The Best of the Grateful Dead
by David Chiu
Unless you’re the owner of the previous Grateful Dead massive boxed sets The Golden Road and Beyond Description, The Best of the Grateful Dead is probably the most up-to-date two-disc compilation spanning the jam band’s years on Warner Bros., Arista and Grateful Dead Records. Its timing couldn’t be more perfect as this year marks the band’s 50th anniversary that will culminate with the surviving members’ last-ever shows together at Soldier Field this July; it’s also the 20th anniversary of Jerry Garcia’s death. For the novice fans who want something more beyond Skeletons in the Closet or The Very Best of the Grateful Dead, this two-disc set is as good as it gets in chronicling the band’s musical evolution: from its ’60s psychedelic phase (“The Golden Road”); to the extremely popular country rock of the early ’70s (“Uncle John’s Band,” “Ripple,” “Truckin’, “Casey Jones”); to the band branching stylistically, such as symphonic-progressive rock (the 16-minute “Terrapin Station”) and even disco (“Shakedown Street”); to the unlikely guise of Top 10 hitmakers (1987’s “Touch of Grey”). With a long history of jamming and live performances, die-hard fans will most likely complain about certain omissions of other popular Dead tunes—maybe like “Playing With the Band” and “Alabama Getaway” There’s so much music – both studio and live – to choose from the Dead’s extensive catalog that it can been an overwhelming endeavor for a casual listener. Which is why The Best of Grateful Dead makes for a serviceable introduction.