[Review] Kingfish (1976)

Basically the same trip as NROTPS but with Bob Weir along for the ride this time.

Kronomyth 1.0: New weirders of the purple stage.

Despite the familiar cover artwork, this is allahtogether a different animal than the Dead’s last album, featuring a mix of country, soft rock and a few tunes with Bob Weir on vocals that, yes, inevitably draw comparisons to the Dead and New Riders. In fact, the opening “Lazy Lightnin’/Supplication” actually made its way into the Dead’s live set for a short time. For my money, Weir’s contributions to Kingfish form the highlights of their first album. “Lazy Lightnin’” and “Home To Dixie” blow by like a cool breeze, and his reading of Marty Robbins’ “Big Iron” is country at its best. Even the closing “Bye And Bye,” which gets a reggae reading reminiscent of Jerry Garcia, is likely to please Deadheads.

The rest of the record, sung and written mostly by Matthew Kelly, Dave Torbert and Tim Hovey (plus a couple of John Carter/Tim Gilbert songs held over from their old Horses days), is occasionally interesting but generally uneven. “Wild Northland” and “Good-Bye Yer Honor” feel like holdovers from the old NRPS days, while songs like “This Time,” “Hypnotize” and “Jump For Joy” are unremarkable in an era that produced Poco, Firefall and, of course, Eagles.

Although it’s tempting to see Kingfish as New Riders Mk. II, the Riders had a raison d’être outside of Jerry Garcia and the Dead. Kingfish lacks the strong presence of a John Dawson or the sterling performance of a Buddy Cage (lead guitarist Robby Hoddinott seems like a fish out of water most of the time). Although it’s not on a par with the first NRPS album, Deadheads fishing for something Weir’d should be happy enough with the net results, especially given their dearth of options after Ace.

Original LP Version

A1. Lazy Lightnin’ (Bob Weir/John Barlow) (3:11)
A2. Supplication (Bob Weir/John Barlow) (2:56)
A3. Wild Northland (Dave Torbert/Tim Hovey) (2:28)
A4. Asia Minor (John Carter/Tim Gilbert/Scott Quigley/Tim Hovey) (3:32)
A5. Home To Dixie (Matthew Kelly/Bill Cutler/John Barlow/Bob Weir) (3:57)
A6. Jump For Joy (John Carter/Tim Gilbert) (3:38)
B1. Good-Bye Yer Honor (Dave Torbert/Tim Hovey/Matthew Kelly) (2:54)
B2. Big Iron (Marty Robbins) (4:30)
B3. This Time (Dave Torbert/Matthew Kelly) (4:25)
B4. Hypnotize (Dave Torbert/Matthew Kelly) (4:56)
B5. Bye And Bye (Traditional arr. by Bob Weir/John Barlow) (4:04)

All arrangements by Kingfish.

The Players

Chris Herold (drums, percussion), Robby Hoddinott (lead guitar, slide), Matthew Kelly (guitar, harp, vocals), Dave Torbert (bass, vocals), Bob Weir (guitar, vocals) with Pablo Green (percussion on track 10), J.D. Sharp (string synthesizer on tracks 1, 9 & 10). Produced by Dan Healy and Bob Weir; recorded and mixed by Dan Healy and Kingfish; engineering by Rob Taylor. Production assistance from Richard Hundgren and Dean Layman. Technical consulting by Jim Furman/Furman Sound Service and Tim Hovey.

The Pictures

Cover painting by Philip Garris/Garris Studios (who, you’ll remember, also created the artwork for the last Grateful Dead album, Blues For Allah). Trident logo by James A. Nelson III; back cover photographs by Bob Marks.

The Plastic

Released on elpee in March 1976 in the US and Canada (Round, RXLA-564-G and/or RX-108) and the UK, France and Germany (United Artists, UAS 29.922); reached #50 on the US charts.

  1. Re-issued on elpee in 1989 in Germany (Line, GDLP 4.00645).
  2. Re-issued on compact disc on September 26, 1995 in the US (Arista, 14010).
  3. Re-issued on compact disc on January 4, 2005 in the US (Rhino, R2-78993).

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