My favorite Grateful Dead are the psychedelic monsters of 1967-1970. I collect Dark Stars.
However, I’m not deaf to how the Grateful Dead became adept musicians, better songwriters, and built the awesome music machine that resulted in a singular success achieved on their own terms.
The Winterland run from 1973 has been loosened from the grips of the GD mother ship-shop and was re-released on Rhino in April. In 73 the band had completed the foundation. They’d integrated Keith and Donna Godchaux, and withstood the temporary hiatus of Mickey Hart.
In the 9 cds from Winterland, there’s not a lot of repetition, and, there’s a ton of joyful playing and singing. Here, the band wears their tunes like proverbial old shoes. They cruise but they weren’t on cruise control.
Doug Collette’s review at allaboutjazz says it better and more expertly than I could.