"The Grateful Dead's classic 1970 album gets even better on this Rhino reissue. Not only is the album more than doubled in length with bonus material, you also get a terrific live version of "Mason's Children," a band composition that was initially slated to to end side two but was left off the LP because (according to the liner notes) Garcia and Lesh thought the vocals sounded too "pop." The "hidden" bonus track is a 30-second radio spot promoting the album. The rest of the bonus material is live versions of five of the original songs taken from concerts between 1969-1970. In addition there is an alternate mix of "New Speedway Boogie."This single-disc release from Rhino is identical to the version included in 2001's pricey--but essential--box set THE GOLDEN ROAD (1965-1973). If you're going to own only one album from this legendary band, the nod would have to go to WORKINGMAN'S DEAD. This album sounds as fresh today as it did thirty-three years ago. (Running Time - 79:54) ESSENTIAL"
A studio high
Laurence Upton | Wilts, UK | 03/04/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Any ill-informed Dead Head who bought this upon its release in June 1970, expecting more of the acid-drenched blues and psychedelia of such recent predecessors as Anthem Of The Sun and Aoxomoxoa, must have had a considerable shock when they dropped the needle into the groove, and track one, Uncle John's Band, began to play. The hallmark guitar was augmented by mellifluous pedal steel and banjo, and in the place of all the weirdness and experimentation came beautifully-recorded, clean sounding, almost traditional, timeless songs, song after song with three-part harmonies and tunes you almost felt you knew already. The Dead had gone back to their roots, the music they grew up with, and their lyricist, Robert Hunter, had risen to the challenge with songs about miners and engineers that belonged within a rich musical tradition, largely forgotten, that was being re-invented by artists like the Band and Ry Cooder. When they entered the studios behind the Fillmore for two weeks in February 1970 they had been coached in harmony by Crosby, Stills and Nash, knew all the songs they were to record and even the order they were to appear on the album, and were completely focused on their mission. This, and its equally inspired sequel American Beauty, expel the myth that the Grateful Dead were a live band whose studio work was of secondary importance, and can stand up proudly against any other record. This 79-minute edition, re-mastered in HDCD, doubles the length of the original album with live material and one alternative take. The live recordings, mostly from 1970, are all songs from the album plus one song that had been intended to close side two but was eventually not used (Mason's Children), and show how the Dead were both able to integrate the new material into their set and to play it so convincingly well. The earliest recording here is Dire Wolf, from Santa Rosa CA in June 1969, showing they were previewing their new direction alongside their existing set a full eight months before they entered the studios"
Steve Vrana | 02/28/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"ALL of the New GD Remasters are pretty great, but the acoustic tracks on this album really stand out. Even if you've heard the album 1000 times as I have this one, you're going to find something you've never heard before. Like it was recorded yesterday. If you don't have HDCD on your CD Player or DVD (most don't offer that feature), you can get it with a soundcard for your computer. It really makes the sound jump out at you. The bonus tracks on this and the other GD Remasters are great as well, and it's nice to see them put the empty space on the CD's to good use. Well worth the money, and a proud addition to my collection."
This and "The Band" Invented Americana
Thomas D. Ryan | New York | 06/01/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"From today's perspective, it's hard to imagine just how much of an impact this album had on the state of contemporary music, not least of all because it was recorded by the Grateful Dead. Up until this album, the Dead were an underground cult phenomenon with little to offer in the way of mass appeal. Furthermore, their previous studio efforts were too strange to suggest that they might be capable of something as extraordinary as what they offer here. More than anything else, the songs on Workingman's Dead sound as if they were old folk/blues songs derived from the public domain and adapted for faithful reproduction. That each song was an original, contemporary composition shows a level of maturity and growth that is simply astounding. Even more astounding is the tight focus of the songwriting. Previous studio albums by the Grateful Dead were rambling and opaque exercises in psychedelia that stood out mostly for their reckless experimentation. Here, the band doesn't waste a single note, while every word paints a specific portrait of the character portrayed.
This sudden improvement in songwriting can be credited entirely to the cementing partnership of guitarist/singer Jerry Garcia and lyricist Robert Hunter, who paired up to write six of the album's eight songs, with bassist Phil Lesh participating in another and Hunter writing one in its entirety. The name of the album derives from Garcia's recognition that Hunter's words portrayed mostly working class folk, thus making the project a "workingman's Dead." It's as accurate a description as could be applied. Whether it's a tale of a miner hoping to get work ("Cumberland Blues"), a dying laborer ("Black Peter") or a railroad jack-baller ("Easy Wind"), each character is accurately portrayed in faded sepia tones much like the album jacket. "Casey Jones" does such an accurate job of portraying a doomed train engineer that it elevates Jones to the realm of a 19th century folk legend, much like John Henry.
Workingman's Dead flaunts a mostly acoustic feel, giving the impression that each song could be as old as the characters portrayed. Completely absent here is any sign of rambling jams or gratuitous solos, with the music designed to suit the story as well as the time frame. Only Robbie Robertson and the Band could claim to have been so successful at capturing an era of Americana without sounding forced or derivative. On this album, the Dead capture the feel of an age gone by with an almost eerily personal representation of each song's protagonist. In the process of emulating our heritage, the Grateful Dead managed to create an album of songs that is now as much a part of our heritage as the songs and characters that originally inspired them. A Tom Ryan"
Remastering brings freshness, more enjoyment to GD classic.
E. Davis | Phoenix, AZ United States | 03/07/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"HDCD remastering of Workingman's Dead provides cleaner sound yet band's musical expression is just as forceful. The immediacy elicits a novel appreciation for the country-blues feel that the Dead wanted to capture here; Garcia's vocals on 'High Time' and 'Dire Wolf' didn't sound as grand as on the previously mastered disc. American Beauty and Live Dead have also been enhanced, so those may be worth a listen.
Upgrading to this disc is encouraged on all counts. Included are attractive liner notes with dated photos of each band member and a lucid background essay by Steve Silberman."