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Mickey Hart's Mystery Box

Mickey Hart

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Album Review

After the passing of Grateful Dead guitarist Jerry Garcia and the venerable band's demise, it was percussionist Mickey Hart who proved to be the most creatively resilient. As Deadheads and appreciators of world music can attest, Hart — who is also an author and learned ethnomusicologist — has been fusing genres ever since his debut release, 1972's Rolling Thunder, which included Native American sounds and motifs along with rock and jazz. Mickey Hart's Mystery Box harks back to that project with his first album of pop-oriented material in nearly a quarter-century. He combines the seemingly disparate world of percussion-based rhythms with traditional "Western-style" structures containing lyrics by Grateful Dead wordsmith Robert Hunter. All the more diverse are the contributions of the Mint Juleps. This female vocal sextet features siblings Debbie Charles, Elizabeth Charles, Marcia Charles, and Sandra Charles as well as Julie Isaac and Debbie Longworth. Collectively, their paradisaical harmonies support Hart's occasional leads, while they're effectively incorporated as primary participants on the infectious groove of the opener, "Where Love Goes (Sito)," and the new wave vibe of "Full Steam Ahead," which is reminiscent of Talking Heads and Tom Tom Club. The Hart-sung "Down the Road" offers a nod to the late Garcia and provides a focal point for Hunter's obviously heartfelt tribute. "Only the Strange Remain" resembles something similar to a latter-era Dead song, bringing to mind "West L.A. Fadeaway" and "Days Between," both in terms of Hunter's piercing insight and a practically tangible noir feeling permeating throughout. The bombastic "John Cage Is Dead" is a masterful amalgam of percussive-heavy world beats in an undulating modern context. "The Last Song" is an apt conclusion as cultures once again collide, yielding a tune that wouldn't have sounded out of place on urban contemporary radio. As the name of this 1996 release suggests, Mickey Hart's Mystery Box has a little something for every taste and reinforces the Grateful Dead adage "Once in a while you get shown the light, in the strangest of places if you look at it right."

Customer Reviews

Down the Road Again!!

Beautiful song and tribute to Jerry Garcia

Biography

Born: September 11, 1943 in Brooklyn, NY

Genre: World

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Mickey Hart is a drummer, an ethnomusicologist, and an author. He joined the Grateful Dead as its second percussionist in 1967. In 1970, Hart left the Dead and cut the solo album Rolling Thunder in 1972, featuring various members of the Dead. Hart returned to the band in 1974. Hart's musical activities outside the Dead have been extensive. In 1976, the Dead's Round Records label released Diga by the Diga Rhythm Band, an early experiment in worldbeat fusion put together by Hart. His interaction with...
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Mickey Hart's Mystery Box, Mickey Hart
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Contemporaries