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"Make no mistake, it's not revenge he's after. It's a reckoning."
Doc Holliday, "Tombstone"

In this context, Webster 1913's second definition is the most accurate. A reckoning in the judicial sense would mean that a man's due to be called to account for his deeds, good or (typically) evil.

RECKONING - Grateful Dead

Released on April Fool´s Day 1981, this album documents the Dead´s return to their roots as an acoustic band. Yep before the Dead became the Dead they were a folk/jug band. They left that behind for the psychedelic thing in ´66, but latter returned to it in 1970 with the albums Workingman´s Dead and American Beauty.

Then as suddenly as the acoustic period of 1970 came it was gone again and would not return to their concerts until 1980. Then return it did, and with wonderful melody and color. Reckoning documents an average acoustic setlist of that year. It is a warm, lush and down-home sound, mixing GD originals with songs by Elizabeth Cotten, Bill Browning, Jesse Fuller and several traditional tunes. Another interesting note is that when the album was first released on CD it carried a different name (For The Faithful).

Produced by Dan Healy, Betty Cantor-Jackson and Jerry Garcia the album was recorded live at the Warfield Theater, San Francisco, September 25-October 14, 1980, and at Radio City Music Hall, New York, October 22-31, 1980.

The band at the time of recording:
Jerry Garcia
Mickey Hart
Billy Kreutzmann
Phil Lesh
Brent Mydland
Bob Weir

Dire Wolf
The Race Is On
Oh Babe It Ain't No Lie
It Must Have Been the Roses
Dark Hollow
China Doll
Been All Around This World
Monkey and the Engineer
Deep Elem Blues
To Lay Me Down
Rosalie McFall
On the Road Again (not the Willie Nelson version)
Bird Song

Reckoning (File Under Water) by R.E.M.
IRS Records, 1984. Produced by Mitch Easter.

  1. HarborcOat
  2. 7 chineSe bros.
  3. so. Central Rain
  4. Pretty Persuasion
  5. Time After Time (annElise)
  6. second GuessinG
  7. letter Never seNt
  8. camerA
  9. (don't Go back To) ROCKVILLE
  10. little america

The lettering of the above song titles reflects the packaging of the album

R.E.M.'s third release for IRS and second full-length lp. The seldom-mentioned subtitle--"File Under Water"1--refers to the abundant water imagery in the lyrics of the album. This is not surprising, as it was recorded following one of the largest floods in Georgia's history, a subject dealt with, albiet obliquely, in the song "So. Central Rain." Water in some form is mentioned in nearly every song:

  • the titles and lyrics of "Harborcoat" and "So. Central Rain"
  • "Seven Chinese brothers swallow in the ocean"
  • "Ask the girl of the hour by the watertower's clock" --"Time After Time"
  • "The water is evening now/The catacombs are filling in" "Letter Never Sent"
  • "Diane is on the beach, do you realize the life she's led?" -- "Little America"

    And these are just the more obvious examples.

    Musically, it is different from Murmur, which had a fairly monochromatic sound. On Reckoning, the production is a little cleaner, and sounds crisper. Moreover, there is a little more experimentation, such as the country sound of "Rockville" and the allowance of "jokes" such as "Rockville"'s funky intro. Also, if you can find the vinyl version, buy it. It contains a short musical piece at the very end, written into the groove. My cd doens't have this. It's mostly an instrumental, with Michael Stipe humming wordlessly on top if it. Rather strange, hypnotic-sounding.

    The cover art--which shows a multi-colored snake surrounding white-on-black sketches of people in various states, was done by the Rev. Howard Finster, a noted folk artist who would collaborate with R.E.M. in their Southern Gothic period, which would fully flower with Fables of the Reconstruction. Also, the art contributes to the almost religious feel of the album--from the water imagery, to the title, to the snake, one can see the influence of the Bible Belt, and a dissatisfaction with it.

    1. Two other R.E.M. albums have this sort of subtitle:
  • Document (File Under Fire)
  • Eponymous (File Under Grain)

    Of course, we have three of the four traditional elements listed: water, fire, earth. Where is "air"? Anyway, aside from setting a certain thematic element to the albums, it does (as wunderhorn1 pointed out to me) parody the way that record companies used to catagorize music for retailers--"File under rock" "file under jazz", or, like the Sugar album, File Under: Easy Listening

    As for "File Under Air," wunderhorn1 makes the good argument that Up would be "File Under Air" due to its abundant images of air, air travel, and the more atmospheric music.

  • Reck"on*ing, n.


    The act of one who reckons, counts, or computes; the result of reckoning or counting; calculation.

    Specifically: (a)

    An account of time

    . Sandys. (b)

    Adjustment of claims and accounts; settlement of obligations, liabilities, etc.

    Even reckoning makes lasting friends, and the way to make reckonings even is to make them often. South.

    He quitted London, never to return till the day of a terrible and memorable reckoning had arrived. Macaulay.


    The charge or account made by a host at an inn.

    A coin would have a nobler use than to pay a reckoning. Addison.


    Esteem; account; estimation.

    You make no further reckoning of it [beauty] than of an outward fading benefit nature bestowed. Sir P. Sidney.

    4. Navigation (a)

    The calculation of a ship's position, either from astronomical observations, or from the record of the courses steered and distances sailed as shown by compass and log, -- in the latter case called dead reckoning (see under Dead); -- also used fro dead reckoning in contradistinction to observation.


    The position of a ship as determined by calculation.

    To be out of her reckoning, to be at a distance from the place indicated by the reckoning; -- said of a ship.


    © Webster 1913.

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