Falcone's Crossroads

Where This Meets That

“Desert Island Album” Spotlight: The Grateful Dead’s American Beauty

After a “long, strange” 50-year trip that led the Grateful Dead from its roots in Palo Alto, California through countless dimensions of music, mirth, and murk, the Dead packed it in this weekend, playing three shows before record crowds at Soldier Field in Chicago.

American BeautySadly, I couldn’t be there.  But after watching several superb excerpts on YouTube,  I can’t wait for the release of what’s sure to be a premium-priced DVD package of the entire run.

Meantime, I’ve been on one heck of Dead binge, and today seems like a great time to give them the “Desert Island Album” treatment.

Their 1970 album American Beauty is widely regarded as the band’s studio masterpiece, serving up a pioneering blend of rock, bluegrass, country, folk, and even gospel.

Where the Grateful Dead were best known for their sprawling, spacey, improvised jams, American Beauty is concise and cohesive.  Here, beautiful lyricism meets equally gratifying instrumentation and melts into rich, vocal harmonies and delightful instrumental interplay.

Hit songs like “Truckin'” and sunshiny, daydreamy “Sugar Magnolia,” can jolt the idlest soul to tap his toe, but it’s songs like “Brokedown Palace” and “Attics of My Life” that just make you want to hug your mama and cry that give this album real weight.

Top to bottom, American Beauty can aptly be described in two words:  American.  Beauty.

Click below for proof. 🙂


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