Grateful Dead: Blues For Allah (1975)

Kronomyth 13.0: ALLAHLUJAH. In one of life’s little ironies, the Dead’s temporary retirement from touring resulted in a studio album that finally sounded like a Dead concert, Blues For Allah. Then again, maybe it wasn’t ironic at all, since (like lightning) that energy had to go somewhere. The first half of the album is constructed as a seamless performance of new songs connected by instrumentals like “King Solomon’s Marbles” and “Stronger Than Dirt Or Milkin’ The Turkey.” These are simply names given to the nameless, organic interplay that arose during the band’s musical communion on stage (e.g., Drums, Space). The first three tracks also constitute a kind of musical tangram, where “Help On The Way” introduces a musical problem that gets extrapolated and a bit complicated on “Slipknot!,” only to find its perfect resolution in “Franklin’s Tower.” After the drum/space interlude, Bob Weir steps up to the mic for one of the strongest Weir/Barlow songs this side of In The Dark, “The Music Never Stopped.” The second side unravels a bit, as Garcia and Weir present what are essentially solo songs (albeit very good ones) before the band closes with a tripped-out tribute to the late King Faisal  that calls for peace between the Arabs and the Jews. In a sense, Blues For Allah is a perfect miniature Dead concert: the harmonies are flawless and the intricately articulated guitar of Garcia (who was now playing in a distinctively piquant style on what I believe was a Travis Bean electric guitar at this point) supports his standing as one of rock’s truly great guitarists (Rolling Stone recently ranked him #46 behind Stephen Stills and Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood, which is why I don’t number anything.) This album is also notable for its pronounced jazz fusion influence. Keith Godchaux, who rarely gets much recognition for his musical contributions to the Dead, rises to the challenge with a variety of keyboards, including the Fender Rhodes and, on “Crazy Fingers,” what sounds to be an organ. A perennial favorite among Deadheads (and rightly so), Blues For Allah and the subsequent Terrapin Station best capture the band’s live lightning in a bottle, and may also be the two Dead albums that most appeal to progressive rock/fusion fans.

Original LP Version
A1. Help On The Way (Robert Hunter/Jerry Garcia) (3:15)
A2. Slipknot! (Jerry Garcia/Keith Godchaux/Bill Kreutzmann/Phil Lesh/Bob Weir) (4:03)
A3. Franklin’s Tower (Robert Hunter/Jerry Garcia/Bill Kreutzmann) (4:37)
A4. King Solomon’s Marbles (Phil Lesh) (1:55)
A5. Stronger Than Dirt Or Milkin’ The Turkey (Mickey Hart/Bill Kreutzmann/Phil Lesh) (3:25)
A6. The Music Never Stopped (Bob Weir/John Barlow) (4:35)
B1. Crazy Fingers (Robert Hunter/Jerry Garcia) (6:41)
B2. Sage & Spirit (Bob Weir) (3:07)
B3. Blues For Allah (Robert Hunter/Jerry Garcia) (3:21)
B4. Sand Castles & Glass Camels (Jerry Garcia/Donna Godchaux/Keith Godchaux/Mickey Hart/Bill Kreutzmann/Phil Lesh/Bob Weir) (5:26)
B5. Unusual Occurrences In The Desert (Robert Hunter/Jerry Garcia) (3:48)

Expanded CD bonus tracks
12. Groove #1
13. Groove #2
14. Distorto
15. A To E Flat Jam
16. Proto 18 Proper
17. Hollywood Cantata

The Players
Jerry Garcia (guitars & vocals), Donna Godchaux (vocals), Keith Godchaux (keyboards & vocals), Mickey Hart (percussion & crickets), Bill Kreutzmann (drums & percussion), Phil Lesh (bass & vocals), Bob Weir (guitars & vocals) with Steven Schuster (reeds & flute). Produced by the Grateful Dead; engineering by Dan Healy, mixing by Dan Healy and the Grateful Dead. Production assistance by Ramrod, Steve Brown, Betty Cantor, Brett Cohen and Bob Matthews.

The Plastic
Released on elpee on September 1, 1975 in the US and Canada (Grateful Dead, GD-LA494-G), UK (United Artists, UAS-29895) and Japan (Liberty, LLS-80373); reached #12 on the US charts and #45 on the UK charts. Original elpee featured lyric insert. Re-released on elpee in the UK (United Artists, UAS-29895 with cream-brown label), in Japan (Grateful Dead, GP-572) and in 1989 in Australia (Festival, L-30165). Re-released on elpee, CD and cassette on October 10, 1995 in the US (Grateful Dead, GDV/GDCD/GDC-4001). Re-released on remastered CD in the US (Mobile Fidelity, MFCD-830). Re-released on expanded, remastered CD (feat. 6 bonus tracks) in 2006 in the UK (Rhino, 73354-2). Original cover painting by Philip Garris, who also provided the artwork for the first Kingfish album released the following year.

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