Grateful Dead

The Golden Road (1965-1973)

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The primary impetus behind this ambitious 12-disc box set is to gather all nine of the Grateful Dead's Warner Brothers titles. However, the staggeringly high quotient of previously unissued bonus material rivals -- and at times exceeds -- the content of those original albums. The Golden Road (1965-1973) truly has something -- and usually a lot of it -- for every degree of Deadhead. Working chronologically, the bonus material begins before the beginning so to speak, with the two-disc sub-compilation aptly titled "Birth of the Dead," a project actually green-lighted by Jerry Garcia in the mid-'80s. Disc one features studio recordings by a primordial incarnation of the band known as the Warlocks and later the Emergency Crew. Disc two contrasts their studio efforts with some of the earliest surviving live Grateful Dead recordings from July of 1966. While enthusiasts and critics have long been divided in their assessment of the Grateful Dead's pre-psychedelia, there is no denying the decidedly raw and vital garage rock intensity that became unique to this era. Even ballads and standards, such as "In the Pines" or the flawlessly emotive cover of Dylan's "It's All Over Now Baby Blue," resonate and glisten with an inarticulate, yet palpable energy. The Dead would ink a deal with Warner Brothers in late 1966, yielding four and a half studio albums and four and a half live packages. It is difficult to ultimately classify this collection, as it contains both live and studio performances, sometimes simultaneously. While each of these albums have been on CD prior to this collection, the remastering and use of HDCD technology renders those discs superfluous. Purists should take note, however, as several tracks from the Grateful Dead's self-titled debut -- including "Good Morning Little School Girl," "Cream Puff War," and "Sitting on Top of the World" -- have in fact been remixed as well as fadeouts extended to include the entire performance. There are a few significant studio tracks added as bonus material on the other albums within the box. Of particular note are the trio of instrumental jams which augment Aoxomoxoa. However, the vast majority of the additional content consists of previously unissued concert performances. Most of these reflect on-stage what was happening concurrently in the studio. Each album is individually housed in a cardboard digi-pack with a 15-page liner-notes booklet. Additionally, there is a separate full-color 75-plus-page softbound book which features an extended essay by Grateful Dead biographer Dennis McNalley, as well as a selected discography and page upon page of rarely published photographs and memorabilia.

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