Grateful Dead ‘From the Mars Hotel’ Expanded Edition: Review

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The Grateful Dead’s 50th-anniversary reissue series continues with a three-CD deluxe edition of 1974’s From the Mars Hotel, the group’s seventh studio LP and the second to be issued on its own label. Dominated by well-constructed songs written by Jerry Garcia and lyricist Robert Hunter, the original album features such concert and FM radio favorites as “U.S. Blues,” “Scarlet Begonias,” “Ship of Fools” and “China Doll.”

Related: Our review of the Dead’s expanded Wake of the Flood

In addition to a remaster of that album, the first disc of the new edition, released on June 21, 2024, includes demos of “China Doll” and “Wave That Flag,” a precursor to “U.S. Blues.” [Not here, however, are the seven bonus tracks that showed up on a 2004 edition of the LP.]

The remaining discs contain a previously unreleased, nearly complete May 1974 Nevada concert that clocks in at two-and-a-half hours. The first show to feature the Dead’s massive Wall of Sound audio system, it incorporates several Mars Hotel numbers as well as such concert staples as “Mexicali Blues,” “El Paso,” “It Must Have Been the Roses,” “Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo” and “Sugar Magnolia.” A reading of “Truckin’” trucks on for more than 10 minutes while a version of the adventurous “The Other One” is more than twice that length.

The underrated original album, which is replete with Garcia’s elegant guitar work and the band’s fine vocal harmonies, belongs in any fan’s collection. As for the concert, it’s a good one but the group has previously released approximately one zillion other live recordings, including four shows from this same tour. Only you can say how much of this band’s concert material is too much. For some Deadheads, of course, there’s no such thing.

The set is available in the U.S. here and in the U.K. here.

Jeff Burger

2 Comments so far

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    #1 RAKMAN 7 July, 2024, 19:38

    Very underrated album. Can’t wait to hear this expanded edition

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  2. Jmack
    #2 Jmack 13 July, 2024, 00:58

    Unbroken chain is one of my favorites, very unique in the dead catalog

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