Watchfire

Article excerpt

Grateful Dead Records / Relix

PETE SEARS is an English-born music journeyman whose chief claims to fame were band membership on Rod Stewart's pioneering early '70s solo albums and membership in Jefferson Starship from 1974 until 1985. Since that time, Sears has been part of the Bay Area music scene. His solo release, Watchfire, is notable despite its limitations. First released by the environmentally conscious label Redwood Records, it has just been given North America-wide distribution by Grateful Dead Records via Relix.

The album's chief virtue is its unflinchingly sincere and piognant tone. Its targets are two of this century's most foolish legacies - the proliferation of war, insurrection, and political posturing and the blind obliteration of the gift of God's creation.

In its sincere consistency, Watchfire succeeds, despite the B-grade lyricism of Sears' wife, Jeanette. It also succeeds despite the extremely frail vocals by Sears - a voice with Chris DeBurgh's affectations but without its purity or power.

Indeed, part of the connection of Sears to Grateful Dead Records is ironic. Sears has been a staple in the Bay Area music scene for more than 20 years. He auditioned for the spot as the Dead's keyboardist after Brent Mydland's death in 1990. He lost out to ex-Tubes keyboardist Vince Welnick, largely due to Welnick's harmony vocal skills.

Melodically, Sears is supported by sidemen of great diversity and skill. Mandolin maestro David Grisman appears on most tracks, and his signature riffs are a great added spice. The rhythm section of Greg Errico (drums) and David Hayes (bass) is solidly unobtrusive. Cameos are paid by late legends Jerry Garcia (Grateful Dead guitarist and vocalist) and John Cipollina (Quicksilver Messenger Service guitarist) as well as Dead percussionist Mickey Hart and Central and South American musicians. …