This album has had so much radio and commercial success that it is easy to overlook the songs that are on here. For starters, it was this first album they did in 7 years, which allowed the material to come off sounding road tested, rehearsed and fresh. Garcia had just come back from nearly joining the Dead, and that exuberance floods over into these songs. Lesh had resumed his role as a singer in the band, and lends his baritone voice to some of the harmonies too. Though Brent only has one song on the album, he had become a full part of the Dead's sound and is prominently featured.
Touch of Grey is infectious and it is easy to see why it charted in the top 5. Garcia plays a good solo, and it reminds everyone why this band attracted such a following. Hell In a Bucket is a strange Weir song (the video being even stranger) about a night out with a biker with S&M implications. Still it is a good rocker and moves the album forward. When Push Comes To Shove is a medium shuffle blues with a good beat, and good singing by the original trio of Lesh, Garcia and Weir. Tons Of Steel shows Brent improving in his singing and songwriting. Phil again lends his harmony singing (although he's somewhat buried by the mix). West L.A. Fadeway is a good song with interesting work by the rhythm section. More Dylan-esque than the usual Hunter material. Throwing Stones was Bob Weir's environmental call to arms, and also a pretty good song. One of the band's more political songs. And then to cap it off, one of the finest songs of their later years, Black Muddy River. I'd rank it up with Knockin' On Heavens Door as a great end of the road ballad. It is a perfect close to this solid late period album. It may not be the Dead at their peak, but is still a strong collection of songs by a band having survived a mid-life crisis, and was rejuvenated through it.