on 11 February 2010
Everytime I listen to this it just keeps getting better. There's not that much to add to what others have written already about the sublime 'Dark Star'- incredible communication between the bandmembers to create a smooth 23 mins of sheer beauty. I can't help a broad grin spreading across my face when 'St Stephen' really kicks in after its short and tantalising intro. 'The Eleven' - sheer exuberance, segues into 'Lovelight' with it's cool and persuasive groove.
One track that hasn't been mentioned much is 'Death Don't have no Mercy'. This is a deeply soulful and sad, yet paradoxically comforting, meditation on death and how it will leave all of us crying at some point in our lives but the truth that we're not alone in this experience is in itself worth remembering. It's just part of life. And the band express this so sensitively. Great track and a great counterpoint to the exuberance of the previous three songs.
'Feedback' holds its own with much of the musique concrete doing the rounds on the 'classical' scene at the time in my opinion. 'And we bid you goodnight' is a brief, sweet mood-lift to finish. Just the human voice, folky sound, unpretentious - where all music began.
Like others reviewers have said, I'd highly recommend listening with headphones and giving this album time. You'll thank yourself for all the little subtle details you hear. This really is music to take to your heart from a really great group of thinking, feeling musicians.
on 1 February 2004
This is the live Dead album that still stands up to the passing of time.Historically , the Dead had just entered the height of their improvisational prowess , and this classic recording from the Fillmore in San Francisco really captures the essence of the band.
The highlight has to be the awesome Dark Star , for some Deadheads the pinnacle of the Dead's material.Many versions have appeared over the years , but this ,recorded in their sixties acid drenched heyday , is truly the best.Fluid,coherent and sublimely trippy , it is the ultimate reminder of what made the Dead the best at what they did.Lyrically stunning , the music flows and meanders , the guitar takes off into shimmering shifts of time and essence that captures the minds eye genius of Garcia and the diamond sharp acuity of Hunter.Zen perfection and dharmic gracefulness all combine to take you on the ultimate journey into your own third eye.
Add Pigpen and Tom Constanten , and the fact that all members are truly clicking this time , and you have the acme of sixties psychedelia.I heartily recommend this to anyone who was there and anyone who wishes they had been!
on 18 March 2005
And possibly the best album ever. Admittedly i am a deadhead through and through, but honestly, Darkstar is the most transportative piece of music i've ever heard. I've heard - and love - Miles, Coltrane, Allmans, Mahavishnu, Cream and a whole whost of others, but this album is the group mind as one like never before. Maybe they didn't have the chops the same way McGlaughlin did, but the telepathy between Jerry, Phil, Bobby, Billy, Mickey, Pig and TC is out of site. That's not to say these guys weren't virtuosos, but it's not about the fact that they can play in awkward time signatures, but that they do so with such natural beauty. The music sounds like it is being born right there at that moment in time (i'm far too young - and english - to have been there) and it's one moment sub-aqua - god bless phil for that - the next "rolling thunder" with Jerry's peals and lightning strikes slicing through the bulbous maelstrom. This is the most organic music ever made, yet paradoxically it sounds like the furthest reaches of space. Utterly remarkable. It has sincerely changed my life.
on 1 February 2009
I knew this album before reading Tom Wolfe's "Electric Cool-Aid Acid Test" and loved it then. Understanding how they made such incredible sounds doesn't dilute the effect of the album in the slightest - if anything it strengthens the desire to play it over and over again.
Really good with headphones and turned up seriously (potentially ear damagingly) loud.
I have already decided as part of a "living will" that I want Dark Star to be played as the background music (not full volume) to my funeral service (not that I am anticipating anything - but hey ........). Two of my three sons will understand - the third may (I hope) be converted.
As reported elsewhere within the summaries of this album, the first 4 tracks are beyond doubt some of the finest illustrations of The Dead's musical prowess. Superb.
If you want a bit more of the same then their later double album "Grateful Dead" is well worth a listen with some strong indications as to where the band were about to go musically.
But this is - for those that remember the late sixties / early seventies (or were so totally out of their heads that they didn't notice the change of decades)- an essential part of anyone's music collection.
Furthermore - Dark Star straight is one thing. Try it non-straight and it is a different experience altogether.
on 20 April 2007
I used to wake up on sunny mornings back in '69, and my flatmate would be playing this album. So, I guess you could say it went in deep. And when I started listening to long-forgotten sixties music around '97, this one (meaning the unremastered version) was one of the first CDs I bought. And of course it still sounded, and sounds, as fresh as then - maybe more so. So recently I thought I'd try the new release - after all the sound on the original is far from perfect. But it does work, as an experience. The new one sounds completely different - be warned. Certainly, the instruments are a lot clearer, particularly Phil's bass and Bob's guitar (which IMHO sometimes becomes too much the focus of attention), but Jerry's has been squashed all the way to the left side, so really doesn't soar the way it should on this album. Also his vocal lead has been mixed apologetically low, you can hardly hear it in comparison with the original. For me, it doesn't work, any of it. I was seduced for a few minutes by the quality and clarity of the sound, but the remix puts everything in the wrong perspectives, and you end up hearing the illusionists (and their hard work), not the illusion. Can't think Jerry would have liked it, at all. That's only Dark Star, by the way, St Stephen sounded less happy before I spared him.
on 11 May 2006
Though not a proper deadhead (yet!), this album is incredible. I was a bit skeptical at first; for some reason i thought the grateful dead were a heavy metal band... obviously this was the first of their work that i had heard, and i was hooked from the start.
Darkstar is simply an impressive piece of interplay between the whole band, and while 20+ minutes is very long, it is still a brilliant musical 'journey'. St. Stephen is my favourite track on the album, though all the tunes are great. They are all catchy and stick in your head for days. Live/Dead is a great album, and it should be noted that the sound quality is first rate. If you close your eyes and really listen, you feel like you are there!
Let me begin by stating that until a few weeks ago I had never heard any of the Dead's music before (despite being in my 50's). None of my friends own any of their albums, I've never heard them on the radio, so having read the reviews here I decided to take the plunge.
I simply had to write this review in order to express my delight at having discovered this incredible band. On first listen the first thing that amazed me was the mesmerising telepathic interplay, the seamless transition from one complex piece to another.
I found that "Dark Star" was not instantly accessible, but with each subsequent listen it's magnificence eventually shone through, "St Stephen" however, was instantly accessible, and it's my favourite track, but I think the rest of the album is great, I find it a joyously eclectic musical experience, delivered with great energy and passion.
I've recently bought the first two albums, and I love those too. I still can't get over the fact that this great band slipped under my radar for so long. Ah well, better late than never as they say.
on 20 May 2004
This is how everybody remembers the 'Dead,as the mouthpiece of the psychedelic movement. It is the the acid/rock album by which allothers are measured.
The band of warriors lead by Jerry Garcia take you on the ultimate journey through space that kicks off with the renouned Dark Star. At clocking over 22minutes its pretty lengthy, but it surprises me every time how tight, but at the same time loose and trippy, the band keep it. Garcia is constantly flowing with ideas which the band pick-up on, and the song never loses its feel.
Other tracks such as 'the Eleven' are more upbeat and jazz-tinged. What makes this album really very special though,is that the 'Dead keep as a unit through-out. They never lose sight of what they are doing. Buy It.
on 28 November 2011
It was June 1970. My girlfriend was doing her O levels and was gated. I went with other friends lonely for the same reason to a party at Dave's. Although the weather was lovely we sat in the dark sitting room, a bunch of love sick adolescents. An older boy (Min Nutt - he was 17 and rumoured to take drugs) came in with Live Dead and said in mid Atlantic Essex "you've got to hear this". We did, and nothing was the same again. Dark Star blew me away like no other piece of music had (although there are many different and brilliant versions - try Dicks Picks 2). They cam to Britain for one gig 1n 1971, but it apparently wasn't that good. I saw them at Wembley in April 1972. That was a Saturday and I finally lost my virginity on Monday - an above average weekend!!
if you read the other reviews, you quickly see that this is music that captures extraordinary devotion from Grateful Dead fans, particularly on account of the extraordinary Dark Star.. The CD helps to show the integrated, fluid nature of this entire performance however, contextualising what is arguably the most extraordinary of all rock performance pieces within a larger creative framework.
What I would like to do is appeal to those with a wider musical interests than just rock and acid rock music, particularly those with an avant-garde interest in modern music, because I believe that this is one of those extraordinary creative performances that takes the music beyond the threshold of its genre. The philosophy is jazz at its true best: experimental, improvisational, a group of soloists that transcend their individuality, stretching and bending harmonic and rhythmic forms.
I think it should also be of interest to avant-garde classical music lovers. It is not Stockhausen or Steve Reich or John Cage, but like each of these it represents a new musical intelligence, a new way of thinking about and making music.
I also think that world musicians can take an interest, many of whom have roots in live, improvisational creation. Again, many world musicians have roots in traditional folk forms which they are learning to fuse and metamorphose. The Grateful Dead started life as a skittle group playing country music, and their southern country roots are always a subtle underscore to their style. However,this was transformed not just by transcendental drug experience, but also by the extraordinary musical and artistic intelligence of, in particular, Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter, their resident poet and songwriter. Furthermore they supported and sustained a community , which included many original minds, and were connected to a wide network of musical legends including Bob Dylan, and I think this hothouse culture contributed to their musical journey.
if you're listening to this music the first time, earphones really help [they don't have to be on too loud!] Because the secret is to immerse yourself in the flow. It's not background music, more of a life journey