Manfred Mann has stated that since Bob Dylan's versions of his own songs are so idiosyncratic, it is easy to approach his material from a fresh angle. Perhaps, but few bands would return to Dylan as frequently and successfully as the Byrds and the Grateful Dead. Interestingly, collections were issued from both bands in 2002, each featuring a disc full of the master's covers. Postcards of the Hanging: Grateful Dead Perform the Songs of Bob Dylan gathers 11 live cuts from the Grateful Dead over a span of 27 years, reaching back to 1973 for a version of "It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry" and including a 1990 version of "Desolation Row." A quick glance at the song list reveals that the Dead chose their covers carefully, sticking to jewels like "Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues" and "Ballad of a Thin Man." Jerry Garcia delivers soulful vocals on "She Belongs to Me" and "It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry," and the band stretches both songs to pass the seven-minute mark. One of the joys, in fact, of the Dead's interpretations of Dylan is how they give a song room to breathe. Bob Weir allows "When I Paint My Masterpiece" to unwind at a leisurely pace, allowing the lyric to slowly unfurl as the band chugs along. There are also a couple of surprises. Phil Lesh offers a rare vocal on "Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues" and Dylan himself shows up on "Man of Peace," which is handled much better than the material issued on Dylan & the Dead. Postcards of the Hanging is a fun collection that lovingly documents the Dead's appreciation of rock's most celebrated poet.
AllMusic Review by Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr.