Dylan and the Dead

Bob Dylan & The Grateful Dead

Music History They Forgot to Mention

(recorded live 1987, released 1989)

Okay okay... if you are anything more than a casual fan of any (or probably both) of these artists, you’ve probably heard of this one, and heard its bad reviews. However, because of the reviews few fans have bought the album, and there is a severe lack of videos on Youtube, which is why I include it in this column. (The dearth of videos actually caused me to use Chinese and Bulgarian Youtubes while researching this one further) On one hand, this surprised me, I mean, it’s Bob Dylan and the Grateful Dead, both artists have attained and expanded their states beyond superstardom. On the other hand, the 80’s were a hard decade for Dylan: critics, who were never very kind to him about his voice, just got more ammo, and his albums got bad reviews, ESPECIALLY around this time (his 1988 album Down in the Groove was his second consecutive to get unanimous bad reviews, and tops Rolling Stone’s list of “15 worst albums by great artists” list). The only thing I can say about the Dead is Jerry’s on-again-off-again relationship with heroin, but I don’t think it affected this tour as much as others. Critics called this “possibly the worst album by either Dylan or the Dead”. Even if, and only if, this is true, it doesn't say much, as one would be hard pressed to find an oustandlingly poor album in either discographies. They are all damn near masterpieces. So what is a poor-er masterpiece when compared the world is full of the all-dancing crap that cycles around the charts today? Greatness.

But from what I can gather, either I have bad taste or critics simply set their standards too high and felt uppity about themselves for trying to knock trans-generational icons down a peg. I mean sure, Bob Dylan reached a commercial peak in 1966. This was 1987, and Dylan wasn’t the same person as he was in ’66, or as he was during a rebirth of live a rockin' tiger-blood-oozing Dylan in ’75 ,and he didn’t want to be. His voice had changed, his style had changed, and he was embracing it. An open-minded fan can see his genius and versatility with style over his whole career. This said, when you hear the name “Dylan and the Dead” you automatically expect greatness squared, you expect Zeus and Jupiter riding on giant golden dragons, tag-teaming the world, and such greatness is a little unfair to expect out of a varied group of mortal humans, especially ones on tour who all have other worries on their minds. Also, Dylan aside, when has Jerry Garcia and the boys ever let a crowd down? Not very often, and certaintly not here. The performances are not exactly “pantheon” material. They do not compare with the legendary Dylan live albums, or the Dead ones, but with the mix, they are in a category to themselves. I enjoyed them, and any fan would if they give it an open-minded listen. Just like anything else on this column: come better or worse, it’s at least worth checking out. The conquistadors heard all these stories and legends, but never found El Dorado. Cities of gold are sometimes too good to be true, but you’d be amazed what you find on the way there.

--Brett I.

Dylan and the Dead - I Want You

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