Beyond Description (1973Ė1989)
Part Five: Shakedown Street
The Music Box's #8 specialty package for 2004
First Appeared in The Music Box, December 2004, Volume 11, #12
Written by John Metzger
The union between Little Featís Lowell George and the Grateful Dead was certainly an intriguing concept, but the reality of such a collaboration proved to be a near disaster. Hired to produce the bandís ninth studio effort, George contributed very little to the project, and in the end, Shakedown Street became one of the worst outings of the Grateful Deadís career. It certainly didnít help matters that the glossy sheen that embraced Terrapin Station showed no sign of receding, but even worse, it significantly sapped the energy from tunes like Good Loviní, All New Minglewood Blues, Stagger Lee, and I Need a Miracle, making them sound rather perfunctory. Elsewhere, France stumbled more than it soared, despite its superb acoustic guitar interludes; If I Had the World to Give was a gentle love song that just fell flat; and From the Heart of Me was simply forgettable. Only the disco swirl of the title track; the serpentine, reggae groove of Fire on the Mountain; and the shimmering percussion of Serengetti truly could be called successful. In short, Shakedown Street wasnít quite as bad as many made it out to be. Then again, it wasnít very good either.
There are five bonus tracks featured on the reissue of Shakedown Street. Given the inferiority of the much of the album, it shouldnít be a surprise that, other than a lively rendition of Good Loviní sung by Lowell George, the material was plucked from the Grateful Deadís vast vault of concert recordings. The band was certainly at home backing up Hamza El Din on Ollin Arageed and before El Din left the stage, the collective transformed the tuneís hazy, hypnotic rhythms into a sprawling rendition of Fire on the Mountain. While the fusion of the songs wasnít perfect ó during the transition, the band significantly shifted tempo, though it never fully broke its stride ó the meshing of cultural ideas was one of those supremely inventive moments that perfectly suited the Grateful Deadís wide-ranging style. As for Stagger Lee and All New Minglewood Blues, the former was presented as a slow, deliberate stroll that served to highlight Jerry Garciaís impassioned vocals as well as the intricate manner in which he and Bob Weirís guitar accompaniments uniquely interlocked, while the latter was a potent powerhouse that raged and roared far more than anything on the album from which it came. Ĺ
This is the fifth installment of a ten-part series, which will examine Beyond Description (1973Ė1989) on an album by album basis. The entire set is rated:
Of Further Interest...
Beyond Description (1973-1989) is available from Barnes & Noble.
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Shakedown Street [REMASTERED CD] is available from
Barnes & Noble. To order, Click Here!
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2004 The Music Box