Grateful Dead releasing ‘Workingman’s Dead’ 50th Anniversary edition

Deluxe Edition will be available July 10th via Rhino Records

On June 14, 1970, the Grateful Dead released Workingman’s Dead, an album that was unlike anything they’d ever done, one that showed the world a new side of the Dead. It was clearly the same band as before, but now with a distinctly different sound and approach to the music, pivoting from psychedelic improvisation to folk-rock storytelling for the “everyman,” as the album’s title suggests. Workingman’s Dead will celebrate its 50th anniversary this year with two new releases.

Workingman’s Dead: 50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition will be available on July 10th as a 3 CD set. This collection includes the original album with newly remastered sound, plus an unreleased concert recorded on February 21, 1971 at the Capitol Theatre in Port Chester, NY. The show was mixed from the 16-track analog master tapes by Jeffrey Norman at Bob Weir’s Marin County TRI Studios and mastered by Grammy Award-winning engineer, David Glasser. One of the highlights from the Capitol Theatre show, the previously unreleased performance of “Casey Jones,” is available on all digital download and streaming services.

Workingman’s Dead: 50th Anniversary Vinyl Picture Disc will be available the same day. Produced in a limited edition of 10,000 copies, it features the newly remastered version of the original album.

While the Dead’s first three studio albums appealed to many, the group didn’t yet have the mass breakthrough that would make the entire world take notice of this band of misfits from the Bay Area. Workingman’s Dead changed all that. With eight perfect songs – like “Casey Jones” and “High Time” – the album solidified the Jerry Garcia-Robert Hunter songwriting tandem as one of the best, and most important, songwriting collaborations in music history. The album reached the Top 30 and included the single “Uncle John’s Band,” which climbed to No. 69 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart.

Garcia, Bob Weir, Ron “Pigpen” McKernan, Phil Lesh, Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart recorded the album in about ten days at Pacific High Recording Studio in San Francisco with Bob Matthews and Betty Cantor – the band’s live-sound engineers – as producers. Fifty years on, every song on Workingman’s Dead sounds fresh, alive, and new.

“Since we embarked on the series of Grateful Dead 50th anniversary releases, we’ve had a blast remastering the original albums and finding previously unreleased live material from the era for each. In 2020, we’re blessed to have two albums celebrating their 50th anniversaries, and we’re thrilled with how Workingman’s Dead has turned out,” says David Lemieux, Grateful Dead archivist and the set’s producer. “For an album as important and great as Workingman’s Dead, it seemed appropriate to double the amount of bonus material. The show we’ve selected gives a definitive overview of what the band were up to six months after the release of the album and shows the Dead sound that would largely define the next couple of years. From Workingman’s Dead through Europe ’72, the Dead’s sound was Americana, and the live show included here is a workingman’s band playing authentically honest music.”

The deluxe edition includes the band’s previously unreleased live performance from 1971 at the Capitol Theatre. The show featured a plethora of songs from both Workingman’s Dead and the band’s follow-up album, American Beauty, which was released in November 1970. Some highlights include Weir’s moving vocal take on “Me and Bobby McGee,” Pigpen’s whiskey-seasoned growl on “Easy Wind” and a stellar run through “Uncle John’s Band” to close out the show.

In the set’s liner notes, acclaimed music journalist David Fricke tells the tale behind the album and also adds some context for the Capitol Theatre show. “The complete Port Chester evening in this 50th anniversary edition of Workingman’s Dead…was a great night in what has long been deemed a legendary run, another turning point as the band entered a live era combining the focus of Workingman’s Dead and American Beauty with the exploratory verve of Live/Dead. Many of the classic songs spread across Dead LPs in 1971 and ’72…were introduced that week at the Capitol, and many of them are in this concert, still fresh off the griddle.”

CD 1: Original Album Remastered

1. Uncle John’s Band
2. High Time
3. Dire Wolf
4. New Speedway Boogie
5. Cumberland Blues
6. Black Peter
7. Easy Wind
8. Casey Jones

CD 2: Capitol Theatre, Port Chester, NY (2/21/71)

1. Cold Rain And Snow
2. Me And Bobby McGee
3. Loser
4. Easy Wind
5. Playing In The Band
6. Bertha
7. Me And My Uncle
8. Ripple (False Start)
9. Ripple
10. Next Time You See Me
11. Sugar Magnolia
12. Greatest Story Ever Told
13. Johnny B. Goode

CD 3: Capitol Theatre, Port Chester, NY (2/21/71)

1. China Cat Sunflower
2. I Know You Rider
3. Bird Song
4. Cumberland Blues
5. I’m A King Bee
6. Beat It On Down The Line
7. Wharf Rat
8. Truckin’
9. Casey Jones
10. Good Lovin’
11. Uncle John’s Band

Author: Buddy Iahn

Buddy Iahn founded The Music Universe when he decided to juxtapose his love of web design and music. As a lifelong drummer, he decided to take a hiatus from playing music to report it. The website began as a fun project in 2013 to one of the top independent news sites.