Released today (November 22nd) is the new Grateful Dead album, titled, Ready Or Not. The collection, compiled by the band's archivist David Lemieux, features nine unreleased live versions of late-period Grateful Dead songs that debuted in 1992 and 1993. The collection's tracklist reflects what might have been the band's next official studio album following 1989's Built to Last. The Ready Or Not songs were recorded between 1992 and 1995, featuring the band's final lineup, Jerry Garcia, Mickey Hart, Bill Kreutzmann, Phil Lesh, Bob Weir, and then-new keyboardist Vince Welnick.

Lemieux explained, "Ready Or Not has been a long time coming. It's an album we've been working on for 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. 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. 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."

According to the press release: "Four of the album's nine tracks originally debuted during a two-day period in February 1993, including 'Lazy River Road,' 'Liberty,' and 'Eternity,' a song that (Bob) Weir wrote with Rob Wasserman and blues legend Willie Dixon. Another was 'Days Between.' This grand and achingly nostalgic Robert Hunter and (Jerry) Garcia composition closes the album with a version that was recorded in December 1994 at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum."

Jerry Garcia explained that it was an uphill battle for any artist in the recording industry to maintain their creative integrity -- and especially for a band like the Dead: "Unless you invent your own alternative for where you wanna go, and how you wanna improve, and how you wanna contain your own improvement, it doesn't happen for you. The music business says to you: ‘Repeat your success. Do our formula thing and live on that, or die from boredom, or get pathetic.' To me, those are unacceptable alternatives."

Dead drummer Bill Kreutzmann explained that as the band wound down in the mid-1990's, the realities of running what was essentially their own corporation began to slowly taint the group's artistic sensibilities: "The overhead of the business was so demanding that you couldn't just stop playing, because all the people that work for you; your crew, your office staff, and the truckers, and the 13 different semis it took to drive your band (equipment) would go bad, would break. I think towards the end it got to be like that, it got to be much more money conscious than in the beginning. Y'know, the purity may have run its length, but it would still come back at times. Even in some of the, the weirdest shows when things weren't going right, you could still bring the joy out, you could still bring some happiness out of even those dark times. It's just, it took a lot more work when it was the dark side."

Mickey Hart told us that he felt that the guitars were always the driving force and most important aspect of the Grateful Dead's music: "Keyboards were never my favorite thing in the Grateful Dead anyway. I thought it was peripheral. The only keyboardist I really got into was Pigpen (McKernan). He was really unique. ‘Had his old Vox, and it was an organ, y'know? It wasn't piano. And he played a (Hammond) B-3. I like that, but. . . And of course, these guys were really good musicians Keith (Godchaux), Brett (Mydland), Bruce (Hornsby). y'know, wonderful players, y'know, but I didn't think that piano fit in the Grateful Dead as well as the other instruments did."

The tracklisting to The Grateful Dead's Ready Or Not:

"Liberty" - Madison Square Garden, New York, NY (10/14/94)
"Eternity" - The Pyramid, Memphis, TN (4/2/95)
"Lazy River Road" - Dean Smith Center, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC (3/25/93)
"Samba In The Rain" - The Omni, Atlanta, GA (3/30/95)
"So Many Roads" - Star Lake Amphitheatre, Burgettstown, PA (6/23/92)
"Way To Go Home" - Deer Creek Music Center, Noblesville, IN (6/28/92)
"Corrina" - Madison Square Garden, New York, NY (10/14/94)
"Easy Answers" - Spectrum, Philadelphia, PA (9/13/93)
"Days Between" - Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, Oakland, CA (12/11/94)

AUDIO: MICKEY HART ON NOT BEING A FAN OF KEYBOARDS IN THE GRATEFUL DEAD
AUDIO: BILL KREUTZMANN ON THE GREEDY SIDE OF THE GRATEFUL DEAD
AUDIO: JERRY GARCIA ON FORGING ONE'S OWN PATH IN THE INDUSTRY