Tuesday, January 18, 2005

I'm not a hippie.

In my continuing exploration of music, I've stumbled onto the Grateful Dead's "American Beauty". Now, when the Grateful Dead are mentioned, people typically think they're music for "stoners" and the band is a hippie band, and some of these stereotypes may be fitting. However the Grateful Dead are far too good a band to be dismissed as stoner rock, although some of the best music ever has been created through experiementation with substances (I'm not particularly advocating drug use), but whatever.
Anyways, "American Beauty" is typically considered the Grateful Dead's best studio work, which is interesting for a band who made their reputation on improvisation , or jamming. The songs are highly structured and rolling, while some improvisation can be noted. This album has varied influences. One can hear blues, bluegrass, country, and rock genres intermixed. The Dead make these categories come together seamlessly. There are some Dead classics on this album, but they don't really stand out because the whole album is so good. The standards on the album are "Box of Rain," "Friend of the Devil," "Sugar Magnolias," " Brokedown Palace," and "Truckin'". All of these songs have great vocal harmony as well as amazing musicianship. Of all these songs, "Brokedown Palace" tends to impress me the most. It has great three-part vocal harmony and nice piano playing.
Something else to note is the influence the songs on this album have carried. Many would say jambands like Phish, the String Cheese Incident, and Widespread Panic have drawn inspiration from the songs on this album. I don't often like the jamband comparison to the Grateful Dead because I don't feel the explanation is that simple, but you can see some resemblence. While I like some of these other bands' music, it doesn't compare to the Dead because of their great range and talent.


Blogger ocomik said...


Nice entry. If you enjoyed the Grateful Dead's American Beauty, you also need to checkout Workingman's Dead. Many folks, including myself, feel these two records go hand and hand.

For me Workingman's/Beauty turned me on to bluegrass and the richness of American roots music. If it wasn't for the Dead, I probably would have never discovered Bill Monroe, Ralph Stanley, Dave Grisman, Bela Fleck, and other great musicians.

Best wishes and glad to have you on the bus.

Michael OConnor
Editor, TheMusicNeverStopped.net

January 24, 2005 at 6:15 PM  

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