In 1996, about a year after Jerry Garcia's death, the Grateful Dead released Arista Years. This is a best-of album that contains songs from The Grateful Deads’ era of being signed on Arista records. This time period was from 1977 – 1995. It encompasses the studio albums Terrapin Station, Shakedown Street, Go to Heaven, In the Dark, and Built to Last, and the live albums, Reckoning, Dead Set, and Without a Net. The Grateful Dead may have released more live albums under Arista Records during this period, but I am unaware of them and if they did, then they’re not on here. This collection’s purpose was to take the best songs from each album. They did a pretty good job of that.
From Terrapin station, the tracks were Estimated Prophet, Passenger, Samson & Delilah, and Terrapin Station Medley. That was a pretty poor album, but they managed to get some good songs from it, even though I despise Passenger. Next is the Shakedown Street album. This part contains Fire On the Mountain, Shakedown Street, I need a miracle, and Good Lovin. Some of these are among the bands best, and all of the best songs from that album are here. Then there is Go to Heaven, one of The Dead’s weaker studio efforts. I can't stand any of the songs from that album, except Alabama getaway which is alright and kind of catchy. Next are a few tracks from the acoustic live album, Reckoning. Dire Wolf is one of them and I believe is added in there just to spice up the song list a bit. Still, it is a good song, perhaps even better than the version off of Workingman’s Dead and I’m glad that it was added. Another song from that album was Cassidy. After this we come across Dead Set, a live album which contains one of my favorite Dead songs, Franklins Tower. A great one from the start, the live one is just as good. This was also on the album Blues for Allah. Another song from Dead Set on here is Feel like a Stranger which is well-done and just a solid track. Subsequently, we come across In the Dark, a major selling album that is acclaimed by many. The chunk of this album is huge, containing 6 of its 9 songs, including the top ten hit Touch of Grey and the notable Hell in a Bucket. Then, there is the Grateful Dead’s last studio album. That is Built to Last. A fine album that is and like In the Dark, a good majority of the songs from Built to Last show up on this album. These songs all range from average to great and are worthy additions to this cd. Lastly, we come across Eyes of the World, a live track from the album Without a Net. One of the best songs on this album, with wonderful saxophone playing and lead by Jerry.
All this having said, it may seem like this is an amazing album but, that is not totally true. From 1977 on, The Dead were on the decline. Maybe not live because all of their live performances are still great, but in the studio, definitely. Shakedown Street, In the Dark, and Built to Last were all high-quality albums but they do not match up with some of the groups earlier classics such as American Beauty, Workingman’s Dead, Blues for Allah, etc. So there is one question left. Is this album worth buying. Well, by all means, yes. For anyone who doesn’t have any of the band’s later albums and doesn’t want to buy them all, this would be fantastic. For anyone who wants to buy In the Dark or Built to last, this album would also be fantastic because it has large sections for both of those albums, plus it has other good tracks. And for anyone who just wants to hear the Grateful dead, this is a good compilation though not to start out with. This review seems pretty short, and I didn’t focus on the actual music that much, just what songs are on here, but I think I nailed everything important. If you want to buy this, it is pretty hard to find in most cd-stores so my advice is to buy it online.
I can’t decide if this deserves a 4 or a 4.5. I don’t want to give it a 4.5 though because it is not an actual album, it’s just a compilation, but it’s a damn good one so I give it a 4/5.