American Beauty (album)

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American Beauty
A woodgrain panel with a circle in the middle—inscribed is a rose surrounded by the words "American Beauty".
Studio album by Grateful Dead
Released November 1, 1970 (1970-11-01)
Recorded August–September 1970
Studio Wally Heider Studios, San Francisco
Genre
Length 42:21
Label Warner Bros.
Producer
Grateful Dead chronology
Vintage Dead
(1970)
American Beauty
(1970)
Historic Dead
(1971)
Singles from American Beauty
  1. "Truckin'"/"Ripple"
    Released: January 1971
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 5/5 stars [2]
Robert Christgau A− [3]
Rolling Stone 5/5 stars [4]
Sputnikmusic 5/5 stars [5]

American Beauty is a studio album by rock band the Grateful Dead. Released November 1, 1970, by Warner Bros. Records, the album continued the folk rock and country music style of their previous album Workingman's Dead, issued earlier in the year. Though the Americana approach is still evident in the songwriting, comparatively the sound focused more on folk harmonies and major-key melodies, showing influence from Bob Dylan and Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young.

Upon release, American Beauty entered the Billboard 200 chart, ultimately peaking at number 13. On July 11, 1974, the album was certified Gold by the Recording Industry Association of America, and it later reached Platinum and Double Platinum certification in 1986 and 2001, respectively. In 2003, the album was ranked number 258 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.


Recording[edit]

American Beauty was the result of a prolific period of the songwriting partnership of Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter – one that yielded two studio albums in one year for the Grateful Dead. This was the only time the band would return to the studio so quickly. However, unlike the previous effort, where almost all the songs were written solely by the pair, the album saw more input from the rest of the band. Included are Phil Lesh's "Box of Rain" and Bob Weir's "Sugar Magnolia", both written with Hunter, and "Operator", Ron "Pigpen" McKernan's only singing-songwriting effort on a Grateful Dead studio album.

The album was produced after the discovery that the band's manager, Lenny Hart (father of drummer Mickey Hart), had renewed their contract with Warner Brothers Records without their knowledge, and then skipped town with a sizable chunk of the band's wealth.[6] In between near-constant touring and gigging, recording began only a few months after the release of Workingman's Dead – without their regular sound crew, who were out on the road as part of the Medicine Ball Caravan tour (which the Dead were originally scheduled to join). Instead, studio staff engineer Stephen Barncard replaced Bob Matthews as producer – "a move that irks Matthews to this day". Barncard also mused "I had heard bad stories about engineers' interactions with the Dead but what I found were a bunch of hardworking guys".[7]

Both Workingman's Dead and American Beauty were innovative at the time for their fusion of bluegrass, rock and roll, folk, and, especially, country music. Lyricist Hunter commented "We went back into American Folk tradition but, being experimenters, nothing would do but that we try to reinvent that."[8] Compared to Workingman's Dead, American Beauty had even less lead guitar work from Jerry Garcia, who increasingly filled the void with pedal steel guitar. It was also during the recording of this album that Garcia first collaborated with mandolinist David Grisman. "I just bumped into Jerry at a baseball game in Fairfax, and he said, 'Hey, you wanna play on this record we're doing?'" commented Grisman, whose playing is heard on "Friend of the Devil" and especially "Ripple".[9] Howard Wales, another musician from outside of the band, added keyboards to three songs. Drummer Bill Kreutzmann commented, "Wales came to us through Jerry, who played with him in side projects. [He] had done session work with James Brown and the Four Tops before we brought him in for American Beauty."[10] MIT music student Ned Lagin, a jazz aficionado who had corresponded with the band after attending their 1969 New Year's Eve concert at the Boston Tea Party, also contributed piano to "Candyman".[11] Lagin subsequently sat in with the band on occasion from 1970 to 1974.

Phil Lesh, in his autobiography Searching for the Sound, commented "the magnetism of the scene at Wally Heider's recording studio made it a lot easier for me to deal with [the loss of my father] and my new responsibilities. Some of the best musicians around were hanging there during that period; with Paul Kantner and Grace Slick from Jefferson Airplane, the Dead, Santana, Crosby, Nash, and Neil Young working there, the studio became jammer heaven. Thank the Lord for music; it's a healing force beyond words to describe."[12]

"It was a surprise to us – as it was to everybody else: this machine-eating, monster-psychedelic band is suddenly putting out sweet, listenable material"

- Robert Hunter[8]

Though both albums focused on Americana songcraft, Workingman's Dead mixed the grittier Bakersfield sound with the band's psychedelic roots, whereas the mostly-acoustic American Beauty focused more on major-key melodies and folk harmonies, evincing the influence of Dylan and studio neighbors/friends Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young. Kreutzmann later explained, "The singers in our band really learned a lot about harmonizing [from] Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, who had just released their seminal album Déjà Vu. Jerry played pedal steel... on that record. Stephen Stills lived at Mickey's ranch... and David Crosby enjoyed partying as much as we did. So our circles overlapped."[13]

David Crosby has demurred "Sometimes they have given us credit for teaching them how to sing and that's not true. They knew how to sing; they had their own style and they had the most important quality of it down already, which is tale-telling". However he has also stated "The idea is – when you hang out with other musicians – to sort of cross-pollinate your idea streams, and that naturally happened between us on a level that was very rare. We would listen to what they were doing with time signatures and with breaking the rules, and it appealed to us a lot."[8]

Release[edit]

American Beauty was released just over four months after Workingman's Dead. The title of the album has a double meaning, referring both to the musical focus on Americana and to the rose cultivar, depicted on the front cover. Around the rose, the album title is scripted as a text ambigram that can also be read "American Reality".[14] The back cover is a George Conger photograph of a diorama containing ferns, roses, a bust, shadowboxes and other curios. To each side of the photo are illustrated panels with a vaguely-shaped guitar, whose strings are also rose stems. The cover artwork was produced by KelleyMouse Studios.

"Truckin'" was released as a single (backed with "Ripple"), and the songs "Box of Rain", "Sugar Magnolia", and "Friend of the Devil" also received radio airplay.[15] The single version of "Truckin'" is a completely different mix, with extra lead guitar fills throughout, reverb on Weir's vocals, fewer verses, and without Wales's organ part. The autobiographical song became the one most associated with the band, and their track most commonly played on FM radio classic rock formats. In his book on Garcia, Blair Jackson noted that "if you liked rock'n'roll in 1970 but didn't like the Dead, you were out of luck, because they were inescapable that summer and fall".[9]

American Beauty peaked at No. 30 on Billboard's Pop Albums chart, while the single, "Truckin'", peaked at No. 64 on the Pop Singles chart. It was the final album with Mickey Hart until his return to the band four years later, in 1975. Eight of the album's ten songs would remain in live setlists throughout the band's history.

The album was remixed for 5.1 stereo in 2001 by Mickey Hart. This version is heavy in reverb and bass drum, and received mixed reviews.[16] It was remastered and expanded with eight bonus tracks, as part of the box set The Golden Road (1965–1973) in 2001. This version was released separately in 2003.

Reception[edit]

Andy Zwerling of Rolling Stone felt that the album was a continuation of Workingman's Dead, though there was more care and contentment in the singing, as well as the instrument playing being rich.[17] Robert Christgau also compared the album favorably to Workingman's Dead, feeling it was "sweeter vocally and more direct instrumentally".[18] Washington Post writer Tom Zito felt that the album showed "wisdom of age" when compared to their earlier works, while maintaining an "exuberance of youth."[19] Jason Ankeny at AllMusic feels that the album is the Dead's "studio masterpiece", and in comparing it to Workingman's Dead, it is "more representative of the group as a collective unit".[20]

In 2003, the album was ranked number 258 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. The American National Association of Recording Merchandisers placed the album at number 20 in its 2007 list of "definitive 200 albums".[21] The album is included in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die[22] and in 1991 Rolling Stone ranked American Beauty's album cover as the 57th best of all time.[23]

Track listing[edit]

Songs written by Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter except where otherwise noted. All lead vocals by Garcia except where noted.

Side one[edit]

  1. "Box of Rain" (Phil Lesh, Robert Hunter) – 5:18 (lead singer: Phil Lesh)
  2. "Friend of the Devil" (Garcia, John Dawson, Hunter) – 3:24
  3. "Sugar Magnolia" (Bob Weir, Hunter) – 3:19 (lead singer: Bob Weir)
  4. "Operator" (Ron McKernan) – 2:25 (lead singer: Ron "Pigpen" McKernan)
  5. "Candyman" – 6:14

Side two[edit]

  1. "Ripple" – 4:09
  2. "Brokedown Palace" – 4:09
  3. "Till the Morning Comes" – 3:08
  4. "Attics of My Life" – 5:12 (lead singers: all)
  5. "Truckin'" (Garcia, Lesh, Weir, Hunter) – 5:03 (lead singers: Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir)

2001 Rhino reissue[edit]

  1. "Truckin'" (Single Version) (Garcia, Lesh, Weir, Hunter) – 3:17
  2. "Friend of the Devil" (Live – May 15, 1970 at Fillmore East in New York City) (Garcia, Dawson, Hunter) – 4:21[a]
  3. "Candyman" (Live – April 15, 1970 at Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco) – 5:18[b]
  4. "Till the Morning Comes" (Live – October 4, 1970 at Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco) – 3:20[c]
  5. "Attics of My Life" (Live – June 6, 1970 at Fillmore West in San Francisco) – 6:31
  6. "Truckin'" (Live – December 26, 1970 at Legion Stadium in El Monte, California) (Garcia, Lesh, Weir, Hunter) – 10:10
  7. "Ripple" (Single Edit) – 3:02
  8. American Beauty radio promo – 1:11

Notes

The final two tracks are unlisted
  1. ^ Later released with more selections from this date on Road Trips Volume 3 Number 3
  2. ^ Later released with entire concert performance on 30 Trips Around the Sun
  3. ^ Another track from this date is a bonus on Workingman's Dead

Personnel[edit]

Charts[edit]

Album
Year Chart Position
1971 Billboard 200 30[24]
Singles
Year Single Chart Position
1971 "Truckin'" Billboard Hot 100 64[25]

Certifications[edit]

Certification Date
Gold[26] July 11, 1974
Platinum[26] October 13, 1986
Double Platinum[26] August 24, 2001

Release history[edit]

The album has been released in a multitude of ways since its original release.[20] In 2001, the CD version was remastered and expanded with live tracks and singles for the The Golden Road (1965–1973) 12-CD box set. This version was given individual release in 2003. Additionally in 2001, a standalone DVD-Audio version was released including a 5.1 Surround Sound mix. On October 24, 2004, the album was released as a DualDisc recording, including a DVD side with interviews with Mickey Hart and Bob Weir, a photo gallery, and lyrics to all songs. In 2006 it was released in a CD replica of the original vinyl edition, with period labels and inner sleeve.

Region Date Label Format Catalog
United States 1970-11-01 Warner Bros. LP WS 1893
1978 Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab MFS-1-014
Worldwide 1987 Warner Bros. Compact Disc 1893-2
Cassette tape M5-1893
1990 LP 1893
United States 2001 Rhino DVD-Audio 74385
2003 CD 74397†
LP
2004-10-24 Warner Bros./Rhino DualDisc 74385
2007 Grateful Dead CD 74794
Worldwide Rhino 1893
WEA/Rhino LP 8122736821

† Re-mastered edition with bonus tracks

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Rosner, Ben (July 4, 2016). "The 10 Most Patriotic Albums". Paste. Retrieved July 23, 2016. 
  2. ^ Allmusic Review
  3. ^ Grateful Dead album ratings at RobertChristgau.com
  4. ^ Grateful Dead album ratings, Rolling Stone
  5. ^ American Beauty at Sputnikmusic
  6. ^ Lesh, Phil (2005). Searching for the Sound. Little, Brown & Co., New York, NY. Chapter 11. ISBN 978-0-316-00998-0. 
  7. ^ Jackson, Blair (1999). Garcia: An American Life. Penguin Books, New York, NY. p. 196. 
  8. ^ a b c Classic Albums – The Grateful Dead: Anthem to Beauty (DVD). Rhino/WEA. 1999. 
  9. ^ a b Jackson, Blair (1999). Garcia: An American Life. Penguin Books, New York, NY. p. 202. 
  10. ^ Kreutzmann, Bill (2015). Deal. St. Martin's Press, New York. Chapter 10. ISBN 978-1-250-03380-2. 
  11. ^ Gans, David (February 3, 2001). "Ned Lagin Interview", The Grateful Dead Hour. Retrieved January 1, 2017.
  12. ^ Phil Lesh: Searching for the Sound by Phil Lesh, Little, Brown and Company, 2005, p. 190.
  13. ^ Kreutzmann, Bill (2015). Deal. St. Martin's Press, New York. Chapter 9. ISBN 978-1-250-03380-2. 
  14. ^ Zwerling, Andy. American Beauty review from Rolling Stone, posted on Musical Stew Daily
  15. ^ List of Grateful Dead singles on DeadDisc.com
  16. ^ Audio Stream review; Accessed Dec. 2016
  17. ^ Zwerling, Andy (December 24, 1970). "American Beauty | Album Reviews &#124". Rolling Stone. Retrieved December 4, 2011. 
  18. ^ Christgau, Robert. "Robert Christgau: CG: Grateful Dead". robertchristgau.com. Retrieved December 4, 2011. 
  19. ^ Tom Zito (November 28, 1970). "The Grateful Dead: Settling Down". The Washington Post. p. B6. Retrieved February 6, 2016. (subscription required (help)). 
  20. ^ a b Ankeny, Jason. "American Beauty – Grateful Dead | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved December 4, 2011. 
  21. ^ "2007 National Association of Recording Merchandisers (NARM) definitive 200 albums – All Time Top 200 Albums". timepieces.nl. 2008. Retrieved December 4, 2011. 
  22. ^ Robert Dimery; Michael Lydon (7 February 2006). 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die: Revised and Updated Edition. Universe. ISBN 0-7893-1371-5. 
  23. ^ "Rolling Stone's 100 Greatest Album Covers". Rate Your Music. November 14, 1991. Retrieved March 18, 2011. 
  24. ^ "Billboard 200 album chart position". Rovi Corporation/Billboard. Retrieved November 22, 2010. 
  25. ^ "Billboard Hot 100 singles chart position". Rovi Corporation/Billboard. Retrieved November 22, 2010. 
  26. ^ a b c "RIAA Gold & Platinum database-American Beauty". Retrieved February 28, 2009. [permanent dead link]