The Dead did not live by jamming alone. Beneath all that freewheeling drug-fuelled improvisation, there was a sold foundation of hard work and focus. The latter is what you’ll hear on the revelatory and mandatory new collection Workingman’s Dead: The Angel’s Share. Surprise-released earlier this week, the 152-minute digital release is essentially an audio documentary that chronicles the sessions for their 1970 classic Workingman’s Dead through 64 superb outtakes — including demos, false starts, working versions, instrumentals, breakdowns, alternate versions and plenty of between-song studio chatter. Much like the classic Stooges Funhouse box, The Angel’s Share allows you to eavesdrop and chart the psychedelic superheroes’ progress as they painstakingly and patiently craft, refine and polish soon-to-be classics like Uncle John’s Band, Dire Wolf, New Speedway Boogie and Casey Jones. Unlike the Stooges box, however, The Angel’s Share — complied from recently discovered tapes — doesn’t include every outtake, snippet and shred of music, which is a darn shame, if you ask me. After all, if anybody in this world wants to hear all 23 takes of Easy Wind instead of just the 15 included here, it’s a Deadhead. Or an obsessive music critic who has more than 500 Dead shows jammed into his external hard drive. Ahem.
THE PRESS RELEASE: “It’s remarkable how The Grateful Dead’s legendary recording archive still has the capacity to completely surprise after so many years, but it certainly does. As it turns out, there has been an ace hiding up its sleeve for 50 years, just waiting for the perfect moment to play it. Just in time for the 50th anniversary of Workingman’s Dead comes The Angel’s Share, a revelatory audio discovery of more than two-and-a-half hours of unreleased studio outtakes from the album’s recording sessions. Compiled from dozens of 16-track reels that were recently discovered in unlabeled boxes, the collection includes outtakes for every song on the album, which have been unheard since they left the studio over 50 years ago. Under the supervision of Grateful Dead legacy manager David Lemieux, engineer Brian Kehew and archivist Mike Johnson spent countless hours compiling and piecing these reels together to create the final opus. The intimate recordings on The Angel’s Share mystically transport listeners to Pacific High Recordings Studio in San Francisco during the album’s three-week-long sessions in February and March 1970. A mix of partial and complete takes, the in-studio performances are peppered with conversations that make it feel like you’re in the studio with the band: Jerry Garcia, Mickey Hart, Bill Kreutzmann, Phil Lesh, Ron “Pigpen” McKernan and Bob Weir. Like a fly-on-the-studio-wall, listeners can now get a view of the band’s process in the studio like never before. You can hear discussions of pacing and arrangements, “talkback” from the studio to the control room with the album’s producers, Bob Matthews and Betty Cantor-Jackson, and even the shuffling of feet on the studio floor.”