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find the best versions of grateful dead songs

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Newly_Grateful

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Dark Star
Nov. 2, 1969
Family Dog at the Great Highway

Very different from most Dark Stars - ethereal beauty replaced by casual, easy going grooves. It's too laid back to hold your attention all the way through - the best versions of DS have a depth, variety and intensity that keep you spellbound from start to finish. It's not Dark Star-ish enough to be a GREAT Dark Star, but that's also what makes it worth hearing. It surprises you, and challenges how you expect the song to sound.
Hard to Handle
July 31, 1971
Yale Bowl, Yale University

This deserves waaaaay more votes. Burning hot, turbo charged, builds to an unbelievable climax! The top voted version as featured on Fallout From The Phil Zone is a very poor audio compared to this.
Aiko Aiko
July 7, 1989
JFK Stadium

#1, and deservedly so. The Dead could bore you to death playing this song at a crawl, but this uptempo version really storms the barricades! Fantastic, late era Dead at their best.
Promised Land
Sept. 18, 1990
Madison Square Garden

For my money, there's only one Promised Land that can compete with 12/26/79...and it's this one. So often the band switched off for this number, great to hear them actually have some fun with it! I suspect the energy infusion came from Hornsby, not just with his playing, but his attitude as well - he brought a positive, kickass vibe to the Dead at a time when they sorely needed it.
Promised Land
Dec. 26, 1979
Oakland Auditorium

99 times out of 100 Promised Land was just an early set throwaway, no spontaneity, no energy, everyone on autopilot. This version actually has some BITE to it! Head and shoulders above Veneta '72.