AB 4155 Heaven Help The Fool
Produced by Keith Olsen
Released on February 1978
US CHART POSITION #69
Find it at GEMM
AB 4155 cover
[high resolution photo]
 

T he slickest of the Bob Weir solo albums, featuring Terrapin producer Keith Olsen and the hottest L.A. studio cats that money could buy. The album effectively signaled the end of the Kingfish experiment for Weir, and suggests that someone at Arista thought the Dead guitarist/vocalist had the charisma and cachet to make a go of it on his own without an army of the Dead tagging along. That someone was wrong. Not that Heaven is a bad record, only a little misguided. The studio was an ideal setting for the Eagles and Steely Dan, but not so the Dead. Heaven Help The Fool is pure ‘70s studio rock, even down to the disco-influenced title track (apparently, disco really is Dead). The same problem plagued some of the Dead albums from this period: Shakedown Street, Go To Heaven. But there was always that organic interplay and unpredictable spirit to rescue even their lamest efforts. Not here. Weir and Waddy Wachtel hardly grab a lead and the closest thing to spontaneity is the occasional sax solo from Tom Scott. What saves this from being a total bore is the material. The six new Weir/Barlow compositions are good, sometimes very good. You can draw a direct line from songs like “Shade of Grey” and the title track to subsequent Dead tracks like “Saint of Circumstance.” In my opinion, the Weir/Barlow partnership was in its ascendancy at this stage just as the Garcia/Hunter tandem was starting to decline. Weir’s raunchy rhythm & blues (“Salt Lake City,” “Wrong Way Feelin”) is balanced by increasingly sophisticated (and often elusive) melodies, especially on the ballads. And Barlow has always been an ace lyricist. The mix of new material with covers (Marvin Gaye’s “I’ll Be Doggone,” Little Feat’s “Easy To Slip”) place Heaven in line with Garcia’s Roses. Both are initially underwhelming, but I’ve warmed up to them over time. Perhaps tellingly, Weir hasn’t released another “solo” album like this since, returning to loose affiliations with the Dead as Bobby and the Midnites and Ratdog.

AB 4155 back cover AB 4155 lyric sleeve
AB 4155 back cover AB 4155 lyric sleeve

TRACK LISTING

  1. BOMBS AWAY    5:06
  2. EASY TO SLIP    (Martin Kibbee/Lowell George)    3:05
  3. SALT LAKE CITY    4:04
  4. SHADE OF GREY    4:30
  5. HEAVEN HELP THE FOOL    5:30
  6. THIS TIME FOREVER    4:09
  7. I'LL BE DOGGONE    (William "Smokey" Robinson/Warren Moore/Marvin Tarplin)    3:07
  8. WRONG WAY FEELIN    5:12

    All songs written by John Barlow & Bob Weir unless noted

CREDITS

BOB WEIR -- vocals, guitar
MIKE BAIRD -- drums
BILL CHAMPLIN -- keyboards, background vocals, organ
DAVID FOSTER -- keyboards
LYNETTE GLOUD -- background vocals
TOM KELLY -- background vocals
DAVID PAICH -- keyboards
MIKE PORCARO -- bass
CARMEN TWILLY -- background vocals
Dee Murrey (sic) -- bass (2)
Nigel Olsson -- drums (2,7)
Peggy Sandvig -- keyboards (4)
Tom Scott -- winds
Waddy Wachtel -- guitar
Keith Olsen -- engineer
David De Vore -- engineer
Richard Avedon -- photography
Ria Lewerke -- art director

REGION RELEASE DATE LABEL MEDIA ID NUMBER FEATURES
US February 1978 Arista LP AB 4155 lyric sleeve
UK 1978 Arista LP SPART 1044  
GER 1978 Arista LP 064-60 467  
US   Arista LP/CD/CS AL5/ARCD/AC-8165  
US January 4, 2005 Grateful Dead CD 78992 digital remaster


The Last Word

“I've got to rework the lyric on that. I can't sing that lyric any more. I never was comfortable with that lyric and I don't think we nailed what the song was about, so I've got to get back with Barlow and rewrite it.” – Bob Weir, talking about the song "Heaven Help The Fool" in an interview from 2005.

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