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ROCK HALL NOMS:
SWEET LITTLE 16
Todd's on the ballot. (10/15a)
A SUPER DEBUT
This #1 debut is brought to you by the letter M. (10/14a)
JAY FRANK: A GREAT MIND, A GREATER FRIEND
Tribute to a music-tech oracle (10/14a)
SUPERM WINS THE CHART BATTLE
Unexpected drama (10/14a)
GRAMMY CHEW:
BEST NEW ARTIST
An uber-competitive category (10/15a)
RIHANNA PREPARES TO RULE THE ROOST
What shoes go with dancehall?
WHAT'S NEXT FOR R&B?
How certain projects connect at streaming.
THE K-POP LANDSCAPE
농담은 한국어에서 더 잘 작동합니다.
THE NEW GRAMMY POWER
Change is nigh.
Critics' Choice
LIVING (BUT NOT LIVE) DEAD
5/1/15

The Grateful Dead were a great American roots-rock band whose work was, at its peak, on par with The Band and The Byrds. Some critical snobs may dispute this, but they can suck my bong.

Here’s the thing: I may be the only Dead fan in the Western Hemisphere who prefers their studio recordings to those endless live tapes. So I’m delighted to get my mitts, at last, on Rhino’s recent double-disc anthology, The Best of the Grateful Dead. The judicious selection tracks their entire career, and while I might take issue with a few choices, it’s a superb introduction.

Kicking off with a couple of acid-fueled early tracks—and the Dead were one of the few U.S. bands to sound truly psychedelic without trying to sound English—the set soon plunges into the powerhouse Workingman’s Dead/American Beauty period, with “Uncle John’s Band,” “Casey Jones,” “Truckin’,” “Sugar Magnolia,” “Friend of the Devil,” “Box of Rain” and “Ripple,” among other indelible tunes, followed by material from the underrated Mars Hotel. These are the songs that fueled a thousand campfire singalongs, and with good reason—they’re gorgeous, clever (thank you, lyricist Robert Hunter) and performed with aplomb.

Disc two features the proggy title track from Terrapin Station and some admittedly less memorable mid- and late-70s material, some strong stuff from their ’80s renaissance (the surprise smash “A Touch of Grey,” the gritty “Hell in a Bucket”) and beyond, including the lovely “Black Muddy River.”

I could cavil about the exclusion of underappreciated tunes like “Doin’ That Rag,” “Row Jimmy,” “Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodleoo” and "Saint of Circumstance" (not to mention “Deal” and “Sugaree,” two essential tracks from Jerry Garcia solo albums), but that’s what my own mixes are for. It’s also rather astounding that the Dead never recorded studio versions of live staples like “Jack Straw,” “He’s Gone,” “I Know You Rider” or the stone classic “Brown-Eyed Women.” But the versions on the great Europe ’72 live comp (also available in a handsome reissue from Rhino) are close to definitive.

In any case, to see what a great, trippy American band was capable of, fire this into your player and spark up a blunt. And hell, if you wanna start space-dancing, I won’t judge.