“I’m Not Dead Yet” . . . : Neal Casals and Circles Around The Sun

I recently played in a session for a potential new jam band project where a good part of the time was spent jamming on vamps and progressions taken from the Grateful Dead. Being an old Deadhead and having played in more than one Dead/Dead Adjacent band, I was in familiar territory. Not certain where this project will go but one  possibility is something not unlike Neal Casals and Circles Around The Sun.

The band Circles Around The Sun is a direct outgrowth of the Fare Thee Well series of concerts put on as the final live performances of the remaining “core four” members of the Grateful Dead. Justin Kreutzmann (son of drummer Bill Kreutzmann) produced and directed five special films that screened in between sets, incorporating archival photos and footage of the Grateful Dead. Justin commissioned Chris Robinson Brotherhood guitarist and part-time member of Phil Lesh and Friends, Neal Casal, to create the soundtracks. Casals put together a band consisting of CRB keyboard player Adam MacDougall, bassist Dan Horne (Beachwood Sparks, Jonathan Wilson) and drummer Mark Levy (The Congress) and went into the studio and recorded five hours of music.

The music succeeds in walking a fine line of being evocative of the Dead (and in many instances, specific songs of the Dead) while also being more than mimicry. They really nail the spirit of the music while never just copying. In some ways it reminds me of the Beatles parody/tribute The Rutles (see my previous post on The Rutles here: https://roymusicusa.com/2015/04/13/all-you-need-is-cash-the-rutles-best-beatles-parody-ever/). You hear the music and it immediately reminds you a certain song but only for a moment, then it goes somewhere else. To pull this off well, you really need to speak the language of Dead.

The clips below provide the set break music for July 4, 2015 and July 5th. 2015 shows. The July 4th set break begins with a guitar riff that any Deadhead would immediately identify as Ramble On Rose but quickly morphs into something else entirely. The July 5th set breaks starts with a chord progression vaguely reminiscent of Box Of Rain before it too goes off into parts unknown.

Fare Thee Well- Set Break Music 2015-07-05 Neal Casal –

Fare Thee Well- Before Show Music 2015-07-04 Neal Casal –

The set break music Casals and company provided for the Fare Thee Well shows made a big impression on the fans in attendance as well as the fans who were watching the shows on pay-per-view. As a result Rhino records released a 2 cd set of the music and Circles Around The Sun have done a number of live shows. Go here for more info on the Rhino set: http://www.rhino.com/article/now-available-circles-around-the-sun-interludes-for-the-dead.

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Posted in Grateful Dead, Music Appreciation and Analysis

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