Shakedown Street

The Grateful Dead
Arista
15 November 1978

Produced by Lowell George

Cover illustration by Gilbert Shelton

TRACKS

side oneside two
Good Lovin’
(Resnick-Clark)
I Need A Miracle
(Bob Weir, John Perry Barlow)
France
(Bob Weir, Mickey Hart, Robert Hunter)
From The Heart of Me
(Donna Godchaux)
Shakedown Street
(Jerry Garcia, Robert Hunter)
Stagger Lee
(Jerry Garcia, Robert Hunter)
Serengetti
(Bill Kreutzmann, Mickey Hart)
All New Minglewood Blues
(Trad. Arranged by Bob Weir)
Fire On The Mountain
(Mickey Hart, Robert Hunter)
If I Had The World To Give
(Jerry Garcia, Robert Hunter)
Shakedown Street: The Grateful Dead (Arista LP, 1978)

CD Bonus tracks, 2006

Shakedown Street: CD Rhino 2006
Good Lovin’ (outake)
(Clark-Resnick)
lead vocal: Lowell George
Ollin Arageed
(Hamza El Din)
Live in Giza, Egypt 16 September 1978
Fire On The Mountain
(Mickey Hart, Robert Hunter)
Live in Giza, Egypt 16 September 1978
Stagger Lee
(Jerry Garcia, Robert Hunter)
Live in Giza, Egypt 15 September 1978
All New Minglewood Blues
(Noah Lewis)
Live at Capitol Theatre, Passaic, New Jersey 24 November 1978
CD bonus tracks, 2006. On all current CDs

Note the CD is in the enhanced HDCD format which works in normal CD players.

MUSICIANS

Jerry Garcia – lead guitar, vocal
Donna Godchaux – vocal
Keith Godchaux – keyboards, vocal
Mickey Hart – drums, percussion
Robert Hunter – lyrics
Billy Kreutzmann – drums, percussion
Phil Lesh – bass guitar
Bob Weir – guitar, vocals

Plus
Jordan Amarantha- percussion
Lowell George – lead vocal on Good Lovin’ bonus track
Msatthew Kelly- harmonica
Steve Schuster – horn, From The Heart of Me

CHART
US #41

RECORDING

Jerry Garcia had been using a warehouse in San Rafael, in Marin County as rehearsal / recording space for his own Jerry Garcia Band. It also stored the Dead’s famously massive tour amplification and lighting rig. and they decided to record the album there because they liked the ambience and sound in the space.

SLEEVE DESIGN

It’s my favourite Grateful Dead sleeve, drawn by the comic book illustrator Gilbert Shelton, best-known for creating The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers. and Fat Freddy’s Cat. He had earlier done the album illustration for Doug Sahm and Bad (1973). The front sleeve is based on the area of San Rafael (Front Street) where the warehouse / studio was located.

The character on the back cover and on the Good Lovin’ single was used in other Grateful Dead merchandising, and was known as The Invisible Pimp (aka The Doo-Dah Man).

GENERAL

This was a hard one to choose. I tried asking Deadheads which was the weakest Grateful Dead album. That’s a waste of time. After musing for ten minutes they’ll tell you it was a Minneapolis bootleg (afternoon show) from 1975 where they feel Dark Star stretching across the second and third CDs at a mere thirty-two minutes could have been a tad longer, as it was on the evening show from the same venue. So you restrict it to official releases, ignoring their plaintive comment that the Grateful Dead encouraged taping.

OK, I said, but something readily available. That takes us to the thirty-six multi-CD sets in the Dick’s Picks series. They’re on amazon, after all. Or perhaps the nineteen volumes in the Road Trips series from Grateful Dead Merchandising. No? Try the Dave’s Picks CD series. There are forty of them, mainly 3 CD sets, but for those who find those shows too truncated, there are some 4 CD sets in the series. They’re on amazon too. Just think those numbers. We are talking of around THREE HUNDRED live CDs. This reviewer is not going to assess them all. Or any of them.

So I set a rule. Studio albums only. I forget Deadheads live in a bubble. That causes consternation … there aren’t any bad ones.

Well, I could nominate the first three The Grateful Dead, Anthem of The Sun and Aoxomoxoa for starters (I do have the Golden Road box set). The trouble is that Workingman’s Dead and American Beauty are two of my all-time favourite albums, both easily in a “Top 100 of all time.” But no other albums would make my Top 1000.

So I’m not a Deadhead. Yes, I have a couple of the Dick’s Picks series, and Grayfolded.  We all know the oldest rock festival joke:

Q: What did the Deadhead say when the acid wore off?
A:  Jeez! This band really sucks!

There is as ever a grain of truth there. Watch Festival Express where The Grateful Dead sound weedy and uncertain in their daylight slot, easily wiped off the stage by The Buddy Guy Blues Band, The Band, and then by Janis Joplin with The Full Tilt Boogie Band. The Dead had two drummers, but they sound feeble and tippy-tappy. I know Mickey Hart is erudite on the history of drumming and styles, and people have praised him technically. He does nothing for me. My taste in drummers starts with Levon Helm and Ringo Starr, and runs on to Steve Gadd and Manu Katche. West Coast bands are united for me in having a bass player who towered over the drummer(s) in ability … Jack Casady in Airplane, Phil Lesh in The Grateful Dead, Chris Hillman in The Byrds.

All three bands were pretty much reviled on initial UK performances too. The Grateful Dead’s 1972 London shows attracted just about every British professional rock musician who was available, all wanting to see what the fuss about. After twenty minutes of farting around tuning-up, they got under way to reports that they were still way out of tune, followed by a mass exodus of the British rock musicians.

Eventually my enquiries led me to a consensus on first ‘The Godchaux era’ with Keith Godchaux on keyboards and Donna Jean Godchaux on backing vocals. This seemed unfair – they were basically employees, and hardly responsible for the main guys’ lack of inspiration. Then it was between Terrapin Station and Shakedown Street. I decided the latter was more reviled at the time.

Shakedown Street was a misguided effort to embrace both disco and soft rock rhythms in 1978. The “Disco Dead” album. I never bought the LP, just the CD. Yet, hang on, it was produced by Lowell George of Little Feat.

The issue was that the Grateful Dead were an incredibly successful live band. That’s what they did (to huge crowds too).

Jerry Garcia: I think we have a problem emoting as vocalists in the studio. And there’s a developmental problem, too. A lot of our songs don’t really stand up and walk until we’ve been playing them for a couple of years. And if we write them and try to record them right away, we wind up with a stiff version of what the song finally turns into.
Interview, Rolling Stone, 31 October 1991

They were also not tuned in to promoting new albums:

Jerry Garcia: I remember when Shakedown Street came out, Clive Davis (head of Arista) came to see us one night at Madison Square Garden and we didn’t play a single tune from the album. We don’t do it on purpose. 
Relix, August 1980

What the critics said

In this Reviled! seres, I usually find that after initial critical distaste for an album, there will be later revisionist opinions from people who actually like the album. I couldn’t find any here.

With few exceptions, Shakedown Street, rife with blind intersections, comes across as an artistic dead end. The punch that producer Keith Olsen provided on Terrapin Station, the Grateful Dead’s last LP, has all but vanished here, and Olsen’s successor, the usually reliable Lowell George, offers almost nothing to replace it … Both “Good Lovin'” and “All New Minglewood Blues” feature aimless ensemble work and vocals that Bob Weir should never have attempted. … “I Need a Miracle” sounds like an Englebert Humperdinck reject, Donna Godchaux’ “From the Heart of Me” is as clumsy as its title and “If I Had the World to Give” and “Stagger Lee” don’t even boast instrumental solos to offset their flaccid lyrics.
Gary von Tersch, Rolling stone, 8 May 1979

Lowell George has now succeeded in rendering this band completely commercial. Which is to say that Shakedown Street is probably the worst Dead album ever.
The Village Voice, 1979

It’s a rambling, shambling, under exercised goddam YAWN of an album. Lest the name Lowell George in the producer’s box suggests an ultimate summit meeting of dead legend with Little Feat steel, forget it. It sounds like ol’ Lowell had the blinds down and was sneaking a quick shut-eye while the GDs strolled through this relaxed, glossed collection of meandering pleasantries.
John Orme, Melody Maker, 1978

The success of Terrapin Station is measured by the fact that it’s over before you even start to get restless. Both Mars Hotel and Shakedown Street weren’t even up to that slight standard. TWO STARS **
John Milward, Rolling Stone Record Guide, 1980

I Need A Miracle is the first anthem any of these rabble-rousing necromancers has written in years. On the title tune however, Jerry once again warns against ‘too much too fast’ and this album definitely in’t the miracle they need. C
Robert Christgau, Christgau’s Guide To Albums of the70s.

The late 70s and 80s saw the Dead struggling to remain relevant amid unfriendly commercial trends, hitting its nadir in disco experiments such as Shakedown Street. **
Greg Kot, The New Rolling Stone Album Guide, 2004

A bit of a difficult, dated listen, since even the good songs boast bad arrangements (“Shakedown Street” and “Fire on the Mountain” were later reworked and revitalized in concert), yet it falls short of flat-out disaster, partially because it’s a fascinating listen due to the very things that make it a severely flawed record. The disco flirtations, subdued funk, misguided commercial concessions, and overarching Californian slickness do make Shakedown Street fascinating for at least one spin, even if they’ll keep even hardcore Deadheads — maybe especially hardcore Deadheads — from coming back to the record more than once every decade or so. **
Stephen Thomas Erlewine, All Music Com

Shakedown Street is perhaps the biggest misfire in the Dead’s entire catalog.
Stephen Peters, What A Long Strange Trip, 1999

Shakedown Street is in many ways one of their worst studio albums.  The songs that sounded great in the studio (“France,” “Shakedown Street”) didn’t work on stage, and the songs that sounded great on the stage (“All New Minglewood Blues,” “Fire On The Mountain,” “I Need A Miracle”) didn’t work in the studioIt’s not a case of Shakedown Street being a bad album, since the songs are individually good, but therein lies the problem. This feels like the work of individual artists collectively packaged.
Dave Connoley, Prorography online 11 November 2013

An album this lukewarm, piss-poor, and downright vapid required the collective efforts of a band of once-innovative musicians turned consummate studio hacks, deadicated to the lowest possible common denominator. Unless you’re a die-hard Deadhead or hopeless sentimentalist, you have to concede that Shakedown Street effectively marks the demise of the Grateful Dead as a viable creative songwriting collective. 
Michael H. Little, The Vinyl District online, 16 May 2014

The artists

Mickey Hart: We were trying to sell out – ‘Oh, let’s make a single and get on the radio’. Sure. We failed miserably once again. I mean, we could never sell out even if we tried, and we tried.
Beyond Description box set, Rhino Records, 2004

Bill Kreutzmann: Lowell George was really like a member of the band more. If we were working on a song and he didn’t feel it was going right, he’d just grab a guitar and come into the studio and show us how he felt it. That was one of the ways he’d communicate, and it worked great. I had a tremendous amount of respect for him.

Jerry Garcia: Lowell was real loose, but he was also real busy. He wasn’t around for a lot of the record. The record was basically finished without him. So the production on that was really a three-way job. Lowell was there for the basics, but for the vocals and final overdubs it was really Dan Healy and John Kahn who were more or less functioning in the role of producer.
Relix interview, August 1980 Part two

Bill Kreutzmann Deadheads  refer to this album, and even this era, as Disco Dead. I can see why. … Given the material and the producer, Shakedown Street just wasn’t as good as it should have been.
Bill Kreutzmann Deal 2015

Bob Weir People say every album is more commercial, or whatever. What we try to do is include as much musical information as possible in each song and if it sounds more commercial, or sells better, it’s because we’re playing better.
Billboard, early 1979

Robert Hunter, Mickey Hart, Donna Jean Godchaux: There is a timbale spiced sunniness throughout this record, a jauntiness – what Donna Jean called “almost tongue-in-cheek, very up and light quality.” Hunter awards it “three out of five stars.” Hart gives a five on a scale of ten, and Donna Jean allows that “it has some very cool moments.”
Rip Rense, sleeve notes to Rhino 2006 CD

Side one

British pressing

Good Lovin’

(Arthur Resnick / Rudy Clarke)

The first single from the album. Single? Whenever was The Dead about singles? (OK, Touch of Gray.)

Good Lovin’ The Grateful Dead, US single, Arista AS 0383, 1978
Good Lovin’ UK single on Arista

The song itself dates back to 1965, originally by someone named Lemme B. Good (I do suspect it’s not the real name). Within weeks, The Olympics (of Western Movies fame) covered it with producer Jerry Ragavoy and had a modest US hit (#81). Then The (Young) Rascals heard that version and started performing it live. They cut it in 1966 and it was a #1 American hit. The Rascals version is in Rolling Stones 500 Greatest Singles of All Time (#333) and in Dave Marsh’s The Heart and Soul of Rock ‘n’ Roll: The 1001 Greatest Singles Ever Made, at #108. This is a major song to be playing with … The Who, Tommy James & The Shondells and Mary Wells had all done versions.

The Grateful Dead first tried it in 1966 while it was a hit, then started playing it regularly live in 1969, so had had over a decade’s experience of doing it, though in the early days Ron ‘Pigpen’ McKernan sang it. There was a Filmore West version from 1971 that ran to seventeen minutes. It’s notable for magnificent bass guitar from Phil Lesh that holds the whole thing together.

It was played on most dates of the Europe ’72 tour. Bob Weir took over lead vocals for Shakedown Street. They’d played it at the Pyramids in Egypt in September before making the album. The trouble was that as a lead vocalist, Weir does not compare with Felix Cavaliere of The Rascals, nor do the Dead on those earlier live versions have the SNAP! of a band that started out backing Joey Dee at The Peppermint Lounge. Meandering is their thing rather than rhythmic precision and punch.

On the album version though, they add layers of drums and percussion and the Latin feel of the percussion section is terrific (The enhanced CD brings it out). I remember Mickey Hart has spoken much on drumming, and the rhythm section can nail it down if asked … as here in the studio.

Phil Lesh surprises by playing a simpler bass line than on live versions. Donna Godchaux and Jerry Garcia sing back up, Donna I think double tracked. Keith Godchaux’s on organ (as you would be on a Felix Cavaliere hit), but also switches to an electric piano sound for the solo. Keith Godchaux often gets knocked by Deadheads, but he, together with the drums, really makes the track. But … if I just felt the urge to hear Good Lovin’ I’d play The Rascals version.

France

(Mickey Hart, Bob Weir, Robert Hunter)

France: The Grateful Dead, AS 0410 B-side of ‘Shakedown Street’

Way down in the south of France all the ladies love to dance
Kick their heels up in the air snap their fingers for romance
While the gentlemen compare blonde or black or auburn hair
Check the motion and the style Oh, you know they take their while
Hey, to make the motion more complete, yeah, to make it more a treat
Club D’Jour is where to go come on down and see the show

Bob Weir: That tune “France,” for instance. I didn’t actually write that one – it just sort of happened. But it sure as hell didn’t happen right…it just wasn’t satisfying.  
Interviewed by David Gans

Film music start, then a sinuous Latin percussion rhythm, with a hypnotic keyboard figure. Donna Godchaux duetting. The Latin rhythm sounds the sort of thing a pub organist has on the beat box, then Garcia does some intricate film music gypsy guitar sounds to synth backing. None of it conjures up France at all, and Spanish sherry in the chorus doesn’t help. You try asking for Spanish sherry in France. This is really a bizarre song falling between three or four different genres, none French, and none typically Grateful Dead.

It was never performed live. Just as well.

Shakedown Street

(Jerry Garcia, Robert Hunter)
The second single release from the album

Shakedown Street: The Grateful Dead, Arista US single AS0410, 1979

The tale is told in the sleeve notes to the Rhino CD release:

“What happened was I think we were really influenced by that Bee Gees stuff,” said Mickey Hart, “We REALLY liked it.”
It gets scarier. On tour in the Midwest, Hart – besotted with disco- hired a driver, grabbed Garcia and drove for hours (across two states, he says) to find a theater showing ‘Saturday Night Fever.’ To a mantra of, “You gotta see this movie!”
“We got back,” Mickey Hart continued, “and we got everybody in the hotel room – in my room, or something and we did the Saturday Night Fever dance. I swear to God, we did the steps, you know? Of course we were in an altered state of consciousness.”

Rip Rense, sleeve notes to Rhino 2006 CD

Loud disco drums, funk guitar? Funking hell! Notably the first Garcia-Hunter composition to appear on the album. The first line is pure Bee Gees as is the basic guitar figure from Weir. Four-on-the-floor is the easiest beat to play, which is why it appealed to non-dancers. Phil Lesh trying hard to play simple too.

Go back to the Bee Gees comment. Spin that Saturday Night Fever LP again. The plain truth is that the Anglo-Australian Gibbs brothers … Barry Gibbs on rhythm guitar, Maurice Gibbs on bass, plus their regular band, with two Welsh ex-members of Amen Corner; Dennis Byron on drums and Blue Weaver on keyboards, with Alan Kendall from Toe Fat on lead guitar. … could totally out-funk the Grateful Dead. Plus Robin, Barry and Maurice could also totally out-sing them.

… the runaway genius adaptation of “Three Blind Mice” ever done. Think about the “Shakedown Street” riff for a second. Was Garcia having a little in-joke on the simplicity of disco? A little shakedown on the music biz? Doing the hustle?
“Yeah, maybe,” laughed Robert Hunter, “OK, well, I’ll tell you Jerry would be quite capable of that, and also not making a comment on it. Just letting it rest. He could play his hand very close to his chest.”

Rip Rense, sleeve notes to Rhino 2006 CD

It’s a send-up pastiche, surely? Didn’t they need Weird Al Yankovic, Big Daddy or The Barron Knights to put a funny version of a Bee Gees lyric on the top?

They had played it before the album’s release, and continued to play it live afterwards, often as an opener. The live versions are slower and somewhat less insistently disco. The version I’ve compared it with is from Dicks Picks: Volume 5. CD3 of course, Oakland 26th December 1979. I have to assume that Dick’s Picks did the best shows first so this is a better one. By then it’s extended to nearly 14 minutes and is the second-to-last song. The drums are definitely milder, which maybe just means the live drums are not as amplified as the studio drums, or maybe the arms don’t have that much energy left at the end of a long, long show. The vocal is weaker, the backing vocals are actually bad, and the Bee Gees Night Fever influence is even more obvious. Brent Mydland had replaced both Keith and Donna Godchaux, and her backing vocal is sorely missed.

Phil Lesh and Friends still feature it, often as the set closer.

Serengetti

(Micky Hart, Bill Kreutzmann)

Instrumental. Pass the shakers. A rhythm exercise from the two drummers. Just two minutes of it. You could put it on a David Attenborough African documentary perhaps.

Fire On The Mountain

(Mickey Hart, Robert Hunter)

It first appeared as an instrumental on the Mickey Hart album Diga, entitled Happiness Is Drumming. They started playing this version in 1977. The vocal is slightly strangulated, and maybe they’ve been listening to British prog vocals but can’t manage the end-of- the- line wail. I find parts oddly reminiscent of All Night Long by Lionel Richie … but in this case, the Grateful Dead song is five years earlier. Maybe Lionel was a secret Deadhead. Actually, I think it’s that both were attempting a reggae inflection , but in neither case is it The Wailers.

Again, Phil Lesh has been confined to a straightforward bass part, which is very “not Grateful Dead” though Garcia seems in the mood again for intricate guitar twiddles over the beat. Then it has a proper guitar solo.

Robert Hunter Fire On The Mountain was written at Mickey Hart’s ranch in heated inspiration as the surrounding hills blazed and the fire approached the recording studio where we were working.
Robert Hunter, A Box of Rain 1993

This was one that became a regular part of subsequent live shows. It was paired with Scarlet Begonias in a medley as Scarlet Fire. According to Wikipedia, there are 253 live versions. i.e. they played it that many times, and somewhere, someone will have taped every one of them. They were still playing it in 1995.

There is a version on Stolen Roses: Songs of The Grateful Dead by Leftover Salmon. It is the kind of piss-take that someone should have done with Shakedown Street.

Side two

USA pressing

I Need A Miracle

(Bob Weir, John Perry Barlow)
Matthew Kelly- harmonica

John Perry Barlow wrote several song lyrics with Bob Weir. Apparently Robert Hunter liked singers to stick to his lyrics exactly, and Weir preferred to be looser on Sugar Magnolia, so from then on Hunter declined to work with him.

The lyrics are fun, almost Shel Silverstein territory:

I need a woman ’bout twice my age
A lady of nobility, gentility and rage
Splendor in the dark, lightning on the draw
We’ll go right through the book and break each and every law

The singer also prefers the woman to be twice his height and twice his weight. That reminded me of Dr Feelgood by Dr Feelgood (aka Piano Red) where he’s only interested in a woman who weighs about four hundrd pounds.

It’s a song that gets singled out for mention. It’s pretty basic bar band fare (not a bad thing), but it has an infectious and dominant little R&B guitar lick. It works well with the stops and starts. A long vocal fadeout.

This one got played on 271 Grateful Dead shows, and more Bob Weir shows … including a John Perry Barlow Tribute concert in 2016.

From The Heart of Me

(Donna Godchaux)

As Donna Jean Thatcher she was a session singer on Percy Sledge’s When A Man Loves A Woman as well as Elvis Presley’s version of Suspicious Minds, which is two more #1 records than the Grateful Dead ever had. In the ‘Reviled!” series she also appears on Cher’s 3614 Jackson Highway.

This is another that was performed live until Donna Godchaux left the band … which was only three months later. It’s feeble musically and lyrically, and her vocal at best weak. The vaguely Latin rhythm is just irritating. Elsewhere she had sounded a powerful singer. Listening to this, you can’t believe she sang backing on so much great stuff with Elvis and Cher. But there were usually a trio of backing singers on those records and maybe she was the high part.

It is in a word, awful.

Stagger Lee

(Jerry Garcia, Robert Hunter)

Reverse of US 45 sleeve
Stagger Lee: B-side of Good Lovin’, Arista USA 1978

This is a continuation of the Stagger Lee story by Hunter (in his lyric collection he titles it Delia Delyon and Staggerlee)

Stagger Lee, who pops on the Shakedown album is a fabled character who some suggest dates back to the Civil War. Variously called “Stag-O-Lee,” “Stack-O-Lee,” and other names, the song is about a scoundrel who killed Billy Lyons because he stole Stag’s Stetson hat. Stag-O-Lee was upset about the death, though–because he failed to shoot Billy right between the eyes. Songwriters over the years have elaborated on the story, bringing in the bad man’s deals with the devil, etc. It’s been recorded often, by everyone from Mississippi John Hurt (his 1928 version is one of the first on record) to Professor Longhair and Doc and Merle Watson.
Blair Jackson Golden Road Grateful Dead magazine

Delia gets her revenge:

As Staggerlee lit a cigarette she shot him in the balls
Blew the smoke off her revolver, had him dragged to city hall

Baio, Baio, see you hang him high
He shot my Billy dead and now he’s got to die

They take it like a English novelty song led by pub piano with tentative backing, with no connection to the R&B origins. There are some great versions of the original.

There are live tapes of it from 150 shows somewhere out there. This studio cut is just as bad as the awful track before. While I find the lyric continuation interesting, the music and performance really truly sucks.

All New Minglewood Blues

(Trad. Arranged by Bob Weir) … or by Noah Lewis

The song was first recorded in the 1920s and normally attributed to Noah Lewis (1891 to 1961), though on this album it’s “Traditional arranged by Bob Weir.” It had been a Grateful Dead staple on live shows from 1966 on under the title New New Minglewood Blues. They added an “All” for this version. The Dead also used to play Viola Lee Blues and Big Railroad Blues by Noah Lewis.

Both The New New Minglewood Blues and Viola Lee Blues are on their first 1967 LP, The Grateful Dead. The New New Minglewood Blues is credited to McGanahan Skjellyfetti, which was a name used on compositions by the whole band. However, Viola Lee Blues was credited to Noah Lewis on the album.

So when you re-do a song ten years later what happens? You’d expect musicianship to have improved, but that doesn’t leap out. It just sounds less energetic.

If I Had The World To Give

(Jerry Garcia, Robert Hunter)

Robert Hunter: Jerry and I sat down and on a lark decided to write a romantic song, just for the heck of it. We were feeling sensitive because someone said ‘Oh you write songs about guys for guys.’ Something that would sound good in an old ’50s cocktail lounge – that was the idea
Beyond Description box set, Rhino Records, 2004

This stands with From The Heart of Me as the most reviled track. It is ponderous, quivering along. The shaky vocal is totally inappropriate. The lyric is just as bad. They can’t write or play this sort of thing.

At first sight, you think that the paucity of Hunter-Garcia songs is why the album is poor. Not so. This and Stagger Lee are both dire.

BONUS TRACKS

Good Lovin’

Vocal Lowell George. This a less developed version and also less impressive. Did Lowell George say ‘try stretching out the words, giving it a bit of soul?’ Possibly, but in the end I didn’t feel he does any better at all than Weir (though the Weir version is better mixed all round).

Ollin Agareed (live)

(Hamza El Din)

+ Hamza El Din … vocal, oud, tar, hand claps
+ The Nubian Youth Choir … vocal, percussion

Live in Giza, Egypt 16 September 1978. It reappears on Rocking The Cradle: Egypt 1978 (CD and DVD) which was released in 2008. They played for three nights, using a stage rig borrowed from The Who. Wilipedia says that  Costs were to be offset by the production of a triple-live album, however performances did not turn out as proficient as planned, musically, and technical problems plagued the recordings

Bill Kreutzmann: Egypt instantly became the biggest, baddest, and most legendary field trip that we took during our entire thirty years as a band… It was priceless and perfect and, at half a million dollars, a bargain in the end. Albeit, a very expensive bargain
Bill Kreutzmann, Deal, 2015

Phil Lesh: It sort of became my project because I was one of the first people in the band who was on the trip of playing at places of power. You know, power that’s been preserved from the ancient world. The pyramids are like the obvious number one choice because no matter what anyone thinks they might be, there is definitely some kind of mojo about the pyramids
Quoted in David Dodd, The Grateful Dead Reader

A bit of ethnic drum exercise. The backing vocalists are not the Grateful Dead. Hamza El Din was a renowned Nubian singer and oud player. They call out ‘Hamza!’ then you get a touch of oud solo … and oud throughout. He was the guest artist on the show and the backing vocalists were members of his Abu Simbel school. There must be around twenty of them … it’s on TouTube. The fascinating thing is the way Garcia’s guitar complements and blends with the oud and the traditional Egyptian song. Phil lesh also weaves the bass part in beautifully.

Recording Available between the crystals and joss sticks at your local head store? Just past the water feature … Seriously, I really like it.

Fire On The Mountain

(Weir-Barlow)

Live in Giza, Egypt 16 September 1978. Also on Rocking The Cradle: Egypt 1978.

Ah, the normal near fourteen minute version, live in Egypt. It continues really well from Ollin Agareed, which it did in concert. It’s a relief to me because this version actually sounds like The Grateful Dead and I’ve been missing them while listening to the album. The Bob Marley influence on the melody was not as obvious on the studio cut. There is an extremely strong influence, but just as soul was never their forte, they don’t get a full reggae feel to it, even though they’re trying to. Still, it’s Garcia’s guitar that pulls you into this track, and that’s fine.

A cover version appears on Fire on The Mountain: Reggae Celebrates The Grateful Dead, performed by Chalice (3).

Stagger Lee

(Garcia-Hunter)

Live in Giza, Egypt 15 September 1978. Also on Rocking The Cradle: Egypt 1978.

So it’s just before the album. It doesn’t sound so inadvisedly ‘novelty’ as the studio cut, but it’s meandering and weedy. The 16th shows had them in better form. The recording is ‘bad bootleg.’ The lead vocal is terrible.

All New Minglewood Blues

(Noah Lewis)

Live at Capitol Theatre, Passaic, New Jersey 24 November 1978

Unconvincing vocal. Fluid guitar as expected.

OVERALL

Why did The Grateful Dead seek singles fame and Top 40 play? November 1978 was tagging along well behind the main disco boom. When I look at History of Rock 1978 and 1979 it’s all about punk, and pub rock, and a newer black music.

The start of the track Shakedown Street is and was a shock. What were they playing at? They had gone down side roads before … Workingman’s Dead and American Beauty, where it is reported they sought tuition on vocals from Crosby, Stills and Nash and The Band. So why not a soul / disco side road? They’d started out on Terrapin Station with a disco version of Dancing In The Streets. The Wannabe Bee Gees sound is already there, but they lose the song. Compare them with David Bowie and Mick Jagger in 1980 who simply do understand the song. They’re in a different league. (But the ultimate is Martha and The Vandellas.)

For me, the Dead couldn’t ever play soul convincingly. I’ve listened to a few Dead attempts at In The Midnight Hour and in 1968 it was a year or two too late, but go back a while and most British soul bands did better versions. Britain never had a Pop chart / R&B (i.e. white / black) chart divide like the USA. So Motown and Atlantic / Stax material was mainstream, and everyone listened to it and everyone played it. Many North American bands were the same, steeped in soul and playing for dances in ballrooms where everyone danced for 3-4 minutes the stopped, and wanted another and different song … Levon & The Hawks morphing into The Band, Janis Joplin with the Full Tilt Boogie Band, The Rascals. Elvis’s stellar Vegas bands could do it. The Grateful Dead were used to playing around with a song as long as they liked. Hippies waving about to the music are not the same as Mods dancing frantically.

I usually find new appreciation as I listen to albums in the Reviled series. For me, this is just about the most justly reviled of the lot. It didn’t get any better as I listened to it. I Need a Miracle is the best song for me, then the bonus track version of Fire On The Mountain.

THE REVILED ALBUMS ARE (so far) …

Beatles For Sale – The Beatles
Their Satanic Majesties Request … The Rolling Stones
Speedway (and Elvis film music) – Elvis Presley
Electric Mud– Muddy Waters
3614 Jackson Highway – Cher (plus the bonus tracks)
Let It Be – The Beatles
Self Portrait – Bob Dylan
Byrdmaniax – The Byrds
Cahoots – The Band
Carl and The Passions- So Tough! – The Beach Boys
The London Chuck Berry Sessions – Chuck Berry
Wild Life – Wings
Sometime in New York City – John and Yoko / Elephant’s Memory
Recall The Beginning: A Journey From Eden … The Steve Miller Band
Hard Nose The Highway … Van Morrison
Chicago III … Chicago
Berlin– Lou Reed
Pinups – David Bowie
There’s One In Every Crowd – Eric Clapton
I Want You – Marvin Gaye
Love At The Greek – Neil Diamond
Death of A Ladies’ Man – Leonard Cohen
Born Again – Randy Newman
Mingus – Joni Mitchell
One Trick Pony – Paul Simon
Everybody’s Rockin’ – Neil Young
American Dream – Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
Jefferson Airplane – Jefferson Airplane (1989)
Human Touch – Bruce Springsteen
Latest Record Project Volume1… Van Morrison

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