During the mid 1970's, The Grateful Dead were starting to get a little weird. That is if they already weren't weird. Though weird may not be the word, they were definitely covering stranger ground and producing odder music. The influence heavily changer. To be more specific, they went from Country and Bluegrass, to Reggae and Middle Eastern. Though they would occasionally lay down some Country tracks and every other kind occasionally. I couldn't tell you how the Middle Eastern influence came up, but the reggae influence came from Bob Marley. Garcia supposably got really into him during the early 1970's. And funny enough, The Grateful Dead are popular in Jamaica, which is of course Marley's home land.
The Grateful Dead's line up at the time was nothing very knew. They had the Godchaux couple, and the other members. They also featured both writers. Bob Weir's - John Barlow, and Jerry's - Robert Hunter. Surprisingly, Bob Weir actually performs a guitar solos! Which is in his beautiful "Sage & Spirit". The album contains a good amount of highlights also. The good feeling Reggae tune "Franklin's Tower. Which includes a very catchy catch phrase. "The Music Never Stopped", which brings the spotlight to Donna and Bob. And various others.
Help on The Way/Slipknot!
Quite a good opener! Actually it's one of my favorites in the album. The song has a very erie and progressive sound. Possibly a more sophisticated version of their old Psychedelic sound. The rythm guitar playing and the bass playing are the two main points of the vibe. And Jerry's lyrics are sang in a very creepy way, thus adding to the erie feel. "Help on the Way" runs on for a good three minutes. It's conclusion brings up the ever so popular "Slipknot!". Which was surprisingly written by each member, minus Donna and Mickey. The morph into "Slipknot" is rather hard to point out. Though it does go through a major key change, one could easily mistake it for just another solo. After all, they are a Jam Band. The solo is sort of the main point of "Slipknot". It is quite interesting, and only does good for the song and Garcia's reputation. As the solo runs out, the key may have changed again (It's hard for me to tell). But the song does take a new direction. It is much more based on the Phil's bass lines. The song will end soon after. Always great to listen to. 5/5
Great song! One of my favorites since I had first heard it. The song is surely a Reggae influenced track, and rhythmically it's fantastic. Garcia's tone on the lead guitar could not match both the vibe and the sound of the song any better. The lyrics have always seemed to be a bit mysterious to me (As is the rest of the album.). Plus, the song gives off a great line. Which is "If you plant ice, you gonna harvest wind.". Though, I do not understand what that exactly means, it is presented well and is interesting. Also, the drum and bass flow fantastically together, just like they should be during a Reggae song. Definitely catchy, great groove, influenced, fabulous. 5/5
King Solomon's Marbles
This two part (I. "Stronger than Dirt" II. "Milkin' the Turkey".) tune starts off with a thunderous arrangement of drums being pounded. From their The Dead turn the song into an obvious Jazz song. Possibly Free Jazz, but I'm no Jazz expert. Everything flows very oddly, but none the less does. Bill and Mickey are throwing in random rolls, while Phil is going up and done the neck. and Jerry's just soloin' away. Around two minutes, the song takes a much more structured approach, but retreats back to it's original free state. Keith's organ is also just soloing away. It sound great though, definitely something less heard from The Grateful Dead. The Grateful Dead also share the spotlight on this song quite equally, almost each member gets some fill time. Which is great. 3.5/5
The Music Never Stopped
Another highlight! This Bob Weir and John Barlow song combines a great amount of Funk and mystique. Which equals something odd. The lyrics are sang in a great soulful way. Particularly the chorus, it always makes me feel good. There is horn work also. But beside the great lyrics and just the overall song, Donna Jean is the highlight. Her voice sounds much better live, and though she doesn't use much power here, she sounds great. Jerry also adds a little of his voice. On top of it all, the bass lines are fantastic. Great song. 5/5
Most would say this is some of Robert Hunter's best work, lyrically. Well, it certainly is lyrically fabulous, but I don't know if I'd say it is his best. The song though, is pretty good. "Crazy Fingers" is another Reggae influenced song, but it is not presented similar to the others. It's slower, more emotional, and I guess is more soulful. The organ playing by Keith, actually gives the song a circus like feel too. Not much more to say. I've heard a few better live versions of this song though. Not much more to really say that hasn't been already said. 4.5/9
Sage & Spirit
Here is a beautiful piece, with interesting and very fitting guitar playing. The guitar playing and solo are mainly played by Bob Weir, and are based upon a warm up excersise he played. The song is an instrumental, and is complemented by some flute playing, and there are no drums. This really boosts up my liking for Bob. This is a fantastic song. Too bad I can not describe it well :(. 5/5
Blues for Allah
This conclusion is surely the oddest on the album. And most Middle Eastern influenced. The opening section is quite creepy. There is a good amount of percussion, and the lyrics are sang in a Gregorian chant fashion. The melodies are very odd. A few minutes later, the tune adds in the rest of the instruments. The playing is also very erie. The band (when the playing finally comes in) put in a pretty extensive jam, filled with musical oddities, and all around new sounds and playing methods. Until the next set of lyrics, the song goes through two major tempo and key changes, that are easily heard. The next set of lyrics are very repetitive and subtle. Donna's voice does a great job of adding excitement, though in the back ground. And finally, when the song is near it's end, the Gregorian chants come back. And the song ends. Meh, I have never been a fan of this song. 2/5
This is a great album, I always go through different phases with it, but as of now I'm thinking it deserves a 4.3/5