Jan 24, 2023
By Hays Davis
Filled with staples of Grateful Dead shows, the 2-CD 50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition of Bob Weir’s first solo album brings back into the light a string of songs that deserved their place in hundreds of setlists to come. Their embrace by Weir’s fellow Dead members was organic; as he recalls in the notes for Ace, once Weir’s pals caught wind of studio time being booked back in 1972, all of the Dead (minus Ron “Pigpen” McKernan) gathered with the singer/guitarist to record the entire album. Ace was also notable for being the first album to include Weir’s writing collaborations with lyricist John Perry Barlow.
While plenty of live albums and taped shows exist to show the onstage evolution of these songs, the fresh energy of the original source material is still a pleasure to hear. “Greatest Story Ever Told” and “Playing in the Band” (the latter of which would go on to become a major jam vehicle and one of the Dead’s most-played songs live) had been road-tested since 1971. And tracks including “Cassidy,” “One More Saturday Night,” and “Mexicali Blues” have lost none of their charm over the decades, as evidenced on this set’s second disc. Recorded in April of 2022, Weir and Wolf Bros featuring The Wolfpack performed Ace in its entirety, offering a lush setting for the album fleshed out with brass and strings. Tyler Childers guests for an engaging lead vocal on “Greatest Story,” and Brittney Spencer joins Weir for “Walk in the Sunshine” (the only Ace track never performed live by the Dead) and a lovely “Looks Like Rain.” (www.bobweir.net)
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