Wax Wonders: Grateful Dead – Anthem Of The Sun (1971 Remix)

A cornerstone of psychedelic music, 1968's Anthem Of The Sun has long been unfairly brushed off by critics and heads alike. While the group were unhappy with their studio debut (the garage-y, fun, tuneful and downright speedy The Grateful Dead, 1967), they pulled out all the stops for their second release, pushing the patience of both producers and their label along the way.

Not content with merely editing together the lp's individual songs into a seamless suite, the group managed to incorporate both studio and live performances into one seamless whole. It’s unclear upon listening what comes from where, and even though I’ve listened to the album hundreds of times, I’m often struck by how it consistently gives the impression of pleasant disorientation, coupled with a general ‘what the fuck is going on here?’ sensation.

Early on in the sessions, producer Dave Hassinger quit the project, frustrated and disgusted. Hassinger had notably produced The Rolling Stones and The Electric Prunes; in fact, it was his work with The Stones that spurred the Dead to hire him to man the mixing board. Regarding the initial Anthem studio sessions, which found the Dead cross-country from their San Francisco in New York City, Hassinger was quoted as saying:

“I gave up in New York. We’d been working for a long time on that second album, and they had put down some new tracks in New York, and nobody could sing them, and at that point they were experimenting too much in my opinion. They didn’t know what the hell they were looking for…they were going from one end of the spectrum to the other… It was like pulling teeth, until finally I couldn’t take it anymore.”

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