GRATEFUL DEAD RETURN; NEW SOUNDS - OLD STYLE
Those of you who have seen the Dead recently know that they are into a straight hard rock thing. This is a reversion to their early sound, and up until now the best representation of the group has been on a live album made in 1966 (Vintage Dead, Sunflower records). The Dead's current style has alienated a lot of their old fans from the period when they were into long improvisationals filtered through a lot of acid and general flower punk mysticism.
It seems that sometime between the release of Live Dead and Workingman's Dead, Garcia and his boys got turned onto beer and steel guitars; it was a great gimmick for Workingman's Dead, and the image of the group as post psychedelic era rednecks served as a decent vehicle for Jerry Garcia's steel guitar and Bob Weir's background tomes...unfortunately the boys took it to heart and recorded an album full of bucolic whimsy called American Beauty. American Beauty did and still does sound like out takes from Workingman's Dead.
These days Jerry Garcia has his spin-off group, New Riders of the Purple Sage, as an outlet for his pickin' and grinnin', and Bob Weir has been listening to old R&B 45's. The result is on the group's new album, Grateful Dead, which is such a reminiscence trip it's enough to scare you off. (The title and personnel are the same as their first disc, and the cover is a reproduction [of a] 1966 Avalon Ballroom poster.)
Instead of just a memory exercise, the new Dead album is a logical extension of everything they have done, well...you see, there's a few long improvisations, and there's easy to take folksy stuff for all the new fans...and then by the time the second album in the double set comes on and things start to drag, Jerry Garcia hits a damn familiar riff and jesus christ if the whole band doesn't play the hardest sounding Johnny B Goode since the Steve Miller Band backed up Chuck Berry in 67...things go uphill from then on, and it sounds better the second time.
The album should be titled The Grateful Dead Play Hard Rock...and they play it as good as anyone else. The new Dead album and the Allman Brothers' live album are the only two indispensable sets I've heard yet this year, no doubt about it, everyone has to hear them once.
(by Charles Eschweiler, from the Behrend Collegian, 7 October 1971)
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FOR THE RECORD
GRATEFUL DEAD (Warner Bros. 2WS 1935) - This double record set has been out two months now, but it's so good I couldn't let it pass without comment.
The Dead, a San Francisco group, used to be one of the noisiest, [most] outrageous groups around. That was in the mid-sixties. However, two years ago they took up the country flavor in their
Workingman's Dead album and continued it in American Beauty.
made the Dead a commercial success. This new album, recorded live in
several halls, is also making money. Lots of it.
The Dead deserve it.
Their playing is as free and musical as any group around. It is also
intelligent, disciplined, and controlled.
Is it contradictory to say they
are free and disciplined? Listen to the medley "Not Fade Away" and
"Goin' Down the Road Feeling Bad."
Jerry Garcia, lead guitar, Bob Weir,
rhythm guitar, and Phil Lesh, electric bass, have a ball weaving
melodies around the other, and doing it so subtly that most people will
The best thing about the medley is that it doesn't stop. And
you can listen to [it] again and again, still captured by the rhythm, and be
intrigued by the melodic lines.
"Bertha," "Me and My Uncle," "Playing in
the Band"-- the same for all these songs too.
What keeps the Dead from
being phenomenal is their voices. They're not bad, but they're not
strong or particularly sensitive either. "Me and Bobby McGee" is
instrumentally fine, but in no way does it compare to Janis Joplin's
Onlv one song was too long -- "The Other One" which runs the
length of one side. Drummer Bill Kreutzmann keeps the group moving, but
when he solos, he can't keep himself moving.
The Dead get an A minus.
(by Jay Shore, from the Santa Cruz Sentinel, 2 January 1972)
See also other reviews of the album: