The Grateful Dead were uncharacteristically well-rehearsed when they entered the studio to record 1974’s From the Mars Hotel, if the Angel’s Share is any indication. 

The digital-only collection follows similar treatments of Workingman’s Dead, American Beauty and Wake of the Flood. But at 90 minutes and 16 tracks – six devoted to Phil Lesh’s “Pride of Cucamonga” (two, sans John McFee’s all-important pedal steel) and “Unbroken Chain” (four, three of which appeared on Wake’s Angel’s Share) – this edition is shorter than its predecessors by an hour and easier to digest. 

It kicks off with nimble instrumental runs through “Scarlet Begonias” that feature exquisite, perfectly mixed sound. The alternate vocal mix, meanwhile, contains a wobbly percussive element that pie-eyed listeners will eat up. 

The gorgeous acoustic mix of “China Doll” previews 1980 and Reckoning by more than a half-decade, while the wordless “Ship of Fools (Take 7)” foreshadows “Standing on the Moon” by a decade-and-a-half. 

For their parts, “Loose Lucy” appears in yet another iteration, and an alternate mix of “Money Money” confirms nothing can salvage that hot mess of a song. 

“Wave that Flag” has fully morphed into “U.S. Blues” by the time the band gets to Take 8 after music-only takes 1, 2 and 4 while the alternate mix of “Unbroken Chain” is very similar to the album version. 

The keepers of the Dead vault are to be commended for keeping this Share concise and sharply focused on Bill Kreutzmann one-man drumming, Keith Godchaux’s still-wildly inventive piano playing and strong ensemble playing and singing from guitarists Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir, bassist Lesh and vocalist Donna Jean Godchaux. From the Mars Hotel thus received the strongest Angel’s Share treatment to date.