In Case You Missed It

dayofthedeadMaybe everyone else already heard about this, but I am just now really appreciating the compilation album Day of the Dead that came out earlier this year. As you may have gleaned from the title, this record contains a selection of Grateful Dead songs as recorded by other artists. There are additions that seem almost inevitable (Jim James doing “Candyman”), as well as some that only make sense after you hear them (The National reimagines “Eyes of the World”).

My problem with tribute albums has always been that they’re sort of shallow in a way; a lot of them just seem like isolated recordings that exist in a vacuum and fail to give the listener any sense of who this artist is or how they inform the proceedings. Day of the Dead cleverly solves this problem by including almost every original song the Grateful Dead ever played live or on a studio album. This is no easy task, as the Dead have a famously deep back catalogue. Some artists make multiple appearances, but the producers of this album were nonetheless able to assemble quote a roster here. Curiously, very few contemporaries of the group are included on this compilation. Some veterans like Bela Fleck and Lucinda Williams show up, but most of the artists included are on the younger side.

Nothing against these old folks, but this decision to skew younger gives the entire record a sense of vitality, while displaying how widespread the Dead’s influence actually was. Truth be told, not every track is going to outshine the original, but there are a lot of gems to be found within Day of the Dead. Here’s my top Five.

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5. Flaming Lips – “Dark Star”

4. Wilco – “St. Stephen.”

3. Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks – “China Cat Sunflower -> “I Know You Rider”

2. Tunde Adebimpe – “Playing in the Band”

1. War on Drugs – “Touch of Grey.”

Have fun! Happy birthday, America!

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