I have always struggled with the Grateful Dead. Alternating between brilliance and abject boredom for me they have never made sense as America’s band as they seem to have become lauded. I always thought of them more as a bunch of stoners done good, the musical equivalent of Tommy Chong.
For hours friends have attempted to convert me to the Dead. I saw the show, met the fans and ran away in fright. I even put up with the Phil Lesh band once just so as I could get to see Dylan. Dylan was on form, Phil Lesh just solidified my opinion of all things Dead, that you have to fucked up to fully get the show and that is not a place I have ever had much luck getting to.
There are however two exceptions to my Dead rule though. One is the Dead’s output in 1972, it is fun and engaging and the best the band ever sounded. Yes there are exceptions but nothing a really great self created compilation wouldn’t help you out with. The other is New Riders of the Purple Sage.
A band that started out as a side project but grew to be a fun filled country rock power house(over exaggeration apparent there) Anyway a lot more fun than the self reverential Dead in 1969 the first New Riders album is a great show case for the exquisite songwriting of John Dawson and Jerry Garcia’s first foray into Pedal Steel territory.
Picked up at the expense of Mr Dejected and definitely one of the best finds this week. This was the album Dave managed to use to convince me that there was hope for the Dead and there offshoots. Dave would literally buy everything that had a member of the Dead or the Airplane on it. This would often lead to some terrible late afternoon listening sessions as we waited for the pub to open. In this case however it led us back to the record store to look for more New Riders. It contained all the twang of Clarence White Byrds with that laid back almost comatose feel of the Dead, it also has Lost Lonely Eagle which may be one of the best songs written.
Tonight was also the night for Graham Nash’s album Wild Tales. The album cover is a little unsettling, maybe reminiscent of the state you need to be in in order to fully appreciate a Dead show. Or maybe it is just a reflection of Nash’s state of mind.
I had always heard that this was not as good as Songs for Beginners which is not true at all. It is darker but the songwriting stands up. He has always been the poppier songwriter among the law-firm of CSNY. Maybe it is Mancunian roots that make him want to just write a catchy song.