There are two kinds of people in the world: Those who can’t get enough live Grateful Dead, and those who can’t understand the first group. You know where you belong. And if it happens to be in the first group, this expanded edition of their essential 1971 double-live album gem belongs in your playlist, next to your other 500-plus bootlegs. Of course, if you don’t have 500 Dead bootlegs, maybe you don’t belong in the first group after all.
THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “For the Grateful Dead’s second live album, released two years after its predecessor Live/Dead, the band delivered an equally magnificent, but entirely different, Grateful Dead sound.
Whereas Live/Dead was a perfect sonic encapsulation of the band at the peak of their Primal Dead era, the self-titled album better known as Skull & Roses captures the quintessential quintet, the original five piece band, playing some of their hardest hitting rock ’n’ roll (Johnny B. Goode, Not Fade Away), showing off their authentic Bakersfield bona fides (Me & My Uncle, Mama Tried, Me & Bobby McGee), and some originals that would be important parts of the Dead’s live repertoire for the next 24 years (Bertha, Playing In The Band, Wharf Rat).
Of course, the Dead were never defined by one specific sound — and amongst the aforementioned genres and styles the band brought to this album, they also delved deeply into their psychedelic, primal playbook with an entire side dedicated to their 1968 masterpiece The Other One. This is one of the most deeply rich and satisfying tracks preserved on an official Grateful Dead album, up there with Live/Dead‘s Dark Star and Europe ’72‘s Morning Dew. Skull & Roses sounds as fresh today as it was upon its spectacularly well-received release in 1971.
Not only did Skull & Roses serve up supremely fine tunes, it was also the one that scored the Dead their very first gold record, introduced the world to the iconic skeleton babe Bertha, and asked the questions — Who are you? Where are you? How are you? — that gave birth to the first official generation of Dead Heads.
In celebration of the 50th anniversary, this reissue features the album’s original 11 tracks, newly remastered from the stereo analog master tapes by Grammy-winning engineer David Glasser using Plangent Process Speed Correction. It’s also been expanded with more than an hour of previously unreleased live recordings from the much-requested July 2, 1971 performance at the Fillmore West, the band’s final performance at the historic San Francisco venue. Standouts include the 17-minute Pigpen spectacular Good Lovin’, an achingly beautiful take on Merle Haggard’s Sing Me Back Home, and a spell-binding version of The Other One that rivals the one captured on the original Side 2.