- KILLER sound throughout for this original WB Gold Label pressing with both sides earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades
- Both sides here are super rich and full-bodied yet still clean, clear and open with tons of energy and a great bottom end
- A copy like this lets you hear what the band was going for without the grit and congestion (not to mention godawful surfaces) that you find on the typical pressing
- “… a valiant attempt to corral the group’s hydra-headed psychedelic jug-band music on vinyl…” – All Music
We just finished a big shootout for this title and it was pretty difficult. The best Gold Label originals and Green Label pressings can be superb, but most of them are noisy and many of them don’t sound any good. Those of you who are familiar with this music are sure to be surprised at how good these songs sound here.
Unfortunately, Viola Lee Blues, the last track on side two, never sounds all that good. It’s pretty easy to imagine that high-fidelity audiophile-quality sonics were not what these guys were going for in 1966.
The Dead’s first album is a fun one, sounding more like a bluesy biker band on speed than the tripped-out jam band these guys became. You’re never going to find a copy of this one with Demo Disc sound, but at least a copy like this lets you hear what the band was going for without the grit and congestion (not to mention godawful surfaces) that you find on the typical pressing.
What amazing sides such as these have to offer is not hard to hear:
- The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
- The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1967
- Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
- Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
- Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space
No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.
What We Listen For on Grateful Dead
- Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
- Then: presence and immediacy. The vocals aren’t “back there” somewhere, lost in the mix. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt would put them.
- The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
- Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
- Tight punchy bass — which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
- Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
- Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stam
The Golden Road (To Unlimited Devotion)
Beat It on Down the Line
Good Morning Little Schoolgirl
Cold Rain and Snow
Sitting on Top of the World
Cream Puff War
New, New Minglewood Blues
Viola Lee Blues
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.
… 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… [they] would continue to play well over half of these tracks in concert for the next 27 years.