Friday, April 22, 2022

Grateful Dead 16: Shakedown Street

Their record company wanted more product, so the Dead decamped to their rehearsal space to deliver what would become Shakedown Street. Still required to use a name producer, they went the somewhat safe route with Little Feat’s Lowell George, who’d be dead within the year.
There is something of a gumbo feel to their laid-back cover of the Young Rascals’ “Good Lovin’”; this was one of Pigpen’s showcases back in the day, but it’s handled here by Bob Weir. It’s also splattered with timbale-style percussion, which continues on “France”, wherein Donna Godchaux duets with Weir on music he wrote with Mickey Hart to a Robert Hunter lyric. It’s got way too much steel drums, but some nice acoustic soloing, which only whets listeners’ appetites for Jerry Garcia to do something. Unfortunately he does so with the heavily discofied title track, the chorus and hooks of which still bear an uncomfortable similarity to “Stayin’ Alive”. This wouldn’t keep the tune from becoming a live staple, however. “Serengetti”, a track consisting solely of Mickey and Bill Kreutzmann’s percussion, is a more successful experiment, and a nice distraction. However, “Fire On The Mountain” uses the same two-chord template—maybe because Mickey wrote the music?—as “Franklin’s Tower”, but a hair slower. It, too, would become a favorite onstage.
Side two starts strong with “I Need A Miracle”—a rather ordinary sentiment, but the track has power. “From The Heart Of Me” is Donna’s final spotlight with the band, and while it’s a little chirpy, it’s a nice song, perhaps too quirky to be an adult contemporary hit. Historians shouldn’t be misled by “Stagger Lee”—rather than work up a new arrangement of this chestnut, Robert Hunter wrote all new words to tell the story, including the previously unknown fact that “she shot him in the balls.” Ideas remained thin, however, as “All New Minglewood Blues” is a slowed-down retread of a song from their first album. But “If I Had The World To Give” is a very tender Garcia-Hunter tune, and a nice benediction.
Despite its shortcomings, Shakedown Street isn’t a “bad” album, but it’s not great. The most popular songs continue to sell it to those who embrace them. (Bonus tracks on the eventual expanded CD include a version of “Good Lovin’” with Lowell George singing lead, alongside three songs from the band’s legendary appearance in Egypt in front of the Sphinx, including a 13-minute slog through “Fire On The Mountain”.)

Grateful Dead Shakedown Street (1978)—3
2006 expanded CD: same as 1978, plus 5 extra tracks

No comments:

Post a Comment