.
http://assets-s3.rollingstone.com/assets/images/album_review/c8461c956001b2b5c6ae118a320ddd448e03a59b.jpg History of the Grateful Dead, Vol. 1 (Bear's Choice)

The Grateful Dead

History of the Grateful Dead, Vol. 1 (Bear's Choice)

Rolling Stone: star rating
Community: star rating
5 0 0
September 27, 1973

I can't say too much for old Bear's taste, considering the wealth that must exist in the library of Dead concert tapes. But Volume One of The History of the Grateful Dead consists of selections from a pair of late 1970 dates in which the band was still making the transition from acidic filmstrip music to Merle Haggard style countrified truckinisms. Workingman's Dead had just come out and the band's live performances included tunes from every corner of the American pop songbook.

So Pigpen's rasping and thoroughly boozed rendition of the hoary idiot's lament, "Katie Mae," ain't much of a treat and reflects how oiled the cat was most of the time. "Dark Hollow" continues the side's acoustics with Lesh and Garcia on cracked harmonies. Not a whole lot happens. Pig takes the mike again for the agnostically numbing "I've Been Around This World," surpassed in boredom only by the following track, a lame, comically painful version of "Wake Up Little Suzy." I always got a little erotic hit when I thought of the social implications of the Everly Brothers' original, but Bob (Bobby Ace) Weir comes off a li'l smarmy in the Don Everly parts.

Garcia's "Black Peter," a beautiful tune in the best Workingman's spirit, ends the side on a suitably depressing note. If it was meant as a memorial to the Dead's perpetually crapulated organist, harp player and resident shaman, the side doesn't really make it. The Pig was at his height from '66 to '68, and there must be some funky tapes in the can to document it.

Side two is worth the price of the LP if you fancy longer deadly rambles. "Smokestack Lightning" is a 20-minute chugger that starts out real slow, like a locomotive, like the band on hot nights in 1970 when they were dropping in on various college gyms during the post-Kent State student strikes and playing benefits for whatever movements happened to be in the right place at the right time. Pigpen's on harp, Lesh's wolfian howls are cute in their California punyness and Garcia is forever noodling around for new ways out of his guitar vocabulary. The crazy old blues becomes truckin' music in this incarnation, complete with the typical hush-up trick of everyone slowing down and listening to long doodled one-note guitar thoughts, petering out to the eventual soporific standing ovation. At least it's electric.

But "Hard To Handle" is a classic in a terrific deadly way, one of the perfect exasperating hustling shuffles that the band began to excel in after most of the acid wore off. Garcia is at his best, the vocal cooks and the band is tight and quick. Not worth the whole four bills that Bear's Choice lists for, but it's a solid 89¢ worth, at least. Volume Two should be better.

prev
Album Review Main Next

ADD A COMMENT

Community Guidelines »
loading comments

loading comments...

COMMENTS

Sort by:
    Read More
    Around the Web
    Powered By ZergNet
    Daily Newsletter

    Get the latest RS news in your inbox.

    Sign up to receive the Rolling Stone newsletter and special offers from RS and its
    marketing partners.

    X

    We may use your e-mail address to send you the newsletter and offers that may interest you, on behalf of Rolling Stone and its partners. For more information please read our Privacy Policy.

    Song Stories

    “San Francisco Mabel Joy”

    Mickey Newbury | 1969

    A country-folk song of epic proportions, "San Francisco Mabel Joy" tells the tale of a poor Georgia farmboy who wound up in prison after a move to the Bay Area found love turning into tragedy. First released by Mickey Newbury in 1969, it might be more familiar through covers by Waylon Jennings, Joan Baez and Kenny Rogers. "It was a five-minute song written in a two-minute world," Newbury said. "I was told it would never be cut by any artist ... I was told you could not use the term 'redneck' in a song and get it recorded."

    More Song Stories entries »
    www.expandtheroom.com