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Wake of the Flood
The Grateful Dead

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

Jerry GarciaThe 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
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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 have their own record label now -- this being its first product -- and if they run it in the neat, dull, businesslike manner in which they are now making music, it should be just the thing prudent investors are looking for. As music, I suppose this album could have great value in easing jazz-hermits back into the "real" world -- no danger of an overdose of raunch here, and no chance that it will inspire your primly inhibited aunt to boogaloo on the tabletop, either. Restful, I might find it, if I could hold still for being rested by one of the original San Francisco hippie bands.

Time is cruel, especially in the way it erodes contexts (look out, Joni Mitchell) and leaves only the naked evidence to stand or fall on its own merits; the Dead had a lot of assumptions going for them in the late Sixties, an important point in the scheme of things. Now most of those assumptions have collapsed or -- worse yet -- are irrelevant, and a series of gently tricky and essentially antiseptic guitar licks by Jerry Garcia have no special élan. A seamless organ overly placed just so sounds as much like a refinement contrivance in a Dead recording as it would in any other recording. Papa John Creach, it sounds like (there are no credits), is in there trying to stir things up, but his funkiness is absorbed by the routine competence of it all. The vocal harmonies are listless -- even the cymbal clashes sound detached and resigned. "Stella Blue" is pleasant, a nice framework at least for bass playing, but it would have worked as well for Dick Haynes or Vic Damone fifteen or twenty years ago. "The Weather Report Suite" has some nice acoustic guitar work, but brevity should be the soul of weather reporting, and this one runs almost thirteen minutes. Weatherman Bowman, out in Denver, could decorate all his maps, all the studio walls, and the engineer's clipboard in that length of time. But if you want a pleasant, low-key, low-profile Grateful Dead album, and all that implies, well, here it is

- Noel Coppage, Stereo Review, 5/74.

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.

The band's self-produced debut release on its own label is laid-back, occasionally to a fault. But the songs are largely primo, many already concert highlights. Foremost is the dilated dance-jam supreme "Eyes of the World." Runners-up: "Mississippi Half Step Uptown Toodeloo," with Vassar Clements' swinging hot-club fiddle, and the exquisite stoner-philosophical reverie "Stella Blue," namesake of innumerable boats, bars, and puppies.

- Will Hermes, Rolling Stone, 9/19.

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