Grateful Dead: Wake Of the Flood: The Angel’s Share (Rhino Entertainment) – Album Review
Reviewed by Harry Kaplan
I’ve been listening to this nonstop since its release on August 18, 2023 and it is literally a time machine journey 50 years back. This isn’t for the casual Dead listener, I don’t think this would be a good collection starter. But, for the Deadhead that has everything, this is perfect. You really get to see the curtain peeled back and hear the interaction between the band members. That really is priceless to hear Phil, Jerry, and Bobby in their natural environment just being themselves.
There were three myths that were dispelled by this collection. And be clear, these were largely created and communicated by the band themselves. I’ve heard them state all of the following through the years.
Myth #1 – The Grateful Dead was leaderless. That may have been true for the business and operations side of things, but as far as musically, Jerry was the clear leader. After listening to the entire two and a half hour ensemble (not all in one sitting), everyone pretty much takes musical direction from Jerry. He was the band leader, the maestro.
Myth #2 – The Grateful Dead didn’t make good studio albums. That may have been true early on, but they were learning and maturing as an entity. By 1970 when American Beauty and Workingman’s Dead were released, they were making great albums. Albums that have stood the test of time and may sound better today than they did 50 years ago. What is true is that they didn’t sell well, but there isn’t always a one to one relationship between great albums and great sales numbers.
Myth #3 – The Grateful Dead weren’t disciplined musicians. That may be true in concert to a certain extent, but in this studio setting, they seem pretty disciplined to me. They don’t sound like they are under the influence of drugs or alcohol, at least not enough to affect their performance. They seem focused and goal oriented. There is also a few times that Jerry would call something out that I am astounded that he would be able to hear something not even apparent to a non musician. During some of the takes, Jerry can be heard saying’ “You’re rushing”. This is not something an undisciplined musician would say.
During one of the takes for Eyes of the World, Jerry proclaims, “It’s not an E major 7th on that last E”. Are you kidding me? Don’t let the beards, long hair, and shabby outfits fool you, there guys were serious practitioners of their craft. They knew what they were doing and they were always striving to get better and grow as musicians.
Another captivating aspect of this release is the incredible level of camaraderie displayed by the band members. It was evident that they shared a deep connection and a mutual understanding of their musical vision. Collaborating together, they effortlessly brought the songs to life, infusing each track with their unique personalities and creative prowess. The pre-production phase of Wake Of the Flood played a crucial role in shaping the final outcome of the album. The band road-tested many of the songs long before entering the studio. This allowed them to refine their compositions, gauge audience reactions, and make necessary adjustments to ensure the utmost quality and appeal.
The studio sessions themselves were a testament to their passion and dedication. While the musicians approached their jobs with a high level of professionalism, there was also a tangible sense of joy and spontaneity present in the room. Laughter echoed through the studio as they cracked jokes and bantered between takes, forging an uplifting and vibrant atmosphere that undoubtedly influenced the overall energy of the music.
I’ve read other reviews of Wake Of The Flood and most of the reviews were very lukewarm, at best. I’m astounded by that. The album versions aren’t as good as seeing these songs performed live, I get it. But, the song list is impressive and most of these songs were on the band’s playlist from 1973 on. Songs such as Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo, Row Jimmy, Stella Blue, Eyes Of The World, and Let It Grow (Part of Weather Report Suite) were played and never went dark up until the end.
In summary, Wake Of the Flood not only showcases the band’s musical talent and artistic growth but also serves as a testament to the camaraderie and sheer enjoyment they experienced throughout the recording process. With their infectious enthusiasm and meticulous attention to detail, the band crafted an album that continues to captivate listeners and stands as a testament to their enduring legacy.
Listen to the entire collection here