Hearing Aide: Circles Around the Sun “Interludes For the Dead”

Back in July, two giant stadiums, one in Santa Clara, CA and the other in Chicago, IL, held five shows between them in honor of the 50th anniversary of the Grateful Dead.  When fans arrived for the Fare Thee Well shows, they were welcomed to soothing sounds that filled the air before the show started. Set break and post-show also played this same music to fans as they were heading from their seats to grab a drink, meet with friends or leave the stadium for the evening. Fans were curious as to where this music was originating, as it had never been heard before.  Touches of Grateful Dead notes were hinted at throughout, but it was never an exact replica or clear match to being the Grateful Dead.  However, the music had a familiar touch about it, but it could not be pinpointed.  Who was behind this magical music?

Not long after the reunion run ended, it came to light that Neal Casal was the man behind the music between sets at the reunion shows.  Casal, best known as the guitar player for the Chris Robinson Brotherhood, was approached by Justin Kreutzmann to assist with the musical side of the production during the breaks. Casal got together with three other musicians, bassist Dan Horne, drummer Mark Levy, and keyboardist Adam MacDougall, to create the music that would soon become a part of the Grateful Dead history forever. Over the course of a few days, the group put together over four and a half hours of “walk in music” for the reunion shows.  The album, Interludes For the Dead, contains the music that grew out of these magical recording sessions over a short period of time. Though the music was originally created specifically for use at the reunion shows, due to an overwhelming demand by fans, it has been put together and released in album form.

When the tracks were being created, it was all done free-form, as the musicians flowed to where their hearts brought them musically. What they created was simply magical. Never anticipating the music being released to the public, the artists pushed some songs to over 25 minutes in length, which tests the boundaries of fitting on one side of a vinyl album. The longest song, “Farewell Franklins,” clocks in at 25:05 minutes.

The flow of the music throughout this album maintains the same continuous mystical aura, as the notes hint and touch upon slight rhythms of Grateful Dead tunes. In addition, some songs follow the same themes of particular Grateful Dead tunes. For example, “Scarlottas Magnolias” has obvious hints of “Scarlet Begonias,” and “Scarlet Wheel” touches upon “The Wheel.” In addition, some tracks are named for specific people or stories. “Gilbert’s Groove” is named after Gilbert Shelton, the artist behind the cover artwork for The Grateful Dead’s Shakedown Street album.  “Hallucinate a Solution” was named for a quote Phil Lesh said before going onstage one evening during a Phil and Friends show. Casal had been performing with him, and a discussion came up regarding a difficult transition between two songs.  Lesh’s solution was to “hallucinate a solution,” hence the song named in his honor.

Overall, the album that was never to be is crammed with mysterious tones that overlap transcendental notes and waves of creative bliss from beginning to end. This unexpected release easily hits the heart of fans of all genres, as it clearly falls into a category all its own. Allowing the music to flow from the heart, without the added pressure of producing an album from the get go, is what makes this album beautiful. A delight to the eardrums, each tune offers up gorgeously fluid sounds that take listeners on a journey of pleasurable surprises as the tracks drift from one to the next.

Each track is completely different, yet similar, with the low key grooves that are maintained.  “Hallucinate A Solution” is chock full of hip beats, while “Gilberts Groove” brings it down with a funky vibe.  Jazzy edges are sliced into “Kaseys Bones,” while the mood takes a 180 with a mystical “Space Wheel.” The longest track, “Farewell Franklins,” picks up the beat with a soulful organ and crisp guitar chords that join arm in arm.  The album closes with the shortest tune, “Mountains of the Moon,” at just over five minutes in length. This spacey jam takes listeners on a trippy ride through quiet tones intertwined with cosmic hues, sculpting a perfect ending to this remarkably harmonious recording.

Overall, Interludes For the Dead takes listeners from soulful jazz lines to funky, psychedelic punches and everything in between.  The free style jamming the musicians put into each track takes you on a magical ride through riffs that soothe the soul, relax the mind and provide endless colorful vibrations of energy. This is perfect music for any occasion, whether a long car ride, stretching to yoga or trying to calm from a hard day’s work. This is the album that belongs on everyone’s playlist. This will soon become one of your top albums played again and again.

Key Tracks: Hallucinate A Solution, Farewell Franklins, Saturdays Children