Day 333: It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue, 9/16/90

Grateful Dead Dick's Picks 9 album cover artwork

For all the complaining I do about the Grateful Dead’s Bob Dylan covers I sure seem to be coming around on some of them. One of my early rants on the subject generated some comments from readers and I listed the Dylan covers that were good-to-tolerable in my opinion. Of course, I immediately got called out for omitting It’s All Over Now Baby Blue, and rightly so.

Although not a jam vehicle, Baby Blue is just a phenomenal song and doesn’t really need that type of treatment to be great. What it requires is the full attention and emotional investment of the band. Would I like Bruce to be a bit more assertive here? Yes, mainly because the acoustic piano fits the vibe of the song so well, but I understand why he doesn’t at this particular juncture in time.

For the most part I think this song speaks for itself so I’ll let the music do the talking.

Baby Blue rolls in softly, deftly navigated by two keys players. Phil’s bass really cuts through the mix, but to be honest while this tone is very clean, I often find it too sterile for my liking. This is the type of song that just screams for a warm, fat bass sound. This isn’t a jamming song, so it’s more about doing service to the song itself. By the time Jerry gets to the solo he works his way through the changes a couple of times, playing off the main melody throughout. There aren’t fireworks to end this show, but rather a familiar hand to gently guide you home. Bruce adds some fills and flourishes here and there, but to be honest I’m surprised he doesn’t do more. I get that these were some of the first shows with two keyboardists though, and part of it may just be Bruce and Vince were trying to find their roles. The acoustic piano is just exactly perfect for this song though and I wouldn’t have minded more. But nevertheless, it’s a very nice rendering of a gorgeous song.

Complete Setlist 9/16/90

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  1. I get you. While I love a great cover song, I feel it am often let down by the covering band. The dead have some covers that I think don’t fit, but they were about a good time and how much more fun is it playing a song that you love in front of people that love you? I kind of feel that was also the case when Warren stepped in the band not long ago. While he is stellar in Mule and the brothers, he didn’t have the voice for dead songs. In the end, it must have been a great time on stage to play together.

    BTW, loving the emails and this pages 🙂

    • Ed, I completely agree with you here. Very much depends not only on how a band plays a cover, but when and where they play it. I heard a version of Crazy Fingers recently on the GD XM Channel. It was an album version, mind you, but it was from Donna Jean’s latest project. The arrangement was different and it kicked total ass. I enjoy it when bands cover songs I like, but I love it when band’s re-invent or re-arrange a song I like (assuming it’s done well of course).

  2. I’m curious, Lunchbox, why you’re so slow to embrace the Dylan covers. Is it Dylan you don’t like, the songs themselves or just the Dead’s interpretation? Not trying to be argumentative at all, just wondering. Most fans seem to like the Dylan covers but there are a ton of different opinions out there and that’s great. As for me, I’ve become a huge Dylan fan in no small part because of the Grateful Dead. I know that Bobby once expressed his dismay at the fact that so many deadheads listened only to the Grateful Dead but in the long run I suspect they turned many of us on to a ton of other artists.

    • Mike,

      A fair question. I actually really like Dylan. I’ve seen him 3-4 times. The Dylan covers just became like the Chuck Berry covers to me – overplayed. I mean something like Watchtower is overplayed in general because everyone and their mother covers it. Heaven’s Door, doesn’t do much for me and it’s almost a dirge. I think the lack of variety it what gets me. When you look and see a song play 150 time from 1987-1995 that’s a lot. Compare it to a song that has the same number of plays from 1974-1995, or 1979-1995 and that’s telling. I’m actually afraid to look at how many times the Berry songs were played; I don’t want to anger myself.

      The more I’ve come to appreciate what Weir brought to the table as a song-writer the more annoyed I am that he was the one cuing up these covers most of the time. Jerry seemed to save most of his covers for the JGB at least, and in that context they were re-worked a bit, adding a new dimension. I don’t get that with a lot of the Dylan/Berry stuff in the GD context. I realize that the rockers had their place and whatnot, but I’d be interested to go through all my live releases and count how many DON’T have a Berry and/or Dylan tune. I’m willing to bet that the number is smaller than many might think.

      So to summarize – overkill – that’s why I’m not a big fan of some of these covers.

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