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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.
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on May 8, 2000
While there are some excellent cuts, both live and studio, this two disk set fails to include some absolutely classic dead songs. I know I sound like some fanatical fan going off on some rant, but that's not it. Like most of the uninitiated, I bought "What a Strange Trip.." years ago because I thought it would be a great introduction to the band. Furthermore, I assumed that "best-of" usually means I'm going to get just that. However, this record comes up way short. While it's good to see "Workingman's Dead" and "American Beauty" well represented, how could Warners leave off "Box of Rain", "Friend of the Devil" and "Sugar Magnolia"! The above songs are all outright classics and Warners was wrong by not including them.I might as well be idiosyncratic and say that it would have been nice to see at least one of either "mountains of the moon" or "rosemary" included. As for the live material, where is "bertha" or even "mama tried"?And certainly one cannot appreciate the hallucinatory power of "St. Stephen" or "Dark Star" as they appear here in their severely truncated versions. All these songs are classics because they epitomize what's so fantastic about the dead: the fierce yet subtle playing, the juxtaposition of beautiful melodies and strong song structure with searching improvisation, the synthesis of some many musical styles: pop, jazz, country, blues, r&b and classical. Simply put, I would hate for someone to buy this record thinking they are getting the truly "best" that the dead offers because they will miss out on some of the most fantastic music ever.
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VINE VOICEon March 23, 2001
The Grateful Dead have not been well served by label compilations. Their windblown, exhilirating, rootless roots rock hardly contains itself on the band's relatively few studio releases, let alone stands slicing into radio-friendly pieces. This is why every Deadhead gathers his personal best-of from hundreds of worldwide concerts trapped on tapes.
Warner's 1977's "What A Long Strange Trip It's Been" covers the group's 1967-72 period as well as expected being neither fish nor fowl. The 2CD set (adding up to just over 86 minutes), compiled with the band and well-remastered by Joe Gastwirt, balances the disparate studio/live faces of this legendary American phenomenon. It misses several FM hits ("Skeletons From The Closet" is your first stop other than the original LPs for "Sugar Magnolia," "Friend Of The Devil," etc., although "Truckin'" repeats here) but balances the Dead's first five years' studio and live releases.
What "Strange Trip" does best is refocus attention on the band's first, most creative years: the band, still young; the studio, still suitable laboratory; the following, still new and gaining for music as for the social experience; the goal, to grow a body of original work rather than expand on familiar music and memories. Indeed, only Elvis Presley among American rockers drew so easily from as many influences as the Dead did in the years covered here.
The consistently strong Jerry Garcia-Robert Hunter compositions (among them the concert staples "Ripple," "Tennessee Jed," and a truncated "Dark Star") merge the dusty, dry strength of Jimmy Rodgers, (train imagery shows up throughout the selections, even without "Casey Jones") Robert Johnson (listen again to the intro of "Cosmic Charlie"), Bill Monroe, Buddy Holly and the South-Southwest's musical/lyrical imagery. Add Bob Weir's Bakersfield vocals on "Me and Me Uncle" and "Playing In The Band," the late "Pigpen" McKernan's bluesy voice and keyboard on "Ramble On Rose" and the early "New, New Minglewood Blues," and Phil Lesh's solid bass throughout (Gastwirt's remastering recasts him as the star of "Truckin'"). You get a sound and style not so much created as organically harvested, then psychedelically frosted.
Whether this set serves as time capsule or accessible musical portal depends on where and how far new fans retrace their long, strange trip. The road is easiest back to 1970's beloved "American Beauty" and "Workingman's Dead" (four songs from that LP are featured here) or on to 1973's elegant "Wake Of The Flood" or "Mars Hotel." Either way, "What A Long Strange Trip It's Been" provides a meatier, incomplete but still recommended musical supplement for casual or new fans.
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on July 25, 2015
Grateful Dead is one of the strangest groups ever. And I say that in a good way. Deadheads, like Parrotheads, are a group and cult unto themselves. It's funny to meet one in his or her "regular setting". That said, What a Long Strange Trip It's Been is half the story of the Grateful Dead. Like the Deadheads themselves, this tells a story and offers memories of things past.

Truckin' one of the handful of Grateful Dead songs that had a wide mass appeal is the mother of the title, What a Long Strange Trip It's Been. That's quite a fitting title for any compilation for a group that had spent as much time on the road as Grateful Dead had. Truly, it makes sense.

While this collection has 18 cuts, this isn't quite the collection someone unfamiliar with the Dead would want to start out with. There isn't that much to explain the group except Truckin'. It is a nice set? Surely. Does it sound good? Indeed. Is it one you'd use to get acquainted with the group? No.
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on August 15, 2014
Some reviews have suggested this isn't the best album (CD, MP4) to get introduced to the Dead. I'm going to say the opposite; this is an excellent place to start. The only thing wrong with this album is 3 words in the title "The Best Of". It is a 2 disc compilation mixed with some live samples and deep tracks but not "The Best Of" in the traditional FM hits sense nor "The Best Of' for what the band was best know for, live jams. For the novice fan listening to the Grateful Dead this album provides a nice mix of popular Dead tunes (that a lot of folks are familiar with) and songs that only Deadheads are familiar with (all of which will argue over which version of each song is the best). Each song is an excellent recording and the music is crystal clear. I highly recommend adding this to your music collection.
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on August 23, 1998
The year is 1977 and the Dead have come of age. The boys are cool, confident and precise. Notes ring clear, voices are strong & tunes are damn near perfect.
This 2-CD set is one that will be played till it wears out. Various songs have been my favorite over the years, but "Doin' That Rag" and "Brown-Eyed Woman" are simply unbeatable. I can't get enough. This CD set also provides the wonderful rendition of "Ramble on Rose" that inspired my Online handle. Jerry and Bobby's interplay in Jack Straw is so good its damn near organismic.
This is a must-have for everyone, everywhere. No prior Dead experience required (-:
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on October 29, 1998
Back when I was just starting -- back in 1968 or so, I would hear some songs in concerts, then scour the land far and wide for recordings of these songs that I didn't even know the titles of. Some of these favorites are "Tennessee Jed", "Ramble On Rose" and "Jack Straw". These three songs represent a unique snapshot of little segments of the American experience -- two comedies and one tragedy. I love the way Jerry leans into the chops of "Tennessee Jed" but the way Jerry's guitar lilts behind the vocals in "Jack Straw" is so uniquely, undeniably, representative Dead that I have to claim this sad song one of my all-time favorites. This release represents some of the best examples of these long-sought gems.
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on December 1, 1998
It Was 1995 and I was 10. My counselor at camp put on WALST, and I was mezmorized. St Stephen, Jack Straw, and Tennessee Jed, paint vivid pictures in my mind. Jerry and Bob on the guitar are AMAZING. This collection made me fall in love and obsession with the Greatest band ever. Playing in the band is good, Ripple is great, and Dark Star is OUTSTANDING. This album was my first love, and will always be my favorite. Thank you Camp Counselor Gregg for introducing me to the magical, mystical world of The Greatful Dead.
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on March 10, 2015
Still my favorite Grateful Dead "best of" album. This one is great, despite sometimes uneven sound quality. Doesn't contain all of their classic tracks, but has some great tunes which haven't been included on the other collections, like Ramble on Rose and Black Peter, two of the very best in my opinion. Isn't this album due for some remastering love yet, perhaps with a few bonus tracks? They've polished up almost everything else! Great mix of the folksy Americana Dead, and the raging psychedelic Dead.
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on October 4, 2012
grateful dead is my favorite all time band. i have cassettes ,that are "aging" so i am slowly trying to replace them w/ cds. i bought working mans dead & shakedown street first & then got this one LOVE LOVE all of them . i will be getting some live recordings next !!!!!
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