Workingman's Dead and its successor from later in 1970, American Beauty, are the Dead albums even non-Deadheads embrace. With these two new-decade statements, the group reigned in its demonstrative instrumental side in fa... more »vor of a pithier presentation of prize tunes. The opener, "Uncle John's Band," signaled that this was a relatively streamlined Dead. "Dire Wolf," "Cumberland Blues," and "Casey Jones" hammer the point home: The Grateful Dead could set aside the jams for a while and make a great album. --Steven Stolder« less
Workingman's Dead and its successor from later in 1970, American Beauty, are the Dead albums even non-Deadheads embrace. With these two new-decade statements, the group reigned in its demonstrative instrumental side in favor of a pithier presentation of prize tunes. The opener, "Uncle John's Band," signaled that this was a relatively streamlined Dead. "Dire Wolf," "Cumberland Blues," and "Casey Jones" hammer the point home: The Grateful Dead could set aside the jams for a while and make a great album. --Steven Stolder
"We came into the Dead concert and knew something was up when Jerry Garcia sat down behind a peddle-steel guitar. Instead of the rambling, hit or miss, acid-soaked freeform type of Dead concert we were accustomed to, we heard tightly structured songs, played tightly with economy and clarity. Instead of pyschedelia we were getting blues and country-tinged folk music, albeit played electric with double drummers. It was a new incarnation of the Dead which was to become the Workingman's Dead & American Beauty. It was a surprise.It still is surprising to listen to this album, especially for those who only know the aura & reputation of the Haight-Ashbury hippie Grateful Dead. Erase that image, and you realize you are listening to quintessential American music, with roots ranging from Appalachian folk to Cajun Bayou to the Oakie dirt farm and the fieldhand's campfire. And it rocks.This is simply a fine and Classic album. There isn't a wasted song in the bunch, with great music matching Robert Hunter's terrific lyrics. The guitar leads trade with each other over Phil Lesh's restless bass and the rhythms laid down by Kreutzman and Hart, complex and syncopated and kick-ay. And I love Pig Pen on Easy Wind, wailing, hoppin, bluesy and ballsy. It's one of those albums solid from start to finish.This is great American music played by an American band. It's feet are planted firmly where its title indicates, in the life and music of the workingman. It is timeless."
Clint Sidle | 09/04/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"the pre-cursor to the all time dead classic, american beauty, workingman's dead is just as good. featuring such deadhead staples as uncle john's band, cumberland blues and casey jones, this disc is pure gold. with other great songs as black peter, pigpen's easy wind and the story of the altamont disaster, new speedway boogie. all the songs on this album are incredible with the bouncy and very musical uncle john's band to the heart wrenching high time and everything in between, this album cannot be passed up, a great pair with american beauty, this should be in every deadheads collection. an amazing experience!"
Tradtional American Music of the 1900's
gratefulshrink | NY USA | 07/20/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I'll go out on a limb here, and make the statement that 50 years from now, ethnomusicologists will categorize some of the Dead's songs (mostly the Hunter/Garcia collaborations) as quintessential American traditional (i.e., folk) music of the last half of the 20th century. They will look at the music the same way we now consider the songs by Woody Guthrie or Robert Johnson. Many of the tunes on this album fit that bill, especially UJB, Cumberland Blues, and Casey Jones. The songs are just fun (helpful hint: play Casey Jones in the car when driving with the kids as an updated "I've Been Workin' on the Railroad"). If you are a PigPen fan (or just curious about his legendary blues stylings), Easy Wind was a showcase tune for him in the studio. Listen to the bass lines on Cumberland Blues by Phil Lesh. While the Dead couldn't always harmonize on-key live, they certainly got it down in the studio. If you had to buy just one studio Dead album, pick this one."
Please Don't Dominate The Rap Jack
marleyscott | Long Island, NY | 12/13/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
""Please don't dominate the rap Jack, if you've got nothing new to say". Heeding the advise of long-time dead lyrisist, Robert Hunter, I'll try to be brief and to the point. This is the album that converted many a skeptic, myself included into diehard Dead-Heads. From the sublime harmonies of Uncle John's Band to the rollicking good humor of Cumberland Blues the Dead cover all the bases. Here is where they clearly turned the corner from psychedelic jugband to America's foremost cult phenomenon. What truly makes Workingman's Dead a classic is the way each song segues into the next, forming a seamless thematic path-quilt, paying homage to America's workingman. Finally, there is the masterful cover art by Kelly Mouse. Those marvelous ink drawings on the back cover stare out through the ages, giving further testament to this masterpiece."
Some great songs, sparsely arranged
gratefulshrink | 05/19/1998
(4 out of 5 stars)
""Uncle John's Band" is a masterpiece. "Black Peter" is a gem. This album showed that the Dead, when they chose, could put the fancy jamming aside and just play songs."