Music

The fuss about Grateful Dead

Reason to rejoice: Grateful Dead

Reason to rejoice: Grateful Dead  

Among classic rock fans, American group Grateful Dead has always evoked mixed reactions. There are some who wonder what the fuss is all about, and consciously stay away from them. On the other hand, there are the loyal devotees, called Deadheads, who are now collecting their work on vinyl. In that sense, Dead remains a cult band.

From observation, one could assume that in India, the most Deadheads are found in Kolkata, followed by Bengaluru. Mumbai may be third, but this is just a wild, unproven conclusion. One may, however, safely say the number of Deadheads is much lower than fans of The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Dire Straits, Queen, Doors, Eagles, Eric Clapton, Santana or Jethro Tull.

Blast from the past

Either way, Deadheads have reason to rejoice following the March 15 release of Electric On The Eel, a six-album live recording by The Jerry Garcia Band. The vocalist and guitarist of Dead, Garcia was hugely respected in the classic rock community, and his following remained even after his death in 1995 at the age of 53. For Deadheads, this collection - available on Spotify - is a must. It consists of three live shows recorded between 1987 and 1991 at French’s Camp near River Eel in California. While Garcia is in great guitaring form, he is assisted brilliantly by keyboardist Melvin Seals, bassist John Kahn, drummer David Kemper and backing vocalists Jaclyn LaBranch and Gloria Jones.

A four-LP package is also due for release on April 13, World Record Store Day. The set list is a mix of popular covers and Garcia’s own songs like ‘Run For The Roses’, ‘Gomoŕrah’ and ‘Deal’, which he co-wrote with Robert Hunter. There are fascinating versions of Bob Dylan’s ‘Tangled Up In Blue’, ‘Forever Young’ and ‘I Shall Be Released’, Eric Clapton’s ‘Lay Down Sally’ and Jimmy Cliff’s ‘The Harder They Come’.

A personal favourite is the laidback ‘Twilight’, penned by Robbie Robertson of The Band, with the interaction between guitar and keyboards here. In fact, throughout the album, keyboardist Seals is in perfect sync with Garcia.

Starting point

These live shows were held during the final phase of Dead’s recording career, when they had some great albums like In The Dark and Dylan And The Dead. The sound is very much in sync with some of the early albums, which used rock ‘n’ roll, psychedelia, folk, country and jazz-influenced improvisations. While one can safely say that the Eel collection is a must for Deadheads, it can also be recommended as a good starting point for those who stayed away from Dead or found its music highbrow. Just listen to the guitar and keyboards carefully, and there you go.

For this segment of rock listeners, most Deadheads love to suggest some of the earlier albums too. My list would include Live Dead, the first half of Blues For Allah and the complete Workingma/'s Dead, American Beauty and In The Dead albums. Remember that Dead takes a while to grow. But once it hits you, there’s little chance of stopping.

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Printable version | Feb 27, 2020 1:55:50 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/music/the-fuss-about-grateful-dead/article26611536.ece

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