Mastered from the Original Master Tapes: Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir's Dynamic Magnified, Bluesy Riffs Properly Textured
In the Dark will forever be known as the Grateful Dead record that propelled the iconic band into the mainstream conscious more than two decades after its career began. Thanks to undeniable hooks, sing-a-long refrains, and shrug-it-off sentiments on the survivalist anthem "Touch of Grey," the Dead was exposed to new generations of listeners and, in the process, became celebrity figures that packed football stadiums with fans. But In the Dark remains significant for many other, more important reasons - Jerry Garcia's stunning recovery from a coma, Garcia and Bob Weir's compelling dynamic, and an impeccable batch of tunes. It also stands bar-none as the sextet's finest output since 1975.
Mastered from the original master tapes and part of the label's unprecedented Grateful Dead reissue series, Mobile Fidelity's numbered-edition 180g LP of In the Dark presents the Dead's long-overdue breakthrough in attention-grabbing fidelity. Even in an era in which the most revered artists succumbed to the day's prevailing sound (namely, slick textures and artificial keyboard-heavy production that evoked the feel of Saran-Wrap) the band remained obstinate in its allegiance to revealing fidelity. As it happened, the Dead recorded most of the record live onstage at Marin Civic Auditorium using the then-newly introduced Dolby SR - a technology that permitted astounding instrumental separation, even when playing live. The group's inimitable blend now sounds better, more immediate, and natural than ever.
Everything including the clip-clop of cowbells, Mickey Hart and Billy Kreutzmann's rhythm-devil grooves, Phil Lesh's supple bass lines, Garcia's sweetened timbre, and Brent Mydland's pastel-shaded keyboard melodies converges into a delightfully balanced, animate entity. The music possesses tube-like warmth and glow, and the band's renewed vigour and, particularly, Garcia's mellifluous guitar tones and rippling passages, come across with irresistible immediacy, heft, and vitality. Several effects - the revving of a motorcycle engine, which moves with precise imaging across an extremely wide soundstage and various synthesizer interjections among them - highlight lyrical turns and add winking humour. In the Dark is a late-80s anomaly: A great and great-sounding rock album that isn't the least bit dated.
While there's no single secret behind the record's success and its position as the greatest studio achievement of the Dead's last two decades, In the Dark boils down to the essential ingredients of great songwriting and the kind of loose, spirited, frolicking chemistry that the sextet so often demonstrated onstage. Weir and Garcia engage in a friendly competition of gamesmanship. The rhythm guitarist's cleverly cynical "Hell In a Bucket" is one of the toughest, nastiest songs in the Dead's catalogue; "Throwing Stones" his image-laden treaty on greed, politics, responsibility, and the environment, benefits from a complex arrangement sent up with marching bridges and spidery guitar work.
A1: Touch Of Grey
A2: Hell In A Bucket
A3: When Push Comes To Shove
A4: West L.A. Fadeaway
B1: Tons Of Steel
B2: Throwing Stones
B3: Blinded By Science
B4: Black Muddy River