Built To Last was first released on Halloween of 1989. To be honest, looking back it was pretty clear that there were going to be problems from the start. The wonderful Stanley Mouse cover was rejected for this cover. The band also recorded most of the album in isolation from each other. The original recording sessions began at Marin Vets just as they had for their last album "In The Dark". Jerry and John Cutler were producing again. They quickly decided that the same approach wouldn't work and the recording sessions began getting moved around to various studios. The album was finally finished just a couple of hours before it was to be turned in. Unlike some, I like most of the songs but the problem for me here, as with Shakedown Street and Go To Heaven, is not the songs themselves but in the actual production. Jerry referred to it as "confined space" but to me it sounds more like "confined void". Despite this being a high end recording, the overall mix is actually very hollow and synthetic sounding.
The opening Foolish Heart is actually a very good song but it fades out before the beautiful closing jam which was usually great in concert. Just A Little Light is actually one of, if not, my favorite Brent songs. Unfortunately, here it doesn't have the cool synth introduction or the nice extra little jam near the end that the live versions have. Built To Last is another great song but here it's played so slow that it's plodding. Blow Away was a really good song until they decided to rearrange it in an over the top manner. Victim Or The Crime is actually one of the two songs that benefits from the albums production style. Musically, the song always had a Twilight Zone feel to it and that actually pays off here. I guess that there are some Dead Heads who didn't/don't like this song but I do. We Can Run is okay but once again, the keyboard isn't used starting instead with a very brief Jerry intro. The lyrics also sound a bit heavy handed as if they're trying to shove them into the song. Standing On The Moon is a Jerry ballad and it comes across very well here and is the only song to use an acoustic instrument (aside from drums) in the mix. Jerry's acoustic guitar give the album a very earthy feel missing elsewhere in the album. Bob's Picasso Moon is a nice rocking song and it's given a decent treatment here. I'm not a fan of I Will Take You Home and it's actually my least favorite Dead song. Some people find it sweet but it's just too much for me. Your mileage will vary. All in all, the album sounds very much like it was recorded in 1989 for 1989. It manages to capture a lot of what I didn't like about the late '80's production style.
This expanded cd version includes three extra live songs: Blow Away (which is from the show that would later be released as Crimson White & Indigo), an okay Foolish Heart (which was recorded during the run that would later be released as Downhill From Here although Foolish Heart isn't on it), and the song California Earthquake which was played twice on the Fall tour after the San Francisco Earthquake of 1989.