Side One: Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus
Side Two: Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus
- With Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it on both sides, this was one of the best copies in our recent shootout - exceptionally quiet vinyl too
- This one is country rockin' like crazy, with full-bodied, smooth, tonally correct, hi-rez sound
- A Top 100 album, and a truly superb recording of the Dead at the peak of their creativity (along with American Beauty)
- 5 stars: "The lilting Uncle John's Band, their first radio hit, opens the record and perfectly summarizes its subtle, spare beauty; complete with a new focus on more concise songs and tighter arrangements, the approach works brilliantly."
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This original Warner Brothers Green Label pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records cannot even BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn't showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to "see" the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the control room hearing the master tape being played back, or, better yet, the direct feed from the studio, this is the record for you. It's what Vintage Analog Recordings are known for -- this sound.
If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it -- not often, and certainly not always -- but less than one percent of new records do, if our experience with the hundreds we've played can serve as a guide.
You don't need tube equipment to hear the prodigious amounts of Tubey Magic that exist on this recording. For those of you who've experienced top quality analog pressings of Meddle or Dark Side of the Moon, or practically any jazz album on Contemporary, whether played through tubes or transistors, that's the luscious sound of Tubey Magic, and it is all over Workingman's Dead.
What the best sides of Workingman's Dead have to offer is not hard to hear:
- The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
- The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1970
- Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
- Natural tonality in the midrange -- with all the instruments having the correct timbre
- Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional space of the studio
No doubt there's more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.
A Good Old Band
Jerry Garcia, discussing where the band's thinking was at at the time, explained, "We were into a much more relaxed thing…and we were also out of our pretentious thing. We weren’t feeling so much like an experimental music group, but were feeling more like a good old band.”
Mickey Hart added, “I thought, what a wonderful thing – acoustic guitars. It was cold out there in the feedback, electric GD world. It was a great cold, a wonderful freeze, full of exploratory moments and great vision, but here we were exploring the soft side… I remember how warm and fuzzy it made me feel.
What We're Listening For on Workingman's Dead
- Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
- The Big Sound comes next -- wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
- Then transient information -- fast, clear, sharp attacks for the guitars and drums, not the smear and thickness common to most LPs.
- Tight, note-like bass with clear fingering -- which ties in with good transient information, as well as the issue of frequency extension further down.
- Next: transparency -- the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the players.
- Then: presence and immediacy. The musicians aren't "back there" somewhere, way behind the speakers. They're front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt would have put them.
- Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing -- an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.
One of the problems with these Green Label pressings is condition. It's practically impossible to find a quiet original Workingman's Dead. There are plenty of quiet passages on this album, so any problems with the surfaces are going to reveal themselves quickly.
Mint Minus Minus is about as quiet as any vintage pressing will play, and since only the right vintage pressings have any hope of sounding good on this album, that will most often be the playing condition of the copies we sell. (The copies that are even a bit noisier get listed on the site are seriously reduced prices or traded back in to the local record stores we shop at.)
Those of you looking for quiet vinyl will have to settle for the sound of later pressings and Heavy Vinyl reissues, purchased elsewhere of course as we have no interest in selling records that don't have the vintage analog magic of these wonderful originals.
If you want to make the trade-off between bad sound and quiet surfaces with whatever Heavy Vinyl pressing might be available, well, that's certainly your prerogative, but we can't imagine losing what's good about this music -- the size, the energy, the presence, the clarity, the weight -- just to hear it with less background noise.
The Track Listing tab above will take you to a select song breakdown for each side, with plenty of What to Listen For (WTLF) advice.
Uncle John's Band
This track tells you the most about side one. If the pressing is lean, bright, grainy, transistory or aggressive in any way, Jerry Garcia's voice will sound strained. Far from a professionally trained singer, he's already straining on this track.
The best copies make him sound ever so slightly dull at the beginning of the track; as the song progresses he is going to start pushing his pipes pretty hard and it will become quite unpleasant if there is any trace of brightness when he goes up to hit those higher notes.
New Speedway Boogie
The toughest track on side two. If the tonal balance is lean, or if the bad domestic vinyl causes the sound to be grainy, this track will be close to unbearable. On a Hot Stamper copy the sound can be absolutely MAGICAL.
Probably the best sounding track on the album. Here Jerry Garcia manages to sing within his range, the guitars are wonderfully sweet, and there is loads of Tubey Magic to go around. I can't think of a better sounding Grateful Dead song than this one.
On the best pressings you can hear startling immediacy and transparency in the midrange of this track.
(Not one of their stronger efforts.)
A lovely exploration of American roots music illuminating the group's country, blues, and folk influences. The lilting Uncle John's Band, their first radio hit, opens the record and perfectly summarizes its subtle, spare beauty; complete with a new focus on more concise songs and tighter arrangements, the approach works brilliantly. Despite its sharp contrast to the epic live space jams on which the group's legend primarily rests, Workingman's Dead nonetheless spotlights the Dead at their most engaging, stripped of all excess to reveal the true essence of their craft.
- Choosing a selection results in a full page refresh.
- Press the space key then arrow keys to make a selection.