GRATEFUL DEAD – Terrapin Station (1977)

Review by: Christian Sußner
Album assigned by: B.b. Fultz

The Grateful Dead formed in California in 1965 and generally file under the label psychedelic rock. Their album “Terrapin Station” was released in 1977 and consists of 6 songs, the final centerpiece “Terrapin Station Medley” being the longest.

I think the first song “Estimated Prophet” is a pleasant opener for the album. With its nicely grooving bass, the wah-guitars and the vocals by Bob Weir and Donna Godchaux it creates an optimistic, almost summer-like atmosphere.

The following couple of songs in my opinion can’t keep up with the quality of the first track. “Dancing In The Streets” is meant to be a cheerful, well, song for dancing but it’s just too simplistic and straightforward to catch my attention. “Passenger” and “Samson and Delilah” are standard folk-rock songs which kind of remind me of CCR without having their power. And “Sunrise” finally which is sung by by Donna Godchaux alone back then may have been a reminiscence to Flower Power but nowadays just sounds pretentious and boring.

But in the end these first five songs seem like a prelude to the final 16-minute-track “Terrapin Station Medley”. In the tracklist of the LP the song is broken down into subsections but I had problems to retrace the intersections while listening as the different parts are quite homogeneous and the transitions flowing. Not like, let’s say, “Shine On You Crazy Diamond”. However, the song is BIG with a relaxed intro including some nicely picked guitar, some soothing solos and finally a long but not lengthy orchestral crescendo including some good co-singing by Donna again, various mood changes, more solos and finally a whole choir chanting the title of the album. I like it!

I too like the production of the whole album (I got the “mastered for iTunes version”, if that makes a difference) because it doesn’t sound outdated, au contraire, powerful with an eye for detail. I can’t say very much about the lyrics. The bits I understand while listening to the record without paying much attention to the words make me think that they’re not worth the effort of listening closer.

As a conclusion I’d say that, although it’s not an absolute classic, I enjoyed listening to the album. A good start and an excellent ending with some filler in between but I’ll definitely give it another listen after submitting this review. Last question: Which substances does one have to take to get to Terrapin Station and watch these cute turtles from the cover dance?