BOB WEIR: News / Fred Thomas

While three Grateful Dead members released solo outings in 1972, Bob Weir's Ace was ostensibly a solo album, with massive contributions from his bandmates, songs the Dead had been playing live or would soon incorporate into their repertoire, and a mellow Americana sound not too far removed from the tones Weir's main band had been exploring on breakthrough albums like American Beauty. While Jerry Garcia and Mickey Hart's 1972 solo efforts went to a few weird or unexpected places, Ace was basically a Grateful Dead album released under Weir's name. That's by no means a criticism, considering the artistic zenith the band was approaching in the early '70s. Ace was released just as the Grateful Dead ventured overseas for the tour that would result in their world-shifting Europe '72 live album, and many of the songs Weir penned and presented in their studio form on Ace were refined and rearranged on-stage, beginning with their classic versions from that tour. "Playing in the Band," in particular, became a vehicle for exploration at Grateful Dead concerts for years to follow, with the seven-and-a-half-minute studio version presented here feeling tidy and conservative when compared to the sprawling jams on the song the band would later get into. Greasy rock & roll tune "One More Saturday Night," the lurching, twangy grooves of country-funk rover "Black Throated Wind," and "Mexicali Blues," one of Weir's many cowboy tunes (here complete with pseudo mariachi horns) all became regular inclusions in the Dead's set lists. Closer "Cassidy," somehow upbeat and melancholy at once, predicts college rock on the whole, with Weir's signature unconventional chord voicings and abstract songwriting turns offering glimpses that would materialize in future refractions from R.E.M., Sonic Youth, Robyn Hitchcock, and so many others. Ace fits neatly in the category of Dead-related studio albums that were conceived, produced, and executed well enough to contend with the magic the band so often captured in a live setting. It's easily the home of some of Weir's best songs, and is essential listening for even the novice's Dead primer. [The newly remastered 50th anniversary edition Weir's 1972 solo debut contains bonus footage of a 2022 live rendition of the entire album.]

Leave a Reply