In 1970, with the Grateful Dead riding the wave of success following the acclaimed surrounding their album Workingman’s Dead, the headed back into the studio to create the quite brilliant follow up American Beauty. Many of the songs created across the recording of those two albums solidified their presence within the Grateful Dead’s live shows and cemented their place in the annals of rock history. Now, as the 50th anniversary looks, it has been announced that American Beauty is being revamped in celebration,
American Beauty: 50th Anniversary Deluxe edition is scheduled to be released on October 30 in a limited edition sale of 15,000 copies, contains the newly remastered version of the original album. To follow that up, a three-CD set includes the original album with newly remastered audio, plus an unreleased concert recorded on February 18, 1971, at the Capitol Theatre in Port Chester, NY.
Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir, Ron ‘Pigpen’ McKernan, Phil Lesh, Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart recorded American Beauty in August and September 1970 at Wally Heider Studios in San Francisco with producer Stephen Quinn Barncard. When they entered the studio, Workingman’s Dead was still on the charts going strong. Such a quick follow-up on studio albums was unheard of for the band, and a feat they would never repeat.
“It still boggles my mind to think of the Grateful Dead’s creative output in 1970. For any other band, catching lightning with an album as perfect and excellent as Workingman’s Dead is a once-in-a-lifetime achievement. The Dead, however, followed up just a few months later with an album that virtually every Dead Head considers it’s equal. Ten songs, nearly all of which became cornerstones of the band’s live repertoire for the next 25 years. Today, 50 years on, these songs are still essential parts of the band members’ continuing live activities,” says David Lemieux, Grateful Dead archivist and the set’s producer.
“The 50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition includes one of the first, and best, live performances of 1971, just a couple of months after the release of American Beauty, and the five live debuts in the show demonstrate that the spectacular creativity of 1970 was no fluke. This was the new Dead, and we’re still tapping our feet and humming along to these songs 50 years later.”
In the set’s liner notes, So Many Roads author David Browne recounts the history surrounding the album and dives deep into the making of this masterpiece. He writes: “American Beauty was, at heart, a beautifully made record. The interplay of rippling piano, vocal harmonies, and slide guitar in ‘Brokedown Palace’ was unlike anything they had created before, even on Workingman’s Dead. Thanks to Barncard’s expertise with recording acoustic instruments, ‘Ripple,’ perhaps [Robert] Hunter and Garcia’s most meditative song, had a country-stream clarity. ‘Friend Of The Devil’—a Hunter, Garcia, and John “Marmaduke” Dawson tale of an on-the-run rogue that almost ended up with Dawson’s New Riders Of The Purple Sage—had the same crispiness. (Both tracks also benefited from overdubbed mandolin parts from David Grisman.)”