This 77-minute CD is close to an ideal compilation, reaching back to before the band's beginnings for the original 1965 recording of "I-Feel-Like-I'm-Fixin'-to-Die Rag" and across seven of the better cuts off of Electric Music for the Mind and Body, up through the Woodstock Festival and the band's farewell concert that same year at the Fillmore West. It reels in most of the notable album cuts in between, all in surprisingly good sound (not usually a strong point on Vanguard CDs of the late '80s). The 19 songs, which don't follow a strict chronological order, encompass some of the band's most celebrated experimental material, as well as more traditionally structured songs such as the fiery double-lead guitar workout "Death Sound Blues," the catchy, folk-rock-style "Sing Sing Sing," and the counterculture singalong "Marijuana" and works of serious personal significance (and intimately focused genius), including "Grace" and "Janis." The disc offers a good balance between the various sides of the group's sound and includes several notable live tracks, including the November 1968 Fillmore East performance of "Superbird," an anti-Lyndon Johnson song that dated back to 1965 and which is adapted here to include an attack on president-elect Richard Nixon. The sound is amazingly good and consistent throughout, and the track order, as well as the music itself, is downright spellbinding at times; the annotation is minimal, but this CD really has only a single flaw -- apparently, between the 1965 original version of "I-Feel-Like-I'm-Fixin'-to-Die Rag" and the 1969 Woodstock performance, there was no room for the standard studio version off of the band's second LP.
AllMusic Review by Bruce Eder