Wake of the Flood was the sixth studio album by the Grateful Dead. Released October 15, 1973, it was the first album on the band's own Grateful Dead Records label. Their first studio album in nearly three years, it was also the first without founding member Ron "Pigpen" McKernan, who had recently died. His absence and keyboardist Keith Godchaux's penchants for bebop and modal jazz contributed to the band's musical evolution. Godchaux's wife, backing vocalist Donna, also joined the group and appears on the album.
After three live albums in a row, the Grateful Dead wanted to record studio versions of songs written since Keith Godchaux had joined the band. At the time of recording, five of the songs on the album had been in live rotation for up to a year and a half, as arrangements were road-tested and finalized. The release fared better than any of their previous studio albums, reaching No. 18.
Though lyrically the songs continued Hunter's Americana themes, a thread of Earth, seasons and life cycles connects the material, particularly with Weir and Barlow's culminating suite. This is represented in the album cover artwork, by San Francisco Big Five poster artist Rick Griffin. It has an Earth tone and simple graphics including a woodcut-derived figure of a harvest-reaping man with a wheat bundle and scythe, and a field crow. Hovering above the sea is a skull stretched out in a cloud. skull.
Griffin said that the artwork was inspired by a quote from Revelation – "And the sea gave up the dead that were in it and death and Hell gave up the dead that were in them, and they were judged, every man according to their works." (Revelation 20:13) He added that the image was designed, "to show an alternative to that. I wanted to juxtapose that Scripture with a loving image, an image of loving harvest.”