Birth of the Dead

( 2 )

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Lindsay Planer
Before the Grateful Dead were signed by Warner Brothers, they woodshedded their style, playing live in a variety of capacities such as their work as the unofficial house band at the various Acid Tests up and down the California coast and also cut a handful of studio demos around the Bay Area. The double-disc Birth of the Dead includes the bulk of those incipient sessions, as well as some of their primordial concert performances -- all predating their 1967 self-titled debut album. Appropriately, for a primarily historical release, the contents are configured chronologically. The disc begins with six tracks from November of 1965 for soon-to-be legendary Bay Area ...
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Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Lindsay Planer
Before the Grateful Dead were signed by Warner Brothers, they woodshedded their style, playing live in a variety of capacities such as their work as the unofficial house band at the various Acid Tests up and down the California coast and also cut a handful of studio demos around the Bay Area. The double-disc Birth of the Dead includes the bulk of those incipient sessions, as well as some of their primordial concert performances -- all predating their 1967 self-titled debut album. Appropriately, for a primarily historical release, the contents are configured chronologically. The disc begins with six tracks from November of 1965 for soon-to-be legendary Bay Area underground FM DJ Tom Donahue and then-partner Bobby Mitchell, whose Autumn Records label yielded sizable sides by the likes of the Beau Brummels. Under the moniker of 'The Emergency Crew,' Jerry Garcia guitar/vocals, Ron "Pigpen" McKernan vocals/harmonica/organ/percussion, Bob Weir guitar/vocals, Phil Lesh bass/vocals and Bill Kreutzmann drums recorded a cover of Gordon Lightfoot's "Early Morning Rain" -- purportedly at the behest of producers -- the communally-credited "I Know You Rider" and the originals "Mindbender Confusion's Prince," "Only Time Is Now," "Caution Do Not Stop on Tracks" and "Can't Come Down." "I Know You Rider" stayed in the Grateful Dead's revolving repertoire for the next 30 years, while "Caution Do Not Stop on Tracks" would become a powerful blues-meets-psychedelia vehicle in the months ahead. The last batch are from a mid-1966 session at Buena Vista Studios which wasn't connected to Walt Disney with overdubs done at Western Recorders. The results netted their first 45 rpm "Stealin'" b/w an early speedy reading of "Don't Ease Me In." The latter resurfaced every once and a while throughout the remainder of their long, strange trip, including another studio remake for the 1980 album Go to Heaven. "Fire in the City" is an interesting footnote as the Grateful Dead back up legendary jazz singer Jon Hendricks. The number was part of a soundtrack to the anti-war documentary film Sons and Daughters 1967. The 'Live Sides' are derived from several gigs circa July 1966 and the juxtaposition provides a glimpse of how the quintet developed by leaps and bounds onstage, in real time. Extended workouts of "Viola Lee Blues," "I'm a King Bee" and "Keep Rolling By" are harbingers of the next step in their perpetual evolution, while the compact arrangements of "In the Pines," "Sitting on Top of the World," "Nobody's Fault but Mine" and "Big Boss Man" hearken back to the earlier material. All said, Birth of the Dead aptly encapsulates the band's formative era, bridging the gap between the seminal single-CD Rare Cuts and Oddities 1966 and the 1967 self-titled debut on Warner Brothers.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 3/25/2003
  • Label: Rhino
  • UPC: 081227439125
  • Catalog Number: 74391
  • Sales rank: 26,580

Album Credits

Performance Credits
Grateful Dead Primary Artist
Jerry Garcia Guitar, Vocals
Bob Weir Rhythm Guitar, Vocals
Jon Hendricks Vocals
Bill Kreutzmann Drums
Phil Lesh Bass
Ron "Pigpen" McKernan Organ, Harmonica, Vocals
Technical Credits
Blind Lemon Jefferson Composer
Mickey Hart Composer
Jerry Garcia Arranger
Grateful Dead Composer
Bob Weir Arranger
Bunk Johnson Composer
Tom Constanten Composer
Greg Allen Art Direction
Hugh Brown Art Direction
Joe Gastwirt Mastering
Herbert Greene Tray Photo
Jon Hendricks Arranger, Producer
Bill Kreutzmann Arranger
Huddie Ledbetter Composer
Phil Lesh Arranger
Ron "Pigpen" McKernan Arranger
Bobby Mitchell Producer
Gary Peterson Discographical Annotation
Wes Wilson Poster Design
Leo de GarKulka Engineer
Tom Donahue Producer
Rachel Gutek Art Direction
Rock Scully Engineer
Alan Riggs Composer
Shawn Amos Liner Note Coordination
Daniel Goldmark Editorial Research
Traditional Composer
Gene Estribou Producer, Engineer
J. Moore Composer
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 2 )
Rating Distribution

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 1, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    The Beginning...

    I got this 2 disc album in a box set years ago and really never put too much effort in listening to it, since I was more into the 68-69period of the Dead's 60s sound. Songs like "Early Morning Rain" and "Caution" were the songs that captured my tastes, but further listening to the album, especially the live tracks brings a special intimate feeling of the time; 1965...the beginning of the whole scene. The live disc is superb in my mind, the sound quality is relatively good, considering the time period and how the recording systems back then for a local band weren't as good as they are today. Suprisingly, Phil's bass sounds quite clear for the quality and the only problem I would say is Pigpens organ is a tad loud on each of the songs, but other than that, the sound is just as good as the rest of the live albums the Dead would release in the future. The band plays very tight and the jams especially on "Viola Lee Blues" and "Standing On the Corner" are definitely the Birth of the Dead. Everytime I listen to this, I can picture Ken Kesey and Neal Cassady dancing around in some ballroom. I can feel the atmosphere and have a sense of what a special time it surely was. To me it was the greatest time in music history and the Dead took live music and blew into something even more than just music, but made it an experience. I have to say that even though, I prefer late 60s and early 70s for my taste, this brand makes me wish for more tapes from 65. So if you want to hop into a time machine and go back to the beginning of the San Fransisco sound, to the days of Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters, the start of the Hippy Revolution, pop this sucker in and enjoy.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    Birth of the Dead

    Even if you are a Grateful Dead fan, you may be disappointed in this one. The song selection is alright, but the sound quality isn't very good. My favorite song is a version of Fire in the City with a guest vocalist (I'm honestly not sure who it is). Do I regret picking up this album? No. Do I regret buying this album when I could have bought Rockin' The Rhein? You're darn right.

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews