Friday, July 26, 2019

Grateful Dead 11: Skeletons From The Closet

Now that the Dead had ran off and started their own label, Warner Bros. did the smart thing and put together a hits album. Skeletons From The Closet purported to present the “best” of the band’s albums, and while the band didn’t have a lot of hit singles per se, most of the tracks here have since become staples on Classic Rock radio. The usual suspects are here: “Truckin’”, “Sugar Magnolia”, “Uncle John’s Band”, “Casey Jones”, “Friend Of The Devil”. There are a few curveballs, such as “The Golden Road”, which opened the debut and sounded incredibly dated then even then; “Rosemary” seems a little odd too. An edit of “Turn On Your Love Light” and “One More Saturday Night” give a glimpse at the band onstage, and while “Mexicali Blues” from Bob Weir’s solo album does have the band playing on it, those horns will harsh your mellow.
It’s a solid set, and likely one that will lead a newbie deep into the catalog. A decade after its release, next-generation high school Deadheads were required to have a Skeletons From The Closet cassette with them at all times; the tape itself was usually on constant autoplay in the car, and the case was sized right to stash a joint.

One record’s worth of tunes wasn’t enough to sum up the band, of course, so three years later—just in time for their next label switch—Warner put out a double LP, also incorporating “best of” in the subtitle. What A Long Strange Trip It's Been used the extra space to further explore their work onstage as well as in the studio. As before, Workingman’s Dead and American Beauty get the most dipping. “Truckin’” is repeated from Skeletons, likely because it was the source of the set’s title, but they kindly included the rare single versions of “Born Cross-Eyed” and “Dark Star”. The “studio” half also includes the Bear’s Choice version of “Black Peter”, and along with an edit of “St. Stephen” from Live/Dead, sides three and four sample the “Skull & Roses” album and Europe ‘72.
It’s hard to determine the audience was for this; diehards had to have it for the two rare tracks, while we’d assume that the recently converted might have already delved into the original albums too. Still, the cassette version crammed it all onto a single tape, for further convenience.

Grateful Dead The Best Of Grateful Dead: Skeletons From The Closet (1974)—4
The Grateful Dead
What A Long Strange Trip It's Been: The Best Of The Grateful Dead (1977)—

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