NOTE: REVIEW SPECIFICALLY APPLIES TO 2019 50TH ANNIVERSARY REISSUE
Anniversary reissues are all too often an excuse to get people to buy music they've already purchased several times by means of a perfunctory, if audible at all, remastering, or by chucking in some deservedly unreleased out-takes or live tracks.
This one's different, because the first of the two discs includes both the original 1969 mix of the album and the 1971 remix. The '69 mix has been pretty much unavailable since the '71 set came out, so it's likely that most folks who know "Aoxomoxoa" are only familiar with the later version. Now the '69 version is back in circulation, it's an absolute revelation.
The two mixes are very different. In contrast to the familiar version, the 1969 mix is murkier (but in a good, mysterious way), softer, and full of weird details and strange auditory textures, while the 1971 mix is sharper and more focused. The 1969 version, in other words, is much more psychedelic, and emerges as the most psychedelic album in the whole of the Dead's catalogue, making "Anthem of the Sun" sound quite straight-ahead. Or to put it another way, the '69 mix sounds like the work of a band whose drug of choice is acid while the '71 mix sounds like the work of a band who prefer harder drugs. Anyone with an interest in the earliest years of the Dead's career or the furthest shores of psychedelia in general really needs to hear this.
That said, "Aoxomoxoa" in either incarnation is far from easy listening and a lot of folk, even fans of the later, more accessible studio albums like "American Beauty" and "Workingman's Dead", can't get on with it at all. Even if you like full-on psychedelia, this album asks for a bit of effort from the listener. It pays off, but if you prefer your music a bit more approachable and accommodating, this probably isn't the album for you.
The second disc consists of live recordings from January 1969, captured at San Francisco's Avalon Ballroom. The sound quality isn't great and the vocals are frequently wretched (even by the Dead's usually low vocal standards), but when the band kicks into interstellar improvisatory mode, they make a magnificent racket, with Garcia on particularly inventive form and Lesh providing absolutely colossal contributions on bass. "What's that AWFUL noise?" asked my wife, wandering into the room during "Feedback". What more needs to be said?
The package is completed with an attractive digipack and an informative if slightly fawning booklet, completing another excellent job of work from Rhino Records, of whose exemplary, 40-year heritage of reissues as Sgt, Bilko used to say, "In France, they'd build you a statue".
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Audio CD, Audiobook, CD, 25 October 1990
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- Is Discontinued By Manufacturer : No
- Product Dimensions : 12.8 x 14.2 x 0.99 cm; 94.12 Grams
- Manufacturer : Warner Bros Uk
- Manufacturer reference : MFR075992717823#VG
- Original Release Date : 1990
- Run time : 38 minutes
- SPARS Code : DDD
- Label : Warner Bros Uk
- ASIN : B000002KAX
- Country of origin : USA
- Number of discs : 1
- Best Sellers Rank: 36,700 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)
- Customer Reviews:
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4.6 out of 5
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A happy anniversaryReviewed in the United Kingdom on 10 June 2019
19 people found this helpful
great but flawedReviewed in the United Kingdom on 27 March 2014
This is a mostly great album but the flow is spoiled a bit by the eight minute long dirge which is" whats become of the baby" ,which i feel you would need to be in a particular state of mind to enjoy .It was made a long time ago but even then the band must have had some interesting material which would have made the album as a whole much more satisfying (as it is , i have to hit the skip button when i get to that track , which takes up a large portion of this short album .) apart from that though the rest of it is really nice and is more energetic than most of their later material ,including st .stephen and china cat sunflower , two classic dead tunes , which together with cosmic charlie make this well worth hearing .
11 people found this helpful
Missing 3D slip caseReviewed in the United Kingdom on 10 June 2019
Should this 50th Anniversary release have a lenticular 3D slip case like the Anthem Of The Sun release had last year?
4 people found this helpful
This album and the live one that followed are, ...Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 27 October 2016
This album and the live one that followed are , for me the high point of the Dead's long career . The line-up styles would change , but this is where they made their mark . Still enormously listenable .
One person found this helpful
Early Dead-but still very good.....Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 12 February 2014
This is early Dead but still an essential stepping stone to the more polished material of their later masterworks like American Beauty and Workingmans Dead. Not recommended as an introduction to this great band but still a very fine collection of songs
5 people found this helpful