The Grateful Dead's sixth studio album, Wake of the Flood, released in 1973, marked a new chapter for the band. It was their first album released on their own label, Grateful Dead Records, after their contract with Warner Bros. ended. The album also marked the return of the band's primary lyricist, Robert Hunter, who had taken a break from writing for the band. Wake of the Flood showcased the band's evolution and growth as musicians and songwriters.
The album opens with "Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo," a song that would become a staple of the band's live shows. The song is a playful and upbeat tune, with Hunter's lyrics telling the story of a traveler who encounters various characters on his journey. The song's catchy melody and intricate guitar work by Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir make it a standout track on the album.
Another highlight of the album is "Eyes of the World," a song that showcases the band's ability to create complex and improvisational arrangements. The song's opening riff, played by Phil Lesh's bass, sets the tone for the rest of the song, which builds in intensity as it progresses. The lyrics, written by Hunter, are poetic and abstract, but the band's tight playing and harmonies give them a sense of coherence.
One of the most notable tracks on Wake of the Flood is "Stella Blue," a haunting ballad that showcases Garcia's soulful vocals and guitar playing. The song's melancholic melody and lyrics, also written by Hunter, have a timeless quality that has made it a fan favorite. The song has been covered by numerous artists and is considered one of the band's greatest compositions.
The album also includes "Weather Report Suite," a three-part song that is an example of the band's ability to create extended musical suites that incorporate different genres and moods. The first part, "Prelude," is a gentle and atmospheric instrumental piece that sets the mood for the rest of the suite. The second part, "Part 1," is a lively and upbeat tune that incorporates elements of folk and country music. The final part, "Let It Grow," is a triumphant and optimistic song that builds to a powerful climax.
Other notable tracks on Wake of the Flood include "Here Comes Sunshine," a bright and cheerful tune that incorporates elements of funk and soul music, and "Row Jimmy," a bluesy ballad with a catchy chorus and intricate guitar work.
Overall, Wake of the Flood is a testament to the Grateful Dead's musical and lyrical prowess. The album showcases the band's ability to blend different genres and styles into a cohesive whole, and their willingness to take risks and explore new territory. The songs on the album are both catchy and complex, with intricate arrangements and poetic lyrics that reward repeated listening.
In many ways, Wake of the Flood marks a turning point for the band. It was their first album on their own label, which gave them greater creative control over their music and allowed them to experiment with new ideas. It was also the beginning of a new era for the band, as they continued to evolve and grow as musicians and songwriters.