Top Artists – The Grateful Dead

The Grateful Dead – Workingman’s Dead – Watch for Strain in Jerry’s Voice

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Presenting another entry in our extensive Listening in Depth series.

High Time tells you the most about the sound of side one on any given copy. If the pressing in question is lean, bright, grainy, transistory or aggressive in any way, Jerry Garcia’s voice will sound strained. Far from a professionally trained singer, he’s already straining to some degree on even the best copies. 

The better pressings have him sounding ever so slightly dull at the beginning of the track. As the song progresses he starts pushing his pipes pretty hard. The sound will become quite unpleasant if there is any added brightness when he tries to reach those high notes. (more…)

Letter of the Week – After The Gold Rush, So Far and Workingman’s Dead

One of our good customers had this to say about some Hot Stampers he purchased recently: 

Hey Tom, 

I have really been enjoying the Neil Young “After The Gold Rush” and CSN&Y “So Far.” They are like the “Workingman’s Dead” LP. Just a thrill to hear. The instruments on “After The Gold Rush” fill my room like they would in a live performance. Addictive. (more…)

Grateful Dead – Terrapin Station

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Terrapin Station

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  • This original pressing earned Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades or very close to it throughout – you’ll have a hard time finding a copy that sounds any better than this!
  • Produced by Keith Olsen of Fleetwood Mac fame, it’s no surprise that the recording quality is quite a bit better than most of the records they had been making at the time
  • Pretty darn quiet throughout, Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus, as quiet as we can find them
  • “Terrapin Station offers a few choice glimpses of the band doing what it does best. While the most prominent example is the album’s extended title suite, there are a few others such as the cover of the Rev. Gary Davis gospel-blues “Samson and Delilah” and a resurrection of the Martha & the Vandellas hit “Dancin’ in the Streets.” 

Most Dead studio albums after Workingman’s Dead are full of filler, but this one actually has some good songs: the extended title song suite, the hard-rockin’ Passenger (note the similarities to Fleetwood Mac’s Station Man), and the darkly funky Estimated Prophet. The cover of Dancin’ In The Streets may have earned this album the epithet of Disco Dead, but it’s actually a good bit of fun if you don’t take it too seriously. (more…)

The Grateful Dead – Aoxomoxoa

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  • This original Green Label Warner Brothers LP has STUNNING Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it from start to finish
  • These sides were doing everything right — big, full-bodied and present with tons of energy and a nice extended top end
  • “When the LP hit the racks in the early summer of 1969, Deadheads were greeted by some of the freshest and most innovative sounds to develop from the thriving Bay Area music scene.” – All Music 

NOTE: This is the later remixed version from 1971. We found it far better sounding than the original 1969 mix. If you’re interested in the original mix, we have some of those copies with lower grades but if you want the best sound, this copy is definitely the way to go. (more…)

Grateful Dead – Wake Of The Flood

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  • Stunning sound throughout with Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on both sides and vinyl that is about as quiet as we can find
  • This original pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records cannot even BEGIN to reproduce
  • A difficult album to find audiophile quality sound for, this is one of the best copies to ever hit the site
  • “Wake of the Flood was certainly as good – if not arguably better than – most of their previous non-live efforts.”

This is the album that comes after American Beauty on the Grateful Dead timeline, and while it’s certainly not in the same league as that masterpiece, there’s still a lot of good music on here. The All Music Guide gives it four stars out of five and calls it “certainly as good — if not arguably better than — most of their previous non-live efforts”. (more…)

Grateful Dead – Grateful Dead

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  • 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. (more…)

Grateful Dead – Blues For Allah

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Blues For Allah

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  • A stunning sounding copy of this Grateful Dead classic with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on both sides
  • Probably the last essential Dead album – this pressing has especially silky, sweet vocals, good presence and energy, punchy bass and a spacious soundfield
  • “The Dead went into a state of latent activity that lasted until the spring of [1975] when the band reconvened to record Blues for Allah… Obviously, the time off had done the band worlds of good, as Blues for Allah — more than any past or future studio album — captures the Dead at their most natural and inspired.”

This fun and funky mid-’70s Grateful Dead LP has two excellent sides. This album features the extended workout of “Help On The Way” into “Slipknot” into “Franklin’s Tower” — a fan favorite which remained a staple of Dead shows into the ’90s. On an energetic and tubey magical copy like this one, it’s a trip!

Shakedown Street and Terrapin Station have their moments but are certainly not as consistent as this album. (more…)

Grateful Dead – Europe ’72

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  • Stunning sound throughout with all six sides of this epic live collection earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades
  • “No record album can replace a live appearance by the Dead — but those who can’t get enough of this exceptional band will be kept busy for a good little while with this one.” – Rolling Stone
  • 4 1/2 stars: “The band mixes a bevy of new material with revisitations of back-catalog favorites. Sadly, this European jaunt would be the last of its kind to include the formidable talents and soul of founding member Ron “Pigpen” McKernan, who was in increasingly fragile health. Although few in number, his contributions to Europe ’72 are among the most commanding not only of this release, but of his career.”

*NOTE: A mark makes three light ticks near the end of track one, Truckin’.

All six sides of this White Hot Europe ’72 have the best sound we have ever heard for the album!

A bunch of classic Dead songs that never appeared on a studio album are here in their definitive versions, including He’s Gone, Jack Straw, Brown-Eyed Woman, Ramble On Rose and Tennessee Jed. (more…)

Grateful Dead – American Beauty – An Honest-to-Goodness Hot Stamper MoFi

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Sonic Grade: B

Another MoFi LP reviewed

This is a Mobile Fidelity LP with SURPRISINGLY GOOD SOUND. The transparency and presence in the midrange is OUT OF THIS WORLD. The bass actually sounds in control on this copy, there’s no typical bloated MOFI bass to be found here. This is the best sounding Mobile Fidelity American Beauty we have ever heard. It’s not perfect by any means, but it’s hugely better than we expected. 

The Grateful Dead – Workingman’s Dead

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  • With a Triple Plus (A+++) shootout winning side two and a Double Plus (A++) side one, this copy was one of the best in our most recent shootout
  • A Top 100 album, and a truly superb recording of the Dead at the peak of their creativity (along with American Beauty)
  • We love the amazingly rich, weighty and huge bottom end found on the truly killer sides such as these
  • 5 stars in Allmusic: “The lilting Uncle John’s Band, their first radio hit, opens the record and perfectly summarizes its subtle, spare beauty; complete with a new focus on more concise songs and tighter arrangements, the approach works brilliantly.”

This original pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records cannot even BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the control room hearing the master tape being played back, or, better yet, the direct feed from the studio, this is the record for you. It’s what Vintage Analog Recordings are known for — this sound. (more…)