GRATEFUL DEAD: INVENTIVE, EXCITING MUSIC
The Grateful Dead at the Hollywood Bowl Saturday night played improvisational music that was inventive, moving, exciting and inspired. When they were doing their simpler, more country oriented stuff, it seemed almost as if they were slacking off, almost as if they were just filling in time.
Perhaps the lesson is that the simple approach can be just as pleasing and worthwhile as the more complex. Or maybe the lesson is only that the Dead, in their less inspired moments are still better than 95 per cent of the bands around today.
Their style – or styles – can only be described as Grateful Dead. For while country is very noticeable in their recent work, the blues, rock and jazz amalgam is strictly their own. Again, while neither Phil Lesh’s nor Gerry Garcia’s voices is perfect, they lend the music a feel that is distinctly the Dead.
As is customary, they played long enough (over two hours with intermission) for even the most avid Dead freaks to be at least partially sated. The only problem with their selections, including magnificent jams, was that there wasn’t time for more. There could be few complaints when they played “I Know You Rider,” “Sugaree,” “Sugar Magnolia,” “Casey Jones” and “Trucking.”
As beautiful as their songs are, the real treat of any Dead concert is the improvisations they run off their songs. Early in the evening, the jams, although shorter than in previous years, lacked nothing. However, for a period after intermission the normal Dead togetherness seemed to falter.
At the end of “Trucking,” the drummer slipped into a solo which lacked cohesiveness and seemed like something out of a battle of the bands contest. Then Garcia and Lesh began chasing a musical idea and missed, leaving them in something of a hole, trying to sketch something out of notes that didn’t seem to be there. The drummer and bass player seemed not only unable to help but determined to make things worse.
They managed to escape for a short period into a more familiar piece and then, with a great deal of courage, began again toward the musical idea that had eluded them the first time. This time they found a path for the early picked treble notes and then pushed the piece into a writhing vortex of atonality. After their trip into the whirlpool of sound they pulled themselves back out again, this time with success.
It is this kind of commitment to excellent music (in this case, the willingness to risk failure in order to achieve something worthwhile) that makes the Dead one of the major groups today. For while they may not sell the most records, or play to the biggest audiences, they continue to grow and produce the kind of music that is greatly rewarding both on the musical and personal levels.
Appearing with the Grateful Dead was New Riders of the Purple Sage, a group playing in the soft country manner, with occasional hip lyrics. Their smooth style is as something [sic – soothing] as honey down a sore throat.
(by Chris Hosford, from the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner, June 20 1972)
Hosford thinks Weir is Phil Lesh - otherwise this is one of the better concert reviews. He is a fan, and clearly more interested in the "magnificent jams" than in the newer country-oriented songs - though he likes even those enough to say that "the only problem with their selections was that there wasn't time for more." (The new song Sugaree is again singled out as an audience favorite.)ReplyDelete
"As beautiful as their songs are, the real treat of any Dead concert is the improvisations" - here he goes into perhaps the lengthiest description of a Dead jam I've seen in any newspaper review, as he goes through the Truckin'>drums>Other One jam. Though he didn't like the drum solo and found part of the jam uninspired, he was still impressed enough by their improvisational commitment and "willingness to risk failure in order to achieve something worthwhile."
It's interesting to compare his reaction to the tape, as well - up until the first verse of the Other One, to him the band seemed to be struggling or "chasing a musical idea and missing, leaving them in something of a hole," which isn't apparent in the recording - it's a typically strong '72 Other One, without any faltering of "the normal Dead togetherness." Perhaps his ears weren't ready to hear what they were up to, but in any case it's a reminder that the music could come across very differently in person than on tape. He liked the rest of the jam though, including the "writhing vortex of atonality"!
I like how he thinks Garcia's first name is short for Gerald rather than Jerome. :-)ReplyDelete