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A handful of Dead/Jerry CDs for the Dead-Curious

J. Cantor "jbcinnyc"
The list author says: "I can't explain why I find Jerry and pals so endlessly fascinating, even though much of their output is less than stellar. Maybe it's the love and obsessiveness that they engender that draws me. Or their catholic embrace of American popular music. The Dead at their best is summed up in the gorgeous and poignant Days Between (a rehearsal take on So Many Roads); fittingly, Garcia and Hunter's last song together - an achingly lovely melody, Jerry's voice cracked and poignant, the lyrics alternating between sophomoric and profound. There's that flawed beauty. Maybe the joy of the Dead is in finding the gems that lurk in the mixed bag of life. Anyway, here is a list of some fine moments in their history that I can vouch for although I defer to real Deadheads."
So Many Roads: 1965-1995
So Many Roads: 1965-1995
"Fascinating career-spanning compilation of previously unreleased material that encapsulates much of what was great (and not so great) about this band. Like the Dead, this is most interesting when it's creative and experimental (Watkins Glen Soundcheck Jam), sweet and melancholy (Beautiful Jam/To Lay Me Down), tough and bluesy (The Same Thing), or congenial and relaxed (Whiskey in the Jar)."
Grateful Dead
Grateful Dead
"Speedy, punky, joyful, occasionally dissonant and very bluesy - this is one of the very best Dead albums. Check out the storm of ecstatic noise at the end of Viola Lee Blues. Sonic Youth would be proud. And this version is packed with blistering live bonus tracks."
Dick's Picks, Vol. 22: Lake Tahoe, CA, 2/23-24/68
Dick's Picks, Vol. 22: Lake Tahoe, CA, 2/23-24/68
"There's not much pre-69 live stuff out there. This gives you a sense of their tougher earlier material before Pigpen imploded."
Two From the Vault
Two From the Vault
"The blistering full on assault of Pigpen at his best. They were a great blues-rock band when they wanted to be."
Fillmore West 1969
Fillmore West 1969
"Primo SF psychedelic live Dead from 1969"
American Beauty
American Beauty
"Great folk rock studio album"
Dick's Picks, Vol. 8: Harpur College, Binghamton, NY, 5/2/70
Dick's Picks, Vol. 8: Harpur College, Binghamton, NY, 5/2/70
"Fine acoustic and electric sets combined."
Europe 72
Europe 72
"Very different from many live Dead albums, this pretty much ignores the psychedelia and emphasizes their uptempo country rock side. This is energetic, fun, and full of great songs. Oh and Elvis Costello was at one of the gigs and became a Dead fan. So it's OK to like this."
Dick's Picks, Vol. 19:  Oklahoma City, OK, 10/19/73
Dick's Picks, Vol. 19: Oklahoma City, OK, 10/19/73
"Showcases their stoner country rock material to good effect, but what I love here is the mellow take on their psychedelic material, notably the incredibly laid back and almost delicate version of Dark Star."
Dick's Picks Vol. 12: Providence Civic Center, 6/26/74 & Boston Garden, 6/28/74
Dick's Picks Vol. 12: Providence Civic Center, 6/26/74 & Boston Garden, 6/28/74
"A very solid set - has a nice jazzy feel."
One From the Vault
One From the Vault
"Tight Blues for Allah era set."
Dick's Picks, Vol. 18: Dane County Coliseum, Madison, WI, 2/3/78 & Uni Dome, Univeristy of Northern Iowa, Cedar Falls, IA, 2/5/78
Dick's Picks, Vol. 18: Dane County Coliseum, Madison, WI, 2/3/78 & Uni Dome, Univeristy of Northern Iowa, Cedar Falls, IA, 2/5/78
"Great late '70's Pick from mid-period Dead. Many swear by this as their greatest incarnation."
Reckoning
Reckoning
"Wonderful low-key early 80's acoustic set with Jerry and company at their most congenial."
Road Trips Vol. 2 No. 1: MSG September '90
Road Trips Vol. 2 No. 1: MSG September '90
"Good late period show at Madison Square Garden. Disc 2 is particularly good and shocases their experiemental side very well."
Jerry Garcia Band
Jerry Garcia Band
"Great collection of strong covers. The band is tight and Jerry is on top form. Better than almost anything by the late period Dead."
How Sweet It Is
How Sweet It Is
"From the same live run as the Jerry Garcia Band set above, with all the same merits."
Not for Kids Only
Not for Kids Only
"Jerry playing folk and bluegrass for the kids with Dave Grisman. He's just so good at this."
Been All Around This World
Been All Around This World
"More mellow Jerry with Dave Grisman. This is a great acoustic album by a man who loves making this music and has nothing to prove."
The Very Best of
The Very Best of
"Very useful overview of Jerry's solo material. A lot of tasty wheat among the inevitable chaff."
Garcia Plays Dylan
Garcia Plays Dylan
"Some sub-par stuff here, but when it's good it's great. Jerry really really loved Bobby's music and he does the definitive version of Senor, Tales of Yankee Power from Street Legal, bar none."