The Grateful Dead's eponymously titled debut long-player was issued in mid-March of 1967. This gave rise to one immediate impediment -- the difficulty in attempting to encapsulate/recreate the Dead's often improvised musical magic onto a single LP. Unfortunately, the sterile environs of the recording studio disregards the subtle and often not-so-subtle ebbs and zeniths that are so evident within a live experience. So, while this studio recording ultimately fails in accurately exhibiting the Grateful Dead's tremendous range, it's a valiant attempt to corral the group's hydra-headed psychedelic jug-band music on vinyl. Under the technical direction of Dave Hassinger -- who had produced the Rolling Stones as well as the Jefferson Airplane -- the Dead recorded the album in Los Angeles during a Ritalin-fuelled "long weekend" in early 1967. Rather than prepare all new material for the recording sessions, a vast majority of the disc is comprised of titles that the band had worked into their concurrent performance repertoire. This accounts for the unusually high ratio (seven:two) of folk and blues standards to original compositions. The entire group took credit for the slightly saccharine "Golden Road (To Unlimited Devotion)," while Jerry Garcia (guitar/vocals) is credited for the noir garage-flavored raver "Cream Puff War." Interestingly, both tracks were featured as the respective A- and B-sides of the only 45 rpm single derived from this album. The curious aggregate of cover tunes featured on the Dead's initial outing also demonstrates the band's wide-ranging musical roots and influences. These include Pigpen's greasy harp-fuelled take on Sonny Boy Williamson's "Good Morning Little School Girl" and the minstrel one-man-band folk of Jessie "the Lone Cat" Fuller's "Beat It On Down the Line." The apocalyptic Cold War folk anthem "Morning Dew" (aka "[Walk Me Out in The] Morning Dew") is likewise given a full-bodied electric workout as is the obscure jug-band stomper "Viola Lee Blues." Fittingly, the Dead would continue to play well over half of these tracks in concert for the next 27 years.
AllMusic Review by Lindsay Planer