When We All Come Home
First Appeared in The Music Box, November 2007, Volume 14, #11
Written by John Metzger
Thu November 1, 2007, 03:00 PM CDT
It isn’t easy to step outside the shadow of the Grateful Dead. Everyone from the band’s own members to the established artists who have come into contact with them has struggled mightily to escape the collective’s gravitational pull, which in recent years seems only to have grown stronger. This, of course, hasn’t stopped any of the ensemble’s hired hands from using the prominence of their positions as leverage in elevating their solo careers and side projects.
Keyboard player Rob Barraco — a veteran of both Phil Lesh & Friends and The Dead — is the latest musician to venture out on his own. Unfortunately, his debut When We All Come Home suffers the exact same fate as the countless efforts of those who chose to walk this path before him. Over the course of the endeavor, Barraco places a pop-imbued spin upon the Grateful Dead’s jam-friendly aesthetic, and his love of ’70s rock is readily apparent. The results, however, are as amiable as they are innocuous; they are as pleasant as they are forgettable.
Still, Barraco deserves at least some credit for wanting to make something of When We All Come Home. Although he gets a hand from lyricist Robert Hunter and guitarist Barry Sless, Barraco refreshingly doesn’t try to create a note-for-note regurgitation of the Grateful Dead’s signature sound. Instead, he dances around its fringes, drawing more from the way in which the group allowed its tunes to blossom than from a strict adherence to the sonic textures that it employed.
It’s a sound move, but the directions in which Barraco heads are less than ideal. On cuts like Argentina and its accompanying jam Disparate Men on the Run, Todd Reynold’s fiddle accompaniments glide upon the prog-rock grooves, invoking inevitable comparisons to the cold calculation of Kansas. At the same time, his ensemble’s tightly knit harmonies owe a huge debt to Crosby, Stills & Nash, though the slick studio polish that graces One Dog Groove and the title track brings the songs closer to the hollow lifelessness of American Dream than the organic beauty of Deja Vu. On occasion, Barraco’s piano solos provide some much need inspiration and clarity to When We All Come Home, but wading through the seemingly endless morass of soulless music to find them is hardly worth the trouble. ˝
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2007 The Music Box