I first heard 'The Golden Road (to Unlimited Devotion)' on an BBC2 series called 'Sounds of the Sixties', which was on TV in the early 90s when the sounds of psychedelia were beginning to find their way back into popular music in the UK with the 'Stone Roses', 'Charlatans', and 'Happy Mondays'. Its a fairly straightforward, incredibly catchy, 60s pop song, with an amazing middle section, which only gave only a fleeting glimpse of the awesome psychedelic power possessed by this band once called the Warlocks and, at that time, Ken Kesey's in house band for the notorious Acid Tests.
Its a good starting point for anyone not familiar with the Grateful Dead's unique blend of Californian cool, ensemble playing, and way with a tune. It also gives a good indication of what the remainder of their debut sounds like, concise psychedelic pop, and in that respect it gave no clue to what the Dead sounded like live (for that see 'Anthem of the Sun', or 'Live Dead'). Tunes like 'Beat it on Down the Line' and 'Sittin' on Top of the World' have the kind of semi-cheesey sounding hammond and driving rhythm section that will be familiar to anyone who enjoys 60s music, and there are some rhythm and blues here as well with (the worryingly titled) 'Good Morning Little Schoolgirl' and 'Viola Lee Blues', BUT the Dead add their own style throughout with Jerry Garcia's geeetar playing and the fabulous west cost harmonies.
They even manage to constrain themselves to only one tune over 10 minutes, the closing 'New, New Minglewood Blues', it was a sure sign of things to come.
This is the sound of Haight Ashbury....