Bonus Tracks, Vol. 1: Jerry Garcia, Gram Parsons, David Bowie

The compact disc era brought with it endless reissues of old albums — and to entice us all into buying those old albums for the second, third or fourth time, they often included bonus tracks. Was there a fair amount of barrel scraping as the years went by? Oh yeah. But there were also plenty of completely awesome sounds that gave us fresh perspectives on classic LPs and artists. In this new, ongoing Aquarium Drunkard column, we’ll be diving back into our CD collections to highlight some of the very best bonus tracks … | t wilcox

Jerry Garcia :: Orpheus: It’s tucked away at the end of an expanded reissue of Jerry Garcia’s 1976 solo album Reflections, but “Orpheus” is a Grateful Dead recording — and a killer one at that. Clocking in at almost 17 minutes, it’s one of the best officially released examples of the band’s improvisatory skills away from the stage. A somewhat menacing groove that tunnels into the darkness, Keith Godchaux’s electric piano circling Garcia’s nervous/nervy guitar work. The Dead specialized in these exploratory, vaguely fusion-y situations during their “off” year in 1975. For a whole lot more, check out the Save Your Face blog’s tasty collection of sweet Blues For Allah-era rehearsals, or dig into the monumental SNACK Benefit set.

Gram Parsons :: Thousand Dollar Wedding (Demo): The Gram Parsons estate kicked off an archival series back in 2007 with two sets worth of the Flying Burrito Brothers live in 1969. Since then, it’s been radio silence, however. But included as a little something extra on Vol. 1 was this intimate recording of Gram singing one of his masterpieces alone at the piano. “Thousand Dollar Wedding” wouldn’t show up on a record until 1974’s Grievous Angel, but the demo captures the beautifully ambiguous tune closer to its composition in 1969. Parsons’ vocal is raw, his piano work far from perfect, the quality is lo-fi … but it’s a flawless performance all the same.

David Bowie :: Some Are: Will we ever get a Berlin Trilogy Bowie boxed set stuffed with outtakes and alternates? Let us pray. Until then, this one showed up as a bonus track on Rykodisc’s out-of-print 1991 reissue of Low, giving us some tantalizing hints of what may be lurking in the vaults. Whatever — “Some Are” is a treasure all on its own, a delicate dirge with a bewitching melody and typically enigmatic lyrics. Bowie claimed the song was about “the failed Napoleonic force stumbling back through Smolensk. Finding the unburied corpses of their comrades left from their original advance on Moscow.” If you say so, David! 

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