The Grateful Dead have released Workingman’s Dead: The Angel’s Share, a collection of candid studio outtakes from the recording of their seminal 1970 Americana album.
While the Dead are known for leaving few stones unturned in terms of live audio, studio remastering, and all of the other content that diehard fans obsess over, little has been released in the way of the Dead’s interpersonal communication within the studio. Sure, fans can find live mixes of classic concerts that feature the band members speaking to each other with in-ear monitors. But The Angel’s Share shows the band isolated together, during a time when they were still far greater friends than business partners.
The 64-track record features numerous takes on the classics “Uncle John’s Band”, “High Time”, “Dire Wolf”, “New Speedway Boogie”, “Black Peter”, “Easy Wind”, “Casey Jones”, and oddly only one outtake for “Cumberland Blues”.
“The complete takes show the development,” Dead archivist David Lemieux said of The Angel’s Share. “The Dead had been playing these songs for so long, in some cases nine months, so they had them down. But this is where the nuances developed.”
With plenty of isolated instrumental takes on the album’s classic songs, The Angel’s Share could prove to be an invaluable tool for any musician looking to master the studio arrangements. But the real trove of The Angel’s Share is the bandmates talking to one another, in particular the stern taskmaster that still was Jerry Garcia. While Capitol Records President Joe Smith may recall the Dead has having a very lax attitude toward amassing hundreds of hours of studio time and racking up bills on the company’s dime, this collection of outtakes shows the band as still being diligent and driven in their work, if anything to a fault. “We have nothing to lose but our lives,” Garcia says before another doomed take on “Uncle John’s Band”.
“Keep it nice and keep it f*cking together, you f*ckers,” the hippie king Garcia is heard saying on an outtake for “New Speedway Boogie”. In these recordings, Garcia is still clearly driving the ship for the entire band as he coordinates vocal harmonies and even directs percussive sections like on “Uncle John’s Band (Breakdown) – Not Slated”.
For all of the non-believers who ask “are they still playing the same song” when you throw on a live Dead concert, The Angel’s Share is the best way to make them lose their minds. For diehard Deadheads, its a window into an innocent time for the band when they were still figuring out the extent of their power and talent.
Grateful Dead – Workingman’s Dead: The Angel’s Share – Full Album
[H/T Rolling Stone]