Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Rockabye Baby!: “Lullaby Renditions Of Grateful Dead” (2015) CD Review

If you missed out on the Rockabye Baby Grateful Dead Record Store Day exclusive (as I did), don’t despair. It is being released on CD next week. Okay, sure, the disc isn’t purple like the record, but that’s all right, as the songs are all there. Lullaby Renditions Of Grateful Dead contains instrumental renditions of some of the Grateful Dead’s best tunes, such as “China Cat Sunflower,” “Uncle John’s Band,” “Truckin” and (my favorite) “Ripple.” This album is completely adorable, and even the packaging incorporates artwork that will bring to mind some of the iconic Dead imagery, such as bears, roses and turtles. The liner notes also contain little games for your children, and even a recipe (on a separate insert). By the way, on the back of the packaging it says: “Do you wake from the flood of tears, parents? If your little ones are dead set on staying up, play these blanket soft versions of Grateful Dead’s psychedelic rock favorites. You just might get some sleep tonight.” Grateful Dead fans will of course take delight in the references to album titles and songs in this paragraph, the last line being a reference to “Friend Of The Devil,” the song that opens this CD.

You’d probably think a lullaby version of “Friend Of The Devil” would recreate the slower version of the song that the band performed in concert, but no, it’s similar to the pace of the original studio rendition from American Beauty. It gets this album off to a sweet, cute start, and it’s followed by “Casey Jones.” As these are instrumental renditions, there is no mention of cocaine in this version. The ending of “Casey Jones” is just perfect.

What a long strange trip it’s going to be for your baby when he or she begins his or her life hearing Rockabye Baby’s version of “Truckin.’” By the way, these tracks are basically lullaby versions of the studio versions of these songs, so there is no long jam or anything to this “Truckin’” – it is just over three minutes in length.

It always seemed to me that new fans of the Grateful Dead would cite “Sugar Magnolia” as their favorite song, so it’s appropriate to include that song here on an album aimed at the newest of fans. And again, there is no jam leading to “Sunshine Daydream,” and that section is fairly short. “Sugar Magnolia” is followed by “China Cat Sunflower,” which works really well in this setting.

“Scarlet Begonias” was always one of my favorites, and a song the band played at my first show back in 1988, and I am so happy that Rockabye Baby includes a version of this fun tune. This disc also includes “Fire On The Mountain,” but for some reason the two songs are split up. I think fans would have loved it if “Scarlet” went right into “Fire.” A missed opportunity, but no matter. Both tracks are delightful.

Perhaps the most delightful track, however, is “He’s Gone.” This is such a cute version. Seriously, it’s adorable. And as it’s an instrumental you don’t have to worry about your baby hearing about “A knife in the back.” I completely love this version. And at four and a half minutes, it’s also the longest track on this release.

If you’re wondering, yes, this CD includes a version of “Touch Of Grey,” the band’s only big hit, and the only song from the band’s final fifteen years to be represented on this release (the rest of the songs are from the 1960s and 1970s). This was the song the band opened with at my first show, and so it has a special place in my heart. But my all-time favorite song (not just of the Grateful Dead, but any band) is “Ripple,” from their American Beauty record. It’s one I never got to see the band perform live, but it’s the song that concludes this CD. This is a totally sweet and pretty rendition, as you might expect. The perfect song to send the little ones (or anyone) off to dreamland with smiles on their faces.

CD Track List
  1. Friend Of The Devil
  2. Casey Jones
  3. Truckin’
  4. Sugar Magnolia
  5. China Cat Sunflower
  6. Cumberland Blues
  7. Scarlet Begonias
  8. Uncle John’s Band
  9. He’s Gone
  10. Fire On The Mountain
  11. Bertha
  12. Touch Of Grey
  13. Ripple 
Lullaby Renditions Of Grateful Dead is scheduled to be released on CD on April 28, 2015. If they decide to put out a second album of Grateful Dead tunes, I’d like to suggest including “Eyes Of The World” and “Cosmic Charlie.” Also, “I Will Take You Home” is already a lullaby, but it might be sweet to include it as well. 

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