Friday, September 22, 2006

FDF Volume 1 Issue 29: The Grateful Dead - Workingman's Dead

Album - Workingman's Dead
Artist - The Grateful Dead
Key Players - Phil Lesh - bass/vocals, Bob Weir -guitar/vocals, Jerry Garcia - guitar/vocals/pedal steel, Ron "Pigpen" McKernan - keyboards/vocals, Bill Kreutzmann - percussion, Mickey Hart -percussion.

Produced by - Bob Matthews and Betty Cantor in association with the Dead

Released - June 14, 1970

What caused me to blow the dust off this one? Part of it comes from the jam station off Sirius while the other is just the sunshine in the fall. Some days just working in the yard it 'beckons" to be a "dead day".

Overview - Workingman's Dead is the fourth studio release from the Grateful Dead. Around this time there was turmoil in the band. Mickey Hart, who's father was managing the band at the time, had skipped town with a sizeable amount of the bands money. The band was also stressed over a recent drug bust in New Orleans. Even with all this, the band hunkered down in a studio in San Francisco and hammered out the record in just 10 days.

FDF Comment (aka the songs) - The album starts off with one of the bands classic/staple songs "Uncle John's Band", even people not familiar with the Grateful Dead know this song. At the time the band had found some influences in the harmonies of Crosby Stills and Nash. As the song progresses you hear that influence grow. The guitar playing is clean and the percussion does not overwhelm the vocals at all. "High Time" starts with a solo guitar and the classic Jerry vocal sound. After just a few bars Lesh comes up on bass and the band sings some beautiful harmonies, all accentuated with a glorious lap steel. "Dire Wolf" opens with a strong "country" feel that the band was working on at the time. A live show favorite the song has an 'easy' feel to it. In later years Garcia would get death threats and the band would always play this song with the line "Don't Murder me!". "New Speedway Boogie" has a grittier feel both musically and vocally. Its really a smoky bar room song. This song was about the incident at Altamont Speedway (someone was killed during the Rolling Stones set). "Cumberland Blues" has some great plucking by Garcia. The folk/blue grass flow of this track has your feet tappin' from the start. "Black Peter" and "Easy Wind" follow with the same feel. Bluesy harmonica fills portions of both tracks and the song makes you want to sit on your front porch in the rocking chair and watch the world go by. "Casey Jones" closes out the record and is also one of the most recognized Grateful Dead songs.

Where are they now? Jerry Garcia passed away on August 9, 1995. Jerry had battled tobacco and drug addiction, as well as being a diabetic, died while in rehab of a heart attack. Pigpen passed away March 8, 1973. Pigpen was a hard drinker and died of a gastrointestinal hemorrhage. He was 27. The surviving members at the time of Garcia's passing decided to dissolve the band and each did their own solo tours and then later the "Further Fest" would have one off shows with most members playing at least in the shows "jams". In 2002 the members played again as "The Other Ones" and after the tour they truncated down to just "The Dead". The band has had some tension over the last few years on how to handle the bands legacy, massive live show archive and merchandise. Lesh and Weir are the most active in the touring circuit as of 2006.

FDF Personal Comments (aka the live experience) Thankfully I saw the band twice on the same tour, which ended up being their last visit to Boston. We had obstructed view for the first two nights of the six night fall run of shows at the Boston Garden (9/27 and 9/28/94) and at the time it was "okay". People said that if Jerry was in a good mood that was a good indicator of the show pace/song selection. I knew not a lot of songs, and "substance free" I had a decent enough time. I go back to the live show tapes from these nights and they were really quite good.

FDF Overall take - I am first to admit I "didn't get" the Dead, but for all the wrong reasons. I had this perception of what they were and what they were all about. I am glad I "woke up" and had the chance to see them live. Some of the songs can bumble along while others are real barn burners. Never really well known as a studio band, live is where the band showed its true colors. The expression "There is nothing like a Grateful Dead concert" is 100% true. No road trip is complete without at least one dead album, and this is an easy one to digest and get the "feel" of the sound of the Grateful Dead.


At 11:45 AM, Blogger pog mo thoin said...

Oh My God!!! I was in the car with an old friend of mine two nights ago and he had on American Beauty! I said to him, "you know, I read this blog called Forgotten Disc Friday. If the guy who writes it was a Dead fan, this would be a good one for it." and we mentioned Workingman's as well!!! God's honest truth story! This is definitely eerie coincidence stuff!!!

Love it! Thanks for this one!

At 11:45 AM, Blogger Sharon S said...

the sound of jerry's guitar is enough to sky rocket me into orbit.
Lovely, just lovely.

At 11:47 AM, Blogger pog mo thoin said...

Oh yeah - we commented on how it is essential road trip music and how we don't see those bears anymore on the backs of cars! How sad for a generation who won't have them for their road trips!

At 12:21 PM, Blogger March to the Sea said...

pog- i wish I knew better earlier. I dig em now.

shar - i agree..great stuff..when he was on fire..they all were.

At 11:21 PM, Blogger Code Name: Ryan said...

An old favorite. When I was in school it was this one, live dead and terrapin station... oh the days...

too bad i can't remember them too well.

At 7:15 AM, Blogger Hotwire said...

march, now you're finally talking my game. for me, playing a dead album, or better yet a tape of a live show, is an event. it is far more special than listening to almost any other band, in that the dead inhabits rarified air.

i, too, have seem them at the garden and it was always a pretty good venue for them, but outdoor arenas were always the best.

thanks for this, you made my day.

At 10:02 AM, Blogger March to the Sea said...

hot- no sweat man..glad you dug. Dicks Picks 6 cd 2 is prolly the one that really made me say "ahhh I get it"./


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