12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
A studio high,
This review is from: Workingman's Dead (Audio CD)
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