Monday, September 10, 2007

The mystery that is Mystery Box

I've had this CD in my ears a whole bunch of times in the past week. And it was my music of choice again earlier when I was out on the trail.

I've gotta kind of wonder -- if your birthday's September 11, what was that like in 2001? A day without your birthday, sort of? It's gotta be strange to share your bday with the worst day in modern American history.

In any case -- Happy Birthday, Mickey! Thanks!!!

Mickey Hart's
Mystery Box


Where Love Goes (Sito)
Full Steam Ahead
Down The Road
The Sandman
The Next Step
Look Away
Only The Strange Remain
Sangre De Cristo
John Cage Is Dead
The Last Song

What an incredibly... odd, strange, different animal this album is. I can remember hearing it years ago and thinking along the lines of -- what the hell? Picking it up again recently I was more open to it but still I thought -- what is this exactly? Is this R&B? At times it's more like Madonna than the Grateful Dead. The inclusion of the female singers -- the Mint Juleps -- makes this severely different than what a Deadhead has come to know and love from Mickey Hart over the years. Debbie, Elizabeth, Marcia and Sandra Charles, along with Julie Isaac and Debbie Longworth, provide most of the vocals from start to finish. Backing them up is a host of musicians putting together primarily a lush percussion sound throughout. Included is Mickey and his friends Giovanni Hidalgo, Zakir Hussain, Sikiru Adepoju, Airto Moreira and Babatunde Olatunji. Nothing here is an instrumental with all lyrics by Robert Hunter.

Part of the album's Special Thanks say: "Robert Hunter, whose poetry feeds the heart and soul and brings joy to those who listen." Ahhh.

This was the first album from a member of the Dead after Jerry left us. One song in particular, is just the most beautiful ever, in a way. The music quiets at one point and Mickey so perfectly sings these lines:

"From the corner of my eye I saw the sun explode
I didn't look directly 'cause it would have burned my soul
When the smoke and thunder cleared enough to look around
I heard a sweet guitar lick, an old familiar sound
I heard a laugh I recognized come rolling from the earth.
Saw it rise into the skies like lightning giving birth
It sounded like Garcia but I couldn't see the face
Just the beard and the glasses and a smile on empty space"

Wow. That's from Down The Road which went on to be performed not only by Mickey in post-Mystery Box shows, but also by The Other Ones and "The Dead." Apparently Hunter had written it before Jerry died but included a verse for Martin Luther King, Jr. No disrespect to the good doctor but I'm glad it was changed for Jer. This has definitely become perhaps my favorite post-Jerry song. Bruce Hornsby plays accordian and sings backup vocals. Very nice.

Another cool one on this album, at it's pretty least interesting to me, is the next track -- The Sandman. There's a little guitar work on this tune, not a lot but it's by none other than Mickey's good friend for a few years, Bob Weir. He mighta been in the studio all of 45 minutes to record this one riff, it seems. It's featured at the beginning of the song and pops up again here and there several times. It's an interesting almost Shakedown Street-ish sound that Bobby plays. The song's got a funky vibe to it and Bobby's slighty-more-than-rhythm addition works great!

So, all in all this is, well, an interesting piece of work. He must've had this idea in his mind, worked on it, talked to Robert, called his friends, and went Full Steam Ahead with it. These songs are light years away from a 25 minute Playin' or a Dark Star to blow your mind, but I've come to really like this collection of songs from
Mickey & Company.

320 kbps dload right here
Mickey Hart's Mystery Box

1 comment:

Sam said...

In 2001, after the first plane had hit and the world wasn't completely freaked out yet, I called one of my best friends and wished him a happy birthday. While we were on the phone we both watched the second plane hit. I still remember that day like it just happened. And no, his birthday has never been the same.

one says one number and the other another
but they were set at the same time. Hmmm...

Calvin and Hobbes in the snow -- animated