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.

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