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      Grateful Dead

      American Beauty [50th Anniversary Edition]

      (CD - Grateful Dead #624978)

      Review by

      With 1970's Workingman's Dead, the Grateful Dead went through an overnight metamorphosis, turning abruptly from tripped-out free-form rock toward sublime acoustic folk and Americana. Taking notes on vocal harmonies from friends Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, the Dead used the softer statements of their fourth studio album as a subtle but moving reflection on the turmoil, heaviness, and hope America's youth was facing as the idealistic '60s ended. American Beauty was recorded just a few months after its predecessor, and both records expand and improve on the bluegrass, folk, and psychedelic country explorations of Workingman's Dead; in addition, some of the band's most brilliant compositions are here. The songs here have a noticeably more relaxed and joyous feel. Having dived headfirst into this new sound with their previous album, the bandmembers found the summit of their collaborative powers here, with lyricist Robert Hunter penning some of his most poetic work, Jerry Garcia focusing more on gliding pedal steel than on his regular electric lead guitar work, and stand-out lead vocal performances coming from Bob Weir (on the anthem to hippie love "Sugar Magnolia"), Ron "Pigpen" McKernan (on the husky blues of "Operator"), and Phil Lesh (on the near-perfect opening tune, "Box of Rain"). This album also marked the beginning of what would become a long musical friendship between Garcia and Dave Grisman, whose mandolin playing adds depth and flavor to tracks like the outlaw country-folk of "Friend of the Devil" and the gorgeously devotional "Ripple." American Beauty eventually spawned the band's highest-charting single -- "Truckin'," the greasy blues-rock tribute to nomadic counterculture -- but it also contained some of their most spiritual and open-hearted sentiments ever, their newfound love of intricate vocal arrangements finding pristine expression on the lamenting "Brokedown Palace" and the heavenly nostalgia and gratitude of "Attics of My Life." While the Dead eventually amassed an audience so devoted that following the band from city to city became the center of many people’s lives, the majority of the band's magic came in the boundless heights it reached in its live sets but rarely managed to capture in a studio setting. American Beauty is a categorical exception to this, offering a look at the Dead transcending even their own exploratory heights and making some of their most powerful music by examining their most gentle and restrained impulses. It’s easily the masterwork of their studio output, and a strong contender for the best music the band ever made, including the countless hours of live shows captured on tape in the decades that followed. [The 50th anniversary edition includes not just a newly remastered version of the original album, but 23 additional live tracks. The live material captures the band's entire performance from their February 18, 1971 concert at the Capitol Theater of Port Chester, New York. This show marked the live debut of songs that would become fan favorites like "Bertha," and "Playin' in the Band." The set also includes takes on several tunes from American Beauty. Though audience tapes of the show have been traded between collectors for years, the professionally recorded audio of the show has never been previously released.]

      Track Listing - Disc 2

      Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
      1 06:20 Amazon
      2 09:14 Amazon
      3 05:56 Amazon
      4 06:55 Amazon
      5 03:48 Amazon
      6 03:08 Amazon
      7 03:22 Amazon
      8 09:14 Amazon
      9 07:02 Amazon
      10 07:24 Amazon
      11 07:21 Amazon
      12 04:13 Amazon
      blue highlight denotes track pick
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