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The Grateful Dead's first four albums earned them the reputation of being another jam-oriented, hippy-trippy band from San Francisco. But their two classic albums from 1970--WORKINGMAN'S DEAD and AMERICAN BEAUTY--showcased their strong songwriting talents and their country, folk and bluegrass roots. The album prominently features Garcia's pedal steel playing--there is not a single Garcia guitar solo to be found anywhere!--and friend David Grisman adds mandolin on "Friend of the Devil" and "Ripple." Songs like "Sugar Magnolia," "Friend of the Devil" and "Truckin'" became permanent fixtures in their live shows.

This HDCD remastered edition by Rhino is the same one that was included as part of the 2001 box set THE GOLDEN ROAD. As such it is packed with with nearly forty minutes of bonus material, including the single version of "Truckin'" (which peaked at No. 64, making it the highest charting single of their career until "Touch of Grey" went Top 10 in 1987), as well as five live songs from various concerts from 1970: "Friend of the Devil," "Candyman," "Till the Morning Comes," "Attics of My Life" and "Truckin'." There are also two hidden tracks: a live version of "Ripple" and a hilarious 60-second radio spot promoting the Dead's then new album, which encourages listeners to buy the record and "make their duck a grateful duck."
In addition, there are some terrific photos included with the 16-page booklet along with an essay by Deadhead David Gans, who wrote last year's "Conversations with the Dead: The Grateful Dead Interview Book."
While there are several live albums available that would give you a broader view of the Grateful Dead, this album along with WORKINGMAN'S DEAD are the finest studio albums of their storied career and belongs in any serious music fan's collection [Total running time: 79:56] ESSENTIAL
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on December 1, 1999
I would venture to guess that more people were lured into the magical, maniacal world of the Grateful Dead through American Beauty than any other way. More times than I can count, I've seen a non-Deadhead listen to this album, be blown away, and slowly join the rest of us in our nirvana. American Beauty features lyrical, complex songs and straight-forward American Folk music. "Ripple" may be the most beautiful song ever written. "Box of Rain" is funny and poignant. And I dare you not to break into a huge grin during "Sugar Magnolia." While this is a much different Grateful Dead from what you saw in concert, it is equally glorious.
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on March 15, 2000
Doesn't everybody already own this album? I'm an old Deadhead - so you can calibrate my remarks. This is the best place to start in learning about the GD. If you had to own to just one GD album, this would be it. Box of Rain, Attics of My Life, Brokedown Palace, Ripple - all beautiful poetry in their own right. Hunter-Garcia, what a KNOCKOUT combination! Cherish well Jerry's voice here - as his singing voice declined markedly in his later years. What a burst of creativity American Beauty is. Buy this one, then go listen to some of their live albums - Live Dead, the "Skull & Roses" album, or Europe 72, and you'll get a glimpse of what it was all about.
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on July 2, 2003
I always feared having to write a review of this album, but I guess I can accept it as a challenge, and attempt the impossible. For truly, how could one review something like a part of their lives, a place where they lived, or a transitioning period? To me the album brings on smells, tastes, and visions from all three of those stages.
Objectively, American Beauty has its flaws. The songs were done in the studio, something the band never looked forward to, and a little bittle of evolution, well, took some of these songs a long way. Look at Sugar Magnolia and Truckin' for instance, two of the bands most famous works, they never became great songs until they played them live, let them evolve, unfold, and bloom. Any experienced listener would take a live Truckin' or Sugar Magnolia over the studio versions anyday. But that doesn't really matter, because what the rest of the album has to offer is probably the best of what folk and rock music have to offer....
Box of Rain, Ripple, Brokedown Palace, Candyman, Friend of the Devil, and Attics of My Life.
Of all the jazz, classical music, folk & roots music, and world & ethnic music I have ever listened to, I still have not found songs which parallel these in their strength and grandeur. These are'nt merely songs, these are moments, these are Zen watercolor paintings, and they are the most sincere, and human pieces of art that I have ever come to know.
Coming to know these songs was like developing a new sense for me. It was like seeing, or smelling, or hearing for the first time, when the buddha sprang from beneath the bodhi tree he must have felt similar. I truly envy you if you have never listened to these songs, I would pay astronomical amounts of money to hear these songs again for the first time.
But then again, that was another time, another world....
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on September 2, 2004
This is truly a beautiful album--it's certainly in my Top 5. Basically what you have to know about "American Beauty" is that if you've been hearing about the Grateful Dead your entire life but haven't gotten around to checking them out, this is where to start. The majority of Deadheads would agree that they were never better in the studio than documented here. It contains several of the best (and most well-known) songs in their entire catalogue, including "Sugar Magnolia," "Friend of the Devil," "Truckin'," and the cream of the crop: the absolutely gorgeous "Ripple" (with mandolin by David Grisman). Furthermore, Ron "Pigpen" McKernan was still alive, who was an important figure in the band's blues roots.

I think the 1969 live album, "Live/Dead" is just as musically accomplished as "American Beauty." However, many new listeners may find it much less accessible and won't be able to immediately digest a 23-minute version of "Dark Star." These are streamlined songs, most of them lasting about 4 minutes. Again--if you're curious about the Grateful Dead, I assure you this is by far the best place to start. And I assure you that you'll find it to be an amazing and beautiful contribution to music.
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on April 29, 2005
"American Beauty" is a testament to what the Grateful Dead were capable of if they put their minds to making great music.

The Garcia-Hunter songwriting team hits its stride with this album. Over about a three-year period from 1969-72, those two fellows wrote most of (not "all" as I'd written previously) the songs on this album, "Workingman's Dead" (which includes "Uncle John's Band," "Casey Jones," and "Cumberland Blues") the non-covers on the live "Grateful Dead" (i.e. "Bertha," "Wharf Rat") and "Europe '72 (i.e. "He's Gone," "Tennessee Jed," "Ramble On Rose," "Brown-eyed Woman."), songs for Jerry Garcia's first solo album ("Sugaree," "The Wheel," "Bird Song" "The Deal" among others) and "Wake of the Flood" ("Here Comes Sunshine," "Mississippi Half Step Toodle-ooo"). That's quite an output! After that, they slowed down considerably, and the band made itself a lengthy career performing sets all over the world for 20 more years, sets that largely consisted of songs from this period.

This album is the best of them all, because the Dead put their heart into making this recording. It is a close, intimate record, with only one real rock song, lots of acoustic guitar, Garcia's magnificent pedal steel, and David Grisman mandolin, and harmony singing that is fully the equal of CSNY, the Band or Simon & Garfunkel on songs like "Attics of My Life" and "Brokedown Palace." Phil Lesh is brilliant on this album; he is the glue that gives this album its subtle swing and sonic thickness.

We can't ask our favorite artists to always be peaking. Not every album can be "Pet Sounds" or "Sticky Fingers," not even if their creators are geniuses. So it goes--the Dead never equalled "American Beauty," and it's hard to understand why not. But at least we have this, and it's a musical miracle that will always sound fresh.
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on September 25, 2000
What else can be said about this album? Because the album is worth listening to over and over, so is reading, writting and talking about it. The vocals on Attics of my Life are the best the dead ever produced on any album. They are perfect. All the songs are expertly written and performed. Ripple is one of the best true- blue american folk song ever written. The melody meshes perfectly with the words which gives the feeling of optimisim,hope and pure happiness. The song Till the Morning Comes never made it into the regular concert rotation, is a excellent rendition. The sound is joyful and very peppy. Box of Rain is song written by Robert Hunter and Phil Lesh which was wriiten at the time of Lesh's farther dying of cancer. As a matter of fact, Garcia's mother and Bob Weir's Parents had also passed away at the time. All the emotion and passion for life were put into this album. This is the "Crown Jewel" of recordings in american folk music, not just for the Grateul Dead. Other songs of note are Candyman and Friend of a Devil. Again, Garcia sings beautifully. His voice is young,fresh, and full of heartfelt passion. This album is not at all like the live concerts the band was playing at the time. Some shows had acustic sets but the electric sets were like entering a war zone of Fire Breathing Dragons. The sound on American Beauty is rich, warm and very inviting. This is a testiment to the incrediable versitility of this remarkable band of very fine musicians. Special note goes to David Grisman and Howard Wales for adding texture with mandolin and keyboards respectivly.
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on February 7, 2002
"American Beauty" is just that: A beautiful American album. No jams, just concise folk/country/rock classics of ethereal beauty played with a passion and restraint rarely equaled. Considered by many the watershed of studio Dead, this is a soothing album with some of the most beautiful tracks ever recorded. One listen to 'Studio Magnolia' or the mandolin-tinged, brillian 'Ripple' should be all it takes for a sensate human to fall in love with this album. If you're still not convinced (see a doctor), listen to the rest of the album. Quite simply, an all-time classic. Not to be missed or sipped, but embraced and guzzled. Enjoy.
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on March 11, 2005
This is an awesome CD. Side one is the American Beauty you already love, remastered in new 128bit stereo...it sounds better than ever, better than the new remaster in the box set. Side 2 is a DVD with 2 brief interviews with Mickey and Bobby. There are some great photos too. But the main attraction of the set is the new 5.1 Surround Mix on Side 2. YOU NEED A DVD COMPATIBLE WITH DOLBY OR DTS 5.1 TO HEAR THIS MIX. There are so many lost harmonies, guitar licks, and percussion that Mickey has added back in that were originally recorded and left out of the stereo mix. It's like listening to a whole new American Beauty with the band right in your living room. If you have never heard a 5.1 surround mix CD, you are missing out! I can't describe the incredible difference. Do yourself a favor, get this if you have the equipment to play it.
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on August 14, 2011
I like Grateful Dead albums, their mainly blues.country rock, an with folk, blue grass and psychedelic as elements in their music.

An some songs on other albums are jazz music from the dead.

I am almost 32 an if it wasnt for the cartoon from south park comedy central episode called ikes wee wee on season 2, I wouldve never got into this grateful dead band.

Mr mackey did beer, pot an lsd on that episode, an pieces of the episode had grateful dead music.

an jimbo said too mackey, get out of your way you damn hippie, mackey said back 2 jimbo kerns, I don't have too take ur bull****, an something about the government, lol An then jimbo said why dont you just go too GRATEFUL DEAD concert, lol

Anyway GD isnt real country music, it has some country, rock songs on it like casey jones, etc. but its nothing like real country like dixie chicks and kelly clarkson.

I like friend of the devil song an also fire mountian, etc. and this band is the s***

Not much of a review cuze I arent good as making speeches.

But anyway I you tube search all dead songs an I decided too buy some albums an I love them an now I have em all including some live ones like europe 72, etc.
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