Album no. 190/1001
The Dead are back, but this time they’re twangin’ away like they’re Merle Haggard. Quite a change.
Another band with a prolific output, this is The Grateful Dead’s third album since Live/Dead and second in 1970. Maybe everybody had let the acid go and started in on amphetamines?
This was recorded in a hurry after the band discovered that their manager had renewed their contract with Warner Brothers and then skipped town with a lot of their money. Did we mention the manager was the drummer’s dad? Must have made for some awkward family dinners.
Have you listened to this album before?
NK: Definitely not.
NK: Well, this is different from the aimless psych meandering nonsense on Live/Dead. Not necessarily better, but certainly different.
CL: Oh. My. Gosh. The Grateful Dead meets America’s country genre. Help.
NK: That’s exactly what it is. A weirdo country/folk bit. There’s still plenty of guitaring, but a lot of it is of the pedal steel variety. They’ve also started singing together ala Crosby Still and Nash. I don’t have an issue with country music in and of itself. What I struggled with here was finding a song that had anything I could hang on to. I don’t remember any choruses, or hooks, or riffs, or lyrics, anything at all except a general laid back country feel. I just struggled to pick any winners. ‘Friend Of The Devil’ was my least favourite song. As my standout I pick (goes back and quickly plays a bit of each song again to refresh memory) ‘Brokendown Palace’, as if you squint hard enough with your ears it sort of sounds like an incredibly cut-rate version of The Band.
CL: Everybody REALLY was jumping on that folky train in 1970 weren’t they?! Surely Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young can’t be to blame for everything – but seriously, they started a terrible trend.
When would be the best time to listen to this?
NK: I guess if you want some country music, but you don’t want the songs to have any hooks. There are melodies here, but none of them have anything approaching a catchy chorus. Give me ‘Big Iron’ any day of the week.
CL: This can be added to the Back to the Future III western saloon playlist, thanks.
Why has this album been included on the list?
NK: It’s something different from the Grateful Dead? Last time they were all long jamming psych numbers with a hint of blues, now they’re zombie Crosby Stills and Nash. It’s a pretty abrupt turn, although to be fair there were two albums (one studio and one live) between them. If you take the Grateful Dead as a sort of controlled sample for where music is up to you can definitely see a change in direction.
CL: Everyone loves a fusion of some kind. Mixing the overhyped psychedelic business the Dead were so famous for, with classic Americana was obviously a match made in hype heaven. BUT NOT FOR ME.
Will you be listening again?
NK: I doubt it very much.
CL: Oh look – if you enjoy acoustic, folky music that wanders around a bit and has a country flavour, you’ll probably love it! Given that I don’t really like any of these things, it’s not for me.
Listen to American Beauty on Spotify or buy it in iTunes.