Review: Anthem of the Sun

The Grateful Dead are one of my favorite bands. I can’t help but to love the jams, outstanding instruments, beautiful vocals, lyrics, a dedicated fan base and spaciness of their many songs.

Their second album Anthem of the Sun was released in 1968 and it’s definitely not the most popular. It’s also not their best, but I have a special place on my iPod for this album. The main reasons being it is full of noise, jams and spaciness renowned for being in their live shows, but without the crowd cheering in the background. This is the first album to feature their most well known drummer Mickey Hart, as well as to feature Robert Hunter writing most of the songs lyrics. The spaciness and psychedelia of the album is probably because Tom Constanten had just joined the band. He is a minimalist composer heavily influenced by John Cage. The Dead use more instruments then they have before, including kazoos, crotales (medieval version of modern day cymbals), timpani, guiro (an obscure South American percussion instrument), trumpets, a harpsichord and used a gyroscope that was set spinning on a piano soundboard, all because of Tom Constanten.

Two popular songs are from this album, “New Potato Caboose” and “Alligator.” Besides these two tracks, everything is unknown except to your dedicated “deadhead.”

The tracks “That’s It For The Other One” and “Caution (Do Not Step On Tracks)” are so spacey, distorted, obscure and bizarre I wonder what had been messing with their minds during the recording. You go from quiet to loud in such a rapid pace, it almost startles you. You hear noises from trains, yells and God knows what else. It’s like a train ride with Jerry Garcia through a Jimi Hendrix show and then back to a quite jazz improvised ending.

“Born Cross-Eyed” on the album, is normal, but for The Grateful Dead it’s almost too normal. It sounds like a mix of Iron Butterfly and The Beatles and is only two minutes long – the shortest on the album and one of their shortest songs to date.

Rating: 8.6/10