Suffice it to say there are no halfway measures when it comes to ethos of the Grateful Dead. You’re either in or you’re out, and when one considers the band’s voluminous quantity of releases that have appeared since the band called it quits following Jerry Garcia’s demise some 25 years ago — many of them live offerings of a vintage variety —the choices are often staggering.
Of course, posthumous releases are nothing new. They’re an essential additive for an industry that thrives of retaining the mystique — and devotion — artists retain even after they die, disband or otherwise pass from the present into the past, leaving music and memories in their wake.
For Deadheads, there’s a temptation to scoop up everything that’s offered, but for the novice, the wealth of material can be daunting. Happily, Vinyl Me, Please, a company that boldly bills itself as “a community of explorers and storytellers who navigate between sounds that are lost and found to create transcendent tangible music experiences,” may have a solution that can appeal for both devotees and recent arrivals alike.
The company has announced the upcoming release of the auspiciously dubbed VMP Anthology: The Story of the Grateful Dead, an eight album, 14-disc set that boasts some of the band’s most essential music as well as commentary and critiques from an array of contemporary musicians whose careers were profoundly affected by the Dead’s trajectory. The set contains four classic studio LPs (Workingman’s Dead, American Beauty, Wake of the Flood, and Terrapin Station) and four of the group’s most representative live albums (Live / Dead, Europe ‘72 Vol. 1, Reckoning, and Without a Net), which, taken in tandem, provide an effective overview of the Dead’s 30 year career. The reissued albums will be pressed on 180-gram vinyl and packaged in a custom Jeremy Dean-designed box set that holds the discs, a 12X12 booklet featuring photos and liner notes penned by such luminaries as Jim James of My Morning Jacket, Avey Tare of Animal Collective, Dave Longstreth of Dirty Projectors, Margo Price, MC Taylor of Hiss Golden Messenger, Scott Devendorf of the National, John Darnielle of the Mountain Goats, Jenny Conlee of the Decemberists, and Hunter Brown of STS9.
Indeed, the booklet itself promises to be a lure in itself. Printed on thick cover matte stock, its archival photos and ephemera are provided courtesy of the various photographers that captured the band throughout the ever evolving course of their career. As with past anthologies from Vinyl Me, Please, the set will be shared with an exclusive fan community through a podcast series that allows listeners to immerse themselves in the entire Grateful Dead experience.
“We have heard that so many music fans have a curiosity and desire to explore the Grateful Dead, but they are overwhelmed by the depth and the grandeur that comes with their studio catalog, live recordings and the lore surrounding the culture they founded,” Cameron Schaefer, Chief Brand Officer, VMP, said in a statement accompanying the announcement. “VMP is here to take these music fans on a deep journey through the Dead and to frame the breadth of the band’s iconic career for today’s music lover.”
Copies of VMP Anthology: The Story of the Grateful Dead will be limited to 7,500 units. It goes on sale today, with the product scheduled to ship this summer. For some, it will be a bit of an investment — $449 with free shipping for domestic customers and $499 for regular international delivery. Those who purchased previous VMP anthologies will receive a $50 discount.
VMP Anthology has built its reputation on offering immersive box set experiences that include collectors edition vinyl box sets, extensive histories and documentation, exclusive inserts, and a collectors-edition vinyl box set. In addition, the company offers customers three different monthly vinyl subscriptions (Essentials, Classics, Rap & Hip Hop) and an online record store with exclusive pressings, and extensive editorial content, storytelling, and events. The Story of the Grateful Dead is the sixth in its series of box sets; its other anthologies include The Story of Blue Note Records, The Women of Motown, The Story of Ghostly International, The Story of Stax Records, and The Story of Zamrock.