[Review] Robert Hunter: Tiger Rose (1975)

Probably the best of Hunter’s musical expeditions, approximating the sound of New Riders, Dead and Dylan mixed together.

Kronomyth 2.0: Catch a Tiger before the Tales.

If you’re only going to buy one Robert Hunter album, you’re looking at it. Hunter never seemed to get his sea legs on his first, and wisely chooses a Western setting for some of the best songs on his second album, including “Wild Bill” (a fine riding companion to “Panama Red”) and “Cruel White Water.” The lyrics are up to Hunter’s high standards this time, really some of the best stuff this side of Bob Dylan, and the arrangements from Jerry Garcia are lively and muscular. The album’s only weakness is Hunter’s voice, which remains a pale imitation of Dylan and Johnny Cash. (Tellingly, Hunter re-recorded the vocals for the 1988 re-release.)

The presence of Dead and Starship members notwithstanding, Tiger Rose aligns more closely with the music of New Riders, whose David Torbert appears on a few tracks. It doesn’t appear that any of the songs from Tiger Rose slipped into the Deadshow, so if you’re looking for another “It Must Have Been The Roses,” you won’t find it here. That’s a shame, since the Dead could have done wonderful things with “Ariel” and I would have loved to hear Jerry Garcia sing “Wild Bill.”

Although Hunter’s albums inhabit the same world as the Dead, they’re not imitative of the Dead. Hunter is more overtly influenced by Dylan (“Rose of Sharon,” “Dance A Hole”) and drawn to the traditional songs of sea and land, not psychedelia. He does branch into rock and roll on this album as well (“Over The Hills,” “Last Flash of Rock’N’Roll”), but doesn’t have the voice to support it. Look, neither did Ringo Starr, and some of those albums were a lot of fun. Tiger Rose is a lot of fun to listen to, and once you remember that Hunter is a writer not a singer, you’ll appreciate the effort and might actually find yourself enjoying this album from beginning to end.

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Original LP Version

A1. Tiger Rose (3:15)
A2. One Thing To Try (4:20)
A3. Rose of Sharon (3:45)
A4. Wild Bill (3:12)
A5. Dance A Hole (3:20)
B1. Cruel White Water (5:42)
B2. Over The Hills (2:39)
B3. Last Flash of Rock ‘N’ Roll (3:59)
B4. Yellow Moon (3:39)
B5. Ariel (5:16)

All songs written by Robert Hunter.

1989 Rykodisc reissue track listing
1. Ariel (5:26)
2. Over The Hills (2:42)
3. One Thing To Try (4:17)
4. Tiger Rose (3:17)
5. Last Flash of Rock’N’Roll (3:49)
6. Cruel White Water (5:27)
7. Dance A Hole (3:22)
8. Wild Bill (3:15)
9. Rose of Sharon (3:48)
10. Yellow Moon (3:38)

The Players

Robert Hunter (vocals, acoustic guitar, mandolin), David Freiberg (bass, piano, celeste, synthesizer, background vocals), Jerry Garcia (guitars, piano, synthesizer, background vocals), Mickey Hart (percussion), Pete Sears (tack piano, clavinet, bass, organ), B.D. Shot (drums) with Donna Jean Godchaux (background vocals on B3/B5), David Grisman (mandolin on A3/A4/B1), David Torbert (bass on A1/A5/B2). Produced & arranged by Jerry Garcia; engineered by Bob Matthews and Betty Cantor; coordinated by Steve Brown; anti-produced by Mickey Hart. Digitally remixed by Tom Flye for the 1988 re-release.

The Pictures

Art and design by Kelley and Mouse.

The Plastic

Released on elpee and 8-track in March 1975 in the US (Round, RX/RXT 105). 8-track features different track listing.

  1. Re-released on elpee with recut vocals in 1988 in the US (Grateful Dead, GDV 4010).
  2. Re-released on white vinyl elpee in 1989 in Germany (Grateful Dead, GDLP 4.00653).
  3. Re-issued on compact disc and cassette in the US (Grateful Dead, GDCD/GDC-4114).
  4. Re-released on compact disc and cassette in 1989 in the US (Rykodisc, RCD/RACS-10115) with different track listing.

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