Jan 12, 2016

1971: Historic Dead Review


It's the Grateful Dead and what more can you say. Not much, but.....'Historic Dead' is an album of four songs recorded in live performance(s) (the applause after each song hipped me to the fact), each many years ago. In one very huge way the album is a ripoff. The first side of the album contains less than fourteen minutes of music and the second side is only fifteen minutes long.
The album definitely sounds like it predates the Dead's first album released on Warner Bros, their regular label. It isn't today's perfected style of Jerry Garcia that you hear, with every note overflowing with emotion. But it is Jerry Garcia. And his "back then" is still special now. You can tell Garcia had his incredible style as far back as this album goes. And Phil Lesh, my nominee for best bass player ever, the first man who could get me to stop and listen to a bass player, isn't up to 1971's Lesh with his full, rolling sound but.....
The first song is 'Good Morning Little School Girl' and it started me off expecting a total ripoff. It's the same arrangement as on the Dead's first album, but five minutes longer. A harp is prominent, the leads are different, but it must be that it's just too similar a version. Even Garcia's runs didn't inspire me. Next came "Lindy" and it really perked things up. It's an old funky blues, jug band music. The Dead had a couple of updated jug band tunes on their initial album, this one is closer to the roots.
Side Two: 'Stealin'' is another classic blues. I love this song. It's been done by everyone. The Dead do a great version with the arrangement sounding more like the first album again. The song is highlighted by a fine organ that's a cross between something of Al Jolson's, a calliope, and the organ on 'Double Shot of My Baby's Love' by the Swinging Medallions. And finally, after only seventeen minutes of music, the twelve minute finish 'The Same Thing.' This one is when you get to hear Garcia, Lesh and company step on out a la 'Viola Lee Blues.'
If you like the first Dead album, you'll like 'Historic Dead' - what there is of it.

(by Michael, from the International Times (London), 18 November 1971)


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1 comment:

  1. This review calls the album a ripoff; Rolling Stone called it "absolute bottom of the bag;" the Dead were irritated by its existence and hoped everyone would forget it.
    Historic Dead was the second of a pair of records (the first was Vintage Dead) made from some 1966 live tapes and released by an MGM label to the Dead's dismay. It came without any liner notes or info on the album - this reviewer didn't know about Vintage Dead, didn't initially know this was a live album, and could only guess when it was recorded.

    As you might expect for someone picking a mysterious, unlabeled Dead record off the rack, this reviewer was a Dead fan. I assume he'd heard their new '71 live album, but he finds it more useful to compare this to their first studio album, which it resembles (and which, it turns out, was recorded only a month or two after the Avalon/Matrix shows on Historic).
    The Sunflower Records manager admitted, "The record buyer would have to be a Grateful Dead freak to be interested." This reviewer concurs: "If you like the first Dead album, you'll like Historic Dead."
    Though the Dead discussed releasing their own "Birth of the Dead" collection in the '80s, no more live songs from '66 would be released until 1999.