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Circles Around The Sun: Interludes for the Dead

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Circles Around The Sun: <i>Interludes for the Dead</i>

The highly anticipated, if not somewhat spotty 50th anniversary reunion of the surviving members of The Grateful Dead was one of the highlights of 2015. However, the most interesting music of those shows did not transpire onstage. Rather, it took place during the intermissions and featured visuals created by percussionist Bill Kreutzmann’s son, acclaimed filmmaker Justin Kreutzmann. He commissioned Neal Casal (who has performed with Ryan Adams and The Cardinals and now works with Chris Robinson Brotherhood and Phil Lesh & Friends) to compose more than five hours of original instrumentals to accompany these hallucinatory digital interludes. As a result, the guitar great put together a serious group featuring fellow Brotherhood/Phil & Friends associate Adam MacDougall on keys, Beachwood Sparks bassist Dan Horne, and drummer Mark Levy of The Congress.

The result—this two-disc set—features the best of those 300 minutes of improvised jams. The ad-hoc supergroup retrofits the sound of the Dead’s halcyon days as the house band for Ken Kesey’s Acid Test parties for the 21st century. Elements of the more freeform moments of Europe ’72 can be heard on the likes of “Hallucinate a Solution” and “Scarlotta’s Magnolias,” while “Space Wheel” and “Farwell Franklins” echo the psychedelic soul-jazz sentiments of Jerry Garcia’s tenure in collaboration with Howard Wales.

Had it not been for the enthusiastic reaction the music Circles Around The Sun created for those Fare Thee Well intermissions, Interludes For The Dead might not have seen the proper release it enjoyed alongside the proper CD and DVD sets commemorating the anniversary shows through Rhino Records. The fact these guys turned this music around in record time as well only adds to its heft as a creative tour-de-force. One can only imagine how good the outtakes from the final product are, as we could only hope that Casal and company decide to release a second volume of these essential interludes in 2016.