Grateful Dead – The Warner Brothers Studio Albums

If you are even a casual Grateful Dead fan, you should click on the album cover shown here and immediately buy this box set. Mastered at Bernie Grundman Mastering by Chris Bellman, the fellow responsible for the outstanding Neil Young box set released earlier this year (and too many other great audiophile pressings to count), this collection of the Dead’s first five studio albums is a must.

The Dead may well have been the first audiophile rock stars, always picky about every facet of the sound quality of their music, even down to using McIntosh amplifiers for their PA system. Reflecting such meticulous detail, this set is housed in a pop-art orange box containing updated liner notes that include some great era photos of the band members as well as some of the charts used to record the various tracks, both features offering further insight into the group’s creative genius/madness.

If you are searching for originals, our resident collector says the group’s self-titled debut was available on the Warner GOLD label in both stereo and mono versions; average prices for near-mint versions are $75 and $150, respectively. First pressings of Anthem of the Sun and Aoxomoxoa on the Green Warner 7 Arts label are the only ones to use the same original mix as the pressings in the box set. A quick listen to any of the CD versions reveal almost two different albums. Workingman’s Dead is a very rare find on said label and can command $100. American Beauty is also on this imprint, yet more common to find, with a mint version only fetching $30.

These records were played and enjoyed, so $27 each for this level of quality is truly a bargain, especially with pristine artwork. Music Editor Bob Gendron will have an in-depth review in Issue 33, but if you just need a snapshot of the sonics, the answer is a big YES. These five records finally do justice to the underrated studio recordings of the Grateful Dead.  -Jeff Dorgay

WB/Rhino 5LP box set