Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Robert Hunter: Tales Of The Great Rum Runners

Outside of the band members themselves, few names are more sacred to Deadheads than that of Robert Hunter. His lyrics first appeared on the band’s second album, and he would contribute more to just about every album after that, usually collaborating with Jerry Garcia but sometimes with Phil Lesh and Mickey Hart. According to one source, he is the only non-performing member of any band that has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
He managed to rack up a pile of tunes that hadn’t been recorded by the time the Dead had their own label, and thus Tales Of The Great Rum Runners was his solo debut, albeit with some of the band helping him out. Unfortunately, his voice leaves something to be desired, forced when loud and nervous when quiet. While it does have some of the same weedy qualities as Garcia’s, to the point where one can imagine these as Dead tunes, Jerry could actually hit the notes and carry the tunes. Indeed, “It Must Have Been The Roses” would reappear on a Garcia solo album, and become part of many a Dead set. We can almost hear Jerry singing “That Train”, “Maybe She’s A Bluebird”, and “Children’s Lament”, the latter here with a nostalgic bagpipe background. “Keys To The Rain” is Dylanesque in words and delivery, except for the meter changes and mariachi horns. And as befitting the album title, each side begins with something of a sea chanty, sung a cappella.
Since it’s Robert Hunter, Tales Of The Great Rum Runners is essential for Deadheads, who will enjoy the lyrics and many of the arrangements. But his legacy is better appreciated on other albums.

Robert Hunter Tales Of The Great Rum Runners (1974)—

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