American rock magazine ‘Rolling Stone’ has covered the Grateful Dead and Jerry Garcia many times. In the late-sixties and early-seventies the reviews and critics were mostly very positive.
Mid-seventies to the end of the eighties this changed in mostly negative articles for as much as i can remember. Here’s a link to a post with record reviews from these days I collected and posted long time ago (1992). So old it’s a little out of date…
The wave changed again and now the Dead is considered in most magazines and books as the ultimate american rock band.
The article that featured this august in the Rolling Stone magazine is about the fifty most beautiful Jerry Garcia songs. It’s a very nice read and listening experience and reading the Stella Blue notes, it explains now why it took me four to five years before this dutch deadhead learned to love these two Robert Hunter/Jerry Garcia songs featured here.
It took Jerry Garcia too a few hard years with many up’s and down’s before he could understand, sing and play these songs like he did here. (see the liner notes below of the Stella Blue Song).
In the article Rolling Stone puts “Uncle John’s Band’ at first place and ‘Dark Star second place. No, I will not argue about the list order, i’m just very happy that with all these beautiful songs ‘Stella Blue’ and ‘China Doll’ have found their place in this list.
Enjoy the music ! (warning: give it some time, these songs must really grow on you. It took me four years ha ha).
From the Rolling Stone article:
From country-rock gems to exploratory jams, from Grateful Dead classics to solo high-points, here’s the ultimate guide to an epic musical life (aug 5, 2020)
By David Browne & Corinne Cummings & Kory Grow & Will Hermes&David Marchese & Bob Sheffield & Douglas Wolk
23 “China Doll,” ‘From the Mars Hotel’ 1974
Hunter originally titled this ballad “The Suicide Song” following a friend’s attempt at taking his own life. But even after it was renamed “China Doll,” Garcia still felt haunted. Accompanied by a harpsichord, Garcia’s guitar creeps in just behind the beat, and he sings as if he’s sighing from another realm. The result is one of his most gripping vocal performances. As Hunter said, “The song is eerie and very, very beautiful the way Jerry handles it.” A later, live acoustic version on Reckoning showed how Garcia could enhance the dark power of “China Doll” by stripping it down even further.
12 “Stella Blue,” ‘Wake of the Flood’ (1973)
When Garcia first recorded this come-down ballad, he admitted that it was his magisterial melody that appealed to him. “I was so proud of it as a composer — ‘Hey, this is a slick song!’” he recalled. Only later in life, after his own ups and downs, did Garcia fully connect with Hunter’s lyrics about “broken dreams and vanished years,” written in New York City’s Chelsea Hotel in 1970. “That’s a good example of a song I sang before I understood it,” Garcia said. “It has a sort of brittle pathos in it that I didn’t get until I’d been singing it for a while.” Live, the Dead sometimes played so slowly it seemed to stop time.