Grateful Dead: In The Dark (1987)

Kronomyth 20.0: THE RETURN OF THE GREY WIZARDS. After six years, the Dead returned with a vengeance. In The Dark became their highest-charting US album, “Touch of Grey” their highest-charting single, and suddenly the Dead seemed ageless. Sure, it was their best studio album since the 70s, backed by two terrific tracks from Bob Weir (“Hell In A Bucket,” “Throwing Stones”) and the kind of smooth and pungent playing the Dead usually reserved for the stage, but I suspect the band’s absence had a lot to do with the warm reception. Waiting in the wings were new acts like Edie Brickell and Phish, who demonstrated that the Dead’s influence had never disappeared, instead tunneling underground. So when the grey wizards came riding back tall in the saddle at the head of a new army, you couldn’t help but throw roses at their feet. In a rare role switch, it’s Weir who emerges as the stronger songwriter, while the Garcia/Hunter compositions are a little listless by comparison (although the funky “West L.A. Fadeaway” is a winner). Brent Mydland, who kicked into Bucket, also takes a cameo on “Tons of Steel,” and may actually be the band’s best natural vocalist at this stage (provided the sound of Bryan Adams singing doesn’t make you want to barf or punch somebody or barf on someone and then punch them right where you barfed on them). Unlike the last few studio albums, which found the Dead eking out their legend in a creative holding pattern, In The Dark builds up the legend once more, as though the world needed to be reminded (and they did). Of course, it was right back to the bargain bins with Built To Last, but none of it diminished the achievement of Dark. If someone had told me in the 1970s that Grace Slick and Jerry Garcia would be singing Top 10 songs in 1987, I would have thought that Someone was smoking something. A couple of obit notes for the curious (since this is the Dead after all): the album is dedicated to Paul Roehlk, a truck driver for the Dead’s tour equipment, who passed away in March 1987; the album credits also feature a “farewell to Otis,” Bob Weir’s dog, who died in January 1987.

Original LP Version
A1. Touch of Grey (Jerry Garcia/Robert Hunter) (5:47)
A2. Hell In A Bucket (Bob Weir/John Barlow/Brent Mydland) (5:35)
A3. When Push Comes To Shove (Jerry Garcia/Robert Hunter) (4:05)
A4. West L.A. Fadeaway (Jerry Garcia/Robert Hunter) (6:39)
B1. Tons of Steel (Brent Mydland) (5:15)
B2. Throwing Stones (Bob Weir/John Barlow) (7:18)
B3. Black Muddy River (Jerry Garcia/Robert Hunter) (5:58)

Original Cassette Version
A1. Touch of Grey (Jerry Garcia/Robert Hunter) (5:47)
A2. Hell In A Bucket (Bob Weir/John Barlow/Brent Mydland) (5:35)
A3. When Push Comes To Shove (Jerry Garcia/Robert Hunter) (4:05)
A4. My Brother Esau (Bob Weir/John Barlow) (4:17)
B1. Tons of Steel (Brent Mydland) (5:15)
B2. West L.A. Fadeaway (Jerry Garcia/Robert Hunter) (6:39)
B3. Throwing Stones (Bob Weir/John Barlow) (7:18)
B4. Black Muddy River (Jerry Garcia/Robert Hunter) (5:58)

CD reissue bonus tracks
8. My Brother Esau
9. West L.A. Fadeaway (alternate version)
10. Black Muddy River (studio outtake)
11. When Push Comes To Shove (studio outtake)
12. Touch of Grey (studio outtake)
13. Throwing Stones (live)

The Players
Jerry Garcia, Mickey Hart, Bill Kreutzmann, Phil Lesh, Brent Mydland, Bob Weir with Bob Bralove (programming & spatial effects). Produced by Jerry Garcia & John Cutler; engineered by John Cutler & Guy Charbonneau. Additional engineering by Dan Healy, Jeff Sterling, Jeffrey Norman, David Roberts, Joe Gastwirt, Justin Kreutzmann.

The Plastic
Released on elpee, cassette and CD on July 6, 1987 in the US and Canada (Arista, AL/AC/ARCD-8452), the UK and Germany (Arista, 208/408 564), Australia (Arista, VPL1-7579), Japan (Arista, A27L/A32D-10), Korea (Arista, SAPR-058), Mexico (Arista, LAE-734) and Venezuela (Arista, 7850); reached #6 on the US charts (RIAA certified 2X platinum record) and #57 on the UK charts. Original elpee features a gatefold cover and picture innersleeve. Art direction & photography by Herbie Greene; cover art by Randy Tuten; design by Gail Grant and Tom Ingalls. In 1996, this was re-released on CD in Europe (Arista/BMG, 261145) and Japan (BMG, BVCA-7380), and again in 2000 in Japan (BMG, BVCM-37142). An expanded, remastered CD with 6 bonus tracks was released on April 11, 2006 in the US and Europe (Rhino, 73284). On June 26, 2012, the original 7-track elpee was re-issued on a 180g vinyl audiophile elpee on June 26, 2012 in the US (Mobile Fidelity, MFSL-1-369).

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