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Newcomers Should Get This Second, Not First
on January 16, 2003
The Grateful Dead recorded their first 8 albums for Warner Brothers before leaving to form their own record label in 1972. This era of the Dead produced most of their most well known songs, including "Truckin'", "Sugar Magnolia", "Casey Jones", "Dark Star", etc. Warners' initial attempt to compile the best songs from this period resulted in the greatest hits album "Skeletons From The Closet". Then in 1977 they put out this 2 record set (now 2 CDs), which makes an ideal companion to the earlier hits album. Only one song, "Truckin', is repeated from "Skeletons...". They also include a live version of "St. Stephen", the studio version of which had appeared on the earlier collection. It was certainly misleading of them to subtitle this "The Best Of The Grateful Dead". In reality, most of the best songs got put on the first hits album, and this album has the best of what's left over. But what wonderful leftovers! "Ripple" is fantastic, it certainly would have made the cut for the first hits collection if I had compiled it. Other standouts include "Jack Straw", "Me And My Uncle", "Cumberland Blues", "Brown-Eyed Woman", and "Playing In The Band". The previously-mentioned "Dark Star", which has long been a concert favorite of the deadheads (although it doesn't really do much for me), is also here. This album also includes more live recordings than "Skeletons...", so it begins to paint a more accurate portrait of what the Dead were all about than that collection did. If you own "Skeletons..." and are looking for the logical next step, this is it. If you don't already have "Skeletons...", then start there, not here. Of course, many hard-core deadheads would advise skipping the compilations altogether and just going with all the original albums, but for those of us who don't really feel the need to own 15-20 Dead CDs, the compilations work quite nicely.