Another year without a new National album, over five hours of music and 59 tracks later, we have Day of the Dead. Day of the Dead might just be a Grateful Dead tribute album, but it’s also way more than that. This record collection not only boasts big names like The National, The War on Drugs, Justin Vernon of Bon Iver, Bruce Hornsby, Grizzy Bear, Kurt Vile and the Violators, Jim James from My Morning Jacket, Sharon Van Etten, Courtney Barnett, Mumford & Sons, Local Natives, Wilco, Tunde Adebimpe of TV on the Radio, Bela Fleck, The Walkmen, Real Estate, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Hiss Golden Messenger, Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks, Bill Callhan, Ira Kaplan of Yo La Tengo, Fucked Up, and the Flaming Lips, but the proceeds from the record all go to the Red Hot Organization, an international charity dedicated to raising funds and awareness for HIV and AIDS. The Compilation record also did wonders for vinyl sales, and even if you’re not the greatest Grateful Dead fan in the world, this festival size of artists who got together for a cause was nothing to just bat an eye over.
But the album isn’t just about raising awareness or filling lines above with popular artists, it’s about the music, man, celebrating the Grateful Dead, and what they stood for. Sure, I was never a Dead-Head (a fan of the rock group the Grateful Dead, and maybe the most accurate description of a Grateful Dead follower), but “it’s about the music, man,” is probably a pretentious drug-induced phrase said most by Dead-Head’s. Plus Bob Weir’s on the record, one of the actual members of the Grateful Dead! I could go through every track or at least the best covers on here and really go into it, but honestly, it’s Grateful Dead covers by popular Indie Rock artists.
There isn’t that much to say. Some of them are good, some of them are quite long and not so great. Bruce Hornsby & DeYarmond Edison’s “Black Muddy River” might be the best one, and that’s saying something. If you like Grateful Dead, and you also happen to like other people signing their songs, than this is the 59-track album for you (they couldn’t just make it an even 60?). If you like these artists, and you want to hear them cover Grateful Dead songs, then this is the record for you too. It’s an interesting project, and one that fits in with the current Grateful Dead reunion a.k.a. Dead & Co. a.k.a. John Mayer and some Grateful Dead members. No one may be setting up areas for bootleg tapes anymore, but if Day of the Dead does anything more than raise money for Red Hot Organization (which is great in of itself), it also brings Grateful Dead songs to a new generation. Plus some of it’s pretty good.