WS 1869 Workingman's Dead
Produced by Bob Matthews, Betty Cantor, The Grateful Dead
Released on May 1970
US CHART POSITION #27 . . . GOLD RECORD (7/11/74), PLATINUM RECORD (10/13/86)
Find it at GEMM
WS 1869 cover  

W orkingman’s Dead is the band’s deepest journey into country and blues, notable for its sometimes dark and desperate tone as much as its bittersweet harmonies and Robert Hunter’s epigrammatic words of wisdom. Although American Beauty is the better album, the Dead laid the groundwork for that greatness here by breaking with their psychedelic past. “Laidback” might be the better word, as their flavorful arrangements are couched in a mellow, observational style. “Uncle John’s Band,” “High Time” and “Black Peter” show a reverence for country music’s relaxed pacing; even the imminent danger of “Dire Wolf” fails to get their fur up. When the band does rock, they filter it through the blues, strutting on “Easy Wind” and having a sloppy good time on “Cumberland Blues.” As charming as it is, Aoxomoxoa is too psychedelic to take seriously. Workingman’s Dead is dead serious by comparison. Even the album’s brightest track, “Casey Jones,” is a warning, like “Dupree’s Diamond Blues,” which it closely resembles. “New Speedway Boogie” makes no pretension to the light, and offers no harmonies to sweeten the sting of Garcia singing “One way or another this darkness got to give.” This isn’t a dour record, though. The songs aren’t sad, simply earthy, and if the earth is intrinsically sad then blame original sin. It’s this kind of natural wisdom, and the band’s unsinkable spirit in the midst of life, that touches Dead fans differently than their other albums.

WS 1869 back cover WS 1869 sleeve (c.1974)
WS 1869 back cover WS 1869 sleeve (c.1974)

TRACK LISTING

  1. UNCLE JOHN'S BAND    (Robert Hunter/Jerry Garcia)    4:42
  2. HIGH TIME    (Robert Hunter/Jerry Garcia)    5:13
  3. DIRE WOLF    (Robert Hunter/Jerry Garcia)    3:13
  4. NEW SPEEDWAY BOOGIE    (Robert Hunter/Jerry Garcia)    4:05
  5. CUMBERLAND BLUES    (Robert Hunter/Jerry Garcia/Phil Lesh)    3:15
  6. BLACK PETER    (Robert Hunter/Jerry Garcia)    5:42
  7. EASY WIND    (Robert Hunter)    4:59
  8. CASEY JONES    (Robert Hunter/Jerry Garcia)    4:24

    CD expanded reissue track listing
  9. NEW SPEEDWAY BOOGIE (ALTERNATE MIX)
  10. DIRE WOLF (LIVE)
  11. BLACK PETER (LIVE)
  12. EASY WIND (LIVE)
  13. CUMBERLAND BLUES (LIVE)
  14. MASON'S CHILDREN (LIVE)
  15. UNCLE JOHN'S BAND (LIVE)
  16. (hidden track:) WORKINGMAN'S DEAD RADIO SPOT

CREDITS

JERRY GARCIA --
MICKEY HART --
ROBERT HUNTER --
BILL KREUTZMANN --
PHIL LESH --
RON "PIGPEN" McKERNAN --
BOB WEIR --
David Nelson -- acoustic guitar (5)
Alembic -- engineer
Mouse Studios w/ Toon N Tree -- cover photo, art and design

return to GRATEFUL DEAD discography

REGION RELEASE DATE LABEL MEDIA ID NUMBER FEATURES
US May 1970 Warner Bros. LP WS 1869  
UK September 1970 Warner Bros. LP K46049  
GER 1973? Warner Bros. LP WS 46049  
US 1974? Warner Bros. LP WS 1869 Burbank label
UK 1981 Warner Bros. LP K46049  
US 1987 Warner Bros. CD/CS 1869  
CAN   Warner Bros. CS CWX 1869  
  198x Warner Bros. CS 23706 repackaged w. AMERICAN BEAUTY
UK/NET 1989 WEA CD 27184  
US February 25, 2003 Rhino LPX/CDX 74396 digital remaster w. bonus tracks
JPN 2003 Rhino CDX WPCR-11495 digital remaster w. bonus tracks

 

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