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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".
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 .
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 .
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
Comme pour les albums suivants, on a droit à une belle édition pour le 50e anniversaire de cet album central du Dead: c'est presque la quintessence de la musique psychédélique ici. Dès la pochette, fascinante, on est embarqué avec ce groupe hors-norme pour qui le son collectif prime sur les individualités, même si Jerry Garcia est sans doute un guitariste très sous-estimé. C'est le 3e album du groupe en 1969 mais le 1er où il peut utiliser une console avec 16 pistes d'enregistrement et le groupe se laissera un peu griser par les possibilités extrêmement larges que leur permet cette technologie nouvelle. Le résultat des sessions de 1969 nous montre donc un groupe qui peut se disperser. Pas totalement convaincu par ce mix d'origine, Garcia et Phil Lesh sont donc retournés en studio en 1971 pour réenregistrer des passages entiers de morceaux et pour en supprimer d'autres. L'album qu'on possédait en CD mélangeait les 2 mixes. L'intérêt du 1er CD est de nous faire entendre les 2 mixes à la suite (1969 et 1971) et c'est vrai que la version 71 est meilleure: plus claire, plus efficace, plus puissante, les musiciens ont eu raison. C'est aussi le 1er album où Robert Hunter écrit les paroles des chansons. L'album est donc une réussite, commençant fort avec St Stephen mais Doin' that rag, Cosmic Charlie sont aussi devenus des classiques. En plus, un 2e CD a été ajouté à cette édition anniversaire, enregistré à l'Avalon Ballroom de San Francisco en janvier 1969 (là aussi sur un 16 pistes, "The first live concerts in music history to be recorded to 16-track tape" nous dit le sticker du CD. On est en plein son psychédélique californien, ce que pas mal d'autres groupes allaient chercher à imiter, sans la même réussite (ni le talent) du Dead. Les fans doivent posséder cette édition. Les néophytes, eux, peuvent écouter d'abord la superbe version anniversaire de Workingman's dead, peut-être plus accessible et immédiat pour découvrir ce groupe unique.
I must confess that this album wasn't love at first listen. My initial feelings were of general disappointment, followed by a month's abstinence before giving it another go. Beginning with the classic track 'St. Stephen' (with the fabulous 'Live/Dead' track remaining the definitive version IMO) the rest of the album began to grow on me. The first stage of my conversion to this weird and delightfully trippy, mostly acoustic collection of psychedelic folk/blues flavoured tracks came through the mellow charm of 'Rosemary' with it's shimmering vocals.
When I first heard 'Doin' That Rag', for some reason it sounded a little awkward to me, but now it's one of my favourite tracks. 'Dupree's Diamond Blues' has me singing along every time, while 'What's Become of The Baby' has to be one of the weirdest pieces of music I've ever heard, and does feel out of place alongside the rest of the album. The echoing cloistered vocals of Jerry Garcia accompanied by eerie sound effects give this track a distinctly spooky feel, the track certainly divides opinion but I personally enjoy it. Following this we have the singalong qualities of 'Cosmic Charlie' which brings some uplifting light relief after the previous track (along with 'China Cat Sunflower' the two tracks are probably the most commercial sounding songs on the album). Possibly my favourite track is 'Mountains of The Moon' - replete with harpsichord, this medieval enchantment evokes images of some wandering minstrel charming an attentive audience.
To double your listening pleasure the album includes 4 bonus tracks, which includes 3 pukka jams - 'Clementine', 'Nobody's Spoonful', and 'The Eleven' (fittingly as it didn't make the original album), and the final offering is a live version of 'Cosmic Charlie'. The Amazon star ratings ask the question: 'do I love this album' - and I must be honest and say that I do. But I can appreciate that it won't be everybody's cup of tea, but I would advise sticking with it. It certainly cast a spell over me after a shaky start.
Sicuramente un album importante, molto affascinante, a partire da titolo e copertina. Resta che il meglio di quanto io abbia ascoltato dei Greatful Dead sia di gran lunga il Live Dead. Se , a mio modesto parere St. Stephen , Dupree's Diamond Blues, Rosemary , Doin' That Rag , China Cat Sunflower sono ancora pezzi vivi e vegeti ed evocano non solo quanto di buono fatto da Garcia &Co, ma anche i colori ed il clima del periodo, le restanti tracce le trovo datate. E per datate intendo che trovano il loro posto là, quando furono scritti, perdendo invece forza oggi.