Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Iko Iko - Grateful Dead Song Review

Iko Iko is a great song, it just "brings the party" with it. Although Iko Iko (sometimes spelled Aiko Aiko) is a bit mellow in its tempo,  the infectious beat and "hand claps" made it perfect for it's typical slot as 2nd set opener.

If I close my eyes and imagine seeing Iko Iko, I picture it at an outdoor stadium show during the daytime. There are beach balls being bandied about by the audience on the floor and everyone is having a good time and enjoying each other a lot (as opposed to being enraptured by what's going on up on  stage or closing their eyes and experiencing the music in an introverted manner).

This song embodies the spirit of a Mardi Gras "second line" which is an impromptu parade of party people often wearing Indian headdresses and colorful outfits. This song no doubt is a "traditional" type chant that became a pop song after someone put it down on wax (wikipedia credits James "Sugar Boy" Crawford as the composer but then the Dixie Cups also recorded it claiming to have learned it from their grandmothers and a lawsuit ensued).

Iko Iko was played pretty regularly throughout the rest of the band's career after its debut in 1977. As with most of the Grateful Dead songs that I write about, I am sure most Grateful Dead purists would prefer earlier performances but I am partial to performances of this song later in their career.

To illustrate why I prefer later versions,  I'm going to refer you to this version from Vegas 1994.  Just listen to the opening few minutes and how relaxed and explorative Jerry is as he toys around with the guitar melody. It sounds like he is emulating the piano licks of Professor Longhair.   If you've written off the 1994 version  of The Grateful Dead as unlistenable (even I admit it was a trying year), then you'll probably be surprised at how tight this version is and how lively Jerry's guitar and vocals are.

Similarities to Man Smart Woman Smarter
This song definitely has a similar chord structure and feel to Women are Smarter, but it's definitely not "indistinguishable until either Bobby or Jerry sings" (as I've heard  a couple of Deadheads describe it).  Iko Iko starts off with Jerry's bouncy guitar 'single note' figure and Women are Smarter starts off with Bobby strumming chords.

Iko Iko Song Rating on a Scale of 1-10: 9.0

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).

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