The Very Best of Jerry Garcia

by: Jerry Garcia

Now this is how you're supposed to do a compilation -- especially by someone who isn't making music on this plane anymore. Rhino's double-disc Very Best of Jerry Garcia is arguably exactly that. It's true that there's a bunch of stuff missing here: there are no cuts from Hooteroll? with Howard Wales, or the early Merl Saunders/Garcia Live at Keystone stuff recorded for Fantasy, but it's OK. Fans will quibble about what was left off, but not about what's here. Beginning with tracks from the first Jerry Garcia record, of which there are five, there's also a pair from Garcia (Compliments) and three from Reflections. The rest of disc one is filled out by three cuts each from the various Cats Under the Stars and Run for the Roses. This is all good and well as far as it goes, but the rest of the story, the part that really matters, is told on disc two, which is compiled of live recordings. From various editions of the Jerry Garcia Band -- thank goodness their version of Bob Dylan's "Señor (Tales of Yankee Power)" is here, as are live versions of "Positively 4th Street," Jimmy Cliff's "The Harder They Come," and "Deal" from the Way After Midnight album. There's the JGB's read of "Gomorrah " with Gloria Jones (Marc Bolan's surviving widow) on backing vocals . There's also a cut from Old & in the Way off their live set, That High Lonesome Sound, and both "Deep Elem Blues" and "Ripple" off the Jerry Garcia Acoustic Band's set are here. Which leads up to the grand moment on the live disc: the reunion of the Keystone band with Garcia and Saunders, as well as John Kahn on bass, with newbies Gaylord Birch on drums, Ed Neumeister on trombone, and saxophonist Ron Stalling. They do a stunning rendition of the Beatles' "Dear Prudence," which was previously unissued -- officially at least. Clocking in at over eleven-and-a-half minutes, it is the centerpiece of disc two. This cut alone might be worth the purchase price because it is loose, inspired, and utterly beautiful, and completely suited to Garcia's voice. In all, this is a fine comp that rounds out the portrait of Garcia both as a studio solo artist and leading various live bands. ~ Thom Jurek

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