Despite the stereotypically cheesy cover art that will probably shoo away non-Deadheads (as usual), Crimson, White & Indigo (or “7/7/89”) includes a whole lot more than the mindless hippie drool suggested by the horrible ponytails worn by Mickey Hart, Bob Weir and Jerry Garcia at the time. Just one year before his fatal drug overdose, keyboardist Brent Mydland delivered an improvised monologue that was both uplifting and jarring during “Blow Away” and was really the MVP of this charged evening in Philly. The band also covered Willie Dixon, James “Sugar Boy” Crawford and Bob Dylan, and mesmerized the huge audience with its often-peaking space-folk, highlighted by poet Robert Hunter’s powerful lyrics in “Box of Rain” and “Wharf Rat.” Proof that the Dead were an impressively diverse and effectual band well after the ’60s.
“How could anyone who liked Varese and Stockhausen like doo-wop?!” Frank Zappa biographer Greg Russo asks early in The Freak Out List, a new film about Zappa’s famously disparate influences. Zappa catalogued 179 names in the original liner notes to The Mothers of Invention’s quirky 1966 debut Freak Out!, pointing listeners to the artists who had informed the then 25-year-old composer/guitarist/singer’s simultaneously super high- and super low-brow music. “He just loved music, period,” concludes former Zappa cohort George Duke later in film, and it’s true. Before his death almost 30 years later, Zappa’s list kept growing, along with the scope of his iconoclastic songwriting. Despite only including a few Zappa tunes—due to the late rock legend’s notoriously ornery estate—The Freak Out List does a great job of utilizing memorable interviews with noted musicologists and musicians. Captivating, rare Zappa footage further delineates the self-sufficient musical education of one of the most fascinating artists in American history.