A dazzling tour of the fifty best and most important Grateful Dead concerts.
A Grateful Dead concert, argues Ray Robertson, is life: alternately compelling and lackluster; familiar and foreign; occasionally sublime and sometimes insipid. And usually all in the same show. Although the Grateful Dead stopped the same day Jerry Garcia’s heart did, what the band left behind is the next best thing to being there in the third row. Courtesy of their unorthodox early decision to record every one of their concerts, it’s now possible to follow the band’s evolution (and devolution) through nearly thirty years of shows, from the R&B-based garage band at the beginning, to the jazz-rock conjurers at their creative peak, to the lumbering, MIDI-manacled monolith of their decline.
In All the Years Combine: The Grateful Dead in Fifty Shows, Robertson listens to and writes about fifty of the band’s most important and memorable concerts in order to better understand who the Grateful Dead were, what they became, and what they meant—and what they continue to mean.
Praise for Ray Robertson’s Lives of the Poets (with Guitars)
“On North American shores, writing about music and its cultural spin-offs has largely been defined by the snarky authority of Pitchfork and trash-talkin’ teardowns of VICE giving birth to the new, new cool. Whereas those writing for music publications in Britain, although still cheeky, offer far more in the way of literary craft, storytelling and historical insight compared to the brash Americans. Ray Robertson, a Canadian novelist, aligns himself closer to the British tradition reinforcing that smart, lively prose and a bit of wit go a long, marvelous way. One part of Lives of the Poets is a record guide revealing these undiscovered treasures, the other is Robertson’s gift of spewing out stories that simply shame most rock ‘n’ roll writers into the hacks they really are.”
“Lives of the Poets (with Guitars) should come with a warning label: May cause significant increase of spending on music. Readers are strongly advised to avoid record stores within 72 hours of reading. There is much to love and admire about Lives of the Poets (with Guitars). Robertson brings a discerning ear and keen passion, a sly sense of humour and a deep sense of philosophical questioning to each of these pieces. [It] is a powerful book and one to which music fans are likely to often return.”
“Robertson toils for a higher purpose: to reveal the transcendent, enduring qualities of the artist and their importance to society. He establishes his intentions in the introduction: ‘One wants to convey in words what it is that makes for a musically-transformed, more-alive human being.’ With this collection of essays on 13 remarkable figures, Robertson leaves no doubt about the success of his endeavor.”
“Crossing a number of musical genres, Robertson is often effusive in his praise, but consistently provides a stirring rationale for the strong emotional impact that each artist elicits with their music … Robertson offers the whole picture, warts and all. In doing so, he honors the music of artists who have enriched his life—and opens the door for his readers to experience the same magic.”
—Blues Blast Magazine
“Robertson brings a good ear and plenty of critical insight to essays aimed at helping readers discover new favorites or hear more familiar music from a fresh perspective.”