Pure Jerry: Theatre 1839, San Francisco July 29 & 30, 1977

by: Jerry Garcia Band

Joining guitarist/vocalist Jerry Garcia on 2004's Pure Jerry are concurrent Grateful Dead members keyboardist Keith Godchaux and vocalist Donna Jean Godchaux as well as bassist John Kahn and seminal skinsman Ron Tutt. This incarnation of the Jerry Garcia Band had been together since January 1976 and would conclude their collaborations in a little over a week after these dates at the Theatre 1839 in San Francisco during late July 1977. Immediately striking is how good the recordings sound, adding to the intimacy and presence of the band's musical communication. The set list reflects Garcia's own decidedly eclectic tastes in addition to the wider variety of styles afforded him, in contrast to his concurrent involvement with the Grateful Dead. Even the songs that were being played by both outfits, such as "Friend of the Devil" and "They Love Each Other," are rendered with significantly different energies. The combo likewise became an outlet for Garcia's lengthy and expressive improvisations, one of the unquestionable fortes of the guitarist's non-Dead endeavors. There are no compact arrangements, as each of the selections -- consisting of classic R&B, rock, and reggae tunes -- are thoroughly explored, prime examples being Kahn's extemporaneous solo in "Russian Lullaby" and Keith Godchaux's playful interaction during "That's What Love Will Make You Do." While highlights abound and enthusiasts will inevitably find their favorites, the slinky reading of Jesse Stone's "Don't Let Go" is especially tasty as Godchaux navigates the loose and funky syncopated counterpoint. Garcia retorts with searing leads and is matched by Tutt's animated interjections. Luckily, there is plenty to enjoy as the jam clocks in three minutes shy of half an hour. Although Garcia also handles the lion's share of the vocals, Donna Jean Godchaux contributes to "Stir It Up" and provides some lovely counterpoint throughout, particularly on "Simple Twist of Fate," "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down," and the duet on a bluesy rendition of Paul McCartney's "Let Me Roll It." Incidentally, that is among a handful that are making their debut on a Garcia Band live release; others include their agile take of Jimmy Cliff's "The Harder They Come" and a co-composition with lyricist Robert Hunter titled "Gomorrah," which wouldn't even surface on a studio album until Cats Under the Stars in 1978. ~ Lindsay Planer, Rovi

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