on 13 May 2012
This is the first studio album after the Winterland Shows which were declared everywhere as 'The last One'. Great evocative pieces throughout. An album you can let play in the background or sit and contemplate over. The band went into the studio deliberately with nothing in order to attempt to get the whole group cohesion into their writing as they did with their playing on stage. This they managed with great success.
One thing I personally don't like about this or any other album with extras on it is that they are tacked onto the end of the original thereby destroying the much loved original. I have always preferred extras to be added on a separate disk as this keeps the integrity of the original and hardly costs any extra.
A final note, this is a digi pack, ie card sleeve and so will deteriorate quickly and does not fit many cd racks. I wish companies would not opt for this money scrimping option. I personally hate it. Sellers should make effort to tell buyers of the type of packaging. I would have refrained from buying this; now I am more distrustful of Amazon as a seller.
on 6 July 2000
The last time the Dead ever had the courage to really experiment was this on album, the fruit of their year-long hiatus from touring.
It has a particular jazz-rock feel characterised by the fertile mix of effects pedals from Garcia meeting some memorable electric piano from Keith Godchaux. The album is self-confident, tender, funny, and sparkles in a very un-Dead-like way. A lot of it is laughing music.
Stand-out tracks are the lithe Franklin's tower, the melancholy Crazy Fingers - with Garcia's best ever recorded solo, a beautiful unstated Zen sequence to really contemplate - and the long, atmospheric Blues for Allah.
The album, of course, got lost pretty quickly. it was never a commercial smash and the Dead never cut quite such intelligent music again. But, for once, in some mysterious way, they seemed ahead of the pack, not a plodding note in sight (or sound). This is vital! Buy it!
Back in the 1970s, when I had this on vinyl, I usually only listened to the first side. With some of the Dead's best jazz-tinged songs - On The Way / Slipknot! and Franklin's Tower - this is some of the finest music the band ever recorded in the studio. But side two, with the long, sinuous Blues for Allah, is something I didn't listen to often.
Now, I delight in listening to Blues for Allah. Greatly experimental at the time, it now seems like it fits perfectly in the Dead's oeuvre. They only performed this live twice, curiously (one great recording is on the first From the Vault live recording from 1975), but it's the Dead's Close to the Edge: a long, complex work, which merits more attention.
on 18 November 2013
I had this album on vinyl back in the 70's and played it to death. It is not one of the most praised albums by the die-hard dead-heads and I think that is because it is slightly more accessible than the dead's usual rambling jam sessions, it has more 'commercial potential' as the late, great Mr. Zappa would say, apart from, that is, the title track which is 12 minutes of Arabian chanting and ambient effects. If your into that stuff that's fine but the strength of the rest of the album is such that it lifts the album to new heights. There are some really strong, 'catchy', tracks, incredible improvised musicianship that never goes on long enough to become boring and a wonderful variation of different genres ranging from Jazz, Funk, Country and Rock through to Soul and Reggae. There are some masterful compositions that contain tight, complex timing that should be a delight to any prog-rocker worth his salt and unlike some Dead albums, the sound engineering is top notch. The only fault I can find with this album is that it is not long enough, when it ends I just wish there was more. If you don't know the Dead and you are looking for somewhere to start, this is it, trust me you won't be disappointed, it's brilliant!
on 8 July 2007
Flippin' 'eck, listening to the Dead makes you come over all pretentious, doesn't it?? Well, I'm not a Deadhead so hopefully I can avoid the purple prose of the previous reviews.
I used to read about the Dead in NME in the early Seventies. I'd see pictures of them with their huge "Wall of Sound", playing in front of the Pyramids, Garcia looking like a bear of a man with his big beard and big, well, self. I'd read about their marathon shows and think "Man, this must be the loudest, heaviest, most kick-ass band on the planet!" but I never actually got to hear any of their music - music on TV and radio was severely limited in those days (and we're getting back to that again now).
Blues For Allah came out shortly after I started my first job, so I decided to treat myself, still sight unseen, as it were. I just LOVED the cover, and still do - one of the finest pieces of music art ever. (Imagine my joy at discovering an animated version of it in the Grateful Dead movie, years later). But when the needle hit the vinyl, boy was I disappointed! Where were the power chords, the screaming heavy metal and crashing drums? What was this spindly guitar playing and these reedy vocals? Surely that big bear of a man didn't have a voice like Kermit the Frog? As for side two, I don't think I listened to it more than three times. It sounded like aimless, drifting, pretentious drivel. I can't remember how I disposed of my copy, but I did.
The decades roll by, I flirt with punk (but not with the New Romantics) but remain faithful to my beloved Seventies rock - Glam, West Coast, Hard Rock - and, after years of adulthood and child rearing decide to give "Blues" another try.
What has happened to me? Have I blanded out? It sounds great to me now! That spidery, intricate guitar work, the genuine, affecting vocals, the seamless musicianship - what a piece of work! Side two (as was) also sounds great - music to immerse yourself in and float (oops, I'm getting pretentious!)
The extras are great as well - despite titles like "Groove 1" and descriptions like "Instrumental studio jam" - they're much better than the sleeve makes them sound (I was expecting turgid Allman Bros style workouts, but these are deft and highly listenable). Maybe the vocal "Hollywood" song at the end is a bit of an afterthought, but otherwise this is a great package - the famous artwork transfers well and the booklet is a great read.
If I can dip my pen in the purple inkwell just once - PJ O'Rourke said that age and guile beat youth, innocence and a bad haircut. Well, my hair is shorter and I'm not so innocent any more - I grew up and the Dead waited for me.
on 20 July 2010
A masterful means of pushing the envelope. They played the title only a few times but discarded it because it was so demanding live. However a fine piece of work , well worth getting into( literally , perhaps?).
on 10 March 2006
The most avante garde Jazz influenced of the Dead studio albums.
This is not typical jam and is extremely tight.
Mind you, I haven't heard the new alternate takes yet but I have good expectations.
More Buddha, than Allah.
Sophisticated space exploration music for multiple toe-tappers.
on 30 January 2009
Perhaps my favourite Dead album - not a popular choice I know and the actual Blues for Allah does contain quite a bit of Grateful Dead 'twittering' that I find verging on the annoying. Still the first side makes up for it and "There's mosquitoes on the river / Fish are rising up like birds" is a great one ( till the wailing witch kicks in). Garcia's guitar playing in this is really knock out too. For me I like the edge towards jazz and it shows just HOW GOOD musicians this band yer when Owsley wasn't slinging them the funny looking blotting paper.
on 30 May 2016
I own all the Dead's studio albums up to this one which was released in 1975. For me this just doesn't sound like the dead, gone is the traditional western and blues influence to be replaced with a collection of sometimes erratic and disjointed jazz. Good bonus tracks which for me are far better than the actual album. I'm just hoping the other post 75 albums do not disappoint in a similar fashion. Edit - like many of the Dead's albums this has grown on me over time but it still remains the least favourite album.
This is so good, it may be impossible. The Dead bundled into a studio and turned out a masterpiece. And on an eight traack too by the rumours. And these were days when the recording engineers were wise and knew their craft well. Days of yore.
And truly it is; remarkably, for in fact very few of their studio recordings sounded even remotely like the live recordings, some of which shook the walls of the city, but for some reason, the Dead and Robert Hunter somehow contrived what up to that time had simply never really happened.
One thing that this recording contains is an example (and a very, very good one at that) of their famous transitions - a sudden movement from one song to another. This, coming between Help on the way, Slipknot, and Franklins Tower is amazing, not that though, scintillating and brilliant. Never have I witnessed anyone listening to this without breaking out into a broad grin; it is a beautiful music joke that any of the classical composers would have recognised at once. For any of them may have fallen silent and smiled like we did, infamous Cheshire cats, dancing in defiance, all together, unfallen. And all is rainbow and splintered, defying geometry, measure and syntax. The music lasts so long, but time is undermined and betrayed somewhat.
Next time I'm not drinking that stuff before I write a review and I don't care. I've worn out 4 copies of this, so here we go again...