water witch spell

Lines like these  remind me of Bobby's habit of employing "nonsensical" lyrics that make the meanings to his songs hard to discern (for example, Estimated Prophet).  Also, as with the line "water witch spell," Bobby often uses consonance in his lyrics that make them very difficult to sing (like "quick beats in an icy heart, catch colt draws a coffin cart" from Cassidy).

So, although I can't figure out heads or tails of what the song Greatest Story Ever Told is about, I still think it's a good rock song that would get the crowd going.  I enjoyed it the one time I got to see it (at Shoreline). This is a nice and short upbeat song that I always listen in its entirety when it comes up on show recordings I am listening to.

Greatest Story Ever Told Song Rating on a Scale of 1-10: 8.2

Disclaimer: This is part of my blog that reviews all things Grateful Dead for fun. Music is a beautiful thing because it is so personal and subjective, so keep in mind that this is one man's opinion.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Good Lovin'- Grateful Dead Song Review

This song was ever present in the 2nd set throughout the vast majority of the Grateful Dead's live tours.

I've always considered it a "feel good" Bobby 2nd set closer like Lovelight and Around and Around. I like it as an "uplifting closer" more than those 2 songs (but less than Sugar Magnolia or Not Fade Away which are also popular closers).

I did not know until I just visited that it was originally performed in the 60's and sung by Pigpen (with a few versions sung by Jerry). Good Lovin' was also shelved from 1970-1976 (when they dusted it off and put Bobby on lead vocals).

The song was originally penned by Rudy Clark and Arthur Resnick and performed by The Young Rascals.  This is the version that most people are familiar with (and also the one that is played in a hilarious fishing scene of the movie Joe Versus the Volcano).  A Grateful Dead studio version was released on Shakedown Street in 1978.

Bobby Going Falsetto

Good Lovin' has an almost '50's rock vibe to it and so it was inevitable that Bobby would use it as an opportunity to go falsetto and do some of his "barbershop quartet" style high pitched singing.  A lot of Deadheads refer to this as "Bobby cheesing out."

Bobby would also use the song as a platform to "hold court" and give an "inspirational rap" somewhat like a gospel preacher during the song, saying things like "you know that you need it and you know that I need it too, c'mon everybody and give each other some good lovin!" Pretty amusing stuff.

A few times in 1987, the band would interpolate La Bamba into Good Lovin' - with Jerry singing La Bamba.  This is a formula for an especially great Good Lovin', and I've embedded a youtube into the blog post at the bottom where you can hear and see the band play it (thanks to LoloYodel for posting that footage).

Good Lovin'  Song Rating on a Scale of 1-10: 8.7

Disclaimer: This is part of my blog that reviews all things Grateful Dead for fun. Music is a beautiful thing because it is so personal and subjective, so keep in mind that this is one man's opinion.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Goin' Down the Road Feeling Bad - Grateful Dead Song Review

This song is also known as "GDTRFB" (as it was abbreviated on tapes) and is always a treat to hear.

Goin' Down the Road Feeling Bad is a really uptempo boogie blues number that usually appeared late in the show (after Space). It  is not  an original GD tune and I can only find the credit for the words/lyrics to "traditional" so it must be a really old song. On it states that Jerry learned the song during the cross Canada train tour that was chronicled in the movie Festival Express.

The band played the song from 1970 up through 1995.  During the period that I was seeing shows (1993-1995) this would be considered a somewhat rare treat -  they didn't play it very often.  I got to see it one time (on Saturday night, June 26th, 1994 in las Vegas).

Jerry would sing the verses by himself and the band would join in for the chorus.  In my experience this song is always really consistently delivered, perhaps owing to its simplicity and position in the show (when the band is very warm). Jerry's solos are usually very tightly delivered and sometimes resemble the "flatpicking" guitar style.

The song definitely has that "rock band on the road" sensibility and they make me imagine the years of hard touring and cheap hotels that they had to endure. Lines like this:

Going where the water tastes like wine
I don't wanna be treated this old way

remind me of that sly mischievous Jerry Garcia recurring  theme of having "one foot out the door" because he is "getting no respect" (a la Rodney Dangerfield). Other songs that have this kind of theme are Shady Grove and Cold Rain and Snow.  Of course none of these songs are GD originals so it's obviously a recurring theme in Americana music.

The end of GDTRFB always cuts to a half time instrumental version of the We Bid You Goodnight melody (at least in the late 80s and 90s versions that I am familiar with). That's a really nice little tag-on to finish the song.

Goin' Down the Road Feeling Bad Song Rating on a Scale of 1-10: 8.5

Disclaimer: This is part of my blog that reviews all things Grateful Dead for fun. Music is a beautiful thing because it is so personal and subjective, so keep in mind that this is one man's opinion.