Grateful Dead – American Beauty 50th Anniversary

I admit, I have become cynical about remasters and anniversary editions of music albums. After all, I have lived through the golden age of vinyl in the 1960’s and 1970’s, the first CDs in the 1980’s, and, the resulting remastering boom – to correct the lousy sound of the initial CD reissues of vinyl records. What has followed has been a mixed bag of remasters to raise volume levels, various reissues with one or two “bonus” tracks, and, the occaisional remix or re-edit. Some of these have been simply cash grabs to get you to buy the same material for a third or fourth time.

Happily, this is not one of them. Listening to the studio album I could hear everything I remembered from the original but with much greater definition. I can clearly hear the kick drum in Box of Rain. I can hear David Grisman’s mandolin throughout Ripple and not just when he plays fills. Yet nothing seems jarring or out of place, it all just fits together.

The Deluxe Edition also includes the entire two set concert of 2/18/1971 from the Capitol Theater in Port Chester, NY. The Dead felt comfortable here. The crowd was enthusiatic, yet respectful. They played 14 shows in Port Chester between March 1970 and February 1971. Here (less than 30 miles from Manhattan) the band could try out new material without the scrutiny they would get from the New York press. This concert boasts the premiere of five songs: Bertha, Wharf Rat, Playing in the Band, The Greatest Story Ever Told, and, Loser. Although this concert has been available on the Internet this version is remastered from the original 16 track tapes, not someone’s late generation cassette, and the difference in quality is evident.

If you are not already a fan of the Grateful Dead American Beauty is the album to start with. Everything here is wonderfully written, played, sung, and, recorded. If you are at all interested in Americana, Outlaw Country, Folk or just good old Rock and Roll you should find something to like here. I still remember buying this album as a teenager. I listened to heavier music and more rebellious music but this was my go to album for feel-good music, and it still is.

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