The Grateful Dead – American Beauty – Our Shootout Winner from 2009


A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.

MASTER TAPE SOUND AND MOSTLY QUIET VINYL ON BOTH SIDES, BABY! We went through all of 2008 without finding a single Hot Stamper copy of this great album, but today I am pleased to report that American Beauty Hot Stampers are back in stock at Better Records! Drop the needle on any track on either side — I guarantee you’ve never heard this band sound so good, or your money back. 

If you’re looking for a mindblowingly good copy of the Grateful Dead’s masterpiece, you’re going to have to act quickly, because our supply is extremely limited. I understand if you want to write the Dead off based on their later output, but you just can’t deny the power of this album.

Both sides of this copy earned top honors — A+++ all the way. All of the elements necessary to take this music to an entirely new level are here, my friends: smooth, sweet vocals; rich, meaty bass; an open and airy top end; top-notch presence and so forth. The sound is so spacious and transparent that you can easily pick out each of the instruments and follow them over the course of the songs. The acoustic guitars sound magical on this one, and I can’t believe how wonderful these guys voices sound. The tubey magic and immediacy on this copy are going to STUN you. You could choose any track you wanted to and find lovely sound here, but I’d recommend Friend Of The Devil, Ripple, and Attics Of My Life for starters. Most copies suffer from a glaring lack of highs, but just listen to the ride cymbals on this one to find out that the top end is still alive and well here.

Luckily enough, this copy is also UNUSUALLY quiet. Both sides play close to Mint Minus throughout. There are a few pressing bubbles in the vinyl that make very light thumps behind the music — about seven during track five on side one, and five more during track five on side two. There’s also a touch of Inner Groove Distortion for the last 1/4″ of side one, which adds a touch of grain to the voices. Most Green Label Originals have far more serious issues, and most of them don’t sound nearly this good. Still, we’re knocking $100 off what we would have charged for this copy to help you get past these relatively minor issues. What a deal!

The Dead At Their Best

The crowning glory of the Grateful Dead, their MASTERPIECE. Albums like this come along once in a band’s life — if they’re lucky. This is the zenith of the Grateful Dead. Workingman’s Dead is a good album. American Beauty is a great one.

It’s not a perfect record by any means, but certainly one that belongs in your collection. If you don’t have a great sounding copy yet, it’s time to get on the bus. Steven Barncard is the recording engineer responsible for this album, Deja Vu, Brewer and Shipley’s Tarkio, and a host of other amazingly rich, sweet and natural mostly acoustic recordings that stand head and shoulders above most of their contemporaries. American Beauty is one of them.

Originals Don’t Usually Come Quiet

It’s tough to find any Green Label copies that play much quieter than Mint Minus Minus. Beyond that, most copies have at least a touch of groove damage at the end of at least one of the sides. You can find quiet later pressings, but it’s hard to find one that actually sounds good.

The MoFi Can Be Pretty Good

The Mobile Fidelity pressing of this album can actually sound quite good. It usually suffers from badly bloated bass, which should come as no surprise to the more discerning audiophiles among you, since so many of their records have that problem. We recently found a Hot Stamper MoFi of this album that sounded wonderful. Those of you who are picky about their surfaces should JUMP for it, because they sure don’t grow on trees!

By the way, whatever you do DO NOT BUY THE 180G RHINO REISSUE OF WORKINGMAN’S DEAD. It sounds like a bad CD.


Side One

Box of Rain
Friend of the Devil Track Commentary

On the best copies, you’ll hear wonderfully deep bass, and plenty of it, as well as rich ambience around the guitars and extended harmonics from the strings

Sugar Magnolia
Candy Man

Side Two

Brokedown Palace
Till the Morning Comes
Attics of My Life Track Commentary

This track, with its lovely vocal harmonies, is one of the best sounding songs on the album. When you find a good copy, the vocals should be sweet and completely free from strain.


AMG Review

A companion piece to the luminous Workingman’s Dead, American Beauty is an even stronger document of the Grateful Dead’s return to their musical roots. Sporting a more full-bodied and intricate sound than its predecessor thanks to the addition of subtle electric textures, the record is also more representative of the group as a collective unit… American Beauty remains the Dead’s studio masterpiece.