Steal Your Face is a Steal of an LP…

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Steal Your Face is a live LP from the Grateful Dead.  The album was recorded during their 1974 “Farewell Tour”, but it was not released until 1976.  This album is widely regarded as the worst live recording that the Dead ever released.  It was released under duress because the band had to fulfill a contractual obligation with the record company, and the band wasn’t working at the time, so there wasn’t much choice.

As I stated earlier, the LP was recorded in 1974 during a four night stand at the Winterland in San Francisco, CA.  It is a kind of “Greatest Hits” live. This tour was supposed to be the last tour ever.  After all, the band had been on the road since they formed in 1965! It’s hilarious that they continued on as a band for years and years after this tour was completed.  In spite of the overwhelming opinion of “Dead-heads” everywhere that the LP is not up to par, this LP has continued to be highly collectible.  The main reason is the awesome cover art:  the so called “Stealie” or “Steal Your Face” Logo.  This logo is one of the most famous of all Rock-n-Roll art; not to mention some of the most famous Grateful Dead art.  The Grateful Dead have a lot of art that is identified with the band.  This logo was designed by Owsley Stanley and rendered by Bob Thomas.  The skull with a lightning bolt going through it is an overt reference to L.S.D. as well as other drug use by the band and its fans.  Not long after this LP came out you could buy this symbol on everything from T-Shirts to Blotter Paper.  It captures everything about the Grateful Dead experience within its grinning skull!

The album title that also ended up naming the logo is taken from a song called “He’s Gone”.  The lyrics are “Like I told you, what I said, steal your face right off your head”…The song was performed frequently on the tour and every night of the 4 night stand at the Wintergarden, but was not included on the album for some reason.

The main criticism of the album is twofold.  First many fans feel that there are much better live recordings of every song on this record.  Second that there are no “deep cuts” as well as none of the long jam sessions that made the band so famous.  Both points are legitimate, however; I feel that it still does not diminish the performances on this record.  I found the LP highly entertaining and I found several of the songs quite emotionally charged in view of the fact that the band thought they were about to call it quits.  I think that the slower, mellower songs on the LP are especially effective.  I have included the entire two record set for your personal consideration.   I love the album!  But let me know what you think…

Side 1

The Promised Land

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  The LP opens with a straight ahead R&B cover of a Chuck  Berry song.  The band is tight, together and rockin’!  What’s not to like?

Cold Rain & Snow

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This song really features the slow grove jam sound that I associate so strongly with the Grateful Dead.  There would be no “Jam Band’s” if it wasn’t for the Grateful Dead.  They were the father to many children…  This is a traditional folk song that was arranged by the Grateful Dead.

Around and Around

 

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  The Dead cover another Chuck Berry Classic. Admittedly, not the greatest cover ever, but it is still very hard not to tap your foot to the beat; if you know what I mean…

Stella Blue

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  This is the first original song on the album, and it’s a great one.  This song was co-written by Robert Hunter and Jerry Garcia.  Richard and Jerry were the principle song writers of the Grateful Dead.  Richard wrote the lyrics and Jerry wrote the music.  Robert Hunter was often referred to as “the non-performing” member of the Grateful Dead.  In spite of all the songs he wrote with Jerry Garcia and all the concert halls he went to with the band, he never once appeared on stage as a performer.  When the band was inducted into the Rock n Roll hall of fame, Robert was also inducted as a band member.  He is the only “non-performer” ever inducted into the Hall of Fame.  This is a great “trippy” cut that is tinted at the edges in mellow but deep emotion.  This is a beautiful performance.

Side 2

Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo

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  This song is also an original written by Robert Hunter and Jerry Garcia.  It has all the characteristics of an old folk song.  Don’t you love the title.  This song just has a happy go lucky feel to it that makes me smile.

Ship Of Fools

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In the previous song Jerry Garcia sings the lyrics “When your ship comes in…” and then the next song is “Ship of Fools”. This is also an original song written by Robert Hunter and Jerry Garcia. It’s a great slow blues song. It almost has the feel of a spiritual. “Ship of Fools on a cruel sea.  Ship of fools, sail away from me…”

Beat It On Down The Line

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This song was written by Jesse Fuller. Jesse became famous by performing as a “One Man Band” in the San Francisco bay area.  He is best know for a song called “San Francisco Bay Blues”.  The Dead also covered other songs  by Fuller.  This is just a great straight ahead rock song.

Side 3

Big River

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  So far on the album they have covered Chuck Berry and Jesse Fuller.  Why not cover Johnny Cash?  The Grateful Dead were such an amazing conglomeration of Rock, Jazz, Country, Folk, and Psychedelia!  This is a perfect example of them working their craft.

Black-Throated Wind

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This song was written by Bob Weir and John Barlow.  Bob was, of course, one of the founding members of the Grateful Dead and John Barlow was a poet, essayist, rancher and political activist; who became friends with the Grateful Dead.  Very cool stuff, don’t you think?

U.S. Blues

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This song was written by Hunter and Garcia.  A song written from the viewpoint of Uncle Sam.

El Paso

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Once you’ve covered Johnny Cash you kind of have to cover Marty Robbins, don’t you?  This is a great version of a very well known song.  Enjoy…

Side 4

Sugaree

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 Once again an original song by Hunter and Garcia. I just really love this song. It just has such a nice way of mellowly rocking along. The lyrics are great too.  “Please  forget you know my name, my daring Sugaree…”  Beautiful subtle guitar work from Jerry Garcia too.

It Must Have Been The Roses

 

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 This song was written by Robert Hunter. The lyrics are beautiful. So is the performance. Great music, passionately performed. Again I ask: What’s not to like??

Casey Jones

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 The album closes with one of their best know songs. This was also written by Hunter and Garcia.. Okay, so it’s not the best “live” version of Casey Jones.  So what?  It is the Grateful Dead at their peak.  They are not tired of playing their hits and the perform this song with energy and imagination.  It think it’s a great version of this song.

Well there you have it.  Steal Your Facein its entity.  If you see it buy.  Maybe even steal it!  But don’t pass it over just because you heard it wsn’t that great.  Sure it’s collectible just for the cover, but don’t overlook the contents.  This album can be expensive.  I’ve seen it on the internet from $25 – $85 or more.  If the jacket is in good condition it could cost a pretty penny.  All the more reason to enjoy the contents as well as the cover.  Personally, I think this album is a Steal.  Or should I say Stealie???

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About John

I taught myself how to play the piano and read music when I was 9 years old. I've been been consumed by music ever since. I majored in Piano performance in College and I still play, although not as well as when I had time to practice 4 -6 hours per day. This blog is about music. Music is the sound track of our lives. All it take is one song, one composition; and we are transported across time and space. I think it was Beethoven that said: "Music is the landscape of the soul."
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