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Wake of the Flood
The Grateful Dead

Grateful Dead GD-01
Released: October 1973
Chart Peak: #18
Weeks Charted: 19

The music on Wake of the Flood is ample, full and carefully rendered. The album boasts nearly 25 minutes of it per side, the recorded sound is crisp and the finished product bears the marks of care in craftsmanship. The band, remarkably, has even trascended a certain studio thinness that characterized such prior efforts as American Beauty and Workingman's Dead.

The new songs, mostly by Hunter-Garcia, cover an eclectic range of styles, from tripping good-timey tag rhyme ("Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo"), to hot pseudo-Jr. Walker syncopatin' ("Let Me Sing Your Blues Away"), to Pollyanna, Beatley vibrations ("Here Comes Sunshine"), to modishly scalloped R&B geetar ("Eyes of the World"). Happily, Jerry Garcia's pedal steel playing has improved; and his mercurial leads can occasionally be darting, dapper and decorative (as on "Eyes").

The Grateful Dead - Wake of the Flood
Original album advertising art.
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But despite an impressive stylistic smorgasbord, slick overdubbed production and the best intentions in the world, to my ears this band still sounds sick, usually woozy, and often afflicted with perpetual head cold, twinges of sinus trouble, you name it. The poor bastards can still barely sing.

And that's not all! The lyrics on much of Flood plumb new depths of dull-witted, inbred, blissed-out hippy-dippyness. "Wake up to find that you are the eyes of the world/Your heart has its beaches, its homeland and thoughts of its own/Wake now, discover that you are the song that the morning brings/The heart has its seasons, its evenings, and songs of its own." Jonathan Seagull would blush.

Those who admire the Dead already will surely find this new album eminently admirable, also. In many ways, it's one of their most finely-wrought efforts. Thus, Flood will hardly subtract from the Dead's hard-won popularity, let alone their chartered countercultural niche. Besides, in this dark age of rampant waste, who can knock modest, wholesome craft? Even if it does come from a bunch of professional amateurs.

- Jim Miller, Rolling Stone, 1/3/74.

Bonus Reviews!

The Grateful Dead's debut on their own new independent label is a smoothly versatile outing combining the classic Frisco group's range of interests -- from blues to country and galactic rock -- into one of their most attractively commercial packages.

- Billboard, 1974.

Capturing that ruminative, seemingly aimless part of the concert when the boogiers nod out, which doesn't mean nothing is going on -- what do the boogiers know by know? Musically, this a deceptively demanding combination of American Beauty and Aoxomoxa, sweet tunes mined for structure and texture -- including good fiddle, which figures, and good horns, which doesn't. But the lyrics are more of the old karma-go-round, with barely a hook phrase to come away with. I remember Robert Hunter when he was making up American myths. B-

- Robert Christgau, Christgau's Record Guide, 1981.

The Grateful Dead's first studio album in three years was also their first for their own record label. It's a strong collection, featuring such Garcia-Hunter songs as "Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodleoo," "Row Jimmy," and "Stella Blue," songs that would become concert staples, as well as Bob Weir's "Weather Report Suite." * * * *

- William Ruhlmann, The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.

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