Workingman's Dead

Workingman's Dead

5.0 2
by Grateful Dead
     
 

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The release of 1970's Workingman's Dead marked a departure from the psychedelic rock that the Grateful Dead helped define in the 1960s to a more acoustic sound. Emphasizing structured tunes over improvised jams, Workingman's Dead is loaded with powerfully imagistic songs and strong vocal harmonies that harken back to the band's folk roots. The albumSee more details below

Overview

The release of 1970's Workingman's Dead marked a departure from the psychedelic rock that the Grateful Dead helped define in the 1960s to a more acoustic sound. Emphasizing structured tunes over improvised jams, Workingman's Dead is loaded with powerfully imagistic songs and strong vocal harmonies that harken back to the band's folk roots. The album kicks off with "Uncle John's Band," a sweetly sung Jerry Garcia/Robert Hunter composition that became an anthem during the band's 30-year career. The bouncy, country-pickin' coal-mining classic "Cumberland Blues" continues the vocal bliss, bringing forth the unique three-part singing of guitarists Garcia and Bob Weir and bassist Phil Lesh. Original keyboardist and bluesman Ron "Pigpen" McKernan takes command of the back-busting, down-to-earth grit of "Easy Wind," and Garcia's newfound finesse on the pedal-steel guitar sleeks and shimmers its way through the gorgeous "High Time" and the life-fearing "Dire Wolf." "Casey Jones," the fast-chugging, anticocaine anthem, which also became one of their most popular songs, serves as a perfect closer. Deemed one of the classics in their recording catalogue, Workingman's Dead successfully captures a dramatic shift of style and clearly helped establish the Dead as an essential American musical-roots ensemble.

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Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Fred Thomas
As the '60s drew to a close, it was a heavy time for the quickly crumbling hippie movement that had reached its apex just a few years earlier in 1967's Summer of Love. Death and violence were pervasive in the form of the Manson murders, fatalities at the Altamont concert, and the ongoing loss of young lives in Vietnam despite the best efforts of anti-war activists and peace-seeking protesters. Difficult times were also upon the Grateful Dead, unofficial house band of San Francisco's Summer of Love festivities and outspoken advocates of psychedelic experimentation both musical and chemical. The excessive studio experimentation that resulted in their trippy but disorienting third album, Aoxomoxoa, had left the band in considerable debt to their record label, and their stress wasn't helped at all by a drug bust that had members of the band facing jail time. The rough road the Dead were traveling down seemed congruent with the hard changes faced by the youth counterculture that birthed them. Fourth studio album Workingman's Dead reflects both the looming darkness of its time, and the endless hope and openness to possibility that would become emblematic of the Dead as their legacy grew. For a group already established as exploratory free-form rockers of the highest acclaim, Workingman's Dead's eight tunes threw off almost all improvisatory tendencies in favor of spare, thoughtful looks at folk, country, and American roots music with more subdued sounds than the band had managed up until then. The songs also focused more than ever before on singing and vocal harmonies, influenced in no small way by a growing friendship with Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. The band embraced complex vocal arrangements with campfire-suited folk on "Uncle John's Band" and the psychedelic cowboy blues of "High Time." Before they blasted off into hallucinatory rock as the Grateful Dead, several founding members had performed as Mother McCree's Uptown Jug Champions, a group that played traditional jug band music with earnest, heartfelt appreciation. Those early influences came into sharp focus on the bluegrass rhythms and hillbilly harmonies of "Cumberland Blues" and the glistening pedal steel and shuffling drums of "Dire Wolf." The more rocking songs add to the album's brooding feel with "New Speedway Boogie" directly addressing the violence at Altamont, and "Casey Jones," which appeared at first to be a lighthearted celebration of cocaine, but was really a lament for troubled times that felt like they were spinning off the rails. The abrupt shift toward sublime acoustic sounds on Workingman's Dead completely changed what the Grateful Dead meant to their listeners at large. The enormous risk they took in changing their sound entirely resulted in a heartbreakingly beautiful, unquestionably pure statement and one of the more important documents of its time. They'd continue this trend on the even more roots-minded American Beauty, recorded later the same year, but the limitlessness, fearlessness, and true power of the band began here.

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Product Details

Release Date:
10/25/1990
Label:
Warner Bros Uk
UPC:
0075992718424
catalogNumber:
927184
Rank:
19424

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Tracks

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Album Credits

Performance Credits

Grateful Dead   Primary Artist
Mickey Hart   Percussion,Drums
Jerry Garcia   Guitar,Pedal Steel Guitar,Vocals
Bob Weir   Guitar,Vocals
Bill Kreutzmann   Drums
Phil Lesh   Bass,Vocals
Ron "Pigpen" McKernan   Harmonica,Keyboards,Vocals
David Nelson   Acoustic Guitar

Technical Credits

Mickey Hart   Engineer,Sound Design,Stereo Mix Producer
Jerry Garcia   Songwriter,Composer
Grateful Dead   Producer
Robert Hunter   Composer,Lyricist
Betty Cantor-Jackson   Producer
Tom Flye   Engineer
Phil Lesh   Songwriter,Composer
Bob Matthews   Producer
Jeffrey Norman   Engineer
Ramrod   Equipment Technician
Betty Cantor   Producer
Scott Heard   Equipment Technician
David Singer   Poster Design
Alembic   Engineer
Rudson Shurtliff   Engineer
Robin Hurley   Audio Production
Andrew McPherson   Authoring

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