Ranking The Best Albums From The Grateful Dead
The Pioneering Godfathers of The Jam Band World
Grateful Dead is mostly known for their lengthy jams, eclectic psychedelic sounds, interesting themes, mind-boggling lyrics, and iconic album artworks. They’re not everyone’s cup of tea and for some of their fans called the “Deadheads”, they’re an acquired taste. You either hated or revered them, there’s no in-between.
They have over a dozen albums and not every one of them is great. So for this list, we’re only including they best records. Check it out.
7. Blues for Allah (1975)
It was their highest-charting album for over a decade after its release. They started working on it after a brief hiatus in 1974 and recorded it in Bob Weir’s home studio in Mill Valley, California. Jerry Garcia wanted more output from other band members during the writing process which is why most of the songs were developed in the studio. It’s pretty clear they were refreshed and rejuvenated from their break.
6. Shakedown Street (1978)
For the record, not every Deadhead loves this album. Here’s the thing, the Grateful Dead weren’t exactly known for their impeccable and flawless studio albums. They were always more comfortable during live shows. But they know they have to deliver and for Shakedown Street, they went disco. It’s a bit overwhelming and not in a good way but it did have some gems like the title track and Fire on the Mountain.
5. Aoxomoxoa (1969)
This is Grateful Dead at their most psychedelic and experimental owing mostly to the amount of acid they consumed during the whole production. It was the first album to feature lyricist Robert Hunter as a full-time contributor. They also had some acoustic numbers. It’s trippy and ambitious. It also spawned some of their most enduring songs like China Cat Sunflower and St. Stephen.
4. Europe ’72 (1972)
We did mention earlier about Grateful Dead being one of those bands who were best heard live. There’s something incredibly magical about their concerts that studio albums could never capture. This triple-LP set covered their extensive European Tour with a mix of new and well-loved materials. The extended instrumental improvisations were nothing short of spectacular.
3. Terrapin Station (1977)
They weren’t exactly excited going back to the studio because they enjoyed live performances more. And while they weren’t 100% enthusiastic about the making of Terrapin Station, it remains one of their best and most iconic records. Some songs are straight-up rockers!
2. Workingman’s Dead (1970)
At their most creative and inspired, the Grateful Dead was a force of nature. It was a tough time for them before they began working on this album. They still owed money from the Aoxomoxoa recording sessions and they had to deal with the aftermath of a drug bust. According to Jerry Garcia, “In midst of all this adverse stuff that was happening … [recording the album] was definitely an upper.” From the vocal performances to the arrangements, it was a tight and solid record. And you can hear their influences on the tracks. They took a risk and it paid off nicely.
1. American Beauty (1970)
Fans and critics may not agree with each other often but if you ask any of them what Grateful Dead’s absolute best album is, they’d most likely say the same thing – the monolithic record American Beauty. It’s the band at the top of their game. It’s basically the culmination of the legendary songwriting partnership between Hunter and Garcia.