Taken together, Wake of the Flood: The Angel’s Share and 50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition paint a vivid picture of what was happening in Grateful Dead Land in 1973.
The latter, released Oct. 15, is the standard reissue, outfitted with a shiny remaster, two Jerry Garcia solo demos and six cuts recorded live at Northwestern University on Nov. 1 of the year in question. Together, they present the new-look, post-Pigpen-and-Mickey Hart band – with Keith and Donna Jean Godchaux on board for their first studio appearance with the Gratefuls.
Garcia’s demos of “Eyes of the World” and “Here Comes Sunshine” are particularly illuminating, as they show the guitarist to be proficient on many instruments and find him setting Robert Hunter’s lyrics into the musical molds that would define them. The live tracks, including non-Wake cuts “Morning Dew,” “Playing in the Band” and “Uncle John’s Band,” showcase the group struggling at the mic and excelling on their respective instruments.
The streaming-only Angel’s Share, out since Aug. 18, is a collection of studio outtakes with multiple attempts at all of the album’s now-classic songs – including early versions of “China Doll” as “Pistol Shot” and “Weather Report Suite” as “I am the Rain” – save for “Row Jimmy,” which appears only once. Most revelatory are Keith Godchaux’s lone co-write and lead vocal in the form of “Let Me Sing Your Blues Away,” which builds from scratch and features Martin Fierro on saxophone, and “Phil’s Song.”
This would become “Unbroken Chain” and was ultimately held for From the Mars Hotel, as the band struggled to get the arrangement down and demonstrated why it wasn’t played live until 1995.
“It turns around,” Lesh tells his bandmates. “I’m telling you, it turns around so that what was the offbeat is now the one.”
For his part, Garcia was annoyed and complained the track was too much work to be enjoyable.
“It’s not supposed to be fun, it’s supposed to be right,” an exasperated Lesh tells the guitarist.
And now, 50 years later, it’s a moment to remember and smile, smile, smile at whomever kept the tape rolling during this internecine spat.