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Grateful Dead — a CD at a time

Last week, I found myself actually looking forward to summer.

For those who know me, that statement might sound a bit weird. I'm a winter person. I was born in the winter and I love the Gothic visuals of black, leafless trees standing in white, snow-covered ground. I love driving in heavy snow and watching cars slipping and sliding in the slush and ice. And I enjoy feeling the brisk chilly breeze pounding my face into a numbing nirvana.

Still, I missed summer.

This led to some serious soul-searching, and I found that my yearning for hot sunny days and warm muggy nights was music-related. No surprise, there, I guess.

It came down to the fact that I miss jam-band concerts.

Summertime is jam-band season. I love everything from the patchouli pop of the Dave Matthews Band to the sonic psychedelia of Phish to the bluesy bursts of Widespread Panic. But I wanted to hear the big daddy of jam bands — the Grateful Dead.

Two years ago, Grateful Dead Productions and Warner Bros. Records teamed with Rhino Records to release a 12-CD box set, "The Golden Road." It featured all the Warner Bros. albums, with the exception of the compilations "Skeletons in the Closet" and "What a Long Strange Trip It's Been."

"The Grateful Dead," "Anthem of the Sun," "Aoxomoxoa," "Live Dead," "Workingman's Dead" and "American Beauty" were some of the remastered albums featured in that box set. Other albums included the double live sets "Grateful Dead," "Europe '72" and a special double-CD release, "The Birth of the Dead."

The box retails at $149.98. And that's a huge chunk of change. But earlier this month, hope blossomed for the fiscally challenged.

Rhino decided to re-release the entire Warner Bros. catalog of Grateful Dead, one disc at a time. So far, the first six albums are out. So, for $15 (or less), fans can buy each album, or a few albums, at their leisure.

That price also benefits those who have the box set. Sometimes music lovers allow a disc in an extended box set to become faulty — a child gets to it, it's left in the sun, it's put in the microwave. . . . Now you can buy a replacement.

So, anyway, I missed summer. But I felt a lot better when I listened to the aforementioned CDs in chronological order. All of a sudden I was basking in the sun, driving with my windows rolled down, singing "Sitting on Top of the World," "Born Cross-eyed," "China Cat Sunflower," "Uncle John's Band," "Truckin' " and "Friend of the Devil" at the top of my lungs.

It felt so good that I listened to them again and again, in reverse order, in alphabetical order, randomly. Before I knew it, I was checking my neck for that good ol' driver's sunburn.