NWR Grateful Dead Request +

Those with a distaste for Cali-hippy music look away now.

The Grateful Dead have always been a blind spot for me. I've never owned a Dead album. Recently I've been thinking I really should educate myself. There seems to be a divide, even between open minded and genuine musos...they are either great or crap, with little in between.

Anyone recommend "The" essential album to buy? I know there's a live album, "Live Dead". People seem to mention "Working Man's..." and "American Beauty". I really just want one album to see what the fuss is about.

If anyone is really feeling generous they could give me a Little Feat recommendation too. My wife ended up with three Little Feat albums in the small collection she brought to the marriage, and I have been playing them this afternoon for the first time in thirty years.
 
There were different Deads. I would say they were best known as a live band, famous for lengthy instrumental jamming on stage, and if you buy a live album that is what you can expect. American Beauty and Workingman's Dead are studio albums, and perhaps not typical but both favourites for me as classic early 70's country rock. Workingman's Dead is also worth listening to if you have any interest in "Americana music", as some of it sounds as if it's an interpretation of traditional music, but it's more of an affectionate nod to tradition.
 
There were different Deads. I would say they were best known as a live band, famous for lengthy instrumental jamming on stage, and if you buy a live album that is what you can expect. American Beauty and Workingman's Dead are studio albums, and perhaps not typical but both favourites for me as classic early 70's country rock. Workingman's Dead is also worth listening to if you have any interest in "Americana music", as some of it sounds as if it's an interpretation of traditional music, but it's more of an affectionate nod to tradition.
Thanks Jeff. I'm not averse to some lengthy guitar noodling, but it was the "Americana" side that I think interests me more, so very helpful.

I think I wrongly lumped the Dead in with Jefferson Airplane/Starship. They may have been perfectly good but I saw them in the UK at a festival in the mid-to-late-70s and Grace Slick appeared to be very drunk, or stoned, or both, and I never gave them a second chance. Probably the ignorance and arrogance of youth, plus the fact that it was the point at which a musical revolution was to sweep us all up.
 
Those with a distaste for Cali-hippy music look away now

If anyone is really feeling generous they could give me a Little Feat recommendation too. My wife ended up with three Little Feat albums in the small collection she brought to the marriage, and I have been playing them this afternoon for the first time in thirty years.
I don’t think they ever made a ‘perfect’ album but Sailin’ Shoes and Dixie Chicken are my favourites. Waiting for Columbus is a truly superb live release. The post-Lowell George stuff isn’t so good imo.
 
I tend to put together my own best-ofs in playlists on Spotify. For the Dead, the following songs are prob my most played: Box of rain, Sugar Magnolia, Uncle John's band, I know you rider, Turn on your love light, St Stephen. Pretty much their pop/country style, rather than trippy improvisation.
 
The Dead - definitely two streams as already said. Try both - long improvisations live, meandering but sometimes inspired. Very good studio songs, Americana before it was classified as such.

Little Feat - if only one, definitely Sailin' Shoes for me. And Alan, last time I saw them was in Newcastle!
 
The best studio album to go for is probably American Beauty as it has a preponderance of their most classic tracks, “Sugar Magnolia”, “Truckin” etc.

For live it’s hard to look past the triple album Europe ‘72. The complete recordings of that tour were issued a few years ago and so it’s now easy to find tracks which weren’t on the original album and capture them at their improvisatory peak. The “Not Fade Away/Going Down The Road (Feeling Bad)” medley is a good one to try to see if you like the style.

If you really do get hooked, then at some stage one needs to confront their psychedelic magnum opus Anthem of the Sun.
 
For a good live representation of their psychedelic cowboy period, I would recommend the Europe Live album, they have sound desk recordings of every night and spotify has a bunch of them. My favourite live album from that period is the Veneta Or, 27/8/72, there is a film of the concert called Sunshine Daydream, filmed by the Merry Pranksters (the Ken Kesey acid group), great versions most of their good songs from that period.
 
B

Bruce G.

Guest
The back-to-back studio albums of Workingman's Dead and American Beauty are quite lovely, but they only offer the folk/Americana side of the Dead, and the polished studio sound misses some of the raw intensity of their live work.

Live/Dead is great, and shows them in several iterations, from acid blues ("Death Don't Have No Mercy") through R&B ("Lovelight") on to the full-on psychedelia of "Dark Star". To my mind it's some of their greatest work ever put on tape (and most of their work IS on tape), but it is extremely hardcore, offering no respite, no lightness, nothing 'easy'.
The Grateful Dead live album (aka "Skull and Roses") is also a great one, but it is limited in scope, showing them in their Cowboy Bar Band phase. The songs are stripped down and tight, very straight-on rock-n-roll. But it lacks some of the more ambitious jamming... even songs that usually get exploratory ("Playing in the Band", "The Other One") are a bit clipped.

So, the answer (as others have suggested) is Europe 72.... the band is a bit more relaxed and reflective, many of the songs are wonderful sing-alongs with polished vocals (post-tour over-dubbing in the studio helped), and yet the boys (and girl) still wander out on a ledge musically (China Cat-Rider, etc) and pull it off.
And Morning Dew just might make you cry.
 
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Little Feat - Sailing Shoes, Last Record Album, Dixie Chicken, Feat Don't Fail Me Now are all great. Their first album (Little Feat) also. Lots of great live albums as well - Waiting for Columbus and Late Night Truck Stop are 2 I like.

Also partial to a Jerry Garcia Band album - Cats Out Under The Stars.
 
Little Feat - Sailing Shoes, Last Record Album, Dixie Chicken, Feat Don't Fail Me Now are all great. Their first album (Little Feat) also. Lots of great live albums as well - Waiting for Columbus and Late Night Truck Stop are 2 I like.

Also partial to a Jerry Garcia Band album - Cats Out Under The Stars.
Nigel, the ones from my wife’s stash I got out the other day are Down on the Farm, Time Loves a Hero and The Last Record Album (which you mention). Where do the first two stand in the canon?
 
Nigel, the ones from my wife’s stash I got out the other day are Down on the Farm, Time Loves a Hero and The Last Record Album (which you mention). Where do the first two stand in the canon?
Nigel might disagree but for me they aren’t among the band’s finest achievements. Lowell George’s input was minimal, he was heavily into drugs and he wasn’t seeing eye to eye with the other musicians. The first four studio albums are by far the best.
 
I like 'Down On The Farm' - some great songs and some awful ones as well. Same with Time Loves A Hero - that album illustrates the problems George was having with his bandmates and they with him. Going from the sublime 'Rocket In My Pocket' to the Jazz rock-esque (and awful) Day at the Dog races written by the whole band band sans George. Incidentally Lowell's daughter Inara is half of the band ' The Bird And The Bee' who are worth checking out.
 
Grateful dead, I definitely prefer the live albums. The studio ones feel a bit insipid. There's an early best of, 'Skeletons from the Closet' that captures a lot of the Americana though.

Little Feat, all of them before 1976. But the ones I go back to most are Dixie Chicken and the Last Record Album.

Nothing's been the same since Pigpen died. I stood next to him in a urinal once.
 
Grateful dead, I definitely prefer the live albums. The studio ones feel a bit insipid. There's an early best of, 'Skeletons from the Closet' that captures a lot of the Americana though.

Little Feat, all of them before 1976. But the ones I go back to most are Dixie Chicken and the Last Record Album.

Nothing's been the same since Pigpen died. I stood next to him in a urinal once.
Oddly I've been thinking about you this week. I owe you wine (or lunch as an alternative)! I have not forgotten. I drank that wonderful Clos Lentiscus Sumoll Ferestec last month, which acted as a reminder.
 
I'm sure I have a Grateful Dead wine?I also have The Police wine! From Rock Wines in California?
As an aside (with apologies for thread drift as we may have had a thread for "band wines" once), the best music related wine I've had was the Unione Nero di Wongraven Barolo 2003. Sigurd Wongraven (of Norwegian Metal Band Satiricon) has a wide range of wines now, including a Champagne, but he started out with a small range made with his mate Luca Roagna. I picked it up along with some Langhe Nebbiolo and Barbera in a branch of Vinmonopolet in Oslo some years ago.
 
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