Ranking the Discography: Grateful Dead Epilogue: Ready or Not (2019)

(Note: Because this is a live compilation album rather than a studio album, I’m calling this an epilogue)

In 1992, Grateful Dead began work on a new album that was never completed. There were two reasons: first was the fact that the Dead never felt at home in the studio. (Garcia considered the studio a “necessary evil”) Both the band and their legions of Deadheads agreed that they sounded better on the road than in the confines of a studio. The second was Garcia’s death in 1995. Yet, in 2019, the remaining members of the band compiled performances of the songs that would’ve been included on the album, and Ready or Not was the result. It features Vince Welnick, who became a touring keyboardist with Grateful Dead following the death of Brent Mydland. (He was previously a member of The Tubes and also recorded with Todd Rundgren)

Members:

Jerry Garcia: vocals, guitar

Bob Weir: vocals, guitar

Phil Lesh: bass, vocals

Vince Welnick: keyboards, vocals

Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann: drums, percussion

The Tracks:

  1. “Liberty” (recorded at Madison Square Garden in New York City, New York) on 10/14/1994): Phil Lesh has a great bass line, and the drumming is great. Some beautiful harmonies on the vocals. One of my favorites from the album
  2. “Eternity” (recorded at the Memphis Pyramid on 4/14/1995): Some great vocals and guitar from Weir, with some good keyboards.
  3. “Lazy River Road ” (recorded at the Dean Smith Center in Chapel Hill, North Carolina on 3/25/1993) One of my favorites from the album. Some good rhythm and harmonies.
  4. “Samba in the Rain” (recorded at the Omni Coliseum in Atlanta, Georgia on 3/30/1995 ) : Excellent keyboard work from Welnick.
  5. “So Many Roads” (recorded at the Star Lake Ampitheatre in Burgettstown, Pennsylvania on 6/23/1992) This is the earliest recording on the album. Garcia sounds great on the vocals.
  6. “Way to Go Home” (recorded at the Deer Creek Music Center in Noblesville, Indiana on 6/28/1992) Welnick’s keyboards are great here, with some good rhythm and bass.
  7. “Corrina” (recorded at Madison Square Garden on 10/14/1994) This is such a jam! The Dead were known for their long jams, and this doesn’t disappoint. Best song on the album!
  8. “Easy Answers” (recorded at The Spectrum in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on 9/13/1993) Great harmonies from everyone.
  9. “Days Between” ( recorded at Oakland Arena in Oakland, California on 12/11/1994) Another great jam. I love Garcia’s starting vocals.

Final Verdict: The Grateful Dead’s live shows have been legendary for a reason. They never did the same show twice. This collection shows that they were at their best on the road. A great compilation!

Grade: A-

Ranking the Discography: Grateful Dead Part XIII: Built to Last (1989)

Built to Last was Grateful Dead’s last solo album, however, the band continued to tour until Jerry Garcia’s death on August 9, 1995. They would then rebrand themselves in 2015 as Dead & Company, as they continue to this day. This album contains the most songs by Brent Mydland, all in collaboration with John Perry Barlow. (Robert Hunter wrote the rest)

Members:

Jerry Garcia: vocals, guitar

Bob Weir: vocals, guitar

Phil Lesh: bass

Brent Mydland: vocals, keyboards

Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann: drums and percussion

The Tracks:

  1. “Foolish Heart”: This song’s pretty decent. I like Jerry’s vocals and the keyboards.
  2. “Just a Little Light”: Of the four songs featuring Mydland on lead vocals, this one is the one I like the most.
  3. “Built to Last”: Another pretty good song for Garcia. Probably one of my favorite songs from the album.
  4. “Blow Away” : This song’s all right, but it’s not aged well.
  5. “Victim or the Crime”: Of all the songs on this album, this one feels the most of its time. It’s longer than it should be.
  6. ” We Can Run “: Another song that I feel hasn’t aged well, but it’s not bad.
  7. ” Standing on the Moon”: This is one of the best songs. The rhythm and bass are great.
  8. “Picasso Moon”: Of the two songs featuring Bob Weir on lead vocals, this is my favorite.
  9. “I Will Take Yu Home” : I’m not a fan of this one, it’s kinda boring.

Final Verdict: This wasn’t a good album to go out on. It wasn’t bad, but it felt very manufactured, like there was little energy.

Grade: C

Ranking the Discography: Grateful Dead Part XII: In the Dark (1987)

In the Dark is Grateful Dead’s penultimate album. It is one of the few albums to actually have singles. It reached #6 on the Billboard Albums Chart. Four singles were released: “Touch of Grey”, “Hell in a Bucket” , “West L.A. Fadeaway”, and “Throwing Stones” . The album was certified Double Platinum in 1995.

Members:

Jerry Garcia: vocals, guitar

Bob Weir: vocals, guitar

Phil Lesh: bass

Brent Mydland: vocals, keyboards

Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann: drums, percussion

  1. “Touch of Grey”: If you’re someone who’s listened to Classic Rock radio, this is one of the few songs that actually gets radio airplay ( I’ve also heard “Truckin'” on some stations). It’s the only song to ever reach the top 40 on the Hot 100 chart, going all the way to #1, and even receiving airplay on MTV (ah, those were the days). Is it wrong to like this song? I hope not. I will say that song is definitely of its time. Despite that, yes, I like this song.
  2. “Hell in a Bucket”: One of my favorite songs from the album. The lyrics are great, and I love Weir’s vocals.
  3. ” When Push Comes to Shove “: Garcia has some good vocals, and I like the keyboards.
  4. ” West L.A. Fadeaway: This one’s great too. The rhythm is solid, and it’s one of the best songs on the album.
  5. “Tons of Steel”: Brent’s keyboards and vocals are good here. I don’t like Brent as much as I liked Keith, but he’s still pretty good.
  6. “Throwing Stones”: I love Bob Weir’s vocals here. One of my favorites.
  7. “Black Muddy River”: Not a bad song to end on.

Final Verdict: This album is pretty good, but it’s not one I like as much as the others.

Grade: B-

Ranking the Discography: Grateful Dead: Go to Heaven (1980)

Keith Godchaux and his wife Donna Jean both left Grateful Dead in 1979, and were replaced by Brent Mydland, who had played in a country rock band called Silver, on their hit single “Wham Bam Shang-a-Lang”. He would become their longest -running keyboardist, playing until his death in 1990. The album was produced by Gary Lyons.

Members:

Jerry Garcia: vocals, guitar

Bob Weir: guitar, vocals

Phil Lesh: bass

Brent Mydland: keyboards, vocals

Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann: drums

The Tracks:

  1. “Alabama Getaway”: What a great opener! The guitars and vocals are top-notch. One of my favorite songs on the album.
  2. “Far From Home”: One of two songs featuring Brent Mydland on vocals. He’s often been compared to Michael McDonald, and I can hear the comparison. I don’t mind the similarities, as I happen to like McDonald. The keyboards sound great.
  3. ” Althea” : Garcia sounds pretty good on the vocals.
  4. “Feel Like a Stranger “: Weir’s vocals are excellent. Another one of my favorite songs.
  5. ” Lost Sailor”: More great vocals from Weir. Some good keyboards too.
  6. “Saint of Circumstance” : The last of three songs featuring Weir on vocals, and this one is a banger!
  7. “Antwerp’s Placebo (The Plumber)” : What the heck?
  8. “Easy to Love You “: Mydland’s vocals are pretty good on this one.
  9. ” Don’t Ease Me In ” : What a fun way to close the album. The harmonies are well -done.

Final Verdict: Don’t let the awful cover photo fool you. The Grateful Dead are finally back to sounding like they’re supposed to sound. This is an excellent album and a great introduction for Brent Mydland.

Grade: A-

Ranking the Discography: Grateful Dead Part X: Shakedown Street (1978)

Shakedown Street was released a year after Terrapin Station. It was the last album to feature Keith Godchaux and his wife Donna Jean, as both left the band after its release. It was produced by Lowell George of Little Feat.

Members:

Jerry Garcia: lead guitars, vocals

Bob Weir: guitar, vocals

Phil Lesh: bass

Keith Godchaux: keyboards, vocals

Mickey Hart: drums, percussion

Bill Kreutzmann: drums, percussion

Donna Jean Godchaux: vocals

The Tracks:

  1. “Good Lovin'”: I feel like the Dead were thinking “Do we have to cover this song?” This is a bad cover. Not a good start.
  2. “France”: Bob and Donna Jean’s vocals are great together. This is one of the best songs on the album.
  3. ” Shakedown Street”: This song was first performed live three months before the album was recorded. The song deals with inner city decay. The song’s title would later refer to the vending area outside Grateful Dead concerts. It’s a great song.
  4. “Serengeti” : A short percussion track showing off Kreutzmann’s talents.
  5. “Fire on the Mountain”: This is my favorite song on the album. It was often paired with “Scarlet Begonias” when played live. It was included as downloadable content for Rock Band. The song has been covered by Keller Williams and Daniel Donato.
  6. “I Need a Miracle “: Another banger to start side 2. Bob sounds great on this one.
  7. ” From the Heart of Me “: Donna Jean sounds beautiful on this one.
  8. ” Stagger Lee”: Garcia sings lead on this excellentrendition of the folk ballad about the murderer Stag Lee Shelton and his killing of Billy Lyons. The song was first recorded in 1923 by Fred Waring’s Pennsylvanians. It’s also been by Ike and Tina Turner, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Wilson Pickett, and even Pat Boone.
  9. “All New Minglewood Blues”: A great cover with some great vocals from Bob.
  10. “If I Had the World to Give”: Jerry Garcia sings lead on this great closer.

Final Verdict: The album has a weak start, but makes up for it as you go, especially in the second half. I enjoyed it!

Grade: B+

Ranking the Discography: Grateful Dead Part IX: Terrapin Station (1977)

Terrapin Station was the first Grateful Dead album released on Arista Records, after a two-year hiatus. It reached #28 on the Album Charts, and received Gold in 1987. Clive Davis had been interested in signing them after having acquired their colleagues, the New Riders of the Purple Sage.

Members:

Jerry Garcia: guitar, vocals

Bob Weir: guitar, vocals

Phil Lesh: bass

Keith Godchaux: keyboards, piano, synthesizers, vocals

Mickey Hart: drums

Bill Kreutzmann: drums

Donna Jean Godchaux: vocals

Additional Musicians:

Paul Buckmaster: orchestral arrangements

The English Choral

The Martyn Ford Orchestra

Tom Scott: lyricon, saxophone on “Estimated Prophet”

The Tracks:

  1. “Estimated Prophet”: Great way to start the album! I like the unique time signature, 7/4 with a half-time. One of my favorite songs on the album. Love the saxophone on this.
  2. ” Dancing in the Streets “: I’m sorry, but you can’t touch the original version of this song. It’s slightly better than that abomination that David Bowie and Mick Jagger recorded, though. I can’t say it’s terrible, but I didn’t like it.
  3. ” Passenger”: Weir and Donna Jean sound great together. It’s got a great bass line.
  4. “Samson and Delilah “: Bob Weir does a great job on this arrangement.
  5. ” Sunrise “: Donna Jean sounds angelic on this one! Beautiful song!
  6. “Terrapin Medley”: The only song where Garcia sings lead on the album. This 7-part suite is excellent, and the album’s best feature! I love long songs like this one, and it doesn’t disappoint.

Final Verdict: This is a great album, for sure, with some great standout performances. I won’t call it a masterpiece, but I certainly enjoyed it!

Grade: B+

Ranking the Discography: Grateful Dead Part VIII: Blues For Allah

Blues For Allah is the final album released on the Grateful Dead’s own record label. It was their highest-charting album until 1987, reaching #12. It also marked Mickey Hart’s return to the band, meaning that it’s the first album with 7 members.

Members:

Jerry Garcia: Guitars, vocals, production

Bob Weir: Guitars, vocals, production

Phil Lesh: Bass, production

Keith Godchaux: keyboards, vocals, production

Donna Jean Godchaux: vocals, production

Bill Kreutzmann: drums, percussion, production

Mickey Hart: percussion, crickets, production

Additional Musicians:

Steven Schuster: flute, reeds

The Tracks:

  1. “Help on the Way”/” Slipknot “: This is a pretty good opener, but it’s not one of the standout songs for me. The “Slipknot” interlude has a pretty melody.
  2. “Franklin’s Tower”: This song has a great rhythm, and I like the vocals. It’s one of my favorite songs on the album.
  3. “King Solomon’s Marbles”: This is such a jam! It’s my favorite instrumental on the album. It has a unusual rhythm and melody to it, but it’s still awesome.
  4. ” The Music Never Stopped “: Lesh’s bass line is a treat! Another one of my favorite songs.
  5. ” Crazy Fingers” : This has music set to haikus by Robert Hunter. This is where the album starts to taper off for me. It’s fine, but I don’t enjoy it that much.
  6. “Sage and Spirit”: This one didn’t really grab me. It was nice, but I don’t know why.
  7. ” Blues For Allah”/ “Sand Castles and Glass Camels”/” Unusual Occurences in the Desert”: While I like the title track portion, the last two parts feel kind of weak.

Final Verdict: I think my biggest problem with this album is that most of the interludes don’t work for me, and there are too many of them. This is the weakest album so far for me, but I don’t hate it.

Grade: C

Ranking the Discography: Grateful Dead Part VII: From the Mars Hotel

From the Mars Hotel was the second album released on the Grateful Dead’s own record label. The cover depicts an actual San Francisco building, which was used by Jack Kerouac as a temporary residence. It was later used as a location for David Bowie’s promotional film for “The Jean Genie” . It was destroyed during the Yerba Buena redevelopment (as seen in The Grateful Dead Movie), which is now the site of the Moscone West Exhibition Hall. The working title was “Ugly Rumors” , which is retained in Aztec lettering in the artwork. Ugly Rumors was also the inspiration for the band of the same name.

Members:

Jerry Garcia: vocals, guitar, production

Bob Weir: guitar, vocals, production

Phil Lesh: bass, vocals, production

Keith Godchaux: keyboards, vocals, production

Bill Kreutzmann: drums, production

Donna Jean Godchaux: vocals, production

Additional Musicians:

Ned Lagin: synthesizers on “Unbroken Chain”

John McFee: pedal steel guitar on “Pride of Cucamonga”

The Tracks:

  1. “U.S. Blues “: This song is a toe-tapper! Keith’s keyboards are great and I love the rhythm. It was originally called “Wave That Flag”
  2. ” China Doll”: Another great song with some good vocals from Garcia.
  3. “Unbroken Chain “: For many years, there was an urban legend that if this song was performed live, the band would break up. The song was performed during their last tour before Jerry Garcia’s death. Animal Collective sampled it in “What Would I Want? Sky” on their EP Fall Be Kind, the first sample ever to be cleared for use by the Grateful Dead. Phil Lesh’s vocals are excellent.
  4. “Loose Lucy”: I love the guitars and backing vocals for this one.
  5. “Scarlet Begonias”: This song debuted live at the Cow Palace on March 23, 1974. The line  “Everybody’s playing in the Heart of Gold Band” was used by Keith and Donna to name their Heart of Gold Band when they left the band in 1979. It has been covered by Sublime and Jimmy Buffett.
  6. “Pride of Cucamonga “: This is my second favorite song. McFee’s steel guitar is a great feature.
  7. ” Money Money”: Some great vocals from Weir.
  8. “Ship of Fools” : A great closing song.

Final Verdict: This is an excellent album and I’m glad I listened to it twice.

Grade: A+

Ranking the Discography: The Grateful Dead Part 6: Wake of the Flood

In 1973, The Grateful Dead started their own label, Grateful Dead Records. To start things off, they released this album on it. This was also their first album without PigPen, who had died of a gastrointestinal hemorrhage in March of that year. His replacement, Keith Godchaux, had joined them for three (official) live albums prior to recording. In fact, five of the songs were already in live rotation.

Members:

Jerry Garcia: guitar, pedal steel guitar, vocals

Bob Weir: bass, vocals

Keith Godchaux: keyboards, vocals

Donna Jean Godchaux: backing vocals

Bill Kreutzmann: drums

The Tracks:

  1. “Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo”: This is a great bluesy tune, with great keyboards from Keith. I especially like Vassar Clements ‘ violin work.
  2. ” Let Me Sing Your Blues Away”: Keith sings lead on this song, which he co-wrote with lyricist Robert Hunter. It’s a beautiful start for him. One of my favorite songs.
  3. “Row Jimmy”: Jerry brought this complex song into the studio, and it was difficult to play at first, according to Kreutzmann. “It’s trickier than it sounds. But once I locked into it, “Row Jimmy” became one of the best songs in our repertoire. ” I’m inclined to agree.
  4. “Stella Blue”: Great song to end side one.
  5. ” Here Comes Sunshine “: This is the song that inspired the album’s title, coming from the lyric “Wake of the flood, laughing water, ’49 Get out the pans, don’t just stand there dreaming, get out the way,” . The reference comes from a flood in Oregon.
  6. “Eyes of the World”: This and “Let Me Sing Your Blues Away” were released as singles, but neither charted.
  7. “Weather Report Suite”: The prelude to this suite was often part of the live set prior to its inclusion. It’s a pretty suite.

Final Verdict: Keith gets a great start and proves to be a great fit for the band.

Grade: A-

Ranking the Discography: Grateful Dead Part 5: American Beauty (1970)

American Beauty is one of Grateful Dead’s most celebrated albums. It has “Truckin'”, one of the few Grateful Dead songs that receive radio airplay. It’s included in 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.

Members:

Jerry Garcia: vocals, guitar, pedal steel, piano

Bob Weir: guitar, vocals

Phil Lesh: bass, guitar, vocals

“PigPen”: harmonica, vocals

Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann: drums and percussion

Robert Hunter: lyrics

  1. “Box of Rain” : This song has beautiful harmonies between Weir and Lesh. The guitars are nice.
  2. “Friend of the Devil”: One of the most celebrated Dead standards, and some beautiful melodies. David Grisman plays a great mandolin. The song has been covered by Counting Crows, Bob Dylan, and many others.
  3. ” Sugar Magnolia “: Some great vocals from Bob Weir.
  4. ” Operator”: Pigpen sings lead this time. Although I prefer Weir and Garcia, this is good.
  5. “Candyman”: Ned Lagin’s piano is great on this.
  6. ” Ripple”: This was the B-side for “Truckin'”. The melody and Garcia ‘s vocals sound wonderful.
  7. ” Brokedown Palace”: Another one of my favorite songs on the album. I like the rhythm on this.
  8. “Till the Morning Comes”: Some beautiful harmonies on this one.
  9. ” Attics of My Life “: More great vocals and rhythm.
  10. ” Trucking”: This song is a bit overplayed, but I still enjoy it. It’s Grateful Dead’s “Freebird”.

Final Verdict: I already knew how excellent this album was because of 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die. My opinion hasn’t changed.

Grade: A+