American Beauty – Grateful Dead

For my first Flashback Friday of the year, I thought I’d kick it off with one of my favorites. In 1970 Grateful Dead made their fifth studio album American Beauty. Still, on the stream of country and folk rock from their previous album, Workingman’s Dead, the album is filled with soft swinging vocals and acoustic instruments. Let’s take a look.

The Vocals:

The vocals on this album are not too shabby. Like most Dead albums, the majority are sung by guitarists Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir. In addition to this bass player, Phil Lesh sings lead on the first track “Box of Rain”. What makes the vocals so special in this album is that it’s very heavy on harmonies, giving it a sound like a Crosby Stills and Nash album.

The Instrumentals:

These guys know what they’re doing. With one of the best rhythm guitarists in Bob Weir and arguably the best lead guitarist in Jerry Garcia, they’ve got that front covered. Jerry Garcia has more feel on a fretboard than any other person to do it, and if you pay attention you’ll hear him craft some really cool licks on this album. The rhythm section is made up of bass player Phil Leah, and two drummers Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann. The tracks also feature a pedal steel and some harmonica from Ron “Pigpen” McKernan. When these guys play together there’s so much going on, each song just has a very full sound. Safe to say the instrumentals are great.

The X-Factor:

I’m not sure of anything that stands out as an x-factor other than that this album is a vibe. It’s a mellow blend of rock and folk music, paired with its storytelling lyrics make listening to this album feel like floating on a lazy river with a frozen drink in your hand. Perfect hammock music.

The Essentials:

“Friend of the Devil”, “Sugar Magnolia”, and “Ripple”

The Rating:

This is one of the best studio albums from a band known better for their live performances. It’s gotta be a…..

8.8

Definitely check this one out if you haven’t gotten the chance. Come back next Friday for another flashback in music history.

-Drew

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