Thursday, September 7, 2023

Album Review: Jerry Garcia Band - GarciaLive Volume 20

Jerry Garcia Band
GarciaLive Volume 20 
June 18, 1982 Cape Cod Coliseum 
South Yarmouth, Massachusetts
***and1/2 out of *****

For the 20th entry into the GarciaLive collection we travel to June 18, 1982 at Cape Cod Coliseum in South Yarmouth, Massachusetts. The release also includes three bonus tracks from JGB's show from June 1st, 1981 at The Stone in San Francisco with a different, more scaled down version of the band and this certainly is a large bonus. 

JGB constantly shifted and changed depending on moods, Garcia's choices etc. For the main portion of this release the lineup was Jerry Garcia – guitar, vocals, Melvin Seals – organ, Jimmy Warren – electric piano, John Kahn – bass, Bill Kreutzmann – drums, Liz Stires – vocals, Julie Stafford – vocals. This larger band has a full sound and while there are a few technical difficulties, overall things are solid on the production/sound front.

The night opens with just average to forgettable versions of "How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)" and "Valerie" as the first twenty minutes here are the longest slog of the show. Things really come into focus with a cover of The Beatles "Dear Prudence", which rides on the funky bass work of Kahn and excellent vocals/guitar flourishes from Garcia. 

JGB could at times be a glacial affair, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. "Mississippi Moon" is a crawling, yet passionate ode to his long time friend Peter Rowan with Seals organ work a highlight, as is Garcia's multiple guitar tones. On the flip side, Garcia's version of "Simple Twist of Fate" is so slowly paced it is yawn inducing, killing any emotion the classic tune would normally bring.

"Don't Let Go" also begins life with a languid lope, but as the song evolves it turns into the most Grateful Dead sounding jam of the night, pushed forward by Kreutzmann's drumming which gets a solo showcase before the track wraps up. 

The most energetic the outfit gets on this night is an upbeat workout during "Run for the Roses" which has great wah-wah work from Garcia, matching the strong organ work from Seals. This first portion of the release ends with a lightly funky version of "They Love Each Other", a showcase for Warren's electro-keys and the backup singers harmonizing with Garcia. If the main show was all that arrived with this release, it would be fine, say two and half stars; an average JGB release. However the added music from 6/1/81 elevates GarciaLive 20 higher. 

The bonus material does not include Stires and Stafford, Kruetzmann is also off the kit with Daoud Shaw replacing him on the drum throne. While the opening "Sitting Here in Limbo" is fairly par for the JGB course, with a loose groove and excellent flurries up and down the fretboard from Garcia, "After Midnight" raises the figurative roof. 

This explosion of energy is triggered by Shaw whose deploys an almost disco inspired, upbeat drum pattern to get the band kicking it all up about five gears; these sixteen and a half minutes are the most energetic JGB has ever sounded to these ears. The band knew they were onto something special as each one gets in on the act and they fly as a unit.

The energy stays incredibly high for the following "Deal" where Garcia's closing solo is burning as it slams itself directly into "Tangled Up in Blue". The two versions of Dylan tunes that JGB showcase on this release couldn't be more diametrically opposed, as the joyous rambunctiousness takes over for "Tangled Up In Blue" and goes over the top.  

While the Grateful Dead were known for emotional journeys, peaks and valleys, Jerry Garcia Band has always been very laid back, at times to the groups detriment. The first part of GarciaLive 20 is fairly straight ahead with some highs and lows, but this release is worth it to hear the bubbling, upbeat bonus material alone. 
Support the band, buy the album and peep some video below:

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