In another unusual burst of productivity, today we review the 2nd album released by the Grateful Dead, “American Beauty”. When combined with “Workingman’s Dead”, these two albums comprise most of the radio play tracks for the Dead, at least until their resurgence in the late 1980s. “American Beauty” is the #215 rated album on Rolling Stone’s Top 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
The album opens with “Box of Rain”, which is the excessively slow and uninteresting part of the Dead to me. The album picks up quickly after that, with “Friend of the Devil” and “Sugar Magnolia”, which will always stand out as my favorite Bob Weir Grateful Dead song. I’m not a huge fan of Pigpen McKernan’s “Operator”, but I do like Jerry Garcia’s side one closer, “Candyman”.
Two days ago on social media, I sadly saw a post from a father lamenting the passing of his 24-year-old son, which hit a little too close to home for me. In his post, he noted that their favorite song to share together was “Ripple” by the Dead, which opens side two. It is a beautiful song, and from now on it will always be in my head as this heartbreaking tribute from father to son. “Till the Morning Comes” is an upbeat song that characterizes the vibe of their live show, with the fans moving in mass unison, and the closer on side two, “Truckin” is the perfect ode to the nomadic lifestyle of the Grateful Dead and their passionately devoted fanbase.
I will always associate the Dead with a unique and one-of-a-kind friend we met in college who opened all of our collective eyes to the world of the Dead. It has been many, many years since we shared the finer things in life with our good friend Lo, but I think we can all agree on one thing…
“What a long, strange trip it’s been…”