Long Strange Trip
by David Chiu
The 2-CD soundtrack to the recent acclaimed documentary about the Grateful Dead, Long Strange Trip isn’t the definitive compilation of the band’s music. Not all of the Dead’s popular songs are represented here: “Trucking,” “Sugar Magnolia,” “Box of Rain,” “Shakedown Street,”and “Friend of the Devil” are some of the noticeable omissions. Rather, Long Strange Trip is a nice blend of studio recordings and live performances (a mix of previously released and unreleased for the latter) that goes for something both familiar and a little deeper. From ’60s psychedelia to ’70s country rock to ’80s and ’90s mainstream rock and jazz-influenced jamming, the Dead’s musical evolution is represented here on the soundtrack in either studio or live form: “Ripple,” “Touch of Grey” and “Uncle John’s Band” are obviously natural choices, as well as “Morning Dew” from Europe ’72, and “Althea” from Go to Nassau, and not to mention “St. Stephen” and “Death Has No Mercy” from the classic Live Dead. The surprises for Deadheads are the inclusion of never-before released live performances including Dark Star from the Fillmore East in 1970; a medley of Traffic’s “Dear Mr. Fantasy” and the Beatles’ “Hey Jude,” taken from a concert in Foxboro in 1989 and performed with the usual grit and soul by the late Brent Mydland; and “China Cat Sunflower” and “I Know You Rider,” recorded in France in 1971. (The special Amazon exclusive edition includes a third disc of recordings. Long Strange Trip the soundtrack is a unique addition to the Dead’s every growing mammoth discography in presenting a well-rounded if not definitive overview of the band’s catalog, while still giving back something new (i.e., the previously unreleased live music) to the fans.