Grateful Dead: Grateful Dead (Skull & Roses): Expanded Edition (Rhino) - review | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Grateful Dead

Grateful Dead (Skull & Roses): Expanded Edition


Aug 31, 2021 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

Grateful Dead’s second live album and first gold record, Grateful Dead (also known as Skull & Roses), captured the band during an incredibly fertile creative period. After delivering two classic albums (Workingman’s Dead and American Beauty) that refocused their sound and approach in 1970, the band pulled off the road at the end of the year to shape up songs that would become mainstays of their live repertoire.

For its 50th anniversary, disc one of this two-CD set (with a remastered vinyl edition of the original double album also available) contains the original release, where some of that new material is on display and in fine form. A lively “Bertha” begins the set, as well as a run through “Playing in the Band” that is somewhat fascinating for its streamlined form, considering the jam vehicle it would become. The story of the down-and-out “Wharf Rat” is lovely and heartbreaking, and hearing Ron “Pigpen” McKernan’s organ in this song’s context is poignant, considering how health issues would lead to his death two years later.

With Pigpen’s keyboard presence having diminished by the time of these shows, along with the recent departure of second drummer Mickey Hart, the band often performs on Grateful Dead like a very tight quartet. Leading with a Bill Kreutzmann drum solo, “The Other One” displays a Dead playing largely without the keyboards that would later feature more prominently, with Phil Lesh’s bass often driving like a lead instrument.

The Dead’s love for different musical genres is highlighted with the inclusions of Merle Haggard’s “Mama Tried,” Noah Lewis’s “Big Railroad Blues,” and rocking takes on “Johnny B. Goode” and the closing “Not Fade Away”/”Goin’ Down the Road Feeling Bad.” Along with the original album’s March/April 1971 recordings, the second disc adds 10 tracks from their final set at San Francisco’s Fillmore West on 7/2/71. (

Author rating: 8/10

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