The pinnacle of the Dead’s studio output, American Beauty lives up to its name â€“ as well as that of the “American Reality” ambigram on the iconic cover. Airy vocal harmonies blow like fresh breezes. Strummed acoustic guitars amicably intermingle with plaintive percussive beats. Warmth, relaxation, and poignancy envelop the performances and create sensations of bliss, peace, and honesty. Songs flower with majestic melodies and emotionally direct lyrics. It’s a rare album that makes one feel, restores one’s faith, and renews one’s appreciation for all life offers.
Made just months after its companion release, Workingman’s Dead, the San Francisco legends’ second 1970 masterpiece furthers the former work’s close-knit relationship between country and folk while adding extra rock and bluegrass currents. Understated amplified passages, graceful melodies, layered singing, and old-time string flavors â€“ including mandolin work from masterful guest David Grisman â€“ bestow the material with easygoing, comfortable vibes. Again taking advantage of the best songwriting of Robert Hunter’s career, the Dead turns in its most collective studio performance, with every individual contributing equally and focusing on nothing but the songs at hand.
Indeed, Garcia doesn’t even indulge in a single guitar solo on the record. A majority of fare lacks any significant instrumental breaks. The Dead recorded the foundations (drums, bass, acoustic guitars) of nearly every track live, which helps explain why American Beauty sounds so powerfully rich and clear. Coupled with the band’s personal reflections of the circumstances surrounding them â€“ Bob Weir’s parents had died, Garcia’s mother and Lesh’s father were in the process of passing, Ron “Pigpen” McKernan’s health was in decline â€“ these characteristics combined to yield a purity of heart that exceeds that managed by Dead peers (and roots revivalist leaders) The Band and Bob Dylan.
From Garcia’s breathtaking gospel-laden homage to his mother (“Brokedown Palace”) to Lesh’s healing salve in the form of the groove-based “Box of Rain,” from Weir’s jaunty and free-wheeling summer escape “Sugar Magnolia” to McKernan’s eloquently simple homespun plea “Operator,” all the way to the closing autobiographical anthem “Truckin’,” American Beauty feels like the warm, spirit-infusing embrace of a loved one after a long journey away. Welcome home.
- Box of Rain
- Friend of the Devil
- Sugar Magnolia
- Brokedown Palace
- Till the Morning Comes
- Attics of My Life
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You don’t need to be ‘Old & Wise’ to know this is an absolute essential!Mastered from the original master tapes, Mobile Fidelity’s RTI pressed 180g 45RPM 2LP and hybrid SACD versions of Eye in the Sky feature succulent warmth, magnificent balance, low-end heft, and see-through transparency that take you into the studio with Parsons at Abbey Road Studios. Each note seems perfectly placed, every sequence painstakingly considered. Boasting front-to- back depth, concert-hall-level separation, realistic presence, and bang-on accuracy, the reissues illustrate the lasting importance of perfectionist-minded engineering and recording techniques. These releases will test the capabilities of the world’s finest stereo systems. There’s more information, more texture, more nuance— more of everything to be experienced. British progressive rock would never again sound so sophisticated, suave, or steady.
#338 on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time: Big Brother and Joplin Convey Fearlessness, Toughness, and Synergy on Every NoteIn many facets, Big Brother and the Holding Company's Cheap Thrills is the quintessential album to spring from the outcome of the Summer of Love. Best known as Janis Joplin's major-label debut, the 1968 set arrived when the countercultural movement was in full swing and before co-optation, drugs, and violence signaled the fall of the era. Ranked #338 on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, it puts a female singer in the prominent position traditionally given to a male and showcases a band pouring a potent cocktail of fiery psychedelic, blues, and folk sounds that informed the unfettered creativity of the San Francisco scene. Produced by John Simon, Cheap Thrills also features one of the most iconic and elaborate album covers in history.
Diverse Set Encompasses Ballads, Waltzes, Hard-Swinging BopBill Evans catapulted to the top of the jazz world in June 1961 after reeling off three straight masterpiece sessions at New York’s Village Vanguard with his trio. Yet the emotional highs came to a screeching halt shortly thereafter when bassist Scott LaFaro died in a car accident. Devastated, Evans refrained from playing for nearly a year. If not for an inspirational collaboration of tremendous creative outpouring, one wonders what fate may have befallen Evans. Undercurrent, the outcome of two studio sessions with guitarist Jim Hall, is that project.
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