Grateful Dead surprise releases 64 unheard tracks

Workingman’s Dead: The Angel’s Share features never before heard recordings

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.

Workingman’s Dead: The Angel’s Share is available to stream now, just a few weeks removed from the 50th anniversary of the album’s original release date: June 14, 1970.

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 Workingman’s Dead 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 outtakes would have been lost to the angels as well, just like those gallons of whiskey. In this case, everyone gets to share a taste of the “angel’s share.”

There are few overdubs on these recordings, resulting in a stripped-back sound that puts the focus on the core of each song. That’s especially true of the various instrumental takes included in the collection. For example, the lack of vocals only serves to intensify the aching beauty of “High Time” and the joyful rush of “Uncle John’s Band.”

Nearly every song the band recorded for Workingman’s Dead had been fine-tuned on stage during the summer and fall tours of 1969. One exception is “New Speedway Boogie,” which had only been performed live three times before the album was recorded. On The Angel’s Share, you can hear the song settle into a steady groove over several takes amassing nearly 30 minutes, as Garcia at one point jokingly appeals to his bandmates, “Keep it nice and f***ing together, you f***ers.”

Most songs on The Angel’s Share include at least one outtake with vocals. In the case of “Easy Wind” there are several versions that feature Pigpen prowling and howling his way through this stomping blues number. At the end of one particularly ripping take, you can hear him say, “I wants to listen to that one.” The complete outtake for “Casey Jones” that closes out the collection provides another highlight. After running through the song a couple of times without vocals, the band uncorks a blazing take that has Garcia exclaiming off-mic at the end, “F***ing A, man!”

The Angel’s Share serves as a special gift to the Dead fans and pairs nicely with the 50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition of Workingman’s Dead that is set for release on July 10th as a 3 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 February 21, 1971 at the Capitol Theatre.

“Uncle John’s Band” (Session) – total playing time 10:15

1. False Start 1 (Not Slated)
2. Breakdown (Not Slated)
3. False Start 2 (Not Slated)
4. Complete Track (Not Slated)
5. Take 6 Breakdown (Slated)
6. Take 7 Breakdown (Slated)

“High Time” (Session) – total playing time 16:00

7. Breakdown 1 (Not Slated)
8. Breakdown 2 (Not Slated)
9. Take 3 Breakdown (Slated)
10. Complete Track 1 (Not Slated)
11. Studio Chatter
12. Complete Track 2 (Not Slated)
13. Take 6 Breakdown (Slated)
14. Take 7 Breakdown (Slated)

“Dire Wolf” (Session) – total playing time 26:54

15. Breakdown 1 (Not Slated)
16. Complete Track 1 (Not Slated)
17. Complete Track 2 (Not Slated)
18. Take 2 Breakdown (Slated)
19. Take 3 False Start & Breakdown (Slated)
20. Breakdown 2 (Not Slated)
21. Take 6 Breakdown (Slated)
22. Breakdown 3 (Not Slated)
23. False Starts 1 (Not Slated)
24. Breakdown 4 (Not Slated)
25. False Starts 2 (Not Slated)
26. Complete Track 3 (Not Slated)
27. Complete Track With Vocals (Not Slated)
28. False Start 3 (Not Slated)

“New Speedway Boogie” (Session) – total playing time 29:12

29. Demo With Acoustic Guitar, Drums & Vocals (Not Slated)
30. Complete Track With Vocals 1 (Not Slated)
31. Take 2 Breakdown With Vocals (Slated)
32. Take 3 Breakdown With Vocals (Slated)
33. Mis-named As Take 3 False Start With Vocals (Slated)
34. Take 4 Complete With Vocals & Lead Guitar (Slated)
35. Arranging Take With Vocals (Not Slated)
36. Breakdown With Vocals 1 (Not Slated)
37. Breakdown With Vocals 2 (Not Slated)
38. Complete Track With Vocals 2 (Not Slated)
39. Take 8 Complete With Vocals (Slated)

“Cumberland Blues” (Session) – total playing time 3:26

40. Various Breakdowns & Take 9 (Slated)

“Black Peter” (Session) – total playing time 20:17

41. Breakdown 1 (Not Slated)
42. Breakdown 2 (Not Slated)
43. Studio Chatter
44. Breakdown 3 (Not Slated)
45. Breakdown 4 (Not Slated)
46. Complete Track With Vocals (Not Slated)

“Easy Wind” (Session) – total playing time 35:29

47. Complete Track With Vocals 1 (Not Slated)
48. Breakdown With Vocals 1 (Not Slated)
49. Breakdown With Vocals 2 (Not Slated)
50. Breakdown With Vocals 3 (Not Slated)
51. Breakdown With Vocals 4 (Not Slated)
52. Complete Track With Vocals 2 (Not Slated)
53. False Starts & Breakdowns With Vocals (Not Slated)
54. Incomplete Track With Vocals (Not Slated)
55. Take 17 With Vocals (Slated)
56. Take 18 Breakdown With Vocals (Slated)
57. Take 19 Breakdown With Vocals (Slated)
58. Take 20 With Vocals (Slated)
59. Take 21 False Start With Vocals (Slated)
60. Take 22 Breakdown With Vocals (Slated)
61. Take 23 Breakdown With Vocals (Slated)

“Casey Jones” (Session) – total playing time 10:37

62. Breakdown 1 (Not Slated)
63. Breakdown 2 (Not Slated)
64. Complete Track With Vocals (Not Slated)

Author: Buddy Iahn

Buddy Iahn founded The Music Universe when he decided to juxtapose his love of web design and music. As a lifelong drummer, he decided to take a hiatus from playing music to report it. The website began as a fun project in 2013 to one of the top independent news sites.