A 12-CD Grateful Dead Set? (No, It's Not All One Song)

Want to make a Deadhead grateful?

It may cost you.

A long-awaited 12-CD box covering the Grateful Dead's 1967-73 stint on Warner Bros. Records is being readied for an October release in a joint project by the band and Rhino Records, which handles much of the reissue duty for Warner's parent company.

The box will come with an expected list price of $159, but Rhino's senior director of A&R;/special projects, James Austin, a longtime Deadhead himself, says that the package includes a lot more than just the nine albums the Dead released during that period.

The package focuses on what is generally considered the San Francisco band's most productive period and features the two consensus essential Dead albums, "American Beauty" and "Workingman's Dead."

The first two discs will be a set titled "Birth of the Dead," featuring material recorded before the band signed to Warner Bros., compiled by band publicist and historian Dennis McNally. Then each of the Warner Bros. albums will be presented on its own disc, with a running time of about 40 minutes each, supplemented by about the same amount of bonus tracks.

"Each CD is filled to the maximum time of 79-minutes-plus," Austin says. "The bonus tracks will be a combination of unreleased studio tracks plus live recordings from that era."

Given the amount of archival music that has come out in recent years, fans may be skeptical about the attraction of the bonus material. But Austin says even he was surprised at the amount and quality of recordings that were unearthed for this set.

"These are songs the fans haven't heard," he says. "Some things [Dead archivist] David Lemieux found in the vaults are mind-boggling. Deadheads don't even know this stuff exists."

As well, the previously released material is being remastered to better reflect the original intent of the band. Musical parts that got buried in the mix are being brought to light, he says.

"I heard rough mixes from Warner Bros. vaults and there's so much there--extra minutes of music on 'Good Morning Little School Girl' [from the 1967 debut, 'The Grateful Dead']."

And the packaging will include a detailed book and reprints of posters and promotional campaigns, housed in a custom box.

However, Austin says that fans for whom this is just too much won't have to buy the whole shebang. Each album will be sold separately, probably a year from the original box release.

On a related note, Dead drummer Mickey Hart is overseeing remixes of "American Beauty" and "Workingman's Dead" in the Surround Sound 5.1 format for release as audio DVDs. For those, he is taking full advantage of unused tracks and portions from the original releases edited out due to the length limitations of vinyl albums.

"These albums are the jewels in the crown and I'm treating them with care," Hart says. "But it's like musical archeology, buried treasures. We found some 30 seconds of 'Sugar Magnolia,' 30 seconds of 'Candy Man.' And there was a Jerry Garcia pedal steel that was buried on 'Sugar Magnolia' and now it's practically the lead instrument."

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BECK AND FORTH: After unexpectedly leaving longtime manager John Silva and his partner, Gary Gersh, late last year, Beck has chosen Jim Guerinot to handle his management.

Guerinot is adding Beck to a roster that already includes No Doubt, the Offspring, Social Distortion and Chris Cornell (who has recently joined in a new band with the three instrumentalists of Rage Against the Machine--another former Gersh-Silva client).

Beck has in recent months talked about being uncertain about which directions to pursue. He's said he has material for as many as seven albums, including sets in the tradition of his funk, hip-hop and pop culture blends of "Odelay" and "Midnite Vultures," as well as in the folk, country and avant-garde veins of his various side projects.

"This is a guy with more fingers in more pies than most people I know," says Guerinot.

"My biggest thing to say to him has been that the top of the pyramid is Beck the artist," he adds. "That's what the focus needs to remain, no matter what kind of music he's doing. He's one of the few artists who can be both a long-term career artist and do consistently interesting work like a Neil Young, and still have hit singles. Most artists it's one or the other."

Meanwhile, the management derby continues for several high-profile free agents, including Michael Jackson (who recently left the Firm, home of Limp Bizkit and Backstreet Boys, among others), Billy Corgan (who last year fired Q Prime, which handles Metallica and the Red Hot Chili Peppers) and Weezer, which left longtime manager Pat Magnarella just as it released its new album.

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READY FOR PRIME TIME: Building on the success of such franchise shows as "Behind the Music," VH1 is solidifying its format in regular weekday-evening blocks highlighting original shows starting June 18. Under the umbrella title of "My VH1 Prime Time," the schedule will include "My Mondays" (interactive countdowns and viewer-selected shows), Wednesday-night "Movies That Rock" and "Front Row Fridays" (performance and concert shows), with new programs to be introduced including "Cover Wars," a battle-of-cover-bands series to be hosted by Paul Shaffer.

The Friday anchor show will be "VH1 Storytellers," with a new wrinkle to be tried out on some episodes in which not just one but two acts will be featured. The first of that will have Train and Fuel playing separately and together to illustrate the common roots and interests of their music. The installment tapes Friday in New York.

Fred Graver, VH1 executive vice president of programming and production, says that the changes are designed to reflect the viewing habits of the channel's young adult audience, placing favorite shows at regular weekly days and times.

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