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Grateful Dead - the Most Overrated Band Ever?


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34 minutes ago, bluesman said:

  So in essence, I think the Dead were underachievers who wasted their talents and settled for being idolized by a throng of adoring fans who got what they paid for, in spades.

 

Much earlier I wanted to say on this thread that IMO that's the danger of being a band like GD (but there are more examples, like I said earlier also from my own, local scene) in a sense of having so devoted, so faithful audience and the danger is - the band knows that almost whatever they do, whatever material they issue - their fans will love them anyway. Such sense of 'security' can IMO be very dangerous for creativity. Just my 2p.

 

What’s true of all the evils in the world is true of plague as well.
It helps men to rise above themselves.
 
  ―  Albert Camus, The Plague.

 

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11 hours ago, JoshM said:


The Chambers Brothers? There’s so much to enjoy!

 

I agree - in particular the mentioned album is not bad at all!

 

What’s true of all the evils in the world is true of plague as well.
It helps men to rise above themselves.
 
  ―  Albert Camus, The Plague.

 

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14 hours ago, JoshM said:

As a teen and into my 20s, I associated the Dead with old hippies and endless noodling. However, once I listened to American Beauty, I started to “get” the Dead. That initial inroads quickly expanded. Now I’ve watched Long Strange Trip dozens of times, read six or seven books on them, own nearly their entire catalog (live stuff included).

 

Nice post, @JoshM, always nice to explore artists and find something that strikes a chord.  I downloaded American Beauty and Workingman's dead perhaps a year ago to make sure I wasn't missing anything (I can't stream in the boonies- no cable let alone Chris' fiber!  Don't like satellite. We used smartphones as hotspots with a patch antenna pointed at the closest tower- now that the leaves are coming back we are going back into the season of less reception- until one of the DSL lines in our region became available a few months ago :) ).  

 

They didn't "take," but I just started playing American Beauty and will keep it going when I resume working on our deck in a bit, resisting my typical Classic R&B work music :).

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Just decided in an attempt to understand even better to see the 'Long Strange Trip' (wasn't the last word supposed to begin with 'D'.? 9_9) documentary.

 

What’s true of all the evils in the world is true of plague as well.
It helps men to rise above themselves.
 
  ―  Albert Camus, The Plague.

 

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On 3/23/2021 at 11:00 AM, sphinxsix said:

I guess some are gonna hate me for this 9_9

 

Not hate you, but not gonna want to hang out with you either ... to analyze the Dead based on recordings is to have missed the polysensory experience. 

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Let's stay relaxed..

Ever been to a Dead concert?

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9 minutes ago, jabbr said:

 

Not hate you, but not gonna want to hang out with you either ... to analyze the Dead based on recordings is to have missed the polysensory experience. 

Ever been to a Dead concert?

 

You're late to the party, I almost like them 😊

What’s true of all the evils in the world is true of plague as well.
It helps men to rise above themselves.
 
  ―  Albert Camus, The Plague.

 

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51 minutes ago, sphinxsix said:

I must  say 100% seriously that when I started the thread I had some antipathy for the band, which I perceived as pretty highly overrated in particular by the American audience and critics (speaking about the music itself again!). The antipathy has meanwhile changed to some sympathy probably not only due to the fact that I have quite positive attitude to the American counterculture of the late 60's and 70's but also due to some fans who expressed their attitude to the band and the whole cultural context in which GD existed here, passion is contagious, period. Thanks for this guys!


Don’t compare Grateful Dead to Miles Davis or John Coltrane, see them as a folk band. Folk isn’t about technical perfection, rather a “feeling”.

 

Theres too music “around” the music to convey, but yeah a documentary given you a hint. it’s not like being there. 
 

From a technical point of view the “Wall of Sound” was literally groundbreaking and all this is the forerunner of the modern music festival. 

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11 minutes ago, jabbr said:

Don’t compare Grateful Dead to Miles Davis or John Coltrane, see them as a folk band. Folk isn’t about technical perfection, rather a “feeling”.

 

Miles was a pretty poor technically trumpet player. I like quite lots of folk stuff, beginning with Woody Guthrie.

 

14 minutes ago, jabbr said:

From a technical point of view the “Wall of Sound” was literally groundbreaking

 

I'd probably  agree with that.

 

What’s true of all the evils in the world is true of plague as well.
It helps men to rise above themselves.
 
  ―  Albert Camus, The Plague.

 

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On 3/23/2021 at 8:00 AM, sphinxsix said:

Maybe the question I asked (frankly this wasn't a question but let's say a suggestion) on the 'Eric Clapton' thread actually deserves a separate thread. I expect the discussion may be quite hot.

 

Repeating the essence of my post:

 

When I was a kid and I had only possibility of reading about Grateful Dead (they didn't play their music on the radio where I lived, in general the band has always been much more popular in the US) - I imagined, this must have been the greatest band of all time. Getting their first LP 'Terrapin Station' was the biggest disappointment in music in my life. The music was just bad and utterly boring. I still tend to think that Grateful Dead was actually a bad, boring and probably most overrated band ever. Many claim they were best while playing live (allmusic on 'Terrapin Station': "The theory is that the band's momentum is best experienced during the ebb and flow of a live performance rather than the somewhat clinical tedium of a recording studio.") but maybe their audience was simply usually too high to notice that apart from their ability to create a specific kind of connection with their audience they were in fact a bad, boring half amateur band..

 

I guess some are gonna hate me for this 9_9

 

Let's stay relaxed..

 

 


Not hate but I got chills when first heard the tape of the Dead at the Crystal Ballroom in 1968. In 2015 I heard a third generation copy on a vist to Portland and still got chills.


 

It is a shame the masters of my two favorite Dead albums were thrown away when Mickey Hart remastered them.

 

Their business skills are something worth studying in any case.

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1 hour ago, sphinxsix said:

 

Miles was a pretty poor technically trumpet player. I like quite lots of folk stuff, beginning with Woody Guthrie.

Well, since Miles redefined jazz, the trumpet, and music in general multiple times, maybe it was everybody else who was poor technically?  That you go on to mention a folk singer in the same breath...I cannot even bring myself to respond

 

 

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I agree that the Dead's studio albums aren't all that great.  In terms of "psychedelic music" their first album doesn't hold a candle to Surrealistic Pillow or Quicksilver Messenger Service.  However, their live jams are very enjoyable and they always seems to add a little wrinkle on later performances.

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39 minutes ago, PeterG said:

Well, since Miles redefined jazz, the trumpet, and music in general multiple times, maybe it was everybody else who was poor technically? 

 

 

You will not find a bigger Miles fan than the one writing these words, on this forum, believe me. As for playing the trumpet - he really struggled with the technique quite often though. He used to be technically at his best probably in the second half of the 60's, his experiments with wah-wah pedal in the 70's were IMO great and really adventurous, nevertheless throughout his whole career he used to choose the master take based on only one critterium - the quality of his(!) solo B|. I'm pretty sure he was aware of his own limitations. On some unofficial recordings (I have more than a hundred of his albums) you can hear some really embarrassing moments.. Doesn't matter - he was one of 2, maybe 3 most important jazz musicians anyway! :)

 

39 minutes ago, PeterG said:

That you go on to mention a folk singer in the same breath...I cannot even bring myself to respond

 

 

I guess you don't know me well, I possibly could've mentioned Metallica or Bach in the very same sentence..! :D

 

What’s true of all the evils in the world is true of plague as well.
It helps men to rise above themselves.
 
  ―  Albert Camus, The Plague.

 

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Well, I'm 1h20min into the documentary (will divide it probably into 3 watching sessions) and for now I will only say one thing - I bet Garcia's 'noodling' style of playing is connected in some way with the fact that he had been a bluegrass banjo player before he took up electric guitar, his idea of a guitar solo (sure, they were diverse..) to me seems to be often connected in a way with a bluegrass banjo style of solos. That's it for now.

What’s true of all the evils in the world is true of plague as well.
It helps men to rise above themselves.
 
  ―  Albert Camus, The Plague.

 

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On 3/28/2021 at 7:31 PM, sphinxsix said:

Well, I'm 1h20min into the documentary (will divide it probably into 3 watching sessions) and for now I will only say one thing - I bet Garcia's 'noodling' style of playing is connected in some way with the fact that he had been a bluegrass banjo player before he took up electric guitar, his idea of a guitar solo (sure, they were diverse..) to me seems to be often connected in a way with a bluegrass banjo style of solos. That's it for now.

 

Interesting. There is something to this. I found a 1991 interview with Jerry and this issue is raised but seems to fall in a grey zone for Jerry himself.

 

Jerry Garcia on Banjo

 

 

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1 hour ago, christopher3393 said:

 

Interesting. There is something to this. I found a 1991 interview with Jerry and this issue is raised but seems to fall in a grey zone for Jerry himself.

 

Jerry Garcia on Banjo

 

 

 

Quoting JG from this interview:

" I work on electric guitar, the top strings anyway, like a banjo sometimes. My intention with some of my soloing is to get something that's like the banjo in terms of the clarity."

"BNL: Does your banjo playing inform your guitar playing?

JG: Yeah, in a way. Certainly more than my guitar playing informs my banjo playing."

 

I actually don't know what they mean by 'informing' maybe someone's English is better than mine and he could clarify it (is this like in 'historically informed perfrmances'?).

 

What I meant was what he said in the first quote - that I sometimes can hear influence of banjo playing technique on his guitar playing but that's not all. What I also had in mind had to do with a solo dramaturgy - its structure. Let's take e.g. Stevie Ray Vaughan solo:

 

 

It's like telling a story with a guitar - there are quiet moments in the story, dramatic ones, sad ones, energetic ones etc..

Bluegrass solos are usually constructed dramatically in a different way - they don't have such huge dramatic contrasts, are more even, one could say that in comparison to SRV Hendrixian school of guitar playing - they have compressed DR (dramatic range 9_9) eg:

 

 

And in this regard JG's solos often remind me in a way of bluegrass banjo (or other) solos - they are more 'even', one could say there is sometimes an element of 'noodling' in them (it wasn't me who first used this word on this thread B|).

 

BTW I totally  agree with JG - I'm not a huge fan of banjo but Bela Fleck is fantastic on this instrument! (just check out his 'Live at the Quick', those who haven't seen/heard it).

BTW 2 IMHO (I'm not a banjo expert in no way) based on what I heard in 'Long Slow Trip' - JG was a very good banjo player as well!

 

 

What’s true of all the evils in the world is true of plague as well.
It helps men to rise above themselves.
 
  ―  Albert Camus, The Plague.

 

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On 3/28/2021 at 10:21 AM, sphinxsix said:

Miles was a pretty poor technically trumpet player.

That's an old cliché that's simply not true.  He was no Rafael Méndez, but he was a very skilled and sensitive player.  His pitch and intonation were excellent, as was his control - and he had great technical facility.  The fact that he chose not to play every note he could every chance he got was not an indication that he was anything less than excellent - it was just how he heard the music in his head.  And as he was quite a showman, he probably laid back to contrast himself as being cool against Dizzy's frenetic style.

 

The well known players whose prowess was their raison d'etre (e.g. Maynard, Dizzy) were not that far ahead of MIles in pure technique.  And there are many others who have / had the chops but also saw no reason to show off.  Doc Severinsen is a great example - he was as skilled a trumpeter as anybody (probably including Mendez).  In fact, most of the trumpeters in the top Latin bands are outstanding technicians, as are funk and blues players like Adolfo Acosta (Tower of Power) and the horn sections of Jack Mack, the Memphis Horns, etc.

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42 minutes ago, bluesman said:

His pitch and intonation were excellent

I could present you immediately a dozen of his live recordings (usually not official ones) where they weren't. 

 

I said earlier that his playing was probably technically best in 1964-69 period at the same time I think e.g. Dizzy was much better technically player, in particular when they both played with Bird (ok. Miles was almost a beginner back then..). Like I said - doesn't matter, IMO he was a better and more interesting musician by ..miles.. :)

 

How about some music from the above mentioned period of his fantastic quintet..?  ;)

 

 

 

What’s true of all the evils in the world is true of plague as well.
It helps men to rise above themselves.
 
  ―  Albert Camus, The Plague.

 

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50 minutes ago, sphinxsix said:

I could present you immediately a dozen of his live recordings (usually not official ones) where they weren't.

I suspect that any issues with technical prowess were directly related to substance abuse, at which he was apparently also expert.  When on his game, Miles was an excellent player.

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3 minutes ago, bluesman said:

I suspect that any issues with technical prowess were directly related to substance abuse, at which he was apparently also expert.

I must admit my knowledge related to these recordings doesn't reach that far, but I'd agree that of course at least some of his technical issues might have been related to different substances abuse.

 

What’s true of all the evils in the world is true of plague as well.
It helps men to rise above themselves.
 
  ―  Albert Camus, The Plague.

 

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57 minutes ago, sphinxsix said:

I must admit my knowledge related to these recordings doesn't reach that far, but I'd agree that of course at least some of his technical issues might have been related to different substances abuse.

As a person, Miles was a perpetual mess.  Read his autobiography (the one co-authored by Quincy Troupe) and try to find the Rolling Stone bio.  He got hooked on heroin in the '50s, continued to record, but as described in one of the bios, "his performances were haphazard".  When he was on, Miles was about as good as it gets except for the virtuosos, almost all of whom who had more technique than taste.  But he was off so many times in his career and for so long at a time that he left a legacy of marginal performances.  Between '75 and '81 (the years covered in the movie Miles Ahead, which is well worth seeing), he didn't release a single recording.

 

An apocryphal story's been published so many times that it's probably true.  In 1982, when Musician Magazine asked what he did between '75 and '81, Miles answered: “Nothin’. Gettin’ high. I didn’t feel like playing the trumpet, didn’t feel like listening to music. Didn’t want to hear it, see it, smell it, nothin’ about it… I didn’t come out of the house for about four years… But then Dizzy came around and said, ‘What the f**k are you doing? You were put here to play music!’ So I started back.”

 

He was one angry, miserable, nmessed up human for most of his life.   He was notoriously unfaithful to his wives, which broke up his marriages  His breakup with his wife Frances Taylor really shook him badly, which also affected his playing.  He married Betty Mabry in '68 and divorced her within a year, after which he got back into heavy drug use.  He married Cicely Tyson, with whom he'd been having affairs for years while still married to Mabry - and he cheated on Tyson to the point at which she divorced him too.

 

If you don't view Miles in accurate context, you can't really understand the frenetic and dangerous balance in which his talent was suspended.  He was a truly great musician.  Sadly, he didn't value that enough to let it ease any of his pain - and it didn't seem to mean enough to him to help keep his demons in check.  He was willing to sacrifice his greatest gift for his vices, and he suffered for this as much as we did.  Miles never really achieved peace, equanimity, or true joy in life.  And we never got more than a glimpse of the greatness that lay within him.

 

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