As far as latter day Grateful Dead tunes I think that Foolish Heart is one of the stronger ones simply because it was more open ended that most. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of songs that I really like from the late 80s, etc., but a song like Black Muddy River wasn’t going to lead to extended flights of fancy. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, just that the power of the song was in the relationship between the melody and the lyrics. To distance those two things would detract from the poignancy of the song.
Foolish Heart, on the other hand, certainly conjures up some interesting images and scenarios, but the relationship between the words and the melody isn’t as strong. That’s not a value judgment, just an observation. The same could be said for Playing In The Band or Dark Star. I don’t want to put Foolish Heart on the same level as those two epic constructs of psychedelic weirdness, but my point is they share some similar characteristics.
The first few minutes of the song are pretty standard. Fortunately, Foolish Heart opens itself to some jamming and things start to get interesting at that point, around 4 minutes or so. Jerry does some dexterous manipulations of the melody. Some nice harmonics are thrown in a few times (from Bob I presume). I’ve never loved Brent’s keys sound on this one, and think a straight piano sound or B3 would have been better, but that’s just my own personal revisionist take. Jerry mumbles his way through another verse at 5 minutes and after that a few more minutes of exploratory jamming. Bob plays some choppy, high pitched chords which seems to coax Jerry to venture higher on the neck for a few measures. Back for the last verse, which Jerry remembers this time around, and you can feel the drummers shift the pace to signal a gradual dynamic climb. Brent and Bob pick up the thread and Jerry starts to, but then seems to decide against it and the wave crashes upon the beach only to retreat back into the ocean. Calm seas roll directly into Looks Like Rain.