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Released: 1969

1) Saint Stephen 2) Dupree’s Diamond Blues 3) Rosemary 4) Doin’ That Rag  5) Mountains of the Moon  6) China Cat Sunflower  7) What’s Become of the Baby  8) Cosmic Charlie


Aoxomoxoa” displays the Dead at an uncertain stage.  Although they had been playing under the name of the Grateful Dead for 4 years by 1969, the songs on here are a little lacking—very well played and professional, but lacking all the same.  Almost every song suffers from being too long, and unless you are a major fan of the Dead, this album is basically unessential.


Not that “Aoxomoxoa” is entirely BAD.  In fact, many of the songs are pleasant and agreeable, just overlong.  Saint Stephen” actually gets the album off to an excellent start and is the album’s lone gem.  The change of pace in the middle section comes out of left field, but fits snuggly into the main atmosphere, and this song manages to keep the listener’s attention throughout with its harpsichords and background voice modulations.  It is probably the only song on the record that you’d wish would keep going.  And “China Cat Sunflower,” a concert favorite, is actually a very decent song.  It is fast paced with an amazingly happy bass.  It cooks and probably really got those hippies dancing.


“Dupree’s Diamond Blues” has a very weird vibe.  This tune is a poor man’s “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite.”  It is a circus song with strange lyrics, but the melody is both interesting and crazy, and for some reason I quite like it when I’m in the right mood.  Doin’ That Rag” is fast paced 60s music that groves in the right places, but at 5 minutes, is just too long.  This song demonstrates the biggest weakness of the album as a whole (and actually the band as a whole): most of the songs could have been much more enjoyable if they were shorter.  Mountains of the Moon,” particularly fits this overlong category.  A harpsichord slithers in and out of this intriguing acoustic song—well, it could have been intriguing if it stopped after three minutes, but the song just keeps poking along for an eternity and totally ruins whatever musical ground it broke with its sheer monotony.


“Rosemary” and especially “What’s Become of the Baby” are absolutely horrible.  The former at least has instruments and is relatively short (2 minutes that seem like 5).  It isn’t about anything at all and is slow.  Make that S-L-O-W.  The latter is disgusting.  It is just Jerry chanting in monk type style with a voice modulator.  No music and no…well no nothing.  It is possibly the worst “song” I have ever heard.  No Joke. 


“Cosmic Charlie” finishes the album, but is nothing spectacular.  Just an average, overlong Dead song marked by some good slide guitar playing.  If only the Dead took some of the lyrics of this song to heart, they might have saved this album: “Everything’s movin’ here but much too slowly, little bit quicker and we might have time.”  Coming after “What’s Become of the Baby” it sounds like Heaven though.  All and all, an average end to an uneven album.


The Dead would hone their songwriting much more on “Workingman’s Dead” and “American Beauty” the next year, where they would come up with well-crafted, easy listening country/folk songs.  So unless you are a wannabe Deadhead, save your money on “Aoxomoxoa” and buy these two studio albums instead.    


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