Psychedelic substances have, over many years, recreationally provided people with some of the most painstakingly vivid images, thoughts, and emotions that the day to day functional basis of the human brain cannot achieve on its own. Colors, objects, and sounds all become purely vibrant and mind melting, to an extent that can almost lose touch with one’s sense of reality and dream. And to liken the experience that one undergoes while “tripping" on these substances, many musicians have tried to recreate the feeling through music. Thus, the world has given birth to the genre of psychedelic rock. Among these bands that recreated the psychedelic sound, one of the most famous, a San Francisco based jam band, under the alias known as The Grateful Dead, were one of the most popular. In 1969, after nearly seven years of releasing studio cut albums, The Dead released their first live album, entitled Live/Dead. Made to capture the dreamy fundamental nature of the Dead’s live set, Live/Dead contained some of the most dreamily rapturous psychedelic music to hit the music scene at the time. The epic introductory melodic sonnet, known as Dark Star, a twenty three minute tour de force was a sharp contrast to the band’s studio work. While such albums as American Beauty and Workingman’s Dead showed a funky, yet folksy side of the Grateful Dead, Live/Dead showed the more obscure, darker side to a psychedelic band’s set list. It also gave the Bay area jam band a few more jams to throw in at future shows.
The Grateful Dead have often been likened to the sonic equivalent of an acid trip. Rich sound, soothing, and an overall sense of euphoric emotion. Live/Dead thoroughly supports that statement. Dark Star alone, being clocked in at twenty three minutes, and seven seconds, distorts your sense of time enough to the point where you feel as if you have been listening to an hour long guitar solo. However, that does not make Live/Dead a tedious album, to any extent. Jerry Garcia, whose guitar melodies are what you hear for a good ninety percentile of this album (oddly enough, his voice is seldom heard when compared to the instrumental work), are uniquely special. As compared to the likes of fellow jam band guitarists from the San Francisco Bay, John Cippolina of Quicksilver Messenger Service, who is a rather talented soloist, Jerry Garcia is a very rudimentary, rhythmic player. His leads aren’t complex, yet very soothing and mellow, enough for you to relax to in a deep groove, almost as if in a trance. The odd time signatures and perplexingly soaring leads provide a rich wall of sound quality that any gigging band would kill for. In fact, every instrumentalist plays with this exact ease and groove. Bassist Phil Lesh works around chord progressions with fluid basslines and fills that reminisce of the groove and flow of reggae. The drumming is furious, with sharp accents and rolls, taking control of both the hihat and ride cymbals, and making sure offbeats and ghost notes don’t wander too astray from the central medium. An electric Hammond B-3 organ is even present for a concise time. Everyone solos to say the least, and throw in some bluesy covers and leads and you’ve got a fascinatingly deep album.
As all good things are shadowed in the face of mediocrity and fault, Live/Dead is no different from any other album with error. In fact, for such a distorting, yet euphoric record, Live/Dead is probably not a good choice for someone looking to approach the psychedelic genre for the first time. The song lengths are melodramatically lengthy, and stray too far off on jamming for any neophyte to even appreciate what is actually going on. And what would any god damned album be without one huge *** up? Well, as you may have noticed, psychedelic rock musicians are very fond of sound effects and sound manipulation- That means guitar distortion and signal crossing, with whatever effects Jerry Garcia feels like using. That also means feedback- Lots and lots of ***ing feedback. So much in fact, that the Grateful Dead actually decided to dedicate nearly eight minutes of time to how much feedback they could cram into a single set without being booed offstage. Did Jerry lose a ***ing bet or something? Jesus Christ. Maybe if he actually tweaked the sound and the notes after a while, the song overtly deemed “Feedback" could be considered as moderately bearing, but it is not. Oh, why could he just bend a string or tap the peghead or something? No, it’s just straight feedback. There are changes in pitch, if that makes it anymore interesting than before. I suggest you listen anyways, so you can all redefine what you believe to be considered annoyance.
Bar the time that it takes you to make a quality TV Dinner replaced with harsh guitar feedback, Live/Dead is a contender for the most fascinating live album of the hippie culture. Thought to provoke feelings of a trip on lysergic acid diethylamide, the Grateful Dead’s live set on an album cleverly titled Live/Dead is fascinating. Rich, deep, and vibrant in sound and emotion, one could concur that the Dead do a job well done.
Sweet review. :cool: The Grateful Dead rock. I can't say I've heard this, or any of the songs off of it however.
I've got "Hundred Year Hall" and "Without A Net". "Truckin" = one of the greatest songs ever.
This was my first Grateful Dead album (note: not a good choice) and for some reason, the first time I was listening to it, I listened to it on shuffle. Well the first song that came up was And We Bid Goodnight, which I viewed as pure filler, and Feedback, which I couldn't get all the way through but viewed what I had heard as utter crap. Needless to say, it was a few months before I put the album on again. So yeah, not good for an introduction. But once I got into the Dead and started listening to it more, I loved it. In fact, it's definitely one of my favorite performances now. I'm not sure why I'm not giving this 5 stars. This Message Edited On 06.05.06This Message Edited On 06.05.06
Pretty good review, although I would've liked to see you touch on the two later parts of the DS>St. Stephen>Eleven chain or the tracks after that. Live/Dead is a classic, but as stated earlier not really a good place to start with the Dead. Hell, I remember when I got it (already a psychedelic fan and somewhat of a jam fan) I had trouble getting into it. It took a while for me to really appreciate the earlier Dead live sound, but it's worth it once you get there.
Nice review. So much so I'm almost persuaded to give this a listen. But the Dead are a band I simply have not been able to get into. I had an old cassette of live stuff one time and liked it ok. But just ok. The extended jams and just, I don't know? I just don't get it. Maybe I'm expecting too much....Good review, as always. But I can't bring myself to give them another try. This Message Edited On 06.06.06
I have about 7 albums of the Grateful Dead and this unfortunately happens to be one of them. I've listened to it many-a-time (I'm about to again after I finish typing out this post) and I can't find anything appealing about it. The Jams are a snooze fest and who ever is singing (is it Jerry?) is tripping way too hard to be in charge of vocals, the vocals are my biggest dislike here. Beyond their Country Rock material, I just can't get into these guys.
Great review and out of pure curiosity, have you ever done any sort of psychedelics before? Just wondering.....This Message Edited On 06.06.06
This review did inspire me to listen to this album yesterday/earlier today, and although some parts just don't really compare to other Dead shows, The Eleven>Lovelight was amazing. One of their great moments that I had forgotten about. I don't normally care much about Lovelight, but since I rarely listen to it, it's a great song ever now and then.
This version of the Eleven is just smoking though, I don't see how you could call it boring. Not liking it is fine, but it's far from the obscure sections of Dark Star that don't really have much happening in them. They really are flying for a couple minutes there.This Message Edited On 06.06.06