Birth of the Dead

Birth of the Dead

by Grateful Dead


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Birth of the Dead

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.

Product Details

Release Date: 03/25/2003
Label: Rhino
UPC: 0081227439125
catalogNumber: 74391
Rank: 48338

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
Blind Willie Johnson   Composer
Gordon Lightfoot   Composer
Mickey Hart   Composer
Bob Dylan   Composer
Jerry Garcia   Arranger,Composer
Grateful Dead   Composer
Bob Weir   Arranger,Composer
Tom Constanten   Composer
Gus Cannon   Composer
Robert C. Smith   Composer
Walter Vinson   Composer
Greg Allen   Art Direction
Hugh Brown   Art Direction
Lonnie Chatmon   Composer
Earl Forest   Composer
Herbert Greene   Tray Photo
Bill Harvey   Composer
Jon Hendricks   Arranger,Producer
Lightnin' Hopkins   Composer
Bill Kreutzmann   Arranger,Composer
Peter Krug   Composer
Huddie Ledbetter   Composer
Phil Lesh   Arranger,Composer
Noah Lewis   Composer
Ron "Pigpen" McKernan   Arranger,Composer
Clayton McMichen   Composer
Bobby Mitchell   Producer
James Moore   Composer
Gary Peterson   Discographical Annotation
Wes Wilson   Poster Design
Leo de GarKulka   Engineer
Tom Donahue   Producer
Luther Dixon   Composer
Rachel Gutek   Art Direction
Rock Scully   Engineer
Jules Taub   Composer
Naomi Neville   Composer
Alan Riggs   Composer
Shawn Amos   Liner Note Coordination
Daniel Goldmark   Editorial Research
Traditional   Composer
Slim Bryant   Composer
Gene Estribou   Producer,Engineer
J. Moore   Composer

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Birth of the Dead 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Gonzo84 More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.