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Grateful Dead Gear: All the Band's Instruments, Sound Systems and Recording Session, 1965-1995 [Paperback]

Blair Jackson
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

22 Nov 2006
"Grateful Dead Gear" is the very first in-depth examination of every aspect of the Dead's technical side, including their recording methods. From the "acid tests" of the mid-'60s to the famous "wall of sound" in the '70s and up to their exceptional later touring systems, the Grateful Dead were always on the cutting edge of technological innovation and experimentation. This exhaustive study includes clear and concise explanations of the band's equipment technology, instrument design, and studio recording techniques, plus a history of the group. It's the fascinating story of how a colorful cast of tech geniuses and visionaries merged art, technology, and commerce into one of the most successful touring businesses in music history.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 300 pages
  • Publisher: Backbeat Books (22 Nov 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0879308931
  • ISBN-13: 978-0879308933
  • Product Dimensions: 27.7 x 21.3 x 1.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 824,626 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

After college Blair became a writer/editor for BAM, the California Music Magazine, and for the past two decades has been a writer/editor for Mix, the leading sound and production magazine in the U.S. Jackson has three books about the Grateful Dead published - the most recent was Garcia: An American Life, published by Viking/Penguin in 1999. He also was the publisher/editor of the Grateful Dead fanzine The Golden Road from 1984-1993. He co-produced the Grateful Dead box set So Many Roads in 2001 and, in 2004, the Jerry Garcia box set All Good Things.

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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good, but could have been that little bit better. 30 July 2007
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
A little bit of a mixed bag. For the most part this is very good, full of good pictures (& nice quality paper) and interesting information.

The main downside (for me, and I'm guessing I wont be far from the target audience of this book) is the balance between the different `gear'. I found there to be too much time spent on the bands evolving PA system, too much talk of how many speakers, crossovers, power amps etc... Ok for a little while but, for me, it got to be too much. On the flip side I could have done with a little more about the guitars & effects used by the band. Some of this is skimmed over quite quickly, with some of the guitars used not getting any pictures, just a quick mention in the text. Also it would have been nice to see more pictures and more detailed pictures of some of Garcias classic guitars as these are such a major part of the `Grateful Dead' image and sound.

Overall pretty nice, I would say 3 stars. A good read but it could have been balanced a little differently for my taste. Of course, if you are really interested in the development of live band amplification you will get a lot out of it. Nicely written though and even the technical stuff doesn't bog you down too much.
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Amazon.com: 3.5 out of 5 stars  22 reviews
30 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars All the Way Inside the Music 19 Nov 2006
By Stephen Silberman - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This book is frickin' amazing, and I'm the opposite of a knob-twiddling gearhead pedal fetishist. I didn't know what ANY of this tech stuff is, and have never played an instrument myself, but this book is so full of the INSIDE SCOOP, with interviews from everyone from the bandmembers, to Owsley/Bear (whose radical concepts became the foundation of modern concert amplification for all bands that followed, not just the Dead), to the loyal and inscrutable road crew, to the various producers of the band's studio albums, to every luthier and gadgetologist who ever lusted in his heart to see a piece of his gear in action on the Big Stage, that it's one of the most fascinating, articulate, and intimate books ever written on the Grateful Dead, period.

It may seem a tad pricey, but the printing job is deluxe. Mark my words: it's a fantastic gift idea for any Deadhead you love, but will probably fly under the radar of most casual Dead enthusiasts because of the off-putting premise of being all about the hardware. As it turns out, this witty book is actually more about the human software: the passion for discovery and exploration that drove the evolution of this music and this sound, and made the Grateful Dead the *new* best band on Earth nearly every time they went out on tour ('till '91 or so, at least -- so shoot me for saying it.)

I'm not just raving about this book because Blair and I have worked together on projects like the "So Many Roads" box set. Frankly, I wasn't even sure I was going to buy it, since I'm so not the target demographic for a book about whether 'tis better to use graphite for a guitar neck or not. But I'm sure glad I did, because I feel like I have a much deeper picture of what the band was up to on the other side of the Laminated Curtain, all those many years.
19 of 23 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not Technical Enough! 3 Jan 2007
By Todd - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I will state that I have played guitar for more then 30 years so I am offering this review with some bias. That said...

Overall, the book is well written and researched. However they should change the title/description to something more generic geared towards the common fan. At first glance, the book seems to be about the technical aspects of the Dead's instruments and equipment but it is really more of a historical background of what they used and played and why. I was hoping for real tech information such as: close-ups of Garcia's pedals and wiring diagrams, close-ups of each member's racks. In-depth information about each rack unit/processor and why it was used and selected, more on Irwin's guitar customization for Garcia's guitars, A detailed review of how each member got their tone and sound. In other words it would be great to see an in-depth book about the real tech stuff rather then the background of why, when and what the band used. I also noticed that several Dicks Picks album covers and other dead cover art was used thru-out the book. I failed to understand why these were necessary other then adding visual filler and visually enhancing the era being discussed. I would have rather seen more in-depth close-ups of the equipment, cables, cabinets, etc. There are several shots of the band using the equipment but not many specifically of the equipment. I did enjoy the pages on studio recording techniques and aspects. I also enjoyed that the book is chronological in presentation showing the progression of equipment over the years. I just felt that there should have been more about the equipment and hook-up, etc rather then the history behind the selection and usage.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Could be the start of something big 10 Jan 2007
By Robin Russell - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Grateful Dead embraced innovation with enthusiasm. Their musical explorations are the stuff of legend, and their technical exploits, including the first live / studio blend (Anthem of the Sun), the first 24 track recording (Aoxomoxoa), their embracing of audience tapers and their ground-breaking work in concert recordings through the From the Vault and Dicks Picks series are fairly well known. Jackson's book takes us deeper into the technical side than anything previously available in the extensive shelf of Grateful Dead documents (which is now well over two metres and continuing to grow as the significance of the Grateful Dead phenomenon continues to seep into the awareness of people who care about music).

As other reviewers have noted, this is not a book to take gearheads into techie heaven. It does take the general student of the Grateful Dead to a more comprehensive understanding of the broad sweep of instruments and equipment used across their 30 year career. As such, it is most valuable addition to the Grateful Dead library. It is well written and easily understood.

There is probably a book of equal length just in Garcia's Irwin guitars, or Mickey Hart's drums, or the Wall of Sound and on and on. Hopefully, Jackson will inspire specialists to delve into those subjects and more in greater depth. Certainly, this is an excellent overview of a space that needs deeper exploration.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A core text 13 Feb 2007
By S. Willcock - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This book makes gear geeking a pastime appealing to anyone who enjoys the Grateful Dead's sound as it evolved over the span of over 3 decades. The author even spends some time, particularly with Garcia, on the gear plucked before the band found form. This book details aspects of the band's quest that the band's members actually concerned themselves with on a daily basis: the nuts'n'bolts, the cords and plugs and cables and strings and instruments and amps; imagine reading a detailed account of King Arthur's various legends: details of Excalibur handle, the armor he wore or the idiosyncracies of his horse - all serving to increase understanding of his knights' adventures. At the outset, Jackson states clearly that this book is not absolutely comprehensive but if you want to read about the music of the band beyond description, Grateful Dead Gear is absolutely essential. It is also quite an enjoyable read.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Black and white copy 24 Jun 2013
By Heidi Krause - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book is not the original. I don't see how this can even be legal to photocopy a book and resell it? Sending it back.
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