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#TBT: “American Beauty” Album Review

by Lainey Harlow, Junior Editor

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During their thirty-year career, the Dead were largely known for their legendary live performances and fervent, cultish following of Deadheads. But for those of us around a few decades too late to follow the Grateful Dead from venue to venue, “American Beauty” is a great introduction to their timeless charm and appeal.

Less psychedelic than much of the Dead’s work, the album starts strong with “Box of Rain”, which seamlessly blends melancholic existentialism with a sense of hope. Garcia’s every word seems to flood the ears with each song’s emotion, whether the desperation of “Candyman” and “Brokedown Palace” or the head-over-heels romance of “Sugar Magnolia”. The latter is definitely the most feel-good track, telling a tale of Garcia’s loyal, “delightful” lover. “Truckin’” and “Till the Morning Comes” have similarly catchy, upbeat instrumentals and feels to them.

“Truckin’”, “Friend of the Devil”, and “Ripple” are three of the Dead’s most beloved tracks, each combining hauntingly poetic lyrics with guitar-heavy folk and bluegrass instrumentals. “Ripple”, specifically, draws listeners in with a whimsical chorus and a message of passing on hope through music and kindness.

Despite its quirky storyline of a man searching for his lover over the phone, “Operator” is somewhat forgettable in the context of the album. Similarly, although “Attics of my Life” is lyrically complex and striking, the slow, boring instrumentals seem out of place alongside the more ear-catching tracks.

This is an album that makes me want to roll around in a field of flowers, sob, and hug my fellow man-all at once. Such versatility makes “American Beauty” so timeless and makes the album the perfect addition to any listener’s song library. You’re bound to find yourself humming or tapping along to this folk staple.

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