Long Strange Trip: The Untold Story of the Grateful Dead [Motion Picture Soundtrack]
Amir Bar-Lev's winding, thorough Grateful Dead documentary is naturally titled Long Strange Trip -- really, what else could it have been called? -- and it's only appropriate that its accompanying soundtrack also follows a twisting road. The album -- available either as a two-disc set or a three-disc set at exclusive retailers -- tells a familiar tale, sometimes with familiar material, but it doesn't quite proceed in a predictable fashion. Like the film, the Long Strange Trip soundtrack skips entire portions of the Dead's history because it focuses on the bigger picture. Some eras are soft-peddled and some classic songs are missing but by threading in studio cuts with the live tracks, this gives a good idea of everything the Grateful Dead did and why they matter. Which isn't to say that Long Strange Trip is definitive -- any collection lacking "Truckin'," "Sugar Magnolia," and "Casey Jones" can't be called definitive -- but it does wind up as an excellent introduction to the Dead's eccentric charms, illustrating not just their instinct for exploration (with its heavy dose of '70s live material, the first disc offers ample proof of this) but also how they could groove on-stage (the cuts from the legendary Cornell concert from 1977). Then, it also proves that beyond those improvisations, the Dead have a strong song catalog that withstands all their revisions -- and the sometimes indifferent studio productions, none of which can be heard here -- and the fact that this soundtrack shows both sides of the Grateful Dead makes it valuable indeed.