Review Summary: Pretty little ditties. Harmonically stunning vocal contributions, and subtle, yet powerful music. Jerry Garcia's voice is absolutely stunning.
The Grateful Dead have, and forever will be, the voice of the psychedelic sixties. Rooting back to the early years of the decade, The Grateful Dead (known as The Warlocks to the underground LSD/ psychedelia scene in their early days) the Dead's origins lay in folk, bluegrass, and country-influenced rock n roll. After nearly three years under the current pseudonym of the Grateful Dead, the jam band released this album, American Beauty, in the late summer of 1970. Resurrecting the band's more folkish roots with splashes of country rock color, American Beauty was a step away from the heavy psychedelia that controlled the band's offstage and onstage antics. And the results made for one of the band's most cherished, classic albums in their entire catalog.
From the moment the album starts, American Beauty is an oevure of soothing, harmonically stunning, melodic beauty- Somewhat of a precedent for the album's title. Jerry Garcia, frontman for the legendary jam rockers, keeps his voice whistfully pretty and mellow, while the backing vocal contributions by the likes of Bob Weir and Phil Lesh (as well as others) is much more gruff, and for the most part, adds a contrasting flavor of hostility in the vocals that doesn't quite seem to fit the Grateful Dead's eclectic style. Lyrically, American Beauty is somewhat of a paradox to it's name. Songs like the classic "Freind Of the Devil" describe a deal made with the dark lord, fleeing the responsibilities that taunt normal, everyday life, as well as "Truckin", a blatant drug reference, with obvious nods to illegal substances with "Livin on reds, Vitamin C, and Cocaine" and "What A Long Strange Trip It's Been" (the latter being one of the band's more famous lines, synonymous with many fanlistings and Greatest Hits Compilations"). The choruses on a vast majority of the songs are very catchy, and will probably have you singing along after a very brief while.
Musically, American Beauty does not fail to meet the quality standards of the humble vocal tone beneath its subtle guitar picking and bubbly bass. The acoustic/ clean guitar leads and riffs blend in perfectly with Garcia's mellow, sleepy-time voice. Most of the riffs are simply descending and calm, with progressions that serve the sole purpose of holding down a simple groove, while others are much more whistful and uplifting. Phil Lesh's bass playing is somewhat of an unnoticed gem, as his fluid basslines completely guide every song with subtle, frail boom. The drums ae nothing but a time keeper, keeping it simple and slow, providing the ideal scapegoat for the guitar leeds to ease their way through the beautiful mix. Simplicity in and of itself- The real american beauty.
On a Sidenote: This is my first review for a long while, and probably one of the few in the coming months. I have been very busy as of late, and just wanted to stop by to say hello, with a review, of course. :) Tomorrow is my birthday, too! Good to contribute again, and hopefully, all is well with everyone.