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Bob Weir

+ {Bobby & The Midnites} + {Bob Weir And Ratdog}

At a time in 1972 when GRATEFUL DEAD were on a studio hiatus, the hunky rich boy BOB WEIR (born Robert Hall Weir, October 16, 1947; and adopted by a Californian engineer) took his lead to release his “bonus” Top 75 album, ACE {*7}. Together with his long-time, former boarding school buddy on lyrics, John Perry Barlow (the Dead’s ROBERT HUNTER and MICKEY HART also had their say) sunny-side songs seemed to stream out of this sumptuous set. The definitive and classic version of `Playing In The Band’ featured here, a marked improvement on GRATEFUL DEAD’s rather lacklustre take on their live-in-concert eponymous (aka “Skull & Roses”) double the previous year. Future “Deadheads” KEITH & DONNA GODCHAUX (on keyboards and backing vocals respectably) also lend a hand in the studio, while there was a place for missing links in bassist PHIL LESH, drummer Bill Kreutzmann and slide guitarist, JERRY GARCIA – basically then, a GRATEFUL DEAD record in all but name. If one needed more evidence, fans would be happy to include other “Deadhead” tunes such as `One More Saturday Night’, `Greatest Story Ever Told’ and `Cassidy’.
Playing in another band, other than the mighty GRATEFUL DEAD, guitarist Bob duly supplemented some needed ready cash (as finances had been drip-fed to somebody else’s account for years), when he teamed up with fellow Friscans, KINGFISH. Although always associated as being the leader of the rootsy combo, he was in fact an equal party to their Top 50 “Kingfish” LP in ’76, chipping in (with Barlow) a couple of STEELY DAN-ish/soft-rock cuts in `Lazy Lightnin’’ and `Supplication’. He was virtually posted missing when Messrs Dave Torbert (ex-NEW RIDERS OF THE PURPLE SAGE) and Matt Kelly reconvened with Robbie Hoddinott and Chris Herold for their ill-timed “Live N Kickin” (1977).
Recorded during enforced bout of inactivity as MICKEY HART recovered from an automobile crash in the summer of ’77, WEIR’s sophomore Top 75 solo album slipped out. Featuring as per usual, a stellar cast of star session people (including BILL CHAMPLIN, David Foster, Waddy Wachtel, and TOTO’s David Paich and Mike Porcaro), the Keith Olsen-produced HEAVEN HELP THE FOOL (1978) {*4} was best-described by the track, `Shade Of Grey’ or the spawned minor hit 45, `Bombs Away’; even the LOWELL GEORGE-associated cue, `Easy To Slip’, was second-rate.
Another side-line to WEIR’s “Deadhead” activities, the mid-1980 formed BOBBY & THE MIDNITES, were, to all intents and purposes, a minor-league supergroup, consisting as they did of Matt Kelly, fellow guitarist/vocalist Bobby Cochran (ex-STEPPENWOLF), jazz-fusion drummer/solo artist Billy Cobham (ex-MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA), keyboard-player Brent Mydland (of GRATEFUL DEAD) and bassist Tim Bogert (ex-VANILLA FUDGE); the latter was superseded by former WEATHER REPORT player, Alphonso Johnson.
The eponymous BOBBY & THE MIDNITES (1981) {*6} demonstrated WEIR’s adaptability and versatility as a singer-songwriter, while his slick-back and sublime backing were on the money for rock jewels like `Far Away’, the funky `Haze’ and `(I Want To) Fly Away’. Removing Johnson, Mydland and Kelly from the Midnites (Dave Garland and, in turn, Kenny Gradney were added), a second batch also reached the Top 200. WHERE THE BEAT MEETS THE STREET (1984) {*3} was strictly for mainstream “Deadheads” willing to reach into their pockets for anything that’s rock’n’roll.
On his return to the GRATEFUL DEAD when JERRY GARCIA finally recovered enough to record their comeback set, “In The Dark”, Bob would continue playing with the band until Jerry’s death in ’95. Of his many subsequent projects (not including offshoots, The OTHER ONES, The Dead, and Furthur), there was plenty to shout about in his RatDog venture. Together with stalwarts, Rob Wasserman (a double bassist whom he made a “Live” album in ‘88) and drummer, Jay Lane, BOB WEIR AND RATDOG delivered their one-and-only studio album, EVENING MOODS (2000) {*5}; guitarist Mark Karan and keyboardist Jeff Chimenti also played their part of rootsy numbers such as `Lucky Enough’, `Ashes And Glass’ and `Corrina’, the latter featuring MICKEY HART. RATDOG’s LIVE AT ROSELAND (2001) {*6} was something of a double-disc live paean to the songs of GRATEFUL DEAD – as if one needed yet another helping.
In light of his most recent JERRY GARCIA birthday bash, MOVE ME BRIGHTLY: LIVE FROM TRI STUDIOS (2014) {*6} – recorded in 2012 – Columbia Records decided to throw the dice on a fresh BOB WEIR studio set, BLUE MOUNTAIN (2016) {*7}; augmented as it was by co-writers JOSH RITTER and Josh Kaufman (his co-producer). Judging the CD by the cover mug-shot of the elder statesman singer/songwriter, the bearded Bob was looking to jump from an Amtrak train and on to the nearest campfire hootenanny. While the man wasn’t exactly channelling WOODY GUTHRIE or the aforementioned GARCIA, he’d a soothing distinctive style reminiscent of a LIGHTFOOT or a NESMITH. With that in mind, long-time fans of his would probably love the cowboy-blues of `Lay My Lily Down’, `Cottonwood Lullaby’, `Ghost Towns’ and the free-spirited `Ki-Yi Bossie’, and the man would be touring with members of The NATIONAL who performed on the album itself.
© MC Strong/MCS Nov2012-Sep2016

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