21 October 2008

30 Years Later: The Dead in Egypt

The Grateful Dead: Rocking The Cradle: Egypt 1978
Rhino Records

I know what you're thinking -- for Egypt, thirty years dead is nothing. But in this case, it's Dead with a capitol D, as in Grateful Dead. As devoted Deadheads may know, the band recorded three shows at the Pyramids in 1978, intending to release a live album to defray the costs of the musical expedition to the Egyptian desert.

When the Dead got home, however, they discovered that the tapes of all of the first night and part of the second were not useable because of technical problems. Then the band got wrapped up in finishing their Shakedown Street album (begun before the Egypt venture), and soon the notion of putting out the Egypt album lost its momentum.

The Grateful Dead - Rocking The Cradle: Egypt 1978 CD - on SoundRoots.orgRhino has gone all out in resurrecting the long-entombed tapes, and the resulting tunes are bundled in two CDs within a stunning package that also includes a DVD (13 songs plus a "Vacation Tapes" featurette), a booklet stuffed with photos from Egypt and the story of the concerts, and the most elaborate pop-up art I've yet to see in CD packaging.

Despite the exotic location, and the band's attempts to use of the Great Pyramid's King's Chamber as an echo box, the music is largely classic Dead, and among the 18 tracks are many of their best known songs, including "Truckin'" and "It's All Over Now."
The Grateful Dead - Rocking The Cradle: Egypt 1978 CD - on SoundRoots.org
Besides the location, the one bit of Egypt that creeps into the music comes via renowned Nubian oud master Hamza El Din. Hamza performed with the Dead all three nights of their concert, and the song "Ollin Arageed" is included on both in both audio and video form. (You can also listen to two additional tracks on which Hamza collaborates with Mickey Hart on the tar and Jerry Garcia on acoustic guitar on this page.)

You won't be surprised that I was hoping for a little more Egypt in the mix, but I doubt that will slow down the flood of Deadheads rushing out to buy this album, either to relive their attendance at these exotically located concerts, or just to hear another version of their favorite songs, brought back from the crypt after all these years.

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