"This album is well reviewed by various listeners. I appreciate Alan Sandler's review pointing out Bob Weir's work on the bridge between Not Fade Away and Goin'Down the Road. Another excellent example of Bobby's ability to lead the transition between songs in medleys can be found in Europe 72's China Cat/I Know You Rider combo. In both of these recordings, Weir lays out the plot with Jerry providing punctuation, then when the mood is set, Garcia is able to elaborate on the story with soaring lines that truly define the Dead during this era. Listen closely to the stereo separation on these recordings and it becomes easier the distinguish these two very different guitar styles that blended so seamlessly together.Another facet of the Skull and Roses recordings that is underappreciated in my mind is the drumming of Bill Kreutzman throughout this album. Kreutzman once said that drumming should feel like dancing, and if you want to hear a drummer dancing to the sound of a band in its prime, just listen to the drum tracks here. I love Mickey Hart and his contributions not only to the Dead, but to percussion in general, but to my ears,the single drum set on this recording lends a simplicity and purity that is seldom evident on Dead outings with the full double drum set-up.One more item that stands out and separates this live recording from others that came before and after, was the engineering of the sound. The Dead were surrounded by technical people who loved the music and found a way to give it life on vinyl (and digital media). The sound here is remarkable, especially in light of the fact that the technological leaps that were just around the corner, were not at the disposal of the bands at that time. It wasn't long before the Dead jumped into the world of digital effects and processing, pioneering new sounds and techniques, but the pure energy of the band always sounds best to me right in the grooves of Skull and Roses.I claim this as the best live American Band recording, fully appreciating some other fantastic live albums (The Allman Brothers, the Band's Rock of Ages, and many others). I admit to a slight bias having followed the Dead since 1968, but I have never been a fan with blinders, unaware of the band's shortcomings, or of the great efforts from all over the American Rock and Roll map. Still, this album can give me the same sense of euphoria that I felt listening all those years ago."
G. J Wiener | Westchester, NY USA | 03/08/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is a very good album which explores the many different styles of this classic band. Jerry, Bobby, and Pig Pen all have their time on lead vocals and each have strong moments. The re-working of Not Fade Away is just great as Bobby's vocals and Jerry's guitar bring the song to new heights not acheived on previous versions. Then the jam and the intro to Going Down The Road Feeling Bad just sounds so darn creative. Bertha is performed with such spirit that you tend to overlook Jerry's technical flaws in the vocal department. The feeling he puts into the song overides any moments that he wavers off key. Me And Bobbie McKee is another finely reworked cover with some excellent drum work by Bill Kreutzman. The Other One is a bit dull in spots but otherwise this is fine recording of the band at its best, which is Live In Concert."
A Real Live One--Buy this one!
George H. Soule | Edwardsville, Illinois United States | 08/25/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Released in 1971, this is the Dead's second live release for Warner Brothers and for me it's more satisfying than the earlier "Live Dead." That is in part because of its return to roots. I guess that this album has been cited as being more country than what came to be expected from Captain Trips and company. But the pre-Dead Garcia was known as a folk musician in the Bay Area--mostly as a bluegrass banjo player. And this album is a refreshing revelation of roots. Not that that hadn't been the whole focus of the band from the beginning. "Working Man's Dead" and "American Beauty" always seemed to me to be direct responses to the Rolling Stones' 1966 collection "High Tide & Green Grass." "Working Man's Dead" and "American Beauty" have songs that talk about American music within its tradition. And those albums are true to what the Brits were gleefully reclaiming (or stealing) from our version of the tradition. So in "Grateful Dead" we have prototypes. Garcia plays guitar that Chet Atkins country fans would recognize in "Bertha," and "Mama Tried" (a Merl Haggard song). "Me and My Uncle" is another outlaw ballad, and then there are blues covers "Big Railroad Blues" and "Big Boss Man." This version of "Playing in the Band" is among the best, and Jerry, who said early on that he took a long time to figure out tunings for early rock 'n roll guitar, demonstrates that he's solved the mystery of Chuck Berry in this rendering of "Johnny B. Goode." The band still sounds like the Dead with crisp contrapuntal Bachian interplay and lots of repetitious riffs. But they are playing the music that satisfied their souls--a mixture of country and blues and folk music--whence they came. To be sure, we also have the stuff of the jam band in "The Other One" with a drum circle solo and some long noodles and great improvisation featuring said interplay. This is good Dead, and the absence of feedback and excessive road crud doesn't detract from the authenticity of the sound at all."
One stop shop for all your Dead needs
George H. Soule | 07/31/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The Skull and Roses album is a wonderful live Grateful Dead album. It contains a lot of variety. It has everything from 50's rock (Johnny B. Goode, Not Fade Away) to blues (Big Boss Man) to country (Mama Tried, Me and Bobby McGee) to jamming (The Other One). This is a good sampler of what the Dead is all about. However, most of the lead vocals on this album are by Bob Weir, so Jerry Garcia doesn't get much action. His lead guitar, however, is very prevalent throughout the album. This is just one of the many live albums that the Dead have released, but it's among the best. The other essential live Dead albums are Live Dead and Europe '72."
An old favorite that still works
alan j. sandler | san francisco, ca. United States | 10/02/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Of all the Dead's live music, this cd,recorded during a tricky time in their history, has the most bare-bones line-up of the band. One drummer,very little Pig (due to illnes), and a few sit-ins by Merl Saunders. More than ever, the guitars had to carry the day. On the Not Fade Away/GDTR medly, Bob Weir rose to the challange, playing some his best live work,particulary on the change-over. It is the best stuff on the CD, with each musician contributing a very clear role.I sometimes pull out the CD just to hear these two songs. There are many recorded Wharf Rat versions, but this is one of the best due to Merl's haunting organ work and the great chemistry he has with Jerry. Jerry's guitar screams on a strong opening Bertha and again on a hot Big Railroad Blues. The lengthy "Other One" is not one of the best out there, costing this CD a star. Including vinyl,8-trach, cassette and CD, I've had this album for 30 years, and it still gets plenty of listening time."