The Grateful Dead never managed to issue a follow up to its 13th studio album, 1989’s “Built to Last.”
But, if they had, what might it have sounded like?
That’s the question at the heart of “Grateful Dead: Ready or Not,” a newly released collection of songs that the fabled Bay Area band added to its repertoire during the final years of its long, strange trip.
Many Deadheads expected that the band would eventually take these new tunes — such as “So Many Roads,” “Easy Answers” and “Lazy River Road” — into the recording studio and the result would be the band’s 14th studio album.
Unfortunately, the group’s great singer-guitarist Jerry Garcia died in 1995 before that could happen and “Built to Last” turned out to be the band’s final studio album.
But band archivist David Lemieux is taking fans on a trip to what might’ve been on “Ready or Not,” which is now available on CD, digital download, steaming and vinyl at dead.net. The set features nine live versions of late-period Grateful Dead songs that first appeared in concert in 1992-93, collectively serving as a tantalizing, though blurry and surely incomplete, look at what could’ve been the next Grateful Dead studio album.
“‘Ready or Not’ has been a long time coming,” Lemieux says. “It’s an album we’ve been working on for many, many years. This batch of ‘new’ Grateful Dead songs has never been compiled in one place and given its proper due as a huge part of the Dead’s late-era legacy.”
All nine of chosen live cuts were previously unreleased, mastered from original digital soundboard tapes and were recorded live between 1992-1995 by the band’s final lineup of Jerry Garcia, Mickey Hart, Bill Kreutzmann, Phil Lesh, Bob Weir and Vince Welnick.
And they stand as a testimony of the high caliber of work — both in terms of songwriting and performance — that the band was still doing in its final years.
“Many of these songs can easily stand alongside some of the Dead’s oldest, most-loved songs as bona fide classics despite their short tenure in the repertoire,” Lemieux says. “We’ve dug deep into the archive and listened to countless live versions of these songs to find the best, most definitive live performances.
“When the Grateful Dead were ‘on’ in their later years, their live concerts were as good as any era in their history. The nine songs on ‘Ready or Not’ exemplify how good the Dead could be in their later years of touring.”
The album opens with a triple shot of “Liberty,” “Eternity” and “Lazy River Road,” all three of which made their debut during back-to-back concerts in February 1993. It closes with “Days Between,” yet another poignant collaboration between Garcia and lyricist Robert Hunter, which also was first unleashed during that that same productive two-day period.
The featured version of “Days Between” was recorded right in the band’s own backyard — on December 1994 at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum.
Hunter, who died at age 78 in September, is prominently featured on the album. Besides his work with Garcia, Hunter also co-wrote both “Corinna” and “Easy Answers” with Weir and “Samba in the Rain” with Welnick.
Also of note, Weir co-wrote “Eternity” with bassist extraordinaire Rob Wasserman and blues legend Willie Dixon.
Here is the “Ready or Not” track listing:
1. “Liberty” – Madison Square Garden, New York, NY (10/14/94)
2. “Eternity” – The Pyramid, Memphis, TN (4/2/95)
3. “Lazy River Road” – Dean Smith Center, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC (3/25/93)
4. “Samba In The Rain” – The Omni, Atlanta, GA (3/30/95)
5. “So Many Roads” – Star Lake Amphitheatre, Burgettstown, PA (6/23/92)
6. “Way To Go Home” – Deer Creek Music Center, Noblesville, IN (6/28/92)
7. “Corrina” – Madison Square Garden, New York, NY (10/14/94)
8. “Easy Answers” – Spectrum, Philadelphia, PA (9/13/93)
9. “Days Between” – Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, Oakland, CA (12/11/94)
READY OR NOT
2-LP Track Listing
1. “Lazy River Road”
2. “Samba In The Rain”
3. “So Many Roads”
1. “Way To Go Home”
1. “Easy Answers”
2. “Days Between”
What would the ‘next’ Grateful Dead album have sounded like?