With San Francisco’s own Grateful Dead flying high with success and consistency, Warner Brothers Records decided to pull a move that that could easily shatter the future for a bright band or enroll them for a new era of success. They (Warner Brothers) decided to allow each Grateful Dead member to record a solo musical recording; three members jumped towards the opportunity. Fortunately, each had managed to put together a fine piece of work that would only add to the consistency of the Grateful Dead Family Band.
One of the three to release a solo album was young Bob Weir; an occasional front man with little experience, who few had hope for. But of course, who would expect young Weir to do that great? Not only had he almost been kicked out of the band, but he was the youngest member of the Grateful Dead and was not what you called the greatest musician. However, against all expectations, the former child delinquent managed to put together a well thought out piece of work. But of course he was not alone while putting the album together.
When the new from Warner Brothers finally hit, Mickey Hart, Bob Weir and Jerry Garcia took the opportunity to make a solo album. Each had different plans and expectations. Garcia for example wanted to go everything by himself (Minus drums), and he would. Unlike Jerry, Weir hadn’t been to sure if he would like his piers to join in the production of his album Ace
. However, with enough persuading, the group managed to work their way into his album. Because of the Grateful Dead being present throughout the making of Weir’s solo debut, the musicianship is fantastic. It’s a rare day when you hear complaints regarding Jerry Garcia’s pedal steel work on “Looks like Rain" or Phil Lesh’s bass work throughout the album. Also, because the Grateful Dead had actually played a large role on this album, they would continue to play these tracks live through their career. If that wasn’t enough, along side the Grateful Dead, Jerry Garcia’s writing companion, Robert Hunter, and Bob Weir’s writing partner John Perry Barlow joined in during the writing process. With the help of Hunter and Barlow, the writing was of course fantastic and full of great methods and techniques.
Altogether, Bob Weir surpassed everyone’s expectations, and made a next to perfect album. However, though [i]Ace[/] is most certainly a terrific album, it was not necessarily the best studio album released from the Grateful Dead that year. Both Jerry Garcia and Mickey Hart put together albums that most certainly deserve mentions. Jerry Garcia’s Garcia
and Mickey Hart’s Rolling Thunder
are definitely some of the groups’ members’ greatest achievements throughout their careers.
starts off quite well with a story, in fact the “Greatest Story Ever Told". Though Weir’s intro cannot live up to the title, this opener is done fantastically. It tells the story of various Biblical figures in the book of Genesis. The stories are directly from the Bible, but of course altered for style. Ex. “Moses came riding up on a guitar". The music is done very nicely, especially the leads guitar lines; the lines flow wonderfully and fill empty space perfectly. I’ve always been a fan of biblical based Grateful Dead (and related) songs, and this has always been one of my favorites.,
Following the “Greatest Story Ever Told" comes a slightly depressive song with an odd main riff and some definite Country influence. “Black-Throated Wind" would be the first Bob Weir and John Perry Barlow song showcased on Ace
. The writing contains a variety of well thought out reference; similar to Robert Hunter. This is overall a good tune, however the lead riff occasionally drive me crazy.
Here comes the upbeat medium paced Rock tune I’ve been waiting for. From the first words spoken till the final syllables, Bob Weir preaches of how to keep control and how to “Walk in the Sunshine". Weir is consistently soulful through this piece, and because he is, it adds a nice little touch. Next up is a Grateful Dead fan favorite - “Playing in the Band". Some believe the live versions never live up to the recorded, I would disagree, but the recording version is done wonderfully. The music and vocals are done greatly, and the style changes so much, that it never gets old. Along with the constant freshness, this tune also contains some biblical reference that I enjoy. This seven minute track is certainly one of the album’s strong points, as well as the Grateful Dead’s, let alone Bob Weir’s.
To open the second half of the album, Bob Weir uses “Looks like Rain". “Looks like Rain" is a depressive Country-Rock tune that is definitely my least favorite song on the album. Jerry Garcia’s pedal steel work is a treat, but the writing isn’t anything special and it is too emotional for my liking. Also, the melodies aren’t too catchy. On top of all of that, it is the second longest song on the album. Luckily, following the too emotional “Looks like Rain" is one of my early Grateful Dead favorites, “Mexicali Blues"; a ballad (In the correct definition of the word) with an old western theme. Old Western/Cowboy themes are one of the attributes I’ve always loved about the Grateful Dead. “Mexicali Blues" is a tragedy, but had an upbeat, old saloon rhythm too it. The music is just one of the finest parts of this terrific tune. It’s hard to find a better song than “Mexicali Blues".
Next up is another Grateful Dead/Bob Weir favorite. “One More Saturday Night" is an old fashioned upbeat Rock and Roll tune, similar to Chuck Berry. The guitar playing is wild, the lyrics are about rebelliousness and generally good times, and the vocalist is always hollering. “One More Saturday" is very entertaining, and there’s no secret why it’s so popular; it’s just done so well.
To close the album is a tribute. Bob Weir and John Perry Barlow combine both general literature reference and thoughts of the On the Road
and Beatnik hero Neal Cassady to form a terrific exit. “Cassidy" is written wonderfully and played just as nice. However, it’s the thought that makes the song worth while. “Cassidy" would be the second track to mention friend Neal Cassady (The other is “That’s it for the Other One"), and is very interesting just because of it. Mainly because Cassady himself was just very interesting. Through his escapades with writer Jack Kerouac to his rides “Further" with Ken Kesey, The Merry Pranksters and The Warlocks ( Soon to be known as the Grateful Dead), Cassady was a wild guy that is perfect to write a song about, especially after he had died. Great end to a very nice album.