Skeletons from the Closet: The Best of Grateful Dead

Not Rated

The Dead pretend they're a singles band in this collection of their best-known shorter tracks. The cumulative results are distinguished, not by profundity or virtuosity, but by a characteristic pleasantness. The album boasts attractive melodies and supple rhythmic patterns. But the anthology also exposes some ongoing weaknesses: dull recorded sound, thin instrumental arrangements, frail vocals (except for Bob Weir's occasional leads) and, more generally, music consistently without sufficient emotional depth or narrative strength. The three Weir tracks are by far the most spirited of the 11 on the album, and "Uncle John's Band" has the cheerful spontaneity of a street-corner chorale. The selections are well chosen and the album's 45 minutes are generous by current single-LP standards. But in isolating their persistent flaws as well as occasional successes, Skeletons from the Closet suggests that the Grateful Dead may never have been an exceptional recording group.