American Beauty: Angel’s Share Album Review
Fifty years ago, Grateful Dead released their most well-known album, American Beauty. Released four months after their other seminal album Workingman’s Dead, American Beauty is not only a quintessential Grateful Dead album, but a quintessential folk album, one that truly defined a generation of music. Released during the zeitgeist of the late 60s and 70s, American Beauty provided a cathartic release from the stresses of the time, capturing the love of the counterculture of the time. Fifty years on, it seems like the social upheaval of that era is back, and with it American Beauty. Released on October 15, 2020, American Beauty: The Angel’s Share is a collection of never before heard demo tapes, acoustic versions, and outtakes from the recording of the original album. The demos offer a more intimate version of beloved songs, leaning more into the blues and folk inspiration of Workingman’s Dead. The slower songs like “To Lay Me Down” and “Brokedown Palace” benefit the most, giving off a sort of campfire vibe. This is quite possibly my favorite version of “Brokedown Palace” I’ve ever heard, feeling extremely intimate and personal through the grainy audio. More upbeat tracks like “Friend of the Devil” or “Operator” are also interesting, but I’m not sure I would say they are better than the original recording. This record serves as a bridge between the sometimes sterile work on the studio versions of Grateful Dead albums, and the often inaccessible live recordings, while enhancing a beloved, classic album.