Various Artists

Gifts from the Dead

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Gifts from the Dead is one of the better tribute sessions dedicated to the pioneering psychedelic jam band, mainly because the players were part of the Dead's extended musical family. Keyboardist Merl Saunders and fiddler Vassar Clements gigged off and on with Jerry Garcia, and Vince Welnick became the final keyboardist for the Dead following the death of Brent Mydland and the guest spot briefly held by Bruce Hornsby. These musicians understand that tracks like "Sugar Magnolia," "Uncle John's Band," and "St. Stephen" weren't meant to be played the same way twice. Instead of blindly copying what the Grateful Dead have already done, they pay homage by using the memorable themes as starting points and then allow a bit of improvisation to fall into place.

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