Top Artists – The Grateful Dead

The Grateful Dead – American Beauty

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A Proud Member of Our Rock & Pop Top 100

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One of Our Favorite Albums from 1970

  • With two Double Plus (A++) sides, this copy is doing pretty much everything we want American Beauty to do – unusually quiet vinyl too
  • The acoustic guitars are magical on this copy, and you won’t believe how wonderfully breathy and sweet these guys’ voices sound
  • American Beauty is one of Stephen Barncard’s greatest recording achievements – the richness and clarity are really something here
  • A 5 Star Top 100 album – “A companion piece to the luminous Workingman’s Dead, American Beauty is an even stronger document of the Grateful Dead’s return to their musical roots. American Beauty remains the Dead’s studio masterpiece.”

We managed to find enough clean early pressings to get this always fun shootout going once again, and this copy took top honors. This is an amazingly well-recorded album — and a member of our Top 100, of course — but it takes a special copy to let the recording’s qualities shine the way this one does!

All the Elements Come Together for Once

All of the elements necessary to take this music to an entirely new level are here, my friends: smooth, sweet vocals; rich, meaty bass; an open and airy top end; top-notch presence and so forth. The sound is so spacious and transparent that you can easily pick out each of the instruments and follow them over the course of the songs.

You could choose any track you wanted to and find lovely sound here, but I’d recommend Ripple and Attics Of My Life for starters. Most copies suffer from a glaring lack of highs, but just listen to the ride cymbals on this one to find out that the top end is still alive and well here. (more…)

Grateful Dead – Steal Your Face

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More Live Recordings of Interest

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  • An outstanding pressing of this live Dead record with solid Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER on all FOUR sides
  • We guarantee there is dramatically more richness, fullness, vocal presence, and performance energy on this copy than others you’ve heard, and that’s especially true if you made the mistake of buying whatever Heavy Vinyl pressing is currently on the market
  • “… newer originals such as the Jerry Garcia/Robert Hunter ballads ‘Ship of Fools,’ ‘It Must Have Been the Roses,’ and the album’s unmitigated gem, ‘Stella Blue,’ rate among the package’s most thoughtful and lyrical moments.”

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Workingman’s Dead is Dead as a Doornail on Rhino Records

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Sonic Grade: F

Hall of Shame pressing and a Heavy Vinyl Disaster if there ever was one (and oh yes, there are plenty).

The 2003 Rhino reissue on heavy vinyl of Workingman’s Dead is absolutely awful. It sounds like a bad cassette. The CD of the album that I own is superb, which means that the tapes are not the problem, bad mastering and pressing are. (more…)

Grateful Dead – 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 mated Prophet. The cov(note the similarities to Fleetwood Mac’s Station Man), and the darkly funky Estier 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.

Terrapin Station marked the Dead’s return to a major label (Arista) and was only their second album ever to make use of an outside producer (Keith Olsen, who also worked on the two smash hit Fleetwood Mac albums of the era — Rumours and the self-titled LP, two records that can sound stunning on the right pressing). As such, the songs are a bit more concise than you might expect from these crazy guys — only the title song goes over five and a half minutes, and it’s one of the band’s most famous jams! (more…)

The Grateful Dead – Workingman’s Dead

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  • A KILLER original Warner Brothers pressing with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish
  • 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 big, rich, weighty bottom end found on the better pressings such as this one
  • 5 stars: “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 Warner Brothers pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records rarely even BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. (more…)

Bob Weir – Heaven Help The Fool

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  • This outstanding pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER from start to finish
  • A surprisingly well recorded album, this pressing is simply bigger, bolder and richer than most of the other copies we played
  • ” … showcases the special flavor that Weir added to Jerry [Garcia]’s genius, where 2 identities blend effortlessly. “
  • “Jazzy in places, soft and smooth in others. Out of the ordinary for the Grateful Dead’s co-founder, but easier for the uninitiated to absorb without losing the trademark oddity that Weir has always displayed. Top-notch stuff.”

*NOTE: On side one, a mark makes 20 light to moderate pops at the end of Track 2.

What separated the best copies from the also-rans was more than just rich, sweet, full-bodied sound. The better copies make Bob’s voice more palpable — he’s simply more of a solid, three dimensional, real presence between the speakers. You can hear the nuances of his delivery much, MUCH more clearly on a copy that sounds as good as this one does.

Keith Olsen produced and co-engineered here, which should go a long way toward explaining why the sound is so good. He is of course the man helped make Fleetwood Mac’s 1975 album such a sonic blockbuster. (more…)

The Grateful Dead – Live/Dead

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  • A KILLER copy with Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it on sides one, two and three and solid Double Plus (A++) sound on the fourth side
  • All four sides are incredibly big, rich and full-bodied with super present and breathy vocals and a solid bottom end
  • “Few recordings have ever represented the essence of an artist in performance as faithfully as Live/Dead. It has become an aural snapshot of this zenith in the Grateful Dead’s 30-year evolution and as such is highly recommended for all manner of enthusiasts.” – All Music, 4 1/2 Stars

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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 outstanding. The bass actually sounds in control on this copy — there’s no typically 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. 

Grateful Dead – Go to Heaven

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  • With Triple Plus (A+++) Shootout Winning sides or close to them, this copy had some of the best sound we have ever heard for Go to Heaven – exceptionally quiet vinyl too 
  • Bill Kreutzmann noted, “If you go back and (re)listen to it, you’ll find that time has been very kind to Go to Heaven. It plays better now than it did back then. That’s still no excuse for the cover, though – all six of us, dressed all in white disco suits against a white background.”
  • Classic Rock Review wrote, “While this may be a far cry from the group’s lauded stage improvisation, it made for an enjoyable studio album which holds up decades later…. It still sounds good today and shows that this band had some vast talent away from the stage.”

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Grateful Dead – In The Dark

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  • A superb copy of the band’s 1987 return with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • This copy has just the right sound for this music – rich and meaty, with powerful rhythmic energy
  • Includes comeback hit, “Touch Of Gray,” the band’s first number one single
  • 4 stars: “Although the album is unmistakable as the work of the Dead, much of it recalls the punchy, pungent production of Dire Straits’ recent work. It’s not the second coming of the Dead, but a more entertaining epilogue you couldn’t ask for.”

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