Start with the Best
1970 saw the release of my two favorite Grateful Dead albums, Workingman’s Dead & American Beauty. Quieter in some ways and less experimental than their predecessors, the two 1970 albums would go on to be the most popular albums in their catalog. Staying in a more folk/americana vein, all time classic Dead tracks Uncle John’s Band, Casey Jones, Box of Rain, Ripple & Friend of the Devil come from these two classics and remained fixtures of their live repertoire for years. Even for marginal Dead fans, these are the two absolute must have albums in their catalog.
Prior to 1970
Grateful Dead, Anthem of the Sun, Aoxomoxoa & Live/Dead all came out in the three years prior to 1970 and introduced the band to the world. Much more experimental and jam based, these albums are definitely worth checking out, but require a bit more effort to get into than their later work. (The Golden Road) to Unlimited Devotion, St. Stephen & China Cat Sunflower began in this era and found permanent places in the live pantheon of the Dead for their entire career.
Early 70’s and a Slow Decline
The early 70’s saw a run of three classics, Wake of the Flood, From the Mars Hotel & Blues For Allah, that are all highly regarded classic Dead albums, but then there was a slow decline in terms of sales and reviews over the next decade or so. Some albums, like Terrapin Station, are beloved by Dead Fans, but others seem lost to the ages in a way.
A Radio Hit?
1987 would see the release of In The Dark which would contain the surprise hit, Touch of Grey, that would turn into the bands only Top 40 hit. It’s easy to write off In The Dark as a one hit wonder album from the Dead, but a deeper look finds a number of classic Dead tracks and an album that is much more than just one track.
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