From the early sixties to the seventies, Bob Dylan was probably America's greatest act. Even the other big artists, were influenced by him. His early Folk style paved the way for bands like The Byrds, Country Joe and The Fish, Buffalo Springfield, and The Grateful Dead to get fans through their Folk and Country side, and helped them get noticed. Through the late sixties and seventies his lyrics were as amazing as ever, if not better. And his influence was growing. He took interests in Rock n Roll, Blues, Gospel, and continued to act on his earlier influences of Country, and Folk. By the end of the eighties though, his fame was less significant.
The Grateful Dead
- From the mid sixties to the mid nineties they were one of America's strangest and popular bands. Though, they had much more of an underground following compared to a mainstream following. There influence was possibly greater than any other band to this day. They played, and took influence from Bluegrass, Country, Folk, Blues, Rock n Roll, Hard Rock, Psychedelia, World, Middle Eastern, Reggae, and various others. Each member wrote lyrics. But mainly Jerry Garcia with his fellow writing partner Robert Hunter, and Bob Weir with his writing partner John Barlow. The lyrics are surely some of the best ever heard. The band's technical ability was also higher than most's at the time, and it still remains high today. Whether, it's Jerry Garcia's banjo influenced noodle rambling, or Phil Lesh's unique lead bass lines. By 1989 The Dead were still selling out concerts and getting leagues of fans by the day.
During 1989, The Grateful Dead and Bob Dylan set out to put a live album out together. Since Bob Dylan was by himself and The Grateful Dead were a group, they considered Bob Dylan to be the guest. So, they would play his songs. The album surely has some highlights, but overall I have never been that find of it. The album seems lifeless, and Dylan and The Grateful Dead have done better collaborations together. Instrumentally, I find the album good. But obviously, fabulous playing is not always relevant when it comes to making good music.
Like many live openers, this one opens with the sounds of a scream cloud. A fabulous groove enters, led by some interesting guitar playing. And Dylan sings with that famous raspy voice he has always been famous for. The guitar playing has a swirling sounds. The dual rhythm guitar playing, as well as the lead playing definitely give off that particular effect. The lyrics are of course a bit hard to understand, but this song is mostly based upon attitude and accents. I preferred Dylan's voice back when he attempt to pronounce the words back in his earlier years. But he still sounds good. The chorus is quite powerful, well powerful when talking about two non heavy bands. The backing vocals have always sounded very fresh to me. Each in perfect unison. Pretty good song, nothing to really get all hyped up about. 3.9/5
I Want You
Here is a song that has always annoyed me. Particularly the chorus. Instrumentally, the groove is extraordinarily catchy. The pounding organ, the perfect timed drumming, and the great bass lines make it instrumentally fun. Dylan's voice sounds like he has an apple stuck in his throat. The lyrics can not be understood at all. Each verse's lyrics (*noises) sound great, and are definitely a highlight of the song. But what I really like about this track is a particular solo that Jerry gives off. It matches the songs main phrase perfectly, and is jazzed up fantastically. 2.9/5
Gotta Serve Somebody
This is a nice rhythmic piece. The drum and bass work is some of the best on the album. Once again though, it is extremely hard to understand the lyrics, but the harmonies and melodies are great. There is some mystique added to the song, which always makes me curious and interested. The guitar work is okay. Nothing that fabulous, but nothing to complain about at all. The Dead at this time are definitely a better live act then Dylan, and it just shows through the playing and vocals abilities during the album. There isn't much of a jam to it. There actually are not many jams on the whole album. I guess The Grateful Dead just didn't want to bore Dylan, or it had a much different reason all together. Not that great. 2.7/5
Queen Jane Approximately
"Queen Jane Approximately" is a slow soothing tune, with great rhythmic patterns. A strange combination of Brent Mydland's piano and Dylan and Weir's guitar playing is used here. Speaking of Brent Mydland, I believe this was his last album with The Grateful Dead before he died :(. Dylan's vocals are once again not that great, but the song is catchy and easily remember in my case. Other than the organ and guitar combination, I really like Mickey Hart and Billy Kreutzmann's drumming. They have a great flow together, though i have heard better from them. I also really like Jerry's use of his guitar tone on this track. It fits the surrounding music very well. Pretty good song. It falls a bit short of perfect though. 4/5
"Joey" opens with a great riff that sounds just like something The Grateful Dead would play. Dylan's lyrics and voice come in and the sounds like "Stagger Lee" (An upbeat Grateful Dead song off of Shakedown Street
). I really like "Stagger Lee" and the harmonies and melodies are similar. They are very catchy. The song is led by Phil Lesh's lead bass line and Brent's pounding piano. Though I said there are not many jams on this album, this one is a jam, but it is greatly filled up with lyrics. A lot of them. I'm surprised how Bob Dylan can remember all of those. Pretty good song. 3.9/5
All Along the Watchtower
A classic Dylan track made famous by Jimi Hendrix. Though, I prefer Dylan's version much more, I would agree that Hendrix's is quite good. This version however, resembles both. The attitude has an obvious connection to Bob Dylan' (He is singing it!). But the lead playing resembles Hendrix's much more. Jerry's solos are very rapid and are almost over the top, just like Jimi Hendrix's playing. The song is good, but isn't as close to as good as Dylan's original or Jimi Hendrix's. It's a little boring, but I do like the guitar playing and the drumming. So, the song is just okay, I guess. 2.9/5
Knockin' on Heaven's Door
"Knockin' on Heaven's Door" is a song I've never cared for. Jerry Garcia and David Grisman did a great cover it awhile back on album The Pizza Tapes
. The song's vibe is epic though. The backing vocals, and Dylan's well written and interestingly theme lyrics are definitely amazing. Jerry's solos are very fitting, as are each of the other players' playing. Not need to complain about The Grateful Dead instrumentally on this album. Though, I have never really been a big fan of this song, I do quite like this version. They perform is very well. But I never though it lives up to it's fabulous and mysterious name. 4.3/5
Too many, I probably overrated this album. But I believe it deserves the ratings I gave it. It's definitely not as bad as many make it out to be. Plus, just the fact that it combines work from The Grateful Dead and Bob Dylan is amazing. I can't decide it the album deserves a 2.9/5
or a 3/5
. So you choose :).