REVIEW: Grateful Dead: The Grateful Dead
Grateful Dead: The Grateful Dead [reissue] [Warner 1967/Rhino 2003]
Three words? Worst foot foward.
The Grateful Dead’s eponymous debut is a mixed offering. A collection of blues covers and Dead originals, it has its high points, but too often is trapped in lulls of banality.
Of the Dead originals, only the opening "The Golden Road (To Unlimited Devotion)" stands out with its snappy pace and catchy-as-SARS overlapping vocals on the chorus. "Cold Rain and Snow" and "Cream Puff War" do nothing innovative and lack the unpredictability of later Dead songs.
The covers vary in quality also. "Beat It On Down the Line" and "Morning Dew" are compelling moments, showing the Dead’s fun and introspective sides, respectively. But "Viola Lee Blues" goes nowhere and takes forever to do it. The tacked-on bonus material yields a few gems in the forms of "Alice D. Millionaire" and "Overseas Stomp (The Lindy)," but it is diminished by the two addition versions on "Viola Lee Blues" (36 minutes and 22 seconds of the CD is spent playing it) that close-out the record.
The Grateful Dead have a nucleus of good songs. But the little that is good is buried underneath a coating of uninspiring blues-posing, Santana-style noodle-solos, and dry production.