On their debut, they sound like a hippie version of the English R&B explosion. To paraphrase a former newt, they got better.
Kronomyth 1.0: The dawn of the dead.
Half-baked and occasionally brilliant, the maiden voyage of the Dead consisted of cut-up, sped-up and screwed-up songs which have since gone on to broader fame (“New, New Minglewood Blues,” “Cold Rain And Snow”) or infamy (“Cream Puff War,” “The Golden Road”). A good half of these songs have since been played more than one hundred times on stage, but none of the versions recorded here could be called definitive. This is the Dead in the dawning of full consciousness, posable figures with discardable nicknames who were mistakenly molded into pop stars by a label (Warner Bros.) eager to launch the next Jefferson Airplane.
The Dead playing two-minute songs is obviously unsatisfying, even if they sound pretty good (and they do). The five-minute “Morning Dew,” six-minute “Good Morning Little School Girl” and ten-minute “Viola Lee Blues” make plain that the Dead are best served long and live. (A 23-minute “Viola Lee Blues,” recorded live in the fall of 1967 and appended to the 21st century remaster, is the stuff of legend.)
It’s a long way between here and the Oz of American Beauty, but the Dead were clearly headed down the right road. The band would grow more confident with time, their lyrical acuity grow sharper with the eyes of Robert Hunter, their interplay more intricate. Their music would be refined in the crucible of time and explore deeper mysteries with more profundity. It would not, however, depart from the path marked here, which sets into motion one of the greatest musical quests of the 20th century. Enjoy the trip.
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Original LP Version
A1. The Golden Road (To Unlimited Devotion) (Jerry Garcia/Bill Kreutzmann/Phil Lesh/Ron McKernan/Bob Weir) (2:07)
A2. Beat It On Down The Line (Jesse Fuller) (2:27)
A3. Good Morning Little School Girl (full-length version) (Sonny Boy Williamson) (5:56)
A4. Cold Rain And Snow (Jerry Garcia/Bill Kreutzmann/Phil Lesh/Ron McKernan/Bob Weir) (2:25)
A5. Sitting On Top of The World (full-length version) (Walter Jacobs/Lonnie Carter) (2:01)
A6. Cream Puff War (full-length version) (Jerry Garcia) (2:25)
B1. Morning Dew (full-length version) (Bonnie Dobson/Tim Rose) (5:00)
B2. New, New Minglewood Blues (full-length version) (Traditional, arr. by Jerry Garcia/Bill Kreutzmann/Phil Lesh/Ron McKernan/Bob Weir) (2:31)
B3. Viola Lee Blues (Noah Lewis) (10:01)
Expanded CD track listing
1. The Golden Road (To Unlimited Devotion) (Jerry Garcia/Bill Kreutzmann/Phil Lesh/Ron McKernan/Bob Weir) 2:09
2. Beat It On Down The Line (Jesse Fuller) 2:29
3. Good Morning Little School Girl (full-length version) (Sonny Boy Williamson) 6:32
4. Cold Rain And Snow (Jerry Garcia/Bill Kreutzmann/Phil Lesh/Ron McKernan/Bob Weir) 2:26
5. Sitting On Top of The World (full-length version) (Walter Jacobs/Lonnie Carter) 2:43
6. Cream Puff War (full-length version) (Jerry Garcia) 3:18
7. Morning Dew (full-length version) (Bonnie Dobson/Tim Rose) 5:16
8. New, New Minglewood Blues (full-length version) (Traditional, arr. by Jerry Garcia/Bill Kreutzmann/Phil Lesh/Ron McKernan/Bob Weir) 2:40
9. Viola Lee Blues (Noah Lewis) 10:09
10. Alice D. Millionaire (Jerry Garcia/Bill Kreutzmann/Phil Lesh/Ron McKernan/Bob Weir) 2:22
11. Overseas Stomp (The Lindy) (Jab Jones/Will Shade) 2:24
12. Tastebud (Ron McKernan) 4:18
13. Death Don’t Have No Mercy (Gary Davis) 5:20
14. Viola Lee Blues (edited version) (Noah Lewis) 3:00
15. Viola Lee Blues (live at Dance Hall) (Noah Lewis) 23:13
Arranged by Grateful Dead
Jerry (“Captain Trips”) Garcia (guitar, vocals), Bill The Drummer (Kreutzmann) (drums), Phil Lesh (bass, vocals), Pigen (Ron McKernan) (keyboards, harmonica, vocals), Bob Weir (guitar, vocals). Produced by Dave Hassinger; engineered by Dick Bogert.
Did You Know?
- The unreadable lettering at the top of the album cover had originally read “In the land of the dark, the ship of the sun is driven by the Grateful Dead” before the band asked that it be changed.
- The bonus track, “Alice D. Millionaire,” was written for Owlsey Stanley, who had been referred to as an LSD millionaire in a newspaper article.
- “At that time we had no real record consciousness. We were completely naïve about it. . . . so we went down there and, what was it we had? Dexamyl? Some sort of diet watcher’s speed, and pot and stuff like that. So in three nights we played some hyperactive music. That’s what’s embarrassing about that record now: the tempo was way too fast.” – Jerry Garcia, recalling the recording sessions for their first album, as reported in Garcia: An American Life by Blair Jackson.
Released on mono and stereo elpee on March 17, 1967 in the US (Warner Bros., W/WS 1689) and in December 1967 in the UK (Warner Bros.); reached #73 on the US charts. Album cover design by Mouse Studios; collage by Kelley, cover photo by Herb Greene; liner photo by Gene Anthony.
- Re-issued on elpee in the US (Warner Bros., WS 1689 on Burbank label).
- Repackaged with Anthem of the Sun on 2-for-1 2LP in 1976 (Warner Bros., 66040).
- Re-issued on compact disc in 1987 in the US (Warner Bros., 1689).
- Re-released on expanded compact disc on February 25, 2003 in the US (Rhino, R2 74401) with restored full-length versions and 6 bonus tracks.