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Albums Of The Week: The Grateful Dead | American Beauty: The Angel’s Share

The psychedelic warriors open the vaults for another behind-the-scenes box.

THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “The musical distillers that recently uncorked Workingman’s Dead: The Angel’s Share have finished another batch of unreleased session recordings by The Grateful Dead. This time, the heavenly sonic elixir will toast the 50th anniversary of American Beauty with over two hours of unreleased studio outtakes, demos, and alternate mixes.

American Beauty: The Angel’s Share brings together never-before-heard studio recordings compiled from dozens of recently discovered 16-track reels. It includes multiple outtakes for several album tracks along with demos for every song on the album (except Box Of Rain) plus one for To Lay Me Down, which was later included on Jerry Garcia’s first solo album, Garcia. Like its predecessor, the latest incarnation of The Angel’s Share was made possible by the tireless work of engineer Brian Kehew and archivist Mike Johnson who — operating under the supervision of Grateful Dead legacy manager David Lemieux — spent countless hours compiling and piecing the reels together to create this revelatory experience.

American Beauty: The Angel’s Share opens with 10 demos that were recorded in August 1970 at Pacific High Recording Studio, the same place the band recorded Workingman’s Dead just a few months earlier. While fans are accustomed to hearing songs evolve through the band’s live recordings, this installment of The Angel’s Share offers them a rare opportunity to hear songs like Ripple (then titled Hand Me Down) grow from its first demo into the final version.

The vast remainder of The Angel’s Share features a mix of partial and complete takes from these sessions including multiple takes of Friend Of The Devil, Ripple and Pigpen’s Operator, an alternate mix of Truckin’ and a different version of Candyman. These intimate in-studio performances are interspersed 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) along with producer Stephen Barncard and engineer Phil Sawyer. The Angel’s Share is rounded out with an acoustic mix of Box Of Rain and a version of Attics Of My Life that spotlights Garcia alone on electric guitar, both newly mixed from the band’s recording sessions for the album later that summer at Wally Heider Recording.

As a reminder, the collection takes its name from a term used by whiskey distillers. The “angel’s share” is the percentage of whiskey that’s lost to evaporation each year as the liquid is aged in oak barrels. Much like the whiskey distillation process, there were also ingredients that were vital to the creation of American Beauty that were lost and did not end up on the final album, the band’s own version of the “angel’s share”. If not for good fortune, these recordings would have been lost to the angels as well, just like those gallons of whiskey. In this case, everyone gets a taste of the “angel’s share.”

American Beauty: The Angel’s Share is a special gift to Dead fans and a fitting companion to the 50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition of American Beauty, which will be released on Oct. 30 as a three-CD set and digitally. The collection is part of the band’s ongoing series of deluxe editions and features a newly remastered version of the album plus an unreleased show recorded on Febr. 18, 1971 at the Capitol Theatre.”

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