Sound: Dylan and the Dead was a live album that was released in 1989, though the actual music recordings were taken from four different shows that occurred two yearsenarlier in 1987. Though the album boasts seven Dylan tunes only, there were Grateful Dead songs played throughout the actual tour also. The album recognizes the Grateful Dead's ability to turn any song into a jam/sing-along, which is not always a good thing when you're not playing Dead songs quite frankly. Below I'll give a list of musicians and a song-by-song analysis of the album. The Songs:
1.Slow Train: this religious song originally appeared on Dylan's 1979 album, Slow Train Coming. It starts out the album quite well and features a fantastic guitar solo by Jerry Garcia. It is a very haunting tune with the repeated low-toned chant of "there's a slow, there's a slow, slow train coming. A nice little track, probably one of the best of his 80s songs of the album (though it technically was released in the 70s, I think of it as an 80s album.) It's definetely the song off this album that will stick with you.
2.I Want You: contrary to the first track, this is actually a very upbeat and happy song. Very pop-sounding really, but it has a nice little melody. It originally appeared on the now infamous Blonde on Blonde (Dylan album from '66), and I definetely prefer the original version. Dylan's vocals are very good on this song, going from a low kind of rasp almost to a high (or at least trying to be) kind of holler.
3.Gotta Serve Somebody: also coming off 1980's Slow Train Coming album, we have ourselves another evangelical jam. Another kinda of upbeat song, it has a nice little organ part if you listen close enough. The Dead's back-up vocals on this song are also entertaining for the first million "You gotta Serve Somebody's". That's really about it.
4.Queen Jane Approximately: this track was first released on Bob's breakout 1965 album, Highway 61 Revisited. And personally, it was my favorite song on that album so naturally I had pretty high hopes for this one. After a while the whole thing erupted into a free-form Dead jam with an over-repeated chorus... Again. Needless to say, I was pretty dissapointed in this rendition of a classic song. Are you starting to see a pattern here?
5.Joey: released originally on my favorite Dylan album, Desire (which I also have written a review on.) Once again my hopes were high for this epic story off my favorite album. Well, I wasn't as dissapointed in this one as I was in Queen Jane Approximately, but I wasn't exactly thrilled either. One of the better songs off this album definetely, but it's still nothing to rave about.
6.All Along the Watchtower: first heard on the 1967 album John Wesley Harding, this song has always been a concert staple for Dylan (even in modern times) and was made especially famous by a cover version done by Jimi Hendrix the folling year in '68. On this album the song is definetely the highpoint. It's full of energy and the guitar solo is absolute insanity. If you're only going to listen to one song off this album, please let this be it!
7.Knockin' On Heaven's Door: probably Dylan's most recognizable song of all time, it first came out on the soundtrack to Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, a film which actually featured Dylan. Bob actually changes it up just a little bit by singing at an alternate time during the main chord progression. But that doesn't do enough to prevent this from become just one of countless renditions of this song, and let me be the first to tell you, this one isn't the best. (If you want that check out the 1975 live version with the rolling Thunder Revue ) // 6
Lyrics: The lyrics, of course are great! I mean come on guys it's Bob Dylan after all! The lyrics, however good they may be, cannot make make up for the music though for sure. I've got to tell ya, the epic story Joey has some of the best lyrics their are and Knockin on Heaven's Door is a classic! But the two evangelical christian songs on here have lyrics that aren't much to talk about really. But other than that, lyric-wise I have nowhere to complain. // 8
Overall Impression: Well, well, well. When it comes to this album, I'm truly at a crossroads. On one hand, the Grateful Dead (who I love just so you know) make this album a bit with repetitive jams. They were entertaining at first, but then they got a bit old. On the other hand, there definetely are a few gems on this album and it features two of the biggest names in classic rock. Really I'm torn, but, as always, I have to rate this on the music and not the names. And for that reason I may have to go with the critics who called this album boring, bland and a low-point in both artists discographies. But of course that is a bit harsh. // 6