Studio-wise, it's American Beauty, hands down.
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"Nightfall of Diamonds" is a great commercial live recording. It is taken from the March 1990 run at the Meadowlands and released on Arista. Any of the "Dicks Picks" series from GDP/GDM (Grateful Dead productions/Grateful Dead Merchandising) http://www.dead.net are good too. For studio work, I would look at "Blues For Allah" and "Terrapin Station", and of course original or new releases of "American Beauty" and "Workingman's Dead". Their best work is not available anywhere except from tapers and live tape traders. If you can hook up with someone with an extensive collection, almost all of the May 1977 shows are great, as is the entire year of 1990 shows.
I concur with the recommendations made previously. In addition, you might want to get a copy of The Other Ones - "The Strange Remain". This was most of the Dead personnel (minus Jerry, RIP) along with Bruce Hornsby on keyboards and vocals and with Steve Kimock filling in the Jerry parts on guitar, captured during the Furthur Festival a few years back. *Very* well recorded live 2 HDCD set, the opening of St. Stephen/The Eleven is awesome...
If you like this kind of music, you simply *must* check out db.etree.org - hundreds of live shows recorded by amateur "tapers", the quality I have seen so far is quite impressive, better than most studio efforts. Check out the Steve Kimock Band, especially the Chester's Place shows...
Agree with Slipknot. One quick correction: "Nightfall of
Diamonds" was actually from the October 16, 1989 show at the
Meadowlands (yes I was there - Bob Weir's b-day). "Dozin' at the Knick" is a
compilation of the 3-night March, 1990 run at the Knickerbocker
Arena in Albany, NY (yeah I was there too). Both are awesome
soundwise and perfomance-wise but I like "Nightfall" better
simply because it is a single complete show.
Yeah 1988 - 1991 was truly a peak period for the band
(certainly the last). Another great live release on Arista
is "Without a Net" which is a compilation of live recordings from the
Fall 1989/Spring 1990 tours.
Also agree that the May 1977 tour may be one of their best
ever and there are at least two Dick's Picks releases from
that tour: Dick's Picks Vol. 3 (5/22/77) and Dick's Pick's
Vol. 29 (5/19/77 and 5/21/77).
The thing to keep in mind about the Dick's Picks releases
are that they are live-to-2-track soundboard recordings not
carefully produced multi-track recordings like the ones on
Arista. That being said the sound quality is generally
quite good for the Dick's Picks series.
Any recording from 1971-4, in my opinion and many others the absolute peak for the band. Many of these are available as Dick's Pick's as stated above. A personal favorite of mine is the recent release of a run of shows documenting the closing of the Fillmore East in 1971. It is a four disc set and the sound and music are both spectacular. Generally speaking you are lucky, there is so much good music out there, once you start exploring you may never stop!
1. Dick's Picks Vol. 1
2. DP's Vol. 13
3. So Many Roads-Box Set
4. Workingman's Dead
5. DP's-Harpur College-Sorry, I forget the Vol. #
It's impossible to limit this list to 5, especially with the Dick's Picks series. The vast majority of DP's I have yet to hear, so I've got a lot of discovering to do myself.
Have fun and be prepared to hear some incredible music!
I have ALL the Dick's Pick's and almost every Dead CD. The BEAR recording always seem to have that little something extra that just sounds "cooler"! Although I LOVE the music, some of the Dick's Pick's sound really "weird" (that's a technical term)---> the sound may be crisp and clear but there is no depth at all.
Check out Katie Mae on Bear's Coice (HDCD version); could be my favorite. Pigpen's voice sends a friggin shiver down my spine everytime I hear it. My wife is like, "why do you always listen to that same song"? Turn it up really loud and listen to the sounds you hear in the corners of your soundstage.
The question specifically asked for Dead recording. However, for sound quality the Grateful Dawg recordings are simply THE best "Dead" recordings out there hands down (for sound)!
I have not yet heard that Filmore recording, but I may go buy it right now.
I was thinking about this thread on my drive home from work and wanted to add my top 5 (Dead and/or Jerry Band):
1. American Beauty - this was the first Dead I ever heard. I was listening to Box of Rain and thought to myself...now I get it! It's my sentimental #1 and it sounds insane!
2. Jerry Garcia Band - the 1990 shows. It's the ARISTA double CD in the grey trimmed case. This baby sounds rediculous!
3. Dick's Dick's Vol 24 Daly City - the wall of sound did not make for quality recordings (no bottom end in the voices ), but man this is a cool show.
5. The rest of Dick's Picks are all tied for #5. Once you fall in love with the music, the sound doesn't matter anymore! Remember when all we had were cassette tapes?
Maybe one day we'll get a Dick's Picks on DVD-A or SACD?
PS. I'm all over that Fillmore show Jond!
audio quality aside, dix pix vol 4, the valentine's day show in 70 at the fillmore east. has the greatest dark star ever, complete w/ the feeling groovy jam midstream on disc 1. ---i dare say that one song is the very best performance they ever had, and i have about 1000 dead cds (studio, comp, live, bootlegs).
the 77 shows from dix pix are quite good, as is the rosemary arista cd (live dead). studio: american beauty or workingman's is where to go.
echoing everyone above, the dick's picks are almost uniformly great. without a net has it's moments - i especially like the looks like rain on that recording. the other ones album has great versions of sugaree and friend of the devil and is certainly worth checking out...however, if you want the best, look for a bootleg of the dead's cornell 1977 show - great songs, great playing...many decent recordigs of this show exist and you can sometimes find somebody to burn you a copy on a dead message board. you may also be able to find a copy at an independent cd/record store (these still exist, right?). i bought a cd copy of this show at an indie shop in nyc and while it was pricy ($50), it was well worth it...lots of great dead music out there...enjoy the journey
50 bucks for 5/8/77 on cd? Ouch! That's a very common and uniformly great sounding tape/cd, if my burner weren't currently on the fritz I'd burn the person who started this thread a copy right now. A note to all, there are two many ways to get bootlegs for free, don't pay for them without doing some searching. That being said I don't advocate burning any copyrighted recording, just boots.
for those looking for quality GD recordings...lossless SHN files can be downloaded from the internet.
http://www.gdlive.com/ , tons of them. some real gems too!
seek out the spring '90 SBDs that were mixed down from 24track ADAT masters. very nice.
IMO, you just cant beat a great audience recording for pure energy and fidelity. Afer all, the GD is "live band" and not a studio band. Might as well get them where it counts.
I would suggest that yoy go to btetree.org and download. Start in the late 60 and move forward. Some very interesting changes occur.
A few I like,
6/10/73- I think I have these dates right. 4 set marathon that ends with Dicky Betts and Jerry playing together.
11/14/73- Truckin-The Other One- Big River-The Other One-Wharf Rat- Me and My Uncle. I think this is part of the second set. It really smokes.
77 Tour- So many good shows. For free you can download Barton Hall. Yes it is overhyped but is an excellent show. I just love Estimated Prophet on this entire tour.
9/2/78- One one disc you can get Good Lovin, Scarlet Begonias-Fire on the Mountain. Sound quality is a B. This is my favorite Scarlet-Fire.
Finally, I would suggest you download some of the Grisman-Garcia show. Both the Warfield and the Squaw Valley shows are great.
I think you can get Infrared through GD Merchandise. http://www.dead.net It's great like Owl (Owlsley?) said. Very well recorded, great soundstaging, well beyond the speaker boundries, spacy beyond words. Some wonderful piano work by Bruce Hornsby on it as well.