Thursday, November 29, 2012

Golden Road - Grateful Dead Song Review

Ahh, the "Golden Road," the full title is: The Golden Road (To Unlimited Devotion).

Everytime I hear this jumbled ball of energy, I am transported to pushing "play" on my Skeletons in the Closet cassette the first time (my first Grateful Dead album). It's the first song on side A and it just sounds like the Summer of Love come to life.  This song was also the first song off of the debut album for The Grateful Dead (called simply, The Grateful Dead) released in 1967.

This song is only 2:13 long and extremely catchy. There's a lot of overdubbed sounds on the track, many of which I can't identify.  During the chorus you can really hear Phil singing backup clearly and there is a lot of the band "singing over each other" during the song which is why I describe it as "jumbled" (in the best possible way).  This amount of vocal shouting kind of leads me to consider this song as a "chant" of sorts... and the title (the part in parentheses) also lends itself to this perception.  The lyrics as quoted on for the chorus seem lacking: 

Hey hey, come right away
Come and join the party
Every day

I can't even hear these specific lines being sung in particular but I can hear a lot of other shouting and chanting going on. 

The First Shot Fired in the Grateful Dead Revolution 

I think of this song as "the first shot fired" in the Grateful Dead revolution. It's literally about the culture of San Francisco in the 60s that the band would embody and carry forth for decades.  The music and lyrics are credited to The Grateful Dead (as a whole, instead of individuals) and that's perfect.  

This line seems especially prophetic: 

Nobodys finished we ain't even begun...

How true was that statement? Wow.  Also, this one became kind of iconic for The Grateful Dead: 

Everybody's dancing in a ring around the sun

I remember often seeing a very particular sticker with this quote, I will try to dig up a picture and post here.

I always thought this song deserved more reverence in the Grateful Dead echelon of music, but I suppose that it wasn't really a live concert standby through the 70s/80s/90s.  

It's definitely 2:13 of pure bliss and a great way for me to have been introduced to The Grateful Dead - more than just a rock band.

The Golden Road (To Unlimited Devotion) 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.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Gloria - Grateful Dead Song Review

In the song review before this one ("Gimme Some Lovin'"), I said that song was part of the GD's habit of mixing in fun "party rock" songs into their set to make sure they put on a remarkable "rock n roll" show (and probably had a lot of fun themselves).  Gloria falls into this category as well.

It's a great rock song written by Van Morrison, universally known and enjoyed.  If you were at a Grateful Dead show when they busted out this tune, you know you were having a good time.  I would also add that if it was your first time seeing The Dead and you didn't really know the canon of songs that they played throughout the concert, you would definitely be "on the bus" when they played Gloria (I said the same thing about Gimme Some Lovin').

I admit that when I watch the videos on youtube of the band playing Gloria, it sounds a bit loose and messy. I have no doubt that the song took whatever show to another level though just by it's sheer accessibility.

(...really wish that Jerry would have sung this one though)

Gloria Song Rating on a Scale of 1-10: 8.4

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, November 21, 2012

Gimme Some Lovin' - Grateful Dead Song Review

Gimme Some Lovin' is a relic from an era of The Dead that I narrowly but regretfully missed.

Throughout The Grateful Dead's career they mixed in fun "party rock" songs into their set to make sure they put on a remarkable "rock n roll" show (and probably had a lot of fun themselves).  These songs provided a counterpoint to more "serious" and "though provoking" songs like China Doll, Let it Grow, Space etc.

Gimme Some Lovin' is a Spencer Davis Group song written by Steve Winwood, Spencer Davis, and Muff Winwood.

It is a mid tempo rock song that Brent and Phil sang together. If you never noticed that Phil was singing too, you are not alone (I kind of forgot myself until I queued up the below video to get psyched to write this).  Brent really owns this song vocally and of course his screaming organ is heavily featured in it.

This song seemed to come up in the 2nd set and alleviate any tension built up by songs like Terrapin, Space, etc. I love hearing it when it comes up on tapes and can't even imagine how great it would've been to have seen it live (like at the Alpine show which there is a video for below - thanks thepitts3463 for posting). You can see in the video how much fun the band is having while playing this song.

If you'd never heard of The Grateful Dead and found yourself at a show in the mid to late 1980s because someone drug you there (most of us ended up at our first Dead show this way), you might struggle to enjoy some of the music without having heard it and developed a connection to it.  But if they played Gimme Some Lovin', then most likely you would be on the bus instantly from that point on.

Gimme Some Lovin' 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.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Franklin's Tower - Grateful Dead Song Review

...if you get confused listen to the music play!

It's kind of weird to review this song prior to reviewing Help on the Way and SlipknotFranklin's Tower was the final piece of the "Help/Slip/Frank" medley that kicked off many great shows. The proper context for this super upbeat jam is after a dizzying solo by Garcia during Slipknot. After a good 10+ minutes of minor key tension (starting off with the edgy Help on the Way), nothing sounds quite as nice as the beginning of Franklin's Tower.

Franklin's Tower is a great tune that features Jerry singing and soloing a ton.  I think its simplicity made it a really consistently delivered song (especially after warming up through the complex gauntlet of Help/Slip).  I never got to see this song (although I really wanted to hear it at every show I went to and told everyone so). I can only imagine what a party it must have felt like dancing to Franklin's Tower. I am sure that this song really got the crowd going whenever it was played.

Robert Hunter Gets Historical?

The lyrics seem lighthearted but have some of those deep lessons that you got occasionally from Robert via Jerry.

Some come to laugh their past away
Some come to make it just one more day
Whichever way your pleasure tends
if you plant ice you're gonna harvest wind

I actually thought this song's lyrics had something to do with colonial America and maybe even that Franklin referred to Ben Franklin, but upon closer review of the Annotated Grateful Dead lyrics site, it appears I was way off.

One poignant memory I have is the issue of Rolling Stone that came out after Jerry died, Levi's took out a full page ad that simply read: May the four winds blow you safely home.  This one meant a lot to me (pictured, right).

Cool Franklin's Tower Trivia

In Blair Jackson's book Garcia: An American Life, he shares with us a cool revelation that one source for inspiration for the chords in Franklin's Tower was the  Lou Reed song Take a Walk on the Wild Side.  Specifically, the part where the female background singers sing: "Doo doo doo doo doo... " If you sing this part over Franklin's Tower it fits perfectly.

Franklin's With no Help/Slip?

Just like Fire on the Mountain without Scarlet, I have heard versions of Franklin's Tower without Help/Slip and I must say I am not a fan of hearing it by itself.  It's like skipping dinner to eat dessert.

Franklin's Tower Song Rating on a Scale of 1-10: 9.1

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.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Boston Run in September 1993 - Utterly Ridiculous

I haven't been very regular in updating the blog but I assure you that I'm always listening to Grateful Dead, and almost exclusively Grateful Dead from the 1990s.

It's been 17 years since Jerry died and thanks to technology I've been able to download and hear soundboard recordings of tons of shows (although  I wish the band would officially release all the recordings from the 1990s).

I've never been very good about memorizing which shows really stand out and I'm not one of those Deadheads that can tell you what show has "the best performance of Samson ever". One reason for this is because after I hear a great tape, I am immediately trying to forget it so that I can "rediscover" it again in another year or two.

Well in the last week or two, I worked my way through a run of shows from Boston in September 1993 that contain some unbelievable Grateful Dead moments and is probably the best GD run ever (to my unique tastes). Of course, if I could go back to any show in a time machine, it would be the Harmonic Convergence show in 1987, but a close second would be this run back east.

Grateful Dead Played Better on the East Coast?

I have to admit, although I've seen some great shows, I never saw the band firing on all cylinders like this run.  It features huge stretches of flawless and inspired performances by Jerry. Of course, he is just newly playing the "Lightning Bolt" guitar which allowed him to play easily and fluidly compared to the previous Doug Irwin guitars. To those who disparage the "acoustic tone" of Lightning Bolt, I would urge them to listen to Jerry reinvent some old tunes during this run (I write a lot more about Lightning Bolt here).

Again, I have listened to show recordings for the 17 Grateful Dead shows I went to and they just don't compare to the band in Boston during this run (possible exception was the Sunday night Vegas show I saw in 1994).  Shoreline (aka Snoreline) shows in particular pale in comparison.

I have come to the undeniable conclusion that the band played better on the East Coast (specifically New York, Philadelphia, and Boston).

Audio and Video Links and More Discussion about These Shows

I found one youtube video of a complete concert from these shows (the 3rd of 6 shows - Sunday, 9/26/93 thanks Voodoonola!). I'm going to post links to the recordings for all these shows.

Then down below  the video, I am going to maybe weigh in on some specific thoughts and highlights from these shows (I do this way down the page so that the person who may be hearing these for the first time can listen without knowing the setlist and enjoy the surprise of the show).

Some Random Thoughts from This Historic Boston Run
This show is great, but I wasn't listening as closely because I didn't realize it was such a monumental run. Any show with Scarlet/Fire is great and the Days Between was good as well.
This first set is ridiculous.  There is an absolutely incredible Loser and the Cassidy/Deal closer shows Jerry playing at a magical level.   The Foolish Heart is always an ambitious choice and this is a "pretty good" version (very long).  Crazy Fingers and The Wheel are 2 of my favorite songs and make the 2nd set a winner, but overall, the 1st set owns the night.
So it was during this tape that I really started realizing how great this run is.  High Time (first set) and Ship of Fools (2nd set) are rare and awesome to hear especially in the same show.  The Standing on the Moon closer and Rain encore left me speechless.
This is the only show that I didn't have the soundboard of so I listened to the audience recording from  More of the band and Jerry playing great.  A great China/Rider and a personal favorite Attics of My Life highlight this show.  The ending Throwing Stones then Good Lovin' and then US. Blues encore just further highlight how much more special the Dead seemed to treat their East Coast runs.
Sugaree and Dire Wolf highlight the first set, and the surprising/disappointing (choice) Tennessee Jed set closer is redeemed when the band comes out and opens the 2nd set with Eyes of the World. Terrapin is great and the surprising Playin' Reprise is great coming out of Space.
This is my favorite show of this run...  Here Comes Sunshine is incredible and the Candyman and Stagger Lee are played really well although you can hear Jerry's voice is really struggling...I think it was the last show of Fall Tour. If you really want to hear how clear and beautiful Lightning Bolt sounded, listen to the opening notes of Candyman from this show.... that guitar just cut through clear as a bell.

Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds is a personal favorite so as 2nd set opener I think that's great.  Crazy Fingers played for the 2nd time this run and is good (Stagger Lee is also played twice on this run and it's one of my all time favorites with Crazy Fingers so you can imagine how much extra that makes me like this run and this show in particular).  Jerry plays some great guitar at the end of He's Gone (during the "ooooh nothing's gonna bring him back..."), I've never heard him play like that during this part of the song.

Other One>Wharf Rat is not a sequence I like that much but instead of the usual Lovelight after they switch it up and go to Not Fade Away where Jerry plays and sings just incredibly (what happened to the 1st set hoarseness I have no idea).  The show ends on such a high note and then of course what else could end a 6 night run (and tour) better than Brokedown.... perfection.

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.