Thursday, May 21, 2009

Grateful Dead - Live/Dead

Grateful Dead - Live/Dead

Grateful Dead, "St. Stephen" (YSI link)

Grateful Dead, "Eleven"
(YSI link)

Wow, amazingly, we're back. I imagine that everyone has given up on Pound for Pound, as I kinda did too. But, things have calmed down and we are about to enter the Summer of Love '09 and you need Pound for Pound to guide your way through this epic season. That's right, 40 years later, it's time for a rebirth of the psychedelic vibes, epic jams and communal spirit. There's no better intro to that time than the Grateful Dead, those SF acid explorers who held it down on Haight-Ashbury and spilled LSD all over rock music.

These tracks are from the Live/Dead LP, possibly the greatest live record ever released (what are the other rock contenders?) It chronicles the peak of the band's psychedelic blues sound, early 1969 when the band was destroying various venues around San Francisco. The group was a septet at this point: Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, Ron 'Pigpen' McKernan, Billy Kreutzmann, Mickey Hart and Tom 'TC' Constanten. At this time, the band played a similar setlist every night and above are two of the staples from that time, "St. Stephen" and "The Eleven." I think that they are good openers for anyone knew to the Dead or this era of their music. Both songs stay away from the ether, staying on the rails for the most part. Coming in the wake of a massive "Dark Star," it's especially impressive to hear the band rein it all back and bring everyone back to earth with two of their most rollicking, fun songs.

The opening "Dark Star" is not to be missed; since I want you to buy the album, I'm not uploading here. You'll just have to trust me that this is one of the great versions the band ever did, a 23+ minute opus that starts with the band stating the theme and quickly ventures into outer space. Jerry leads the way, forcing the band to leave the safe confines of the opening verse. It's really amazing to hear the band interact, especially Jerry and Phil, sounds much more like a well-oiled jazz band than any rock band out there. Later, you get the more blues-y side of things, with a steller-as-always "Turn On Your Lovelight" with Pigpen as horny frontman and "Death Don't Have No Mercy".

Go immediately and buy a copy of Live/Dead now. We are gonna be giving you a soundtrack for the Summer of Love, this is the essential starting place.