The Grateful Dead - Grateful Dead 50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition album review
The beginning of the trip
While their vast archive of live material has been painstakingly exhumed, the Grateful Dead’s studio albums have been available in remastered form only on box sets. Now they’re being reissued with contemporary but unreleased bonus material.
The band’s debut from 1967 remains a wondrous thing and puts to bed the notion that the Dead spent their entire career in extended jam mode. Recorded in roughly four days at RCA’s Los Angeles studio and, briefly, at San Francisco’s Coast with producer David Hassinger, it caught the group playing a super-fast selection of acid blues, ballroom surf and garage rock. The full-tilt style was down to the fact that the Dead were consuming Dexamyl (diet-watchers’ amphetamine), lending their performances an edgy excitement that is on a par with anything recorded in California in 1967. The Golden Road (To Unlimited Devotion), Cold Rain And Snow and New, New Minglewood Blues were freshly minted originals, though credited to the pseudonymous McGannahan Skjellyfetti. Elsewhere Jesse Fuller’s Beat It On Down The Line and Sonny Boy Williamson’s Good Morning, Little School Girl, sung by 19-year old Bob Weir and Ron ‘Pigpen’ McKernan respectively, were thrashed out with breakneck abandon, while Jerry Garcia’s Cream Puff War flew past in 145 seconds of lysergic bliss.