The Influences Of The Grateful Dead
From the archives: Even if this fascinating, eclectic set had nothing whatsoever to do with The Grateful Dead, it's worth picking up
(This review originally appeared in Issue 7, Spring 1996.)
Even if this fascinating, eclectic set had nothing whatsoever to do with The Grateful Dead, in fact even if you’re not a “Deadhead” it’s worth picking up both for the mix of music and the outstanding sound from Paul Stubblebine, not to mention R. Crumb’s cover art. If you are a Grateful Dead fan, you don’t want to be without this compilation.
Long time Dead writer Blair Jackson twists these seemingly disparate roots into a cohesive, organic whole, explaining both why each song is included, and how it influenced the late Garcia and his bandmates.
Among the 17 tracks are Merle Haggard’s “Mama Tried,” the Dixie Cups’ “Iko-Iko,” Rev. Gary Davis’ “Samson and Delilah” (which Peter Paul and Mary popularized as “If I Had My Way”), Marty Robbin’s Western epic “El Paso,” and songs by Jimmy Reed, Bob Dylan (a significant addition to the set since Dylan has not allowed his songs to grace any other compilation that I can think of), Bobby “Blue” Bland, Buddy Holly, and Woody Guthrie.
Without reading the notes you can easily see the confluence of blues, country, rock, R&B and folk which helped create The Grateful Dead’s sound. Listening to this set and reading along with Jackson’s annotation will help even the most knowledgeable Dead fan to better appreciate the group’s wide ranging musical influences and its skill in blending them together to create a uniquely American sound which no doubt will continue to attract new fans well into the next century.
I doubt Stubblebine worked from analog master tapes in compiling this set, yet the sound, for the most part, is first rate, though there are, of course, some sonic rough spots on older material like Charley Patton’s “Spoonful.” Taste over technology. No Deadhead should be without this set and the rest of you will enjoy it too!