BLUES-ROCK BEAT GOES ON
THE GRATEFUL DEAD
This album is different from what you might expect from looking at the psychedelic record jacket.
There are no electronic or weird noises (except for the conventional electric guitars) and no psychedelic lyrics. Rather, the group is similar in many ways to the blues-oriented Animals and Rolling Stones.
The Grateful Dead consists of Jerry Garcia, lead guitar; Bob Weir, rhythm guitar; Phil Lesh, bass; Bill Sommers, drums; and Ron ("Pig Pen") McKernan, organ and harmonica.
The lyrics of the songs have been accurately described by Lesh and Garcia, who do most of the writing, as "nonsensical and banal."
However, it is difficult to ascertain this from the record, as the instruments drown out the voices most of the time. The songs are for the most part rock-blues. There is only one slow song, "Morning Dew."
One mostly instrumental tune, "Viola Lee Blues," lasts ten minutes, in which the tempo gradually speeds up, the music slowly gets louder, and the pitch gets higher and higher, until a climax is reached and the beginning tempo is returned to.
"Cream Puff War" will probably become a hit. It is catchy, and the rhythm changes from 4/4 to 3/4 and to 1 several times, similar to the Beatles' "We Can Work It Out" time changes.
Besides the instrumental work being better than average, especially the organ, there is really nothing special about this album. The Grateful Dead are supposed to be one of the best groups in the San Francisco area. According to several reviewers and hippies, they are supposed to be fantastic in person.
To let the San Francisco sound go unspoiled, Warner Bros. gave the Grateful Dead a unique deal, allowing them complete control over material and production. It isn't that great.
(by Jackie Harper, from the "Record Reviews" column, Daily Aztec, 11 April 1967)
http://digital.sdsu.edu/view-item?i=171958 (page 5)