Monday, September 15, 2014


Artwork by Rick Griffin

 When the Grateful Dead took time off from recording in 1974, lyricist Robert Hunter used the opportunity to release a solo album, Tales of The Great Rum Runners. Hunter sings, plays guitar and pipes, writing almost all of the material and acquitting himself with a vocal style that suggests a limited amalgam of Jerry Garcia, Bob Dylan, Lou Reed and Johnny Cash. Given that Dead fans had few expectations for Hunter beyond clever lyrics, his first solo album is better than expected. An eclectic, folksy collection of songs reminiscent of Bob Dylan and The Band’s Basement Tapes, Tales of The Great Rum Runners manages to stand up on its own musical merits, and not merely as Dead-related minutiae. Sly, lively songs like “That Train” and “Arizona Lightning” invite comparison to Dylan’s Planet Waves; “Rum Runners” suggests what the Moodies might have sounded like with Johnny Cash. Throw in the popular “It Must Have Been The Roses” (since appropriated by the Dead in a dirge-like reading) and the legend-stoking “Boys In The Barroom,” and Hunter’s first album proves to be an interesting ride. The backing arrangements are sometimes spare, occasionally rich, relying on a bevy of Bay Area backing musicians and some help from his bandmates (Garcia, Hart, Donna and Keith Godchaux). Musically, Hunter leans on stock solutions like the obligatory bagpipe number (“Children’s Lament”) or the rollicking piano tune (“Mad”), but to his credit they never feel disingenuous. True, Hunter is at best a middling warbler, but I’ve heard a lot worse (and, frankly, expected it). If the lyrical imagery isn’t up to the level I imagined, the final product is respectable (which is itself remarkable). Tales of The Great Rum Runners may not rise to the level of the Dead, Dylan or The Band, but it’s in the same ballpark. Review from PROGROGRAPHY

Tales Of The Great Rum Runners
Robert Hunter
Initial release : June 1974

Round Records RX 101


    * Lady Simplicity (Hunter)
    * That Train (Hunter)
    * Dry Dusty Road (Hunter)
    * I Heard You Singing (Hunter / Freiberg)
    * Rum Runners (Hunter)
    * Children's Lament (Hunter)
    * Maybe She's A Bluebird (Hunter)
    * Boys In The Barroom (Hunter)
    * It Must Have Been The Roses (Hunter)
    * Arizona Lightning (Hunter)
    * Standing At Your Door (Hunter)
    * Mad (Hunter / Hart)
    * Keys To The Rain (Hunter)


    * Peter Albin - bass
    * Rodney Albin - vocals, fiddle
    * Maureen Aylett - vocals, spoons
    * Mario Cipollina - saxophone
    * T.Will Claire - vocals
    * Hadi El Sadoon - trumpet
    * John Farey - saxophone
    * Milt Farrow - saxophone
    * Snooky Flowers - saxophone
    * David Freiberg - bass
    * Bruce Gapinski - saxophone
    * Jerry Garcia -guitar
    * Donna Godchaux - vocals
    * Keith Godchaux - keyboards
    * Mickey Hart - drums
    * David Kessner - saxophone
    * Barry Melton - guitar
    * Jamie Paris - harp
    * Steve Schuster ( Jack Bonus)- saxophone
    * Ray Scott - saxophone
    * Markee Shubb - mandolin
    * Rick Shubb - banjo
    * Jeff Slattery - saxophone
    * Randall Smith - saxophone
    * Bill Steele - saxophone
    * Robbie Stokes - guitar


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