I’m sad that I never saw the Grateful Dead live; they’ve left marks on the collective musical consciousness that will be there as long as such a thing exists. But Blues For Allah is my favorite of their studio recordings, and Crazy Fingers by a wide margin the best song there.
Now, I’m prejudiced, Crazy Fingers provided background for one or two very special moments in my youth, not the kind of thing I can share, but there’s a warm glow and a smile inside every time I hear that tune. Even without the glow it’s brilliant: Shifting rhythms, lilting melody, and fabulous production.
Speaking of that production, in checking out the tune for this piece I learned that Blues For Allah was unique in the Dead oeuvre in that the songs were composed at and before the recording session, rather than having been worked out first on the road. Based on the results, maybe they should have done that more often. Now, it’s fair to say that some of the swoony desert soundscapes haven’t aged that well, but it’s also true that Crazy Fingers isn’t the only really cool song on the record.
Your rain falls like crazy fingers / Peals of fragile thunder, keeping time… Aaaah.
Links · Spotify playlist. This tune on Spotify, iTunes, Amazon. Now, a lot of Dead songs work best live, and there’s video of basically every one of them out there, but the live takes of this one just didn’t work for me, I missed the spooky backing track and layered voices on the recording.