RACS 0158 Tales of the Great Rum Runners
Directed by Robert Hunter
Released on 1974
no chart information
Find it at GEMM
RACS 0158 cover  

W hen 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. Apparently, some minor differences exist between the original 1974 Round release and the 1990 Rykodisc reissue (e.g., “That Train” seems to run a little longer on the reissue).

TRACK LISTING

  1. LADY SIMPLICITY    0:19
  2. THAT TRAIN    4:58
  3. DRY DUSTY ROAD    2:18
  4. I HEARD YOU SINGING    (Robert Hunter/David Frieberg)    3:43
  5. RUM RUNNERS    3:01
  6. CHILDREN'S LAMENT    4:11
  7. MAYBE SHE'S A BLUEBIRD    1:53
  8. BOYS IN THE BARROOM    1:07
  9. IT MUST HAVE BEEN THE ROSES    3:30
  10. ARIZONA LIGHTNING    3:18
  11. STANDING AT YOUR DOOR    4:18
  12. MAD    4:06
  13. KEYS TO THE RAIN    4:05

    All tracks written by Robert Hunter unless noted

CREDITS

ROBERT HUNTER -- vocals, guitars, pipes
MICKEY HART -- drums, technical & production assistance, changes
Peter Albin -- bass
Rodney Albin -- a capella vocals, fiddle
Maureen Aylett -- spoons
Christie Bourne -- castanets
Buddy Cage -- pedal steel
Maria Cippolina --
T. Will Claire -- a acapella vocals
Hadi El Sadoon -- trumpet (13)
John Farey --
Milt Farrow --
David Freiberg -- bass, changes
Snookey Flowers -- saxophone
Bruce Gapinski --
Jerry Garcia -- solo guitar, mix
Donna Jean Godchaux -- lady
Keith Godchaux -- keyboard
David Kessner --
Barry Melton -- solo guitar, technical & production assistance
Jamie Paris -- harp (12)
Steven Schuster -- saxophone
Ray Scott --
Rick & Markee Shubb -- banjo & mandolin
Jeff Slattery --
Randall Smith --
Bill Steele --
Robbie Stokes -- guitar (12)
Steve Brandon -- engineer
Dan Healy -- engineer
Bob Matthews -- engineer
Rick Griffin -- art

REGION RELEASE DATE LABEL MEDIA ID NUMBER FEATURES
US 1974 Round LP RX 101  
UK 1989 Grateful Dead LP/CD GDV/GDCD-4013  
US March 30, 1990 Rykodisc CD/CS RCD1/RACS 0158 w. some re-editing

 

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