Though The Grateful Dead are commonly known as the World's first "Psychedelic" band, they really weren't that Psychedelic until 1967. Though their playing since 1965 had been drowned in organ and odd tones, it was more Blues Rock 'n' Roll. Their songs from their self titled debut and before had great Country and Blues (mainly) influence, with the common three chord progression. Their production back then was also sloppy, and unkept. But during 1967 things were changing.
It was the "Summer of The Love" and The Grateful Dead were at the forefront of it. The band was brining in more influence from their roots (Though it wouldn't be completely noticeable until about 1970). Folk, Country, and Bluegrass were being added to the list more so than ever. But the influence was only really shown through technique and theory. Except and possibly Country. The Country element really took some Blues away from their sound. Which is what possibly brought the Psychedelic sound. The sound was erie and Acid induced. The Grateful Dead were saying themselves that they were playing what they were seeing. And that is actually what it sounded like. Garcia's swirling and noodling guitar styles, Pigpen's blaring organ, Phil Lesh's buzzing lead bass lines, and what ever else there was helped this sound that would define the time evolve into their sophomore album.
Anthem of the Sun
, brought in many new things for The Grateful Dead. They had added their second drummer and sixth member, Mickey Hart. For those who do not know, Mickey Hart was born on the east coast. He was the son of two drummers. His father Lenny Hart, was a successful tournament drummer, who was known as a pro on the snare. Lenny Hart would later financial help the band, and then rob them. His mother was also a fabulous drummer. She took up the instrument to get close to Lenny. Mickey supposably got into the band by befriending Billy Kreutzmann at a concert. Billy would then request that Mickey would be the second drummer of The Grateful Dead. He would then play with the band, and then get accepted.
Also during this time, Phil Lesh came back from Berkley University. Phil Lesh was actually the only original member of The Grateful Dead to finish highschool, let alone graduate college. He brought back his musical companion Tom Constanten. Who is quite an amazing piano player, and harpsichord player. Though he would not exactly be apart of the band, he would help them on numerous occasions. Robert Hunter, long time friend of Jerry Garcia, and amazing writer, wrote his first song for The Grateful Dead on this album. "Alligator" would be the tune. And finally, on top of that all, they presented a new way of recording, They would mix recorded tracks with live performances. They would be recorded and then supposably mixed with the live track. Well, though I would not say Anthem of the Sun lives up to all it's hype, it was a big deal for The Grateful Dead. And it is certainly revolutionary.
That's it for The Other One
This four part classic is supposably written about old time Grateful Dead fan/Actor Neil Casady. Who was known for his Country Western roles. The four parts are as named: I. Cryptical Envelopment. II. Quadlibet For Tender Feet. III. The Faster We Go, The Rounder We Get. IV. We Leave the Castle. The song starts off with Jerry Garcia's soothing vocals and a beautiful riff. The lyrics are very sad, even though they are quite hard to find the meaning. Various vocals effects are used throughout the song. Not the creepy Peter Frampton like vocals effects, but ones that would just slightly alter the sound. The song like the various others runs for awhile (eight minutes). However, the song does switch section offely fast. So, the song is kept interesting. Garcia and Weir switches off for vocals numerous amounts of time. Weir's voice has always been hit or miss for me. While Jerry's voice is usually pretty good. His sections are surly the highlights of the song. Through certain parts of this track, the distortion and the drums get so jumbled up that it just sounds messy. But luckily, that "flaw" is made up for with an interesting ending. The ending is filled with erie percussion and random sound effects. And some blaring bass playing that imitates a heart's beat. I've never been that fascinated with this tune. None the less, it's still pretty good. 3/5
New Potato Caboose
Here is a more beautiful and interesting piece. The song opens with the building up of some interesting piano playing, and various percussion effects. Phil Lesh's bass playing plays throughout and really adds to the vibe. The song's tone is much more clean. The vocals (though not stacked) sound quite clean, when in unison. An acoustic guitar is played in the background by Garcia, it sounds great. This to me is practically the true sound of the 1960's. Bob Weir sings lead, and does a good job. His voice is lower than Garcia's. So, it is good to have a lower alternative. The composition is very good. The band's compositions wouldn't get this technical until possibly Wake of the Flood
, or even more so Blues for Allah
. At about five minutes in, Jerry makes room for a guitar solo. It's a harmony solo, but occasionally takes a personality of it's own. It isn't that impressive. He has done much better. Around the end of Jerry's solo, the dual drumming really picks up. Mickey Hart and Billy Kreutzmann perform the two drummer bit a lot better than others I have seen. An example would be Butch Trucks and Jaimoe of The Allman Brothers, who perform the odd technique well, but never really go outside the box with it :p. The organ playing is also pretty well done. Considering that in no way is Pigpen a good keyboard player (He's a much better singer and harmonica player), that is saying something and is definitely a plus. 3.5/5
A well known Bob Weir classic! Though I prefer his Old Western covers and originals. The song can be compared to a Crosby, Stills, and Nash song, just electric. The sound is a but messy, but it features some great melodies and harmonies. Garcia uses a lesser heard tone, that sounds like one Eric Clapton would use. The song is odd in the fact that it goes through many sudden and rather quick key and tempo changes. The song is also oddly short. Only running at two minutes, while each other song is over seven and a half minutes long. Okay song, but I have heard it performed better live. 3/5
This would be the song that brought in long Jerry Garcia buddy Robert Hunter into the scene. He and Jerry played in many small Folk groups while living in Palo Alto/San Francisco. Soon enough, he and Jerry decided to start writing songs together. And though, this song does not feature any Garcia lyrics (Lesh/Pigpen/Hunter), it did start off a long time Grateful Dead tradition. This tune is heavy influenced by Jazz. The bass and guitar combination not only gives off that very idea, but gives the song a great foundation. The song is also much cleaner than each of the previous tunes. It is filled with oddities. Whether it's Jerry Garcia blowing in a kazoo, or the creepy unison singing. Pigpen sings the vocals, and does very well. "Alligator" is not much of a Blues song, which is surprising. Mainly because Pigpen is known for singing mostly Blues songs. The song is an obvious combination of live and recorded tracks. The first sign is when Pigpen yells "Come on everybody and dance for a bit". From then on a percussion/drum solo starts off. Nothing too technical, but the solo none the less satisfies me. This fourth track is also the longest on the whole album. Running at a very long eleven minutes and twenty seconds. Overall, I must say the song is very good. 5/5
Caution (Do Not Stop On the Tracks)
The conclusion of Anthem of the Sun starts off live. Pigpen takes lead vocals, and his voice gives off an obvious sign of the song being live. Billy and Mickey together have a very odd beat. Their playing only differs by Billy playing ghosts notes on the snare and ride, while Mickey does the same, but only on the snare. The song is a Blues number, and is mainly rhythmic. I can't be too sure, but I wouldn't be surprised if Pigpen improvised many of the lyrics and skat on "Caution (Do Not Stop On The Tracks)". The track at times is mighty boring in my opinion. I also believe it contains many different live performances mixed, opposed to just one. Other than various sounds effects and a few different solos, there is not much more to it. Not that great. 2.2/5
Well, I personally think this is an okay album after going over it another time. But I also believe it is over hyped. And that there are many better albums from this fabulous band. I can't decide whether to give it rating around 2.5 or 3 though. :(
Jerry Garcia - Lead Guitar
Bob Weir - Rhythm Guitar
Phil Lesh - Bass
Ron "Pigpen" McKernan - Organ
Mickey Hart - Drums
Billy Kreutzmann - Drums
Tom Constanten - Piano