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Non-Prog CD Reviews

The Grateful Dead

In the Dark

Review by Gary Hill

Many Dead Heads considered this album to be a sell out for the Grateful Dead. Certainly, it was the start of their biggest period of commercial success. The truth is, though, musically, it’s a strong disc that showcases the same type of music the Grateful Dead had been doing for years. It still holds up very well today. There’s a lot of variety on the set and just some great tunes.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2011  Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Touch of Grey

This, along with the track that follows it, was a big hit for The Dead. It’s a pretty typical Grateful Dead song, though, not a sellout by any means. It’s a mid-tempo number with a catchy chorus. The instrumentation is strong and there is a great vocal arrangement.

Hell in a Bucket
The lyrics to this one are sarcastic and angry, but also, ultimately, defiantly triumphant. The song rocks out a bit harder than the opener and is a great number. Jerry Garcia solos all over this piece.
When Push Comes to Shove
Here’s a slow moving number with a lot of country music built into the arrangement. It’s also quite bluesy and has a real honky tonk feeling to it. The chorus is extremely catchy and there’s a lot of killer piano in the arrangement.
West L.A. Fadeaway
A funky number, this is just plain tasty. It’s a somewhat low-key number, but it’s also extremely tasty.
Tons of Steel
A song about a train, if the Dead did sell out, it’s on this song. It’s got a definite AOR sound, and it doesn’t really feel like the Grateful Dead. That said, it’s still a great song. The funny thing is, this song wasn’t even a hit. The little closing bit is almost prog rock, feeling a bit like Rick Wakeman.
Throwing Stones
A bass driven piece, this is classic Grateful Dead. It’s actually my favorite piece on the album. It’s a great rocker with a bit of funk built into it. It’s also got some very deep lyrics. There’s some great guitar soloing on this number, too. This is quite a dynamic number that at times makes me think a bit of Terrapin Station.
Black Muddy River
A slow moving number, this seems to combine bluegrass and gospel music into a bluesy piece. It’s good, but perhaps a bit too low-key to have in the position of album closer.
 
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