Arista Records will release Postcards of the Hanging, an album's worth of the Grateful Dead's live interpretations of Bob Dylan songs, on March 19th. David Gans, co-producer of 1999's So Many Roads (1965-1995) box set and host of the nationally syndicated radio program The Grateful Dead Hour compiled the ten live tracks, which span seventeen years -- the earliest being a 1973 version of "It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry" with Allman Brothers Band members Dickey Betts and Butch Trucks, and the most recent being a 1990 version of "Desolation Row." Also included is a rehearsal rendition of "Man of Peace" recorded by the Dead and Dylan during a rehearsal for their shared 1987 tour. Postcards' first edition (roughly 25,000 copies) will include a bonus disc featuring versions of "Queen Jane Approximately" and "Quinn the Eskimo."
"Part of my mission with The Grateful Dead Hour has been to shed light on the band's music from as many angles as possible," says Gans of the origins of the project. "A few years ago, I gathered all the Dead's Bob Dylan covers and did a three-week series on my show. I sent that collection to Peter McQuaid, the CEO of Grateful Dead Productions, and he took it to the band."
Gans, who has also authored three books on band -- including Conversations With the Dead, due to be re-published in expanded form by Da Capo Press in late March -- not only got the green light, but says Dead guitarist Bob Weir was actively involved in making the final selections for Postcards. "I listened to dozens of performances, picked a few possibilities for each title, and presented the options to Bobby on CD," Gans says. "We couldn't fit all of the Dylan covers on one disc, so I proposed which ones to include and which to omit. Bobby agreed with me on those decisions, and he selected his favorites from the options I sent to him."
Gans, also responsible for 2000's Stolen Roses: Songs of the Grateful Dead compilation -- which featured interpretations of Dead songs by artists like Elvis Costello, Patti Smith and Dylan himself -- got Dylan's blessing on the new project. "Bob Dylan's behind us all the way on this," Gans says. "In fact, his team made it possible for us to create the bonus disc with two more of the Dead's Dylan covers."
Postcards of the Hanging track listing:
"When I Paint My Masterpiece" (10/11/89)
"She Belongs to Me" (9/15/85)
"Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues" (7/12/89)
"Maggie's Farm" (10/3/87)
"Stuck Inside of Mobile With the Memphis Blues Again" (7/16/88)
"It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry" (6/10/73)
"Ballad of a Thin Man" (4/1/88)
"Desolation Row" (3/24/90)
"All Along the Watchtower" (7/4/89)
"It's All Over Now, Baby Blue" (12/3/81)
"Man of Peace" (6/9/87)