1 of 1 thought this review was well writtenReckoning
, a pleasant live recording easily sets itself apart from numerous other live Grateful Dead albums. Reckoning
is completely acoustic. Each song is as bare and unplugged as it could get for this Root Rock/Psychedelic six piece. Throughout this sixteen track epic the Grateful Dead tackle musical explorations of their roots. Dark Country-Western, Folk, and various other genres fill Reckoning
in a diverse and catchy way. They halt at no point in time to play their former Psychedelic style. With that loss, Reckoning
is a special album that is one of a kind for the Grateful Dead, and is in many ways overlooked.
Though the Grateful Dead’s roots lie in acoustic music, they as a Rock band did not venture further than electric instruments during live events. However, they would commonly use acoustics during recorded album. Albums such as American Beauty
and Workingman’s Dead
(The band’s two biggest hits) had numerous amounts of acoustical tracks. Each usually played with electric instruments during live settings. For instance, the hit acoustic “Friend of the Devil". Undoubtedly acoustic on album, but very rarely played acoustic live. So, it is of course a treat to listen to the Dead play their songs and covers (both acoustic and electric) in an acoustic format.
was released during the year of 1981. A year and era that did not bring fame nor Roots music for the Grateful Dead. The musical styling on Go to Heaven
and Terrapin Station
was common and normal. The closest connection to acoustically played music at the time would be Jerry Garcia’s collaborations with mandolin genius David Grisman. Who he would commonly play with throughout the late eighties to the mid nineties.
Instrumentally, there is no reason to complain about Reckoning. Garcia’s acoustic skills at the time are not as ranked high nor as polished as they would be in later years, but they are none the less filled with talented and great playing. To fit the acoustic scene, drummers Mickey Hart and Billy Kreutzmann downsize their sets. They include one tiny acoustic drum set and a select number of bongos and hand drums. Each drummer takes turn swapping positions throughout the album. Also, Phil and Bob harmonize with Mickey and Billy great. It is rare that the skills of the Grateful Dead are not up to par with the other bands of their era.
, like the Dead’s debut, contains various traditional numbers. Each add an interesting variable to the Grateful Dead and show their sense of musical knowledge. Actually, some of the traditional numbers are highlights. The beautiful melodies of “Been All Around this World" have me turning to it during each listen of album. The raw emotion Garcia exposes through the lyrics bring a sound rarely heard on the album and truly needed. “Been All Around this World" which was also a hit for Jerry Garcia & David Grisman’s collaboration contains powerful and interesting themed lyrics. The beautifully sung “Upon the Blue Ridge Mountain, is where I’ll make my stand. Upon the Blue Ridge Mountain is where I’ll take my stand. With a rifle on my shoulder, six shooter in my hand. Oh lord, I’ve been all around this world." make the seventh track excellent. Following the previous described track, the Grateful Dead play the happy “Monkey and The Engineer". That very song plays a large role in the history of the band. Former member Ron “Pigpen" McKernan, Jerry Garcia, and Bob Weir played the song back during their jug band days with the other members of Mother McCree’s Uptown Jug Champs. That traditional highlight, though simple and short, is highly catchy and memorable. Mr. Weir sings it with a positive attitude and does no wrong for the tale of the monkey and the engineer. And finally, the last definite traditional highlight would have to be the dark “Jack-A-Roe". A Country-Western tune based upon the common three chord Folk progression. Garcia leads the six piece with both his guitar playing and his voice. Jerry alone makes the track highly memorable.
Like the traditional top songs, there are numerous original. The greatest one being the intro, “Dire Wolf". An interestingly written horror piece with an upbeat vibe and attitude. Jerry adds a touch of difference when substituting his guitar skills for his pedal steel guitar usage on the Grateful Dead’s early roots album Workingman’s Dead
. Bob Weir is featured singing his original “Cassidy". “Cassidy" was actually released off of his first solo effort Ace
. But like many solo songs by various members, they are commonly played by the Dead. In fact, the every Grateful Dead member played as Weir’s back up band on Ace
. Weir’s “Cassidy" brings the a rush of Folk to the double Lp. Lastly, the Grateful Dead end Reckoning
with a fantastic recorded track, that is just as fantastic live. “Ripple" closed the album perfectly. The sound of those opening notes signals the audience to scream more so than ever, and the Jerry’s beautiful vocals enter. The rest of the song is graced with both flawless playing, and wonderful harmonies. A perfect ending for a fabulous album.
To many, Reckoning
isn’t even a quality live Dead album. Though I disagree, there is no doubting that it almost stands alone in a rare section of the Grateful Dead live vault. Reckoning
deserves a 4/5.
Jerry Garcia - Guitar
Phil Lesh - Bass
Bob Weir - Guitar
Brent Mydland - Keyboard
Mickey Hart - Drums and Percussion
Billy Kreutzmann - Drums and Percussion