The Music Box's #7 album for 2000
First Appeared at The Music Box, December 2000, Volume 7, #12
Written by John Metzger
After hearing many of Bob Weir's new songs during his 1999 Fall tour, it was clear that Ratdog would make statement once it got around to recording its debut. There was no question that the band had amassed a solid body of material worthy of official release. Still, it was impossible not to wonder whether these expectations would be met.
After all, the Grateful Dead had struggled, at times, in the studio, and for the most part, Weir's solo outings fell even further from the target. Since its release in 1972, his debut Ace long has been heralded as his best. It was a solid effort that occasionally managed to capture some of the magic of the Grateful Dead's live performances. Yet, it still fell a bit flat, and nothing since has really come close to topping it — until now.
Simply put: Evening Moods is the best solo record that Bob Weir has ever made. The real story, however, is that he damn near tops the Grateful Dead's own studio output as well. Granted, his former band's American Beauty and Workingman's Dead albums will never be beat. They're classics. But if you don't think Evening Moods surpasses the rest — and kindly remove any personal attachment you have to the actual songs and examine only the renditions that appear on these releases — you have to admit that, at the very least, it comes awfully close.
Bob Weir forever has stood in the shadow of Jerry Garcia — so much so that he's long been overlooked by critics and Deadheads alike. In addition, on his past solo efforts (with the exception of Ace), Weir often seemed to be running away from the Grateful Dead's sound. It was as if he was trying to make his own statement by deliberately shying away from that which was most familiar. As a result, these albums often seemed disjointed, and Weir just didn't seem comfortable.
On Evening Moods, however, Weir finally finds his voice and comes into his own. This is his band. These are his songs. And with the exception of Corrina, the Grateful Dead machine had nothing to do with their formation. Perhaps that is why Weir has finally turned to his experiences with the Dead to shape and color the material on this recent effort. In fact, most Deadheads will find themselves quite at home with many of the tracks on Evening Moods. Bury Me Standing bears a passing resemblance to West L.A. Fadeaway; Ashes and Glass is a worthy sequel to Throwing Stones and contains an introduction that sounds like a segment from Dark Star; and the jam that winds its way out of October Queen could easily be labeled as The Other One. In addition, on several occasions, the songs are linked together, in true Grateful Dead fashion, with musical interludes that stretch the tracks to their limits.
Yet, it's not accurate to simply paint Evening Moods as a Grateful Dead album. October Queen begins by conveying an old-time blues ambience much like Weir's duet work with bassist Rob Wasserman; Ratdog fits Odessa with a rambunctious horn section straight from the Rolling Stones' Sticky Fingers era; and Jeff Chimenti's piano embellishments on Welcome to the World draw from Nicky Hopkins' work with the Stones. More importantly, Weir brings his own sense of style and purpose to this release in a way that has never really been captured in the studio. Each of these songs is a signature Bob Weir selection — molded to fit his musical vision in an honest and relaxed fashion. Consequently, Evening Moods' 74-minute duration glides by effortlessly, and it's an album that both avid and casual Deadheads ought to celebrate.
Evening Moods is available from Barnes & Noble.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2000 The Music Box