What does it sound like?:
Originally titled Earthquake Country, the Dead’s palindromic third album, originally released in 1969, is next in line for the 50th anniversary treatment, arriving as a two cd set. The band, now featuring Tom Constanten on piano, produced one of their most experimental sets as they came to terms with the hot new 16 track technology the studio had to offer. This proved to be both a blessing and a curse as some pieces work very well, while others suffer from extreme self indulgence. When it works, such as on songs like Cosmic Charlie, it’s great, but when it doesn’t, as on the infinitely forgettable What’s Become of the Baby, it’s tiresome in the extreme. Garcia sings lead on most of the songs and, as his collaboration with Robert Hunter really began to bear fruit, it’s interesting to witness the burgeoning emergence of acoustic material such as Mountains of the Moon and Dupree’s Diamond Blues, which point to the direction they would follow so successfully on the two subsequent albums. The first cd contains the original 1969 mix, apparently appearing on cd for the first time, plus the more familiar 1971 mix. There are actually some significant differences between the two, and it’s good to hear the ’69 version cleaned up sonically. It certainly sounds more experimental than the ’71 mix, which somehow lost a little of of that difficult to quantify essence along the way. The second cd has unreleased live material, also from 1969. This has quite a similar feel to the Live Dead album, which was recorded shortly afterwards, without, to my ears, being quite as good as that excellent set.
What does it all *mean*?
This isn’t one of my favourite Dead albums, although perversely it does include two of my favourite songs of theirs, St Stephen and China Cat Sunflower. It is very much of its time, but well worth another listen though.
Goes well with…
Patchouli, acid. (Does the band’s logo really look as though it spells ‘we ate the acid’ if viewed in a certain way? I’ll let you be the judge…..)
Might suit people who like…