REVIEW: Grateful Dead: Anthem for the Sun
Grateful Dead: Anthem for the Sun [reissue] [Warner 1968/Rhino 2003]
Three words? could’ve been classic
The Grateful Dead’s second album sees the band more confident and adventurous. Producing themselves, the Dead used their own live recordings as the basis of the songs, which they added to and embellished in the studio. The tragedy is that this beautiful and ingenious endeavor is executed by a band who had yet to master songwriting.
"Born Cross-Eyed" and "Alligator" play back to back, and are the album’s strongest, most fun moments. But the opening suite "That’s it for the Other One" is just a long snapshot of self-indulgent hippie wanking. And everything here is too long, with song structures totally abandoned for the sake of endless jamming.
The bonus materials don’t improve on any of it either, providing only live versions of Anthem songs, and one that is just 4 minutes of feedback (appropriately titled "Feedback").
Around the recording of American Beauty, it has been said that David Crosby taught the Dead to be better songwriters. Had Crosby’s services been available in 1968, Anthem for the Sun could have been an undisputed classic, rather than an unfortunate mistreatment of possible genius.