During my college years, the dormitories rocked and rolled with the sounds of Pink Floyd, Bob Marley and especially The Grateful Dead. Jerry Garcia was still alive during this period and I have vivid memories of people I knew bailing out of classes if there was a Dead show within 500 miles of campus. While they were a band known for improvisational flights of fancy, they were not free improvisors making music whole cloth from nothing, what the Grateful Dead needed to be at their best was a song with a strong hook and melody. That's where this compilation comes in, one of the first to anthologize their music, it takes some of their most well known studio recordings and some strongly focused live performances and places them in a very accessible package. Fine music for the die-hard DeadHead and the neophyte alike. On the studio side you hear the band's boogie and jug band roots with "New Minglewood Blues" and "Doin' That Rag." While the acoustic music that the band experimented with to great success in the late 60's and early 70's is represented with the stark "Black Peter" and the beautifully melodic "Ripple." The second half of the collection presents the band in their natural element, performing before a live audience. The concise nature of these performances makes then especially enjoyable, split between Bob Wier's cowboy song "Me and My Uncle" and "Playin' in the Band" to Jerry Garcia's slower, more stately and nuanced "Tennessee Jed" and "Ramble on Rose" this is a fine introduction to a much loved American musical institution. What A Long Strange Trip It's Been: The Best Of The Grateful Dead - amazon.com
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Unnatural Ways - We Aliens (Tzadik, 2016) ****
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