Ok, it's hold my hands up time.
I've had an absolute field day on these reviews pages at the expense of the Dead (and others!) in general, and 'hippy types' in particular.
I've penned reams about faded loons, floral shirts, 10 minute mellotron solos, and, my particular favourite, the enjoyably ubiquitous centre-parting.
I suppose it's my inadequate way of coming to terms with the fact that I've been immersed in an art form that's completely alien to me. I've sneered, scoffed and chortled my way round some strange, intoxicating music, which I've usually grudgingly acknowledged, while at the same time, sarcastically pointing out every fallibility I can find. In short, I've stretched a point to breaking, with no other justification than narky inexperience.
Well that ends here.
My latest stop is 'Terrapin Station' and it's MAGNIFICENT on every level. A devastating mix of funk, rock and reggae, from the steely opening chords of 'Estimated Prophet' to the jumping climax of the 16 minute 'Terrapin Station pt1,' we're on a winner in a big way.
There's lyrical and melodic strength that's joyous and delightful, there's serious cohesion (my favourite rock term), clarity, and huge swathes of justified confidence. Justified because The Dead are on some kind of creative summit here-and don't they know it. The swagger is unmistakable. Each exquisitely crafted hook, each spray of feisty brass, every huge orchestral sweep is definite indication of a group on fire.
Despite the dodgy labeling, this is almost pure pop. It has a funny kind of sisterhood with Captain Sensible's album 'Revolution Now', in that its surface sheen and pomp is (incredibly!) just the bait that draws you in, ultimately to discover the width and depth of what lies beneath. A clear sign of inner richness.
The scope and aspiration of 'Terrapin Station' is breathtaking and immense. It has subtleties and intricacies that other lesser, workmanlike musics can only dream of - and it's sustained. It applies pressure in the first 5 seconds and never let's up; relentless, whirling rock music which is appealing well beyond a delirious few listens, and has a resonance and resolve which is unshakeable.
As with all truly great music, it's profoundly influential, good and bad. The obvious offspring are the likes of Chic and the stomping Brothers Johnson. Unfortunately the lineage ends somewhere around those mortifying uglies, Level 42, but it does illustrate that even the most hopeless cruds can't be ALL bad, if they're trying to emulate 'Terrapin Station'.
A truer album you won't hear. It's full, across the board solid. Alert, soulful and downright FUN.
I'm not even gonna whine about the awful (again!) cover art (I can still smell nappies when I think of 'Blues for Allah'), because for once, the ludicrous details which I normally cheekily celebrate, are unimportant.
And I've even jettisoned a slew of train jokes in favour of breathless positivism, such is the chill-inducing, magical beauty of 'Terrapin Station'.
I'm glad I'm alive.