Sunday, March 24, 2013

I Know You Rider - Grateful Dead Song Review

I wish I was a headlight, on a northbound train
I wish I was a headlight, on a northbound train
I'd shine my light through the cool Colorado rain

This song is obviously best remembered coming out of China Cat Sunflower hence the "China Rider" abbreviation for the medley that was adopted on cassette sleeves.

The song is listed as composed by "traditional" and early recordings are credited to the great field work of ethnomusicologist Alan Lomax (so you know this song goes way back). I've heard a dozen or more different versions from various bluegrass and Americana themed groups.  Most of these alternative takes on the song are much slower. Nothing compares to the Grateful Dead's interpretation, they really "souped it up."

2nd Set Opener (Most Commonly)

Getting China Rider is about as good as it gets to open the 2nd set in my experience (note that it also appeared other locations in the set earlier on in the band's tenure, including occasionally opening the show).  I will never get tired of the jam from China Cat into I Know You Rider.  It's just a collective swell  behind Jerry's "pedal to the medal" soloing.  This combination is one I can guarantee I've never fast forwarded through in 20 years of listening to The Grateful Dead.

Jerry's Verse

If I had to pick a favorite part, well of course it would be "Jerry's verse" where he sings the lines at the top of this blog... this is a part of the recording where you would actually prefer to be listening to an "audience recording" so you can hear the swell of cheers when he belts it out.

I Know You Rider Without China Cat Sunflower

As I said in my review of  Franklin's Tower and Fire on the Mountain, hearing the songs that are part of a famed medley (ie Help>Slip>Frank and Scarlet>Fire) without their proper predecessor just doesn't feel right.  It's like having dessert without enjoying dinner first...

Favorite Versions

I think that the versions of this with Brent are the ones are the most excellent.  The version on Without a Net is definitely one of my favorites.  I think that the song was really consistent even until the last days of Jerry playing it, but it probably lost a little fire at the tail end of the Grateful Dead (during Vince Welnick's tenure).

Of course, there's also a fantastic version on Europe '72.  I seem to be bringing up that double disc in all the recent song reviews, it's really amazing how packed that live recording is with great Dead songs.  It's also interesting to contemplate the vocal overdubs that are on those recordings.  Some day I'm going to do a close listen to the versions on Europe '72 and compare them to the soundboards from box set release of the entire tour that was The Dead finally did a couple years ago.  73 CD box set (!) Is that the biggest box set of all time?  How do we get a similar release from the 1990s??

I Know You Rider Song Rating on a Scale of 1-10: 9.2

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(read my blog manifesto to understand my Grateful Dead background a little more).

Note: comments are encouraged and appreciated (enter them below) but it takes several days for them to show up in the blog entry (due to a Disqus plugin issue).  


miles said...

i gotta say my favorite part of IKYR is bobby singing "march winds will blow all my troubles away....." it always brought hope and a sense of looking forward...then jerry being on the train right after that, just about perfect....i just discovered your site...i'll talk to you often....peace

GDmike said...

I love that part, I love this entire song!