July 18 – The Grateful Dead’s Cosmic Anthem at 50, Pt. 2

Pt. 2:  The Grateful Dead – Anthem of the Sun

Here we go with a prime example of how this little hobby of mine has opened my eyes and ears, not just to music I’ve never heard before, but to music I’m familiar with but have given short shrift to.  In this case, pre-American Beauty Grateful Dead.  I had no idea of the experimental degree of this, the band’s second album and first to include second drummer Mickey Hart, released on this date 50 years ago.  It is comprised of multiple studio and live tracks spliced together.  It is neither a live album nor a studio album per se, but not in the same vein as so many well-known live albums from the 70’s and 80’s that had their imperfections edited out in the studio, a.k.a. “Frankensteined.”  This was planned madness.

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I’m going to stop right here with my personal thoughts on the Dead and Anthem and turn it over to my friend Mitch, whose influence on my musical tastes I shared in Pt. 1:

I have some strong feelings about ‘Anthem.’  It was one of those rare albums of the Sixties mixed entirely to enhance hallucinations and confuse one’s senses of time, place, and space.  The entire bouncing back and forth from free wheelin’ live recordings to tight studio freak sounds like the kazoos at the beginning of ‘Alligator’ leave you hungry for synesthesia.  There is a sensation of being both wrapped in a comfortable LSD quilt and then being tossed airborne for your first solo mission.  ‘Anthem’ crawls under your skin, finds your nerve endings and politely tugs and twitches to the Lesh powered thunder, Gracia driven lightning, Pig pulled vocals, and beatings issued from the dueling drummers Bill and Mickey, all synchronized in controlled chaos.

All in all, some say ‘Pet Sounds’ is the American ‘Sgt. Pepper.’  I disagree.  The Dead nailed the Wild West insanity of the Bay without the pop perfection of ‘God Only Knows.’  This album was the beginning of weirdness for hire, inner exploration, and outer expression.

Not in a million years could I have described it better than that.

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Tracklist:

Side One:

  1. That’s It for the Other One
  2. New Potato Caboose
  3. Born Cross-Eyed

Side Two:

  1. Alligator
  2. Caution (Do Not Stop on Tracks)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthem_of_the_Sun

-Stephen

13 thoughts on “July 18 – The Grateful Dead’s Cosmic Anthem at 50, Pt. 2”

  1. I know you may be in disbelief when I tell you that the Grateful Dead (one of the best band names ever, in my opinion!) for some reason are among the bands I haven’t explored. It’s similar to Frank Zappa, though at least I can say I listened to some his music – admittedly, it didn’t grab me, as brilliant as he may have been.

    Which Dead album would you recommend to somebody like me, who basically doesn’t doesn’t know anything about them other than their name?

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Sound like it’s going to take quite some time to tackle. One has to start somewhere, so thanks again for the tips!

        Did you like the Dead from the get-go, or was it more of an acquired taste? For some reason, I anticipate this is what I may find during my exploration…

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      2. Cool, currently listening to “American Beauty” and finding it surprisingly “mainstream!” And I don’t mean this in a negative way. Unlike today, mainstream in the early ‘70s had great stuff.

        This particular album reminds me a bit of CSNY, America and The Band – all artists I like.

        Of course, based on your posts and what I previously read elsewhere, the Dead’s live performances with endless instrumentals are quite a different experience.

        But at least I’m happy to report that this album encourages me to further explore them!😀

        Liked by 1 person

      3. More great music on “In The Dark” – also happy to report that even I had heard the opener before!😀 The time I really dig, however, is “Black Muddy River.” I knew the version by Gregg Allman who covered this tune on his final solo album.

        I guess once I start listening to Dead’s live albums, the revelation that at least some of their music is an acquired taste is still going to come!😀

        Liked by 1 person

  2. In the meantime, I also listened to the Cornell 5/8/77 live album, and I’m still not discouraged – in fact, I love that album! Next thing you know I’ll turn into a Deadhead – perhaps a little late but, hey, better late than never! 🙂

    Thanks again for the inspiration!

    Liked by 1 person

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