Thursday, July 12, 2012

wizardry of the dead

Thursday morning:
Jerry Garcia, David Grisman and Tony Rice, The Pizza Tapes
The Grateful Dead, Fillmore West 1969
Bukka White, Sky Songs
Ben Prestage, Live at Pineapple Willy's
John Lee Hooker, Low Down Midnite Boogie

I can go either way on Grateful Dead. Sometimes they are perfect (the way everything is perfect at some point; broken click, twice-a-day style) and most of the other time, they are markedly less than. Loving them unconditionally bespeaks a deafness to the actual music being put out; hating them categorically is some tired party-line regurgitation. It's like the people that despise the Eagles because the Big Lebowski told them to; I doubt the steadiness of your conviction. Both the Eagles and Grateful Dead are neither great or horrible enough to merit such polarization. Honestly, I think the Eagles are a better band  per se:  more adept at putting a song together, making a dent on the pop consciousness, etc. I'd still rather listen to the Dead.

The way Lee Hazelwood's "Morning Dew" turns into Jimi Hendrix's "Hey Joe" without you really realizing it on the Fillmore West 1969 album is brilliantly banal. It's like a magician turning Cream of Wheat into oatmeal right before your eyes! They turned something familiar and likable into something more familiar and universally beloved. Such is the wizardy of the dead.

Tell me you listened to this and though, "Hmmmm. there is something missing."

Their sleepy stagger through Slim Harpo's "I'm a King Bee" - the anthem of Baton Rouge blues history - has a curious alchemy except like where the Dead always blows it. The singing. "King Bee: is more about the echo than the sound. And their version is at least four minutes too long. There's only three minutes of ideas in "King Bee", great ideas they may be.

Here is how you drag out a blues song to an epic timeframe. Also here is how you select a truly disturbing frame for your YouTube preview.

The fact that there are nearly thirty volumes of Dick's Picks leads me to doubt the precision with which Dick is doing the picking. The Dead are a prime example of America's disdain for curation. We like what we like forever.

The Pizza Tapes, though, that is the stuff. The informality of how this gearlock of important hippie blowhards come together with breeze effortlessness, it's backstory that a pizza delivery guy realized "Oh shit, that's Jerry Garcia!" and stole the tape off his kitchen counter, everything. I bet no one ever thought that when delivering the Eagles a pizza.

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