‘Friend of the Devil’ is my fourth Song of the Day from Grateful Dead’s classic 1970 album American Beauty, and probably my favorite of the bunch.
American Beauty is considered one of the greats, and I can’t argue with that assessment. The folk rock sound is sublime, the songs are memorable, the lyrics are evocative. My knowledge of the Dead pretty much starts and stops with this album, but it’s enough to make me understand their appeal.
1970’s American Beauty is the only Grateful Dead album I own, and the only one I’ve ever wanted to own. While I’m sure the Dead have many treasures in their discography, I’ve never had the urge to dig any deeper, largely due to my general aversion to jam bands.
American Beauty, though, is a deserved classic. The opening trio of ‘Box of Rain,’ ‘Friend of the Devil’ and ‘Sugar Magnolia’ alone puts it up there alongside the great folk rock albums of the era.
When compiling my list of favorite 1970 albums, I was tempted to include Grateful Dead’s American Beauty. Every time I listen to this record I’m reminded just how great it is.
The problem is, I almost never listen to it. Maybe three times in the last decade. Granted, I don’t pull out Let It Be or Watertown on a weekly basis either, but I know both of those albums by heart because I did give them that level of attention at some point. American Beauty never earned its own obsessive phase.
I recently bought Eminem’s new album and had to decide between the standard version and a “deluxe” version that featured four more songs for about four more dollars.
I thought back to all of the times I’ve purchased an album with bonus tracks, and how little I’ve actually listened to any of those tracks, and went with the standard.
I’m the farthest thing from a Deadhead you can imagine. If there’s one thing I hate, it’s a jam band. One of the reasons I don’t seek out more live music is the inevitable tendency for artists to stretch their songs to epic length while the crowd sways as if in a trance.
Screw that. I like songs. Get in, get out, don’t make it a second longer than it needs to be. Jam bands are public masturbators, and who needs to watch that?
That said, the Dead’s American Beauty is a damn fine album, one I revisited recently after not hearing it since college.