Day of the Dead Review

Among my eclectic musical loves is the Grateful Dead. I remember enjoying the occasional song, as many do, and then discovering the brilliant Reckoning, which is still one of my favorite live albums.

I wouldn’t say I’m the biggest fan, but I thoroughly a good Dead tune, and have played their songs live more than any other band (except maybe the Allman Brothers).

There are countless cover albums of Dead tunes, and most are… well I guess what you think of them largely has to do with what you think of the bands playing them.

Day of the Dead, a meaty 59-track album whose profits go to the Red Hot Organization, are a fantastic mix of artists. And, for the most part, it works great. Here are some highlights and thoughts.

I bought it because of Mumford & Sons great cover of “Friend of the Devil.” This is one of my favorite Dead songs, one of the first I learned to play, and one I’ve heard played by countless bands. Usually they miss the feel of it, but I think M&S really hit it. It’s clearly an M&S take on the song, but respects the original.

The Walkmen’s cover of “Ripple” barely sounds like a cover at all. It’s got a great loose feel, though probably not as loose as the original.

Another semi-updated-but-solid-cover is The War on Drugs’ cover of “Touch of Grey.” This one, like M&S’s track, sounds what I’d imagine the Dead would sound like if they (re)recorded this song in 2016. It works and does what I think a good cover needs to do: not make me want to click over to the original.

Also great fun, really fantastic, and very Dead-like, is “Rubin & Cherise” by Bonnie 'Prince' Billy.

One of the odder takes is “Peggy-O” by the National, which strips all semblance to the Dead, and other than the lyrics, could easily be a National original. Again, this is one of the tracks that works, even though that sounds a bit like a knock.

Which isn’t to say that ever song nails it. Tallest Man on Earth (one of my favorite artists right now) did a pretty good job with “Ship of Fools” though in fairness, I was never a huge fan of this song to begin with. He does a pretty good job sounding pretty Dead-like, though.

And I’m not sure how I feel about Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s “Shakedown Street.”

Despite a few oddities, I enjoyed Day of the Dead immensely and definitely recommend it to Dead fans. Well, Dead fans that also like bands from now and the last few decades. If you think “modern music sucks” then I feel sorry for you, and you should skip this one.

… or maybe not. Maybe this is your gateway drug! Try it!