"This is the Grateful Dead. We could take this around the world." Jerry Garcia, 1967.
There really is no excuse for this kind of junk. But there is an explanation. Drugs." review in High Fidelity magazine.
"Suddenly we can see all possibilities at once, and hear time from the standpoint of eternity, as if the music had broken into a higher dimension of awareness." Phil Lesh.
"We mixed it for the hallucinations." Jerry Garcia.
This second album from the Dead is the most experimental album the band ever released. A true artifact from the late '60s--and an attempt at a psychedelic experience on an LP--the combination of live and studio tracks (live tracks/edits from several venues in '67-'68) was truly something different. The weaving of live segments (where it seems two drummers can be heard at times) into studio recordings brings the album into another realm--the "Caution..." portion is still a high point for me all these years later. And if you were around at that time you probably can still remember what it was like to bring this album home, with that strange cover (in all it's 12" glory) and slip that disc (with no spaces between the tracks, and the phrase "the faster we go the rounder we get" inscribed in the run out groove) onto your turntable and then be blown away by what you heard. I still do.
As fans of the Dead know from the Dead website, this was Mickey Hart's earliest known recording of a complete show with the band, which opened up the band's sound and gave the Dead a larger foundation for their music. But apparently there's photo evidence that the band on 10-22-67 ("Marijuana Defense Benefit") was still the original quintet, with Hart soon joining the band for subsequent shows. Deadbase 50 states that while dates are not definitive, "two drummers are very much in evidence" at the 10-31-67 ("Trip Or Freak"--for Halloween) show but say nothing about the 10-22-67 show having two drummers. They also state that some tunes from 10-31-67 match with the 10-22-67 show, while others do not. Hmmm. Those were "cloudy" times indeed. Can anyone shed more definitive light on this? But the bottom line is that this is still a good early Dead show from that era. It's also (I believe) Robert Hunter's first lyrics on a Dead album ("Alligator") who would go on to write some of the band's best lyrics.
This 50th Anniversary set contains some nice goodies for Dead fans--namely the original '68 mix of the album along with the '71 mix--both from the original analog tapes. But the big plus here is the Oct. 22, 1967 show at Winterland (also remastered) recorded by Owsley Stanley that features a number of tracks from the (at the time unreleased) "Anthem..." album, plus great tunes like Bonnie Dobson's "Morning Dew" and Jesse Fuller's "Beat It On Down The Line". Also here is another nice memory from that era, "Cold Rain And Snow", plus (since the band was still featuring blues) Elmore Jame's "It Hurts Me To".
The '68 mix--sounding very open and much cleaner now--still sounds (to my ears) as a real example of the band from that period--more adventurous and, thinking back to those times, (yes) what passed for "psychedelic". If you've never heard this mix you just may be pleasantly surprised at what you hear--a good thing. The '71 mix was issued, depending on who you talk to, because the original tapes couldn't be located, and/or the feeling at the time from the record company was that the new mix would be more "accessible" to fans who had only heard the albums "Working Man's Dead" and "American Beauty" (which has that great cover that can be read as "American Reality"), both albums which in no way had any of the band's psychedelic/blues/r&b edgy sound from the early days.
"In concert, the band was rapidly approaching the telepathic ideal that Phil glimpsed in high moments, with each player acting as a finger on a single hand."
To hear an album like this in the '60s was quite something, that nowadays has lost some of it's ground-breaking, wacky edge. And while the next album ("Aoxomoxoa") would also be another trip into Dead land, there's still nothing like "Anthem..." as a true psychedelic experience without leaving home. And that brings us to the added bonus of a live show in all it's late '60s glory. Everyone will have their favorites, but listen to the "Cryptical Envelopment" segment, and "New Potato Caboose" which for me still define (if that's possible) the band's early sound. But the entire show is like one trip into the world of the Dead. If you go past the band's blues fixations (thanks to the much missed Pigpen) from the early days, this show is a fine example of what the Dead were all about at the time. No one was taking music as far as the Dead did and this gig is proof. A good sounding show (with sonic limitations) that, for fans of this era of the Dead will get into, and have a chance to experience some of the color of (even though the term is now quaint) early psychedelic Dead. So sit back and get lost (and then found) in this great show with the Dead as your guide.
"Anthem" was one of the defining tests (as the Prankster said) of "how deep in the pudding" you were.
For me the band was never more adventurous than during this era, and this anniversary set is proof. With a chance to hear the '68 mix along with a live set from the same era, this is what the Dead was all about back in those days, when we were lucky enough to hear the band for free outdoors or (especially) in one of the halls for not much money. And if you weren't there this is as close as you can get to what the Dead, in all their acid-tinged glory, sounded like. A worthwhile addition to my bulging shelf of Dead music. Still a nice experience.
The picture disc is the '71 mix in case anyone wonders. The CD tri-fold cardboard package has trays for each disc and a pocket for the 12 page booklet with period photos (including a band photo including Tom Constanten) and a nice essay, and slips into a cardboard slipcase. Oh yeah--the lenticular cover art is pretty cool looking even CD size.
One last thing, but not really related to the Dead. Anyone familiar with Garcia's playing outside the Dead will know the names David Grisman and Tony Rice. Also released the same day as this Dead set is "Live At The Great American Music Hall 1979" 2 CD set by the David Grisman Quintet, on the Acoustic Disc label. If you like what Grisman and Rice did with Garcia, or are familiar with Grisman's group, this great set of music is once again available after not being heard on CD in nearly 40 years. And if you're thinking "40 years is a long time", as you know, good music is still good music--no matter how old it is--witness all of us happy to hear the 50th Anniversary "Anthem Of The Sun" set. This is a great band of players in front of their "home" crowd. Fantastic musicianship.
- Audio CD (February 25, 2003)
- Original Release Date: 1968
- Number of Discs: 1
- Label: Grateful Dead Production
- ASIN: B00007LTIH
- Average Customer Review: 132 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #27,479 in CDs & Vinyl (See Top 100 in CDs & Vinyl)