RatDog

Live at Roseland

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It's hard to say how RatDog would have evolved if Jerry Garcia hadn't died on the day of their third gig in 1995. Probably, like such predecessors as Kingfish and Bobby and the Midnites, it would have served primarily as a touring outlet for Bob Weir during the Grateful Dead's downtime and maybe made a recording or two before Weir moved on to something else. But when the Dead imploded following Garcia's death, RatDog became Weir's primary gig instead of his secondary one. In Dead-like fashion, he took his time, tinkering with the band's personnel over a series of tours before emerging with a studio album in 2000. That disc, Evening Moods, consisted almost entirely of group-written originals. But this live album, recorded seven months later, paints a very different picture of the band. Here, in the space of close to two-and-a-half hours, RatDog comes off as a Grateful Dead clone band with the Dead's surviving co-lead vocalist at the helm. To begin with, there is the set list, which contains Weir-composed Dead favorites like "The Music Never Stopped," "Estimated Prophet," and "The Other One." It also contains a surprisingly high complement of other Dead songs written and originally sung by Garcia -- "Loser," "Friend of the Devil," "Bird Song," and "Tennessee Jed." Weir certainly knows his way around this material, and he sings it authoritatively. An even bigger surprise, and a delight to Dead Heads, is "Mission in the Rain," an excellent song Garcia wrote and recorded for his 1976 solo album Reflections, and which the Dead played only five times. In addition to the repertoire, there is the overall musical style of the band, which, despite the presence of a saxophone, has a very Dead-like feel. Add it up, and this is music Deadheads will welcome.

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